The Less You Know, The Easier it is To Be Rich Lowry

I don’t claim to be an expert on either economics, aviation, or the labor movement, but reading the following piece of counterfactual nonsense from Rich Lowry of America’s Shittiest Website, courtesy, no less, of the Oregonian, which ran the thing this morning, I was more than usually embarrassed for the lil’ chickenhawk.  Marvel, if you dare, at the abject stupidity and overconfidence that could lead one to cite Boeing, of all companies, as an example of savvy business acumen and “job creation” in the “free market”….

H. L. Mencken defined puritanism as the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy. The National Labor Relations Board is haunted by the fear that a company somewhere might be creating jobs with a nonunionized work force.

Funny, and a bit alarming, that he would use H.L. Mencken for his snotty, pretentious literary reference; and referring to Puritans, no less, which today would be, well, Republicans, for whom he is somewhat ineffectively shilling.

Boeing has run afoul of that fear by investing more than $1 billion in a new plant in the right-to-work state of South Carolina. With only the flimsiest legal justification, the board wants to force Boeing to reverse course and locate the facility with its current operations in Washington State, where its workers are unionized.

Boeing previously (and unwisely) moved its corporate headquarters to faraway Chicago, solely in pursuit of tax breaks and other giveaways, to predictably disastrous results and a widely ridiculed management meltdown.

The NLRB’s claims are laughable on their face, although Boeing — trying to run a business in a highly competitive global market — can be forgiven for missing the joke. The board accuses Boeing of “interfering with, restraining, and coercing” its union employees in the exercise of their rights by making a thoroughly understandable business decision.

Everyone knows that hillbillies make the best airplane workers, but calling a military-industrial behemoth like Boeing “competitive” as it goes through tax dollars like John Boehner goes through Kleenex, it a tad laughable.

This is putting not a thumb, but a fist on the scale in favor of the unions. A writer at the liberal The New Republic says it “may be the most radical thing the Obama administration has done.” It’s an attempt to keep companies with the misfortune of operating in union-heavy states in perpetual thrall to organized labor.

The “liberal” New Republic?  As you’ll see, Lowry doesn’t read much, but give him credit for working in the words “radical” and “fist” to make his non-point.

The CEO of Boeing stands accused of saying the company could ill afford the “strikes happening every three to four years in Puget Sound.” In a memo, paraphrased in the NLRB complaint, Boeing management said it wanted “to reduce vulnerability to delivery disruptions caused by work stoppages.” What’s notable about these statements is that they are so obvious, they should go without saying.

Of course, Boeing tried to “reduce vulnerabilities” this way before, by outsourcing virtually everything, and in the process fired everyone who knew how to make airplanes.

As the NLRB itself notes, Boeing suffered strikes with some regularity, in 1977, 1989, 1995, 2005, and 2008. These job actions weren’t good for business, or the unions wouldn’t have undertaken them: Their express purpose is to inflict pain on the company. The logic of the NLRB’s position is that businesses shouldn’t notice strikes, and if they do, they should learn to like them and never factor their potential cost into investment decisions. At bottom, the executives of Boeing are guilty of a thought crime.

It’s a pretty common “thought crime,” though, amongst business bigwigs demonstrably incapable of performing real work.  (Much less arithmetic: the yearly intervals between strikes listed above were twelve, six, ten, and three.  Only sounds like every three or four years if they say it on Fox News…)

There are rules against “runaway shops” (i.e., picking up and moving a plant to evade a union) and against retaliating against workers for striking or organizing. Boeing’s decision to expand its business in South Carolina is manifestly none of those things. It is leaving its Washington State facility intact. In fact, Boeing has expanded it, adding 2,000 jobs. When the Charleston facility is brought online, Boeing will build ten of its 787 Dreamliners a month — seven of them still in Washington State.

This is the part where no one is supposed to have read the business papers for the last, say, ten years.  Being is only now resorting to building Dreamliners in Everett because, with their glorious plans of screwing labor through outsourcing, costs have ballooned astronomically and the plane is at least three years late. Not one has been approved for use, much less delivered, and orders have been understandably cancelled by frustrated airlines right and left in the ensuing debacle.  Strikes did not cause this.  Idiotic, Galtian management did, by squandering long-developed expertise and relying on sketchy foreign subcontractors who could never deliver.

If every company were abusing its workers by continuing to employ them and adding to their ranks, the unemployment rate wouldn’t be 9 percent. The NLRB can’t point to any Boeing worker in Washington who has been harmed — let alone restrained or coerced — by the company’s decision to hire additional workers in South Carolina.

Yes, but the plan was otherwise, as I mentioned before.

If the drift of jobs to right-to-work states in the South and elsewhere is a violation of the law, the union-dominated dinosaur of Michigan is the victim of the greatest mass breach of the National Labor Relations Act of all time. Perhaps the NLRB needs to give Nissan a stern talking-to; the company has done union workers everywhere the disservice of locating its American manufacturing plants in Tennessee and Mississippi.

Here we have some echo-chamber talking points thrown in for the racists about “Detroit,” with the usual union-bashing on top, like a cherry.  Never mind the the Big Three automakers are making an improbable comeback just as Boeing sinks further into a morass of bloated irrelevance.

The desperation of Pres. Barack Obama’s NLRB is understandable. It is fighting a losing battle against the inexorable erosion of the supports of the semi-guild system of 20th-century unionization. In its overreach, though, it is creating yet another disincentive for business to locate in union-heavy blue states. What company wants to risk having to fight a union and the federal government for years in court just to defend a common-sense business decision?

Of course, the demise of the middle class created by de-unionization is a feature, not a bug, so don’t expect Lowry to mention it; remember, he doesn’t read papers or get out a lot, always worried that Al Franken might beat him up or something.  He undeniably needs a beating, as you can see.

