Philadelphia Inquirer - March 22, 2020
"With much of the economy ground to a complete halt by the global pandemic, Congress — with more than a little helpfrom its lobbyist friends— is racing with indiscriminate speed this weekend to pass what could be a $2 trillioncoronavirus relief packagein a frantic bid that still might not be enough to forestall a second Great Depression."
In a time of a deadly coronavirus, America needs to have a serious conversation about something else that kills: greed.
Consider the case of one of U.S. capitalism’s iconic brands and one of our largest private employers, the aircraft giant Boeing Co. In 2018, the giant manufacturer was a huge beneficiary of President Trump and the then-GOP-dominated Congress’ massive corporate tax giveaway — but rather than plow that money into upgrading its manufacturing plants, rewarding its blue-collar workers, or saving for the inevitable rainy day (for a firm with roots in Seattle, no less!), Boeing’s executives decided to get drunk on stock buybacks.
From 2013 through 2019, the company spent a huge chunk of its profits — on either dividends for its shareholders or buybacks of outstanding stock, which increases the share price to enrich both Boeing’s top execs and its Wall Street investors. As the buyout binge boosted Boeing stock to atmospheric levels, the firm scrimped in other areas, like R&D. When it came to its new commercial jetliner the Boeing 737 Max, the Financial Times reported that “[i]nstead of building a wholly new aircraft, Boeing simply bolted new fuel-efficient engines on to a tweaked existing airframe” — scrimping to have more dollars for the buybacks.
The consequences were beyond tragic. Triggered by a software flaw that was ignored by Boeing and the Trump administration’s business-friendly regulators, two 737 Max crashes last year in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed 346 people. The fiasco also caused Boeing’s stock price to fall to earth, led to scores of canceled orders and put the jet maker on the brink — until the firm’s lobbyists found the most unlikely possible savior: the coronavirus. ...
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