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Adrienne Lawrence

Legal analyst, law professor & award-winning author

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Congress must act against corrupt Boeing monopoly

Mar 20

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Boeing is in the news again following the suspicious death of a whistleblower who had agreed to testify against the company regarding its alleged use of “substandard” airplane parts. That news itself follows multiple incidents involving Boeing aircraft, including doors and hull panels flying off, fires breaking out, and landing wheels breaking off and crashing to the ground during takeoff.

Straight Arrow News contributor Adrienne Lawrence contends that Boeing is a corrupt monopoly without effective checks or balances against its power. She argues that this behavior will continue unless or until Congress gains the courage to regulate Boeing and push back.

The following facts are undeniable here. Boeing is the country’s second-largest recipient of federal funding after Lockheed Martin. And that funding, well, it’s in the billions. Boeing collects more than 20% of the U.S. Department of Defense procurement budget, which hovers around what, $168 billion this year alone. Boeing also benefits from benevolent American trade policies. They are so favorable that the company is currently among if not the largest exporter in the United States, making it singularly dependent on the generosity of the American trade policy regime, as writer Alexander Semaan acknowledged. Plus, there are no real checks on Boeing’s monopoly status here, just open trade doors complemented by big tax breaks.

According to the Subsidy Tracker and Good Jobs First, Boeing has long been among if not the single largest beneficiary of state and local tax breaks to the tune of more than $15 billion, also while enjoying nearly $75 billion in federal loans. Boeing enjoys this series of 11-digit financial breaks and benefits courtesy of Congress and without the prerequisite of checks and balances that ensure that Boeing doesn’t act to the detriment of the American people.

Truly, what incentive does Boeing have to ensure that we are safe at 25,000 feet when the U.S. government has rolled out the red carpet to ensure that they cash in without consequence and without competition?

For as long as I can remember, driving in a car was always far more dangerous than flying on a plane. Yet with all the recent mishaps on airliners nowadays, it appears that the friendly skies have become quite hostile. And it’s the American multinational corporation that is Boeing that appears to be at the root of the issue, or issues plural.

 

Last week, Boeing advised airlines to check the cockpit seats on the 787 Dreamliner jet after a pilot was suddenly forced onto the deck controls. Then, a West Coast flight was found to have a missing panel post-flight inspection. [A] 256-pound wheel fell off upon takeoff from San Francisco International. Emergency doors are flying open. It has been utter chaos lately on Boeing planes.

 

Given that the world’s largest commercial aircraft manufacturing company is basically just a U.S.-funded endeavor, [sic] Congress must require Boeing [to] provide far better products if it wants to continue enjoying taxpayer funds. Boeing is largely funded by public money, generous U.S. trade policies and also insane tax benefits.

 

The following facts are undeniable here. Boeing is the country’s second-largest recipient of federal funding after Lockheed Martin. And that funding, well, it’s in the billions. Boeing collects more than 20% of the U.S. Department of Defense procurement budget, which hovers around what, $168 billion this year alone. Boeing also benefits from benevolent American trade policies. They are so favorable that the company is currently among, if not the largest, exporter in the United States, making it singularly dependent on the generosity of the American trade policy regime, as writer Alexander Semaan acknowledged. Plus, there are no real checks on Boeing’s monopoly status here, just open trade doors complemented by big tax breaks.

 

According to the Subsidy Tracker and Good Jobs First, well, Boeing has long been among if not the single largest beneficiary of state and local tax breaks to the tune of more than $15 billion. Also, while enjoying nearly $75 billion in federal loans. Boeing enjoys this series of 11-digit financial breaks and benefits, courtesy of Congress and without the prerequisite of checks and balances that ensure that Boeing doesn’t act to the detriment of the American people. Truly, what incentive does Boeing have to ensure that we are safe at 25,000 feet when the U.S. government has rolled out the red carpet to ensure that they cash in without consequence and without competition?

 

Sure, the Chair of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation out there in the U.S. Senate has issued strongly worded letters, and also called for testimony and hearings. But what change has been made in terms of policies, what’s been done to examine how we got here, in terms of having little to no options for aircraft manufacturers? Houston, we got a real problem here.

 

As far as I’m concerned, no U.S.-funded company should operate with impunity, and absent motivation for improvement when the government has cleared the way really for them to become the leading manufacturer of air travel accommodations for the American people. And we also know that this is also the case in much of the world. At least nine major global airlines have various Boeing models that they regularly use, from United to Aeromexico to Turkish Airlines. The belief that Boeing is too big to fail has enabled its failures as to the quality of commercial aircrafts, and we are witnessing that right now. Fires on the runways and wheels falling off mid-flight, doors suddenly becoming ajar, and so on. If any company provided such shoddy product, well, they would lose patrons, yet Boeing will stay in business because our lawmakers have created a captive audience. Yeah, that’s us.

 

The American people have options as to which carrier they want to fly with. Yes, but we don’t have options in terms of which manufacturer planes that we really want to fly in. Congress is boxed out on Boeing having any real competition here in the States compelling us to continue to use their aircrafts, while our U.S. tax dollars and overly generous corporate tax breaks continue to fund their corporate endeavors. That’s neither a free market nor is it really reassuring for Americans who simply wish to feel safe when it comes to air travel. Last year, more than 751 million people took domestic flights in the United States, which is still nearly 60 million fewer than before the global pandemic. Regardless, the message is clear here that commercial flight is an established option for many Americans when it comes to making major travel decisions. Now we just need to ensure that it is a trusted and reliable option and making that happen, that’s on Congress.

 

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