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Boeing's free-market move is going to cost Kansas big-time

January 5, 2012 |  8:00 am

Boeing workers in Kansas
So, tired of high taxes? Want to see big federal budget cuts?

Congratulations. You're getting your wish. 

And you just cost 2,160 people in Kansas their jobs.

That's because Boeing Co., bracing for cuts in the defense budget over the coming decade, decided that "we're not in Kansas anymore, Toto," announcing Wednesday that it will close its facility in Wichita.

A plant that it's operated just since, oh, the 1920s.

And that's not all of the job losses. As The Times reported:  

Add those to the 900 jobs at its sprawling Long Beach plant, where it builds C-17 cargo jets. In June, Lockheed Martin Corp. announced that it was cutting about 1,500 positions across its aeronautics business, including jobs in California. In August, Northrop Grumman Corp. said it was cutting 500 jobs in its aerospace division, which is spread throughout the Southland.

Also, it could get worse:

The $450 billion in cuts through 2021 is what the Pentagon and White House agreed on last summer, but there are nagging worries in the aerospace industry that Congress will cut an additional $500 billion.

In such a scenario, the Aerospace Industries Assn. estimated, 1 million jobs of all kinds would be lost nationwide, 126,000 of which would be in California.

Great. Welcome to "living within our means," which means you don't necessarily have any means to live with.

You can argue that cutting the defense budget has to be done, but those are some nice, well-paying jobs that are being lost. Jobs that the local Wal-Mart probably won't match. 

Though the workers can always pull up stakes and move, right? Plenty of jobs in Texas, I guess.

The decision is also a lesson for pro-business politicians. As the story says:

Before Wednesday's announcement, workers at Boeing's Wichita plant had planned on decades of work modifying 767 jets into flying gas stations for the nation's fleet of bomber and fighter jets. Boeing won a high-profile contest last February against European Aeronautic Defense & Space Co. to build aerial refueling tankers for the Air Force.

At the time, the company pledged 7,500 jobs to Kansas. Boeing's Wednesday announcement "outraged" Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.).

Which is somewhat ironic. Wasn't it Republicans who were "outraged" last year after the National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint against Boeing accusing it of establishing a nonunion production line in South Carolina in retaliation against union workers in Washington state for past strikes?

As The Times reported:  

The NLRB’s complaint against Boeing drew a steady stream of complaints from GOP presidential candidates and South Carolina business leaders, who accused the Obama administration of being anti-business and argued that the NLRB would cost the state new jobs.

And even after the complaint was dropped, Republicans wouldn't let it go:

GOP candidate Jon Huntsman also weighed in: "The NLRB decision is a victory in a battle that should have never been fought," Huntsman said. "Their action against Boeing in South Carolina was an unprecedented attempt to interfere in the free market, and an attempt to politicize companies' decisions as how and where they create jobs."

All I can say is, go ask Sen. Moran and the people of Kansas how they like that free market now.

I suppose the real lesson, though, is that we can't have our cake and eat it too. You can't shrink government without cutting jobs. And those job cuts won't be just in the newly demonized public sector.

Sure, the private sector may eventually pick up the slack.

But "eventually" won't come soon enough for a lot of Americans.

RELATED:

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-- Paul Whitefield

Photo: Boeing employees in Wichita, Kan. Credit: Travis Heying / Associated Press

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