Okay — I’ll admit that I’m using a shock jock title here that’s deliberately over the top: but hang with me on this.
I have no great love loss for Boeing. I do, however, have considerable affection for high paying union jobs. You know — the kind we once had gobs of, but which today are becoming less common than words of wisdom from Ann Coulter.
And, yes, I do understand that awarding the refueling tanker contract to Northrop-Airbus will create some new jobs, especially in Alabama. But let’s get real: this is a contract for new aircraft. You don’t have to be Albert Einstein to understand that if you build the aircraft itself in Europe, instead of the US, it will cost this country high paying union jobs.
And sure, Boeing itself would have offloaded some of the work overseas. But this decision will still cost tens of thousands of American jobs.
We can’t blame the Air Force for this, or so we’re told. They weren’t supposed to consider American jobs in making their decision, or so we’re told. Apparently, they also weren’t supposed to consider the sticker price, since the cost per plane was $35 million higher under Northrop-Airbus’ proposal than under Boeing’s (in fairness, the Airbus planes are also bigger).
But then, since when has our military given a rat’s ass about cost: why buy a Mercedes when you can get a Rolls Royce for three times (or more) the cost? Just call up Bush and Congress and ask for a few billion dollars more. Then Bush and Congress can authorize the expenditure, borrow the money and pass the bill on to our kids (and if we’re lucky they won’t even notice this particular one lying there with all the other bills we’ve been sending them).
Too bad our kids won’t have any good paying union jobs left to help pay back all that debt we’re passing on to them.
And, yeah, I do know that The World is Flat, and all that: “Free trade at last! Free trade at last! Thank God almighty, we have free trade at last!”
Give me a break: we’re not talking about trade barriers here. This is taxpayer money being spent on a public project. Exactly when did generating domestic jobs (especially at the cusp of a probable recession) stop being one of the goals of public spending?
Funny thing though: so far as I’ve been able to discover, virtually none of the big dog progressive bloggers have had anything meaningful to say about this (Kevin Drum, whose work I admire, does have a sarcastic post about the politics involved, but nothing on the jobs issue).
And that’s pretty much par for the course: the economic concerns of wage earners usually get short shrift in the progressive blogosphere. And don’t blame just the bloggers. The truth is there isn’t a lot of reader interest in such posts. If you want to spend a hell of a lot of time researching and writing a lengthy blog post that will then be almost completely ignored, try writing about labor unions or the difficulty single mothers have getting good affordable childcare.
But that’s no big deal, right? I mean, not every blog needs to cover every subject. That’s the cool thing about blogging: you can write about what you want and ignore what you want.
And that’s fine, as far as it goes — unless, of course, your goals go further than just the joy of self-expression, like, say, if you’re trying to build a new type of Democratic Party politics, one built from the bottom up. Or unless, to put it another way, you see yourselves as part of a new netroots movement Crashing the Gate. Because, in that case, you need to build connections beyond internet cafés, professionals and college campuses (as important as those demographic groups are). You need to speak to the specific concerns of working people as well.
So, are liberal bloggers a bunch of latte drinking elitists? No. Many liberal bloggers do deal with issues important to poor and working class Americans. Certainly that’s true of many of the diarists at Daily Kos (the book Crashing the Gate referenced above was, of course, written in part by Kos). But the perception that the netroots are disinterested in working class concerns is troublingly widespread.
And wouldn’t it be nice if that perception, as wrong as it may be, was a little less easy to understand.
(Full disclosure: I’m from Wichita, one of the cities that would have benefited from Boeing getting the deal, although I can’t see how it would have benefited me personally, at least in any direct way.)
Update: Chad points out that — contrary to what I say in the disclaimer immediately above — losing jobs in Wichita will hurt me, by hurting the community as a whole through loss of income and tax revenues. It’s a good point and one that goes to the heart of this entire issue. The loss of good union jobs in this country isn’t just hurting workers: it’s hurting the country as a whole in dramatic ways.