Profit Over Life: Boeing's Refusal to Ground "Almost Criminally Insufficient" Planes is U.S. Capitalism in a Nutshell

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Profit Over Life: Boeing's Refusal to Ground "Almost Criminally Insufficient" Planes is U.S. Capitalism in a Nutshell

If aliens came down from the sky and asked you to summarize America in five minutes or less, there may not be a better explainer of our demonstrated values than the patently dangerous Boeing 737 Max 8. If you are unaware of the context surrounding this mess, here is an investigation from The Dallas Morning News to catch you up:

Pilots repeatedly voiced safety concerns about the Boeing 737 Max 8 to federal authorities, with one captain calling the flight manual “inadequate and almost criminally insufficient” several months before Sunday’s Ethiopian Air crash that killed 157 people, an investigation by The Dallas Morning News found.

The News found five complaints about the Boeing model in a federal database where pilots can voluntarily report about aviation incidents without fear of repercussions.

The complaints are about the safety mechanism cited in preliminary reports about an October Boeing 737 Max 8 crash in Indonesia that killed 189.

A senior administration official told The Washington Post that Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg called President Trump and argued on behalf of keeping these alleged “criminally insufficient” planes in the sky, and per WaPo, “the administration does not want to make a knee-jerk decision and is concerned that grounding the fleet could have widespread financial effects and cause unnecessary fear.”

A proven deadly flaw in a product made by a private company has killed hundreds of people. Europe, India, China, Australia, Indonesia and most of the developed world have already moved to ground these planes until a fix is applied, but yet again, the United States stands alone in its suicidal defense of profit (well, “alone” with Canada too—UPDATE: just before publication, Canada announced they were grounding Boeing 737s, now we really are alone on this).

As WaPo notes, “widespread financial effects” is of chief concern to the Trump administration. This report makes it seem as if Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg has successfully lobbied* the Trump administration to prioritize his own private profits over the safety of his customers.

*Here are a few fun facts about Boeing’s lobbying habits, per OpenSecrets:

— Boeing “donated” roughly equally to both Democrats and Republicans last cycle

— Boeing spent nearly $32 million lobbying the last two years (10th out of 4,163 companies in 2018)

— 87 out of 117 Boeing lobbyists in 2017-2018 have previously worked in the government

This is America. Capitalism has no moral center. It only exists to chase profits. We have tricked ourselves into thinking that profit directly correlates to economic value, but one look at this Boeing situation proves that to be child-like naivete. By keeping the 737 in the air, Boeing can continue to make money off of its flying death trap, and thanks to the fact that capitalism inherently creates monopolies (if you disagree, my counterpoint is to just look at the capitalist-created world around you), the market cannot really punish them for literally putting profits above their customers’ lives.

This is so incredibly dangerous that we actually have something of a bipartisan consensus fighting back against it. Powerful Republicans Ted Cruz and Mitt Romney have joined Democrats Elizabeth Warren, Richard Blumenthal and Dianne Feinstein in calling for the Boeing 737 Max 8 to be grounded. Next time you argue that we should simply trust “job creators,” remember that one of the largest, most successful companies in the world is on the same side of this issue as Donald Trump, while Ted freaking Cruz is the voice of reason.

There are lives at stake here. I just reserved two separate flights for this upcoming wedding season, and I am joining millions of other Americans with travel plans now wondering if I am going to be martyred at the altar of capitalism (to see if your next flight is on a Boeing 737 Max 8, check out this Marketwatch writeup). It’s clear as day what is going on, and it is simply a repetition of the same dynamic that exists in countless other capitalist industries like health care, energy and food.

There is a direct conflict between these massive companies ensuring they do not kill their customers, and profiting off their customers. Time and time and time again, we see these companies choose profit over life thanks to their monopolies and oligopolies insulating them from market forces, and you have to wonder how many more times we have to repeat this cycle before America becomes by definition, a capitalist death cult. We live in a world where Ted Cruz is one of our best hopes to stop Boeing’s CEO’s desire to put us in harm’s way. If that doesn’t tell you that capitalism is inherently flawed, I don’t know what will.

UPDATE: Good news, the United States is finally joining the rest of the world in grounding the Boeing 737 Max 8.

Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.

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