The wages of neoliberalism

A Boeing 737 Max: Why isn’t there a mass movement to refuse to fly on them? Source: Wikimedia Commons.

This morning in the news, we learned that a front wheel fell off of a Boeing 757 as the jet was preparing to take off from Atlanta for Bogotá. The FAA is investigating. Also this morning in the news, we learned that the CEO of Alaska Airlines is angry after loose bolts were found on “many” of the airline’s Boeing 737 Max 9 jets.

Since photographs showed the the big hole in the fuselage after a door blew out of an Alaska Airlines jet (and the missing door was later found in someone’s backyard), and since the wheel that fell off the Boeing jet in Atlanta was seen rolling down a hill, it would be hard even for Fox News’ expertise in lying to gaslight us on such plain facts. But there’s still a lot of disinformation and propaganda to be milked out of such plain facts. The right-wing media have milked it to the max.

The problem with Boeing, the right-wing media say, is workforce diversity! If your blood pressure can take it, here’s an article from the Guardian, “Worried about airline safety? Blame diversity, say deranged rightwingers.” Elon Musk, of course, has endorsed and amplified that idea.

In the real world, the understanding of what happened at Boeing is very different. Boeing was once a company run by engineers. Brilliant design and careful manufacturing were the highest values. But Wall Street and rich stockholders see Boeing only as a money machine, and the theology of neoliberalism blessed a takeover. Keep in mind that, though ordinary Americans hold modest shares of stock, the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans own 89 percent of all American stocks. Once upon a time, McDonnell Douglas and Boeing were competitors. But in 1997, McDonnell Douglas took over Boeing and — knowingly and intentionally — made Boeing’s engineers subordinate to the money people.

The other factor in Boeing’s ruin was self-regulation, as a consequence of neoliberalism’s glorification of the market and demonization of government. Internal Boeing emails that came to light after two 737 Max crashes show that people inside of Boeing understood what was going on, but that they had no power to do anything about it. In one such email, an employee wrote: “This airplane is designed by clowns who in turn are supervised by monkeys.” Another employee wrote, describing the incompetence of regulators who were watching a Boeing presentation, that the regulators were “like dogs watching TV,” because they couldn’t understand the presentation. I can only imagine the bitterness and hostility that must now define Boeing’s company culture. And, of course, many engineers left and took their expertise with them.

Why is it always ordinary people, crammed into Boeing jets like cattle, who’re on board when these things happen? In 2022, there were 10,000 to 15,000 flights of private jets every day. According to this article, “Just 1% of air travelers account for 50% of global aviation emissions.” And yet how often do we read about billionaires’ jets going down? The private-jet industry claims that private jets are safer than commercial jets. If that’s true, it’s not hard to understand why.

Once again, I’d like to argue that Boeing is just one case of a great many in the global struggle that is behind almost every important thing happening in the world today. It’s the super-rich against the rest of us. Ninety percent of us are nothing more than just another natural resource to be exploited, lied to, and kept divided so that the 90 percent can’t organize the power to challenge the 10 percent. One of the things that blows my mind is that they’ve figured out how to make even their disinformation profitable. Fox News has net income of about $1.25 billion a year. The propaganda is so effective that society’s worst losers can be passionately and angrily convinced that what’s good for billionaires and dictators is good for them.

Minority rule can’t be easy, nor can it be stable. This is the overarching political struggle of our time — taking back wealth and power from a tiny minority who already own almost everything but who want everything, including unchallengeable power.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *