Opinion L.A.

Observations and provocations
from The Times' Opinion staff

Category: Corporations

Cheap coal? Tell that to the dead miners' families

President Obama in Oklahoma
The Obama administration announced new EPA rules Tuesday that sharply limit the output of carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants.

And not surprisingly, the mining industry objected.

"Requiring coal-based power plants to meet an emissions standard based on natural gas technology is a policy overtly calculated to destroy a significant portion of America's electricity supply," said Hal Quinn, chief executive of the National Mining Assn. "This proposal is the latest convoy in EPA's regulatory train wreck that is rolling across America, crushing jobs and arresting our economic recovery at every stop. It is not an 'all of the above' energy strategy." 

Of course, what Quinn doesn't want to talk about is what types of jobs the EPA rules are "crushing."

To get a better idea of that, you need to read another Times story Tuesday, one headlined "Report: Safety agency failed to enforce laws at deadly mine."

That story tells of the regulatory and safety lapses at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia, where an explosion in 2010 killed 29 coal miners and seriously injured two others.

It's a story of lax regulatory enforcement, of inspectors simply not doing their jobs, and of a mine operator that, as the Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration said in a report on the deadly incident, engaged in  "systematic, intentional and aggressive efforts ... to avoid compliance with safety and health standards, and to thwart detection of that non-compliance by federal and state regulators."

How bad were conditions at the mine?  Bad enough that "Alpha Natural Resources, the company that acquired Massey Energy Co. after the explosion, reached a settlement late last year with the Department of Justice in which it agreed to pay a record $209 million in compensation and fines and federal prosecutors agreed not to pursue criminal charges against the company," according to The Times' story.

Even so, some former officials at the mine are under criminal indictment. 

Last month, prosecutors charged the then-superintendent of the mine with conspiring with others to block federal regulators from enforcing safety requirements -- a charge that suggests other individuals are likely targets of action as well.

Prosecutors allege that the former superintendent altered the mine’s ventilation system while an inspector was taking an air sample and ordered that a monitor be rewired so that mining could continue despite elevated levels of methane.

What industry spokesman Quinn also didn't talk about is that EPA regulations would apply only to new power plants, and that, as The Times story said, "the proposed regulations further bolster a trend that the power industry began years ago, as more utilities replaced aging coal-fired plants with new natural gas plants. Very few new coal plants are now on the drawing boards."

Coal is a relatively cheap power source, but it's only really cheap if you ignore the costs in lost lives mining it and the health effects from burning it, not to mention the environmental costs from digging it up.

As The Times story concludes:

"[W]hat this essentially says is we will never be building dirty old coal plants ever again," said Michael Brune of the Sierra Club, one of the litigants in the lawsuit that led to the development of the new rules. "The dominant power source of the 19th and 20th centuries won’t be built the same again."

This isn't about "crushing" jobs.

This is about progress. And it's time to move on.


Candidates go PG-13 on the press

Gov. Brown's tax-the-rich pitch looks like a winner

Did an open mic catch Obama making promises to Russia?

-- Paul Whitefield

Photo: President Obama speaks about energy on March 22 at a TransCanada pipe yard near Cushing, Okla. Credit: Larry W. Smith / EPA

Big government won't build you a snore room, that's for sure

Del Webb home offers snore roomWhen it comes to domestic issues, Americans should trust the private sector.

That's a Republican Party mantra, and two stories in The Times this week have me convinced as well.

Now, I know you think one concerns gasoline prices. Really, though, who cares about that? Snore.

That's right: I'm talking about snoring.  As The Times' Lauren Beale reported:

A so-called snore room is the latest offering from Del Webb, which builds communities for people 55 and older.

Buyers whose marriages are plagued by a spouse who snorts, grunts and wheezes while he or she sleeps can opt for an adaptable bedroom plan marketed as the "owners retreat" at Sun City Shadow Hills in Indio. Designed for couples who start out in the same bed but end up apart because of ear-piercing snoring, insomnia or late-night TV viewing habits, this secondary bedroom is connected to the bathroom of the master bedroom.

See?  Big problem; private-sector solution. You leave that to government, and pretty soon you've got government-run snore insurance instead.

Still, even the private sector can stumble. For example, I'm a bit puzzled by Del Webb's logic:

"A nice enclave that shares the master bathroom provides a civilized alternative to the family room sofa," said Jacque Petroulakis, corporate communications spokeswoman for PulteGroup Inc., the parent company of Del Webb.

About a quarter of couples in the 55-and-older age group sleep apart to get a good night's rest, according to PulteGroup, which got the data from a third party but also conducted focus groups and interviews as it developed the bedroom plan.

Now first of all, the sofa isn't for snoring husbands; it's for misbehaving husbands, or came-home-late-drunk husbands -- which, come to think of it, is redundant. (It's never for wives, of course, who are too savvy to choose the sofa, regardless of their transgressions.)

Second, if you're 55 or older and still married to someone who snores, isn't it a bit late to be dealing with the problem? Seems to me the snore room should be marketed at 30-year-olds, who need all the help they can get keeping their marriages together.

But, staying true to the private sector's can-do spirit, in addition to the snore room, Del Webb is offering other conveniences:

Among other new life-easing features the builder is offering are pass-throughs from the closet to the laundry room. A door large enough to push a hamper through connects the two spaces.

Which brings me to my second domestic issue story of the week: widespread thievery of Tide detergent.

The Times Dalina Castellanos reported:

Thieves seem to be embarking on an anti-grime spree, some media outlets are reporting, saying thousands of dollars in Tide detergent is being swiped from shelves across the country.

One Minnesota man stole about $25,000 worth of the liquid laundry detergent from a West St. Paul Wal-Mart over 15 months, authorities there say.

And who's to blame for this crime wave?  Sadly, dear liberals, it appears that Rush and Sean and Glenn are right: It's the government -- or, in this case, at least one peson who apparently has fallen prey to the liberal-nanny-state mentality.  

Lt. Matt Swenke of the West St. Paul Police Department said in an interview with The Times that Patrick Costanzo, 53, was the suspect in the Minnesota thefts.

"He told [police] he didn't have a job and the state didn't help him in any way so he did what he had to do to get by," Swenke said.

Yes, it's true, liberals: You do a man's laundry, he's clean for a day. You teach him to do his own laundry, and he won't steal Tide.

Which doesn't make a lot of sense, I'll admit. But then again, my wife keeps me awake a night -- either snoring or doing the laundry.

Speaking of which:  Why do we have so much Tide?


Red meat will kill you? Stick a fork in me, I'm done!

Sherwood Rowland, the scientist who saved the world 

Poll: What does Newt Gingrich need to do to stay in the race?

--Paul Whitefield

Photo: A so-called snore room is the latest offering from Del Webb, which builds communities for people 55 and older. Credit: Handout

Dodgers bidders, beware the parking lot attendant!

Dodgers owner Frank McCourt is willing to sell the team but not the parking lots surrounding the stadium
Which of these sounds like a good deal:

For sale: Beverly Hills mansion, $25 million, driveway and garage not included.

For sale: Vintage Ferrari, $5 million, tires and wheels not included.

For sale: Gulfstream V, $25 million, wings not included.

For sale: L.A. Dodgers, $1 billion-plus, parking lots not included.

So you answered "none of the above" too, right? 

Then why are there still nine groups bidding for the right to pay beleaguered Dodgers owner Frank McCourt beaucoup Benjamins for a team -- and a stadium -- that needs upgrading, and they won't get the parking lots?

Really, this is starting to feel like the time your parents told you that of course you could go to the Springstreen concert -- as long as you took your 14-year-old brother. Or when you were in college, and there was that annoying frat brother -- but he was the only one who had a car.

Want to know what it's like to have Frank as your partner? Ask Jamie McCourt.

Honestly, buying the Dodgers under these circumstances would be like having Dick Cheney as your vice president.

Of course, not everyone is delusional. Of the 11 groups that made the cut in the bidding process, the Rick Caruso/Joe Torre bunch dropped out Thursday, citing the parking lot issue. That followed the reported withdrawal earlier in the week of a group that included former Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley.

So who's still in? Well, the biggest local name is probably Magic Johnson, and then there are several East Coast types and assorted well-heeled folks -- all of whom apparently really love the Dodgers.

And what exactly is the parking lot scenario?  From The Times' story:

McCourt divided the Dodgers and the parking lots into separate entities in 2005, with the approval of Major League Baseball. The Dodgers are in bankruptcy, but the McCourt entity that controls the parking lots is not.

The sale agreement between McCourt and MLB specifically permits him to retain the lots --  and build parking structures on them if he chooses.

The new owner of the Dodgers would inherit a lease for the parking lots -- at $14 million per year, with increases starting in 2015 -- and a separate loan that McCourt has said requires the team to play at Dodger Stadium until at least 2030.

Hmm, can you say "hamstrung"?  Because all I hear are warning klaxons, starting with the fact that Frank managed to run the Dodgers into bankruptcy -- but not his parking lot company.

Which means that he apparently knows a lot more about running a parking lot than a baseball team. 

So, worried about the high price of gas? Think parking in Chavez Ravine is expensive now? Wait until you attend a Dodgers game in 2015. Can you say "second mortgage"?

Not to mention what ticket prices will have to be if the new owners want to recoup their investment.

But the bidding goes on. You can talk all you want about a bad economy, but obviously the 1% folks are doing just fine, thank you very much, if they can pony up this kind of cash for part of a franchise -- and who knows, based on Frank's penny-pinching ways, the parking lots may turn out to be the best part of what's left.

Still, I've always been sure of one thing: Rich people didn't get rich by being stupid.

But in this case, you have to wonder if another old adage won't prove true: A fool and his money are soon parted.


What to do about $4 gas

Gotta get some Google Goggles

The Dow is climbing! The Dow is climbing!

-- Paul Whitefield

Photo: Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, left, and center fielder Matt Kemp. Credit: Stephen Dunn / Getty Images

Gotta get some Google Goggles

Google Goggles illustration

You know what's so great about the world we live in?  It's that there are people out there right now inventing stuff you don't even realize you need.

Take Google. Its Google X lab is reportedly hard at work developing Google Goggles.

Despite the tongue-twister name, Google Goggles will apparently be the next must-have gadget. The so-called smart glasses (gee, who knew that regular glasses were "dumb"?) would somehow connect with the Internet to relay information in a heads-up display. (Shhhh. No one tell Rick Santorum. He'll want to pass a law banning Google Goggles. He thinks God gave us "eyes" for this sort of thing.)

Actually, Google Goggles remind me of Segways. You know, those really cool, high-tech scooters that relieve users of the chore of "walking"?

Anyway, here's what The Times said Wednesday about Google's latest ploy, er, toy:

Google Goggles uses photos, rather than text or voice, to conduct Web searches that can identify artwork, books, albums, contact information from a business card, logos, landmarks, wine bottles and even text to translate.

The experience offered by the glasses would be "Terminator-style" and would display information "based on preferences, location and Google's information," 9to5Google reported.

"The glasses will have a low-resolution built-in camera that will be able to monitor the world in real time and overlay information about locations, surrounding buildings and friends who might be nearby," the New York Times reported. Google intends that users not wear the glasses all the time, but only as needed, the report said.

Uh huh: "Only as needed." Not like that's a slippery slope or anything. Today's young people can't go five minutes without texting, surfing the Web or being on Facebook. (Heck, who am I kidding: A lot of adults can't go five minutes!) Giving these folks Google Goggles would be like those lab experiments in which rats push a button every time they want cocaine. What happens? Bing! Bing! Bing! Bye-bye happy rats!

I mean, didn't anyone at Google see "Brainstorm"? (R.I.P., Natalie Wood.)

However, it's not as if Google isn't taking precautions:

"Internally, the Google X team has been actively discussing the privacy implications of the glasses and the company wants to ensure that people know if they are being recorded by someone wearing a pair of glasses with a built-in camera," the New York Times said.

Which -- I don't know about you -- really puts my mind at ease. That should be an easy problem to solve. After all, Google is famous for worrying about privacy. (However, if Facebook is working on Friend Finder Frames, that's another story.)

OK, enough with the hyperbole. Here's what you really want to know:

According to the New York Times, Google wants the glasses on sale by the end of the year at a price ranging from $250 to $600 -- about the same as a smartphone.

Which is great -- because I thought they would be expensive or something.

Still, I'll bet Apple is toiling away right now on Apple Eyes (or would they be Apple i's?)

And why stop there? How about Nokia Noses, or Samsung Snouts, to help us smell better? And Ericsson Ears?

After all, my nose, and my ears, are pretty "dumb" too.

Bing! Bing! Bing!


Google's embarrassing Safari exploit

'Creatocracy' and the Internet free-for-all

The Dow is climbing! The Dow is climbing!

 -- Paul Whitefield

Image: Illustration from a YouTube video of how Google's Google Goggles technology uses photos to conduct Web searches. Credit: Google Inc.

The Dow is climbing! The Dow is climbing!

Wall StreetThe Dow briefly topped 13,000 on Tuesday.

Yippee! I guess.

