For civic and family and purely personal reasons we have a certain affection for the Boeing Company, gigantic globalist corporate villain of creative capitalist destruction though it might well be, so naturally we were alarmed to see it was the most recent target of president-elect Donald Trump’s latest “tweet.”
“Boeing is building a brand new Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion,” Trump “tweeted,” ominously adding the words “Cancel order!” Although a president-elect’s “tweet” doesn’t carry the same legal authority as an actual president’s nebulously defined executive power to renege on a contract, at least for the moment, the threatened cancellation was enough to cause a momentary dip in Boeing stock value and set off a round of harrumphing among all sorts of media. The left was reflexively appalled by any Trump “tweet,” even if it meant defending one of their usual corporate villains, the office-dwelling segments of the right were understandably worried about what’s to become of the rest of the federal government’s sizable contracts in the upcoming age of “The Art of the Deal,” even if that was a criticism of a duly elected Republican, and from our political perspective on the sidelines we’re going with our personal affection for the Boeing Company and unshakeable suspicion of this Trump fellow.
Four billion bucks does seem a lot of money for an airplane, at least by our own personal transportation standards, and probably even by the personal transportation standards of a billionaire who has famously gold-plated and leather-lined toilets on one of his fleet of jets and helicopters, and even those suspiciously lefty newspapers concede that Trump’s “tweeted” price is not far off the mark, but surely there are other considerations. There are actually two airplanes required to cope with all the exigencies of an all-out nuclear war, which unfortunately is once again one of those things that might actually happen, and both have to be outfitted with highly sophisticated defense and re-fueling systems that can survive the most devastating attacks and still coordinate communications with whatever’s left of a post-apocalyptic world. That kind of thing doesn’t come cheap, of course, and is not typically acquired by the same means as a real estate developer leaning on a less-politically-connected contractor and his immigrant workers, so we’re reduced to hoping that the president-elect is out of his league in this fight.
If Trump is willing to be the first future president to risk that post-apocalyptic scenario so be it, and we’ll just be glad he’s going down with the rest of us, but if he thinks he can get a better bid elsewhere, we’re not sure where he’d look. At this point Boeing is the only company in America with the know-how and other resources to get the job done, and even if Trump were willing to forsake his nationalist principles and find a supplier elsewhere he’d probably discover there’s no other company in the entire world up to the task. Unlike the Democratic left or what’s left of the erstwhile Republican right, Boeing finds itself in a strong negotiating position against Trump. Something in our red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalist souls abhors such a monopoly, but we can’t help liking the idea of Boeing serving as a check and balance on Trump’s presidential power.
Our beloved hometown of Wichita was transformed from a sleepy little wheat-dealing and biplane-making town into a top-50 metropolis when Boeing started cranking out round-the-clock B-29s here during World War II, and the resulting military-industrial complex drew our beloved pop here with a job at the same company. As he rose from the engineering drafting boards to the executive suites he and his colleagues helped win the Cold War with the constantly and expensively upgraded B-52, and he went on to devise some very deadly helicopters designed for the persistent smaller but still expensive wars that have followed, and in his retirement he’s been mostly pleased how those young whippersnappers who succeeded him have kept his stock holdings up, so naturally we cheer on Boeing’s success. The company pulled almost entirely out of town a while back, and is now outnumbered by the heavily-subsidized and once-hated Europeans of Airbus in the local workforce, but as a good-bye gesture Boeing gave a sweetheart deal on that huge south side factory complex and most of its job to one of its biggest subcontractors, and the Beech and Cessna and Lear plants or whatever their current corporate names are have all survived the current president’s past rhetoric against “corporate jets,” so for now we’re still the self-proclaimed “Air Capital of the World.” The family portfolio should do just as well, and we hope that the rest of capitalism fares as well.
An apparent attempt to low-ball Boeing on a previously signed and legally iron-clad deal is already alarming every other company that does business with the federal government, and given that more than 22 percent of the gross domestic product is paid for by the federal government that’s a lot of businesses, and among them are the only ones who know to get certain essential jobs done. If Trump wants to renegotiate each of the thousands or hundreds of thousands or perhaps millions of contracts that have already been negotiated by the government he now heads he can go right on ahead, but we expect it will prove more costly than that Trump University case he recently settled for a mere $25 million. Free markets and an independent judiciary are two of the essential bulwarks against autocracy, even when they’re monopolistic and legalistic, and we’re glad of it.
— Bud Norman