Clearly, Boeing made a grave mistake in its labor relations. It should have located its production in South Carolina from the beginning.

No, it should have focused on MAKING AIRPLANES, rather than wasting its time and resources doing everything else, but that.  This is only complicated if you’re Rich Lowry.


  1. dirigo says:

    Well, Hag, I can well remember gagging on a pastrami sandwich in a Midtown deli, reading in the New York Post for the first time the news that Sarah Palin had been “tapped” as John McCain’s running mate.

    It was … well, when was it – early 2008? Ah, the fog of war clouds my feeble memory, but I do remember the column spread before me was by Rich Lowry.

    He predicted manna emerging, or some such nonsense. The cole slaw didn’t go down well either.

    What Palin has to do with Dreamliners, I couldn’t say.

    • cocktailhag says:

      It was September, and I was in LA. The Hosannahs fell like rain upon Caribou Barbie. (This was pre Katie Couric..)
      She was the cheerleader the chickenhawks, for obvious reasons, never got when they were in school, and they made this uncomfortably apparent, repeatedly.
      I think Sarah can see Dreamliners from her porch.

  2. michlib says:

    Dontja just love it when these neo-con bloviators pretzelate themselves into fun house mirror images of what true journalists would look like ? To hold Boeing (!) up as the exemplar of free market entrepeneurial derring-do is an act of Koch shilling at its best ( most craven ). One would be hard pressed to find a ” private” company more fully attached to the Alan Simpson bemoaned ” government teat ” than Boeing.
    Those ” blue union-heavy ” states have for many decades been donors – through federal revenue sharing – to those red, tea bag besotted Galtian states. Let Rick Perry sail Texas into the promised land of secession – but beware the high start-up costs of running your very own Galtian summer camp, what with disater relief, defense, border patrol, infrastructure maintenance, no Johnson Space Control ( let’s move THAT to Lansing ), and the plethora of other BENEFITS the red states ( many of which tried to form their own country, but were defeated by a UNION – hence the antipathy ) enjoy as, dare we say, entitlements of statehood.

    • cocktailhag says:

      The biggest freeloaders are always the experts on freeloading, you know. But really, Boeing? They’re clearly running out of material over there.

  3. Bob Boeing says:

    So what you’re saying is that the federal government should be able to determine the location of the operations of businesses, right? Seems OK to me. Maybe we could grow peaches in North Dakota.

    • cocktailhag says:

      No, I’m saying that if peach-pickers were non-union, Boeing would probably try it, though. Union-busting for its own sake is usually, as in this case, the endeavor of incompetent management.

    • michlib says:

      The notion that businesses are hapless waifs being directed by federal edicts on site selection misses the point – for decades the Right to Work (for less ) states provided valuable whipsawing options for management. Far more than the federal government, state, county, and local governments have been all too willing to influence site selection with tax holidays, abatements, etc., only to be whipsawed anew with the NAFTA card – give us more fiscal love or we’ll pack up and move it to Mexico, China, and other business friendly ports of call. Is this a race to the bottom we really want to “win” ?

  4. mikeinportc says:
    CH, thought of this space , & your general subject matter, when I saw that this morning. :) )))

    Attn Bob : ” He who pays the piper yada yada yada….” Don’t cry for the Galtian teat-sucking socialists , as that decision might save them from themselves.

    Hughes Aircraft tried something similar here, in ’96, and it was a disaster. They acquired Link* Aviation , a simulator manufacturer*, a profitable company employing ~ 1400 people . The plan was to finish the existing projects, do a brain-drain, & close it down. Even though keeping it open was otherwise the most profitable option, the same accounting laws that made Enron possible, gave the company a ( on paper only) windfall for closing it.

    Well……that met with a less than enthusiastic response , not least of which was from employees. When many of the brains experienced a tour of Arlington, Texas, &/or Virginia ( but esp. TX)their prospective new home, they resisted being drained, in droves. In frustration, the CEO , who got some credit for delivering the bad news in person, lost any goodwill by petulantly suggesting that everyone should realize that Ed Link was dead and gone, and should get over it . Yikes! I’ve mentioned George F. Johnson here before, & Mr. Link was in that tradition, & I would expect, influenced by George F. He knew most of the employees on a first name basis. You can imagine the response. Most of the acquired brains took the severance, and stayed here. Some joined the competition, and in some cases, joined together to become new competition.

    * Edwin Link invented flight simulators,among many other things, and started the company.

    Btw , Mr. Link was a childhood neighbor.Great guy. Nice to everybody. Let us play baseball, football, etc on an empty lot on his property. If it was too soggy, the gardener put up a sign, that we respected, out of respect for the Links ( & fear of our parents;) ) At that time he was working on mini-subs ( He’s the original inventor. Also, with Jacques Cousteau, of SCUBA) , so was in Florida most of the time . However, there were a least a couple times I remember him being there, when we showed up to play ball. He gave us the tour of his lab , & what he was working on . Didn’t understand much, but was interesting enough that we gladly used up all of our pre-dinner, non-homework time. :)

    • cocktailhag says:

      We had neighbors like that; they were both professors and at least two of their sons went to Vietnam. They had an enormous, park-like yard and got me into gardening at an early age, and they also had a room-size map of the world wallpapered onto a prominent wall, something so handy and educational that my brother has had one in his houses ever since.
      It’s pathetic, really… Companies that wouldn’t survive five minutes outside the delicate hothouse of the Military Industrial Complex are hailed as capitalist geniuses when they can’t even produce a fucking plane. I want that job.

  5. mikeinportc says:

    Btw, Link Aviation never had a strike. Wonder why? ;)