The truth is, like many Americans, I have no idea what to make of this news. 

Sure, it can't be bad news, the fact that the Dow Jones industrial average is back to levels not seen since 2008, just before the housing bubble burst. (See "fool's gold" in the dictionary.)

So does that mean that it's good news?

Not necessarily. After all, next to The Times' headline about the stock market climb was this one: "Surging gas prices threaten to derail economic recovery."  And this one: "Consumers feel less financially secure than a year ago, poll finds."  Oh, and this one too: "How to survive an avalanche? Spit, expert says."

(Oops! Sorry, that doesn’t have anything to do with the Dow, or the economy. I just like to read stories of survival. Plus I've been a sucker for advice-type stories since childhood -- remember all the times your mom told you not to talk to strangers and what to do if someone tried to abduct you, and you waited and waited for that to happen because you knew just what to do, except it never did?)

But I digress. The stock market, to most of us, is like a roulette wheel in Vegas. We put our money down: We may win big; we may lose big. All we know for sure is that the house always wins, the house in this case being "them" -- the folks who work on "the Street" and who end up buying Ferraris with their end-of-year bonuses and vacationing in the Hamptons every summer, regardless of where the Dow finishes.

Honestly, I don't want to have to care about the Dow. I want the good old days, when "the street" was where we rode our bikes, "the market" was where mom went to buy groceries and a "hedge fund" was the money you got for taking care of the neighbor's yard.

Unfortunately, we have to care. Why?  The 401(k).

Yes, in the name of "choice" and the "free market" and "individual responsibility" -- not to mention corporate greed -- we've lost the pensions that paid for our parents' retirements. In their place, we've been given 401(k) chips, which we place on the stock market roulette wheel -- and the Dow's rise or fall determines whether in retirement we eat steak or dog food.

Really, though, it's a great system -- for those who sell or manage 401(k) plans.

So on Tuesday (appropriately enough, Fat Tuesday, and where did I put those beads?) the Greeks got their bailout (sheesh, at this rate the Germans would've been better off buying Greece), and the "bulls" celebrated. 

And tomorrow?  Ah, that's when the wheel spins again.

Do you feel lucky?


Democrats need to get serious about pension reform [Blowback]

Presidential giants of our generation, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton

-- Paul Whitefield

Photo: Getty Images


Bursting the GOP's housing bubble nonsense

Protest in Watts over foreclosures
In Republican circles, one common assertion about the mortgage meltdown is that it was caused by the government -- specifically President Clinton and Democrats -- who forced banks to make loans to people they knew couldn't pay.

This week, though, we were given proof that this assertion is -- what's the legal term for it?; oh yea -- baloney: In New York, Citigroup Inc. agreed to a $158-million settlement with the Justice Department.

As The Times reported:

Citi admitted that it provided misleading information about the quality of its mortgages to a federal insurance program run by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The government provided backing for the mortgages and ended up losing millions when the borrowers defaulted.

Notice that phrase: "misleading information about the quality of its mortgages."

And who were some of these borrowers?  Yep, you're right, some were the folks Clinton and the Democrats wanted to help achieve the American dream of homeownership:

The government insurance allowed Citi to give cheaper loans to less-creditworthy borrowers and then to sell the loans to investors.

But is wasn't the government forcing Citigroup's employees to make bad loans. In fact, here's what the government demanded:

The major banks were part of a program that allowed them to get automatic approval for government insurance for the mortgages they were issuing. As part of the program, the banks were supposed to aggressively pre-screen the mortgages to make sure they were not too risky and report any signs the mortgages were having trouble.

Hmmm. Wonder which part of "aggressively pre-screen the mortgages to make sure they were not too risky" the bankers didn't understand? Because here's how they apparently did business:

The complaint said Citi systematically ignored these rules, leading the government to insure lower-quality loans. More problematically, employees in Citi's mortgage unit are accused of asking members of the compliance department to not report problems with the mortgages to the government.

In legal circles, I think you call that "a smoking gun."  I guess Citi thought so too, since it agreed to fork over $158 million.

Admittedly, this settlement is pretty small potatoes, given the enormity of the mortgage mess.

And yes, you can't excuse people who took out mortgages they knew they couldn't afford.

But can we at least stop spouting the nonsense that the government forced banks to make bad loans?

Clearly, that's one claim that just doesn't hold up in a real court, and it shouldn't hold up in the court of public opinion either.


Santorum: The personal isn't always political

Mitt Romney picks the wrong fight over the auto bailout

The payroll tax deal isn't a sign of a more harmonious Congress

-- Paul Whitefield 

Photo: A protest in Watts this month against foreclosures. California is working through its backlog of troubled loans faster than many states, trade economists say. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Clint Eastwood to Karl Rove: 'Do you feel lucky?'

Chrysler's Super Bowl ad Sunday, which featured a patriotic message delivered by Clint Eastwood, was decried by Karl Rove and others as a sop to the Obama administration and its bailout of the U.S. auto industry

To paraphrase (badly) Neil Armstrong: "That was one small ad for Chrysler, one giant leap for political pundits."

Not to mention that Clint Eastwood apparently didn't "make Karl Rove's day," although I'm sure Bill O'Reilly was "feeling lucky" after Eastwood gave a statement to his Fox News show Tuesday night.

Chrysler's Super Bowl ad Sunday, which featured a deeply patriotic message delivered by Eastwood, was quickly decried by Rove and others as a sop to the Obama administration and its bailout of the U.S. auto industry.

On Monday on Fox News, Rove, in essence, drew first:

"I'm a huge fan of Clint Eastwood. I thought it was an extremely well-done ad, but it is a sign of what happens when you have Chicago-style politics, and the president of the United States and his political minions are, in essence, using our tax dollars to buy corporate advertising and the best wishes of the management, which is benefited by getting a bunch of our money that they'll never pay back."

On Tuesday night's "The O'Reilly Factor,' Inspector Harry Callahan let Rove look down the barrel of his .44 Magnum:

"I just want to say that the spin stops with you guys, and there is no spin in that ad. On this I am certain. l am certainly not politically affiliated with Mr. Obama. It was meant to be a message just about job growth and the spirit of America. I think all politicians will agree with it. I thought the spirit was OK. I am not supporting any politician. Chrysler to their credit didn’t even have cars in the ad. Anything they gave me for it went to charity. If Obama or any other politician wants to run with the spirit of that ad, I say go for it."

Really, though, how did we get here?  Do we have to start reading the tea leaves of Bud Light commercials for political messages?

And as for Chrysler, who knows what to think. The company, which is owned by the Italian automaker Fiat, puts out a simple, pro-America ad, then somehow gets bashed for being pro-Obama.

What, you think Chrysler was supposed to say "Hey, thanks for nothing, America and Mr. President; now buy our cars"?

Meanwhile, in its other ad -- for a Fiat 500 Abarth -- the Italian company features a Romanian supermodel (speaking Italian) who seduces a nerdy American on a street in some big American city.

What horrible message did that send?  Oh, I know: That Obama's a European-style socialist, and that he's seeking to seduce Americans by flaunting the sex appeal of a native of a former Soviet bloc country, and he wants you to buy cars built in a profligate European nation that's deeply in debt, and ...

Ouch. Enough.

Although I will say, if someone calls Eastwood next year for a Super Bowl ad, I'm afraid his response will be right out of "Dirty Harry":

"Well, you can just get yourself another delivery boy."


Wait! Isn't that Marge Simpson behind that veil?

Pain at the gas pump: Round up the usual suspects?

M.I.A. has digit malfunction, flips off the Super Bowl

-- Paul Whitefield

Photo: Scene from Chrysler's Super Bowl ad featuring Clint Eastwood. Credit: Chrysler

China's communists really, really want the iPhone 4S

Crowd outside Apple store in Beijing

With apologies to Simon and Garfunkel: "Where have you gone, Chairman Mao, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you."

They rioted in the streets of Beijing on Friday. It was just the like the old days of the Cultural Revolution. Except this time the rioters weren't waving Mao's "Little Red Book."

No, they were shouting insults -- and chunking eggs -- at an Apple store. Which wouldn't open its doors because it had run out of new iPhone 4S's to sell.

In the United States, we don't make much anymore, and certainly not iPhones, but we buy lots of them.

Meanwhile, in China, they make almost everything these days, and especially iPhones, and they buy lots of them.

Call it "free-market communism."

To be fair, many of the rioters, er, upset customers, weren't mad because they couldn't buy a phone. In another example of that free-market communist system, they were angry because it cost them money.  As The Times story explains:

One member of the crowd, a film extra from Beijing, said he was offered about $20 to wait overnight for the phone. He said scalpers picked up hundreds like him in buses outside film studios where extras commonly work.

"After Apple said they were not selling the iPhones today, no organizers paid their temporary workers," said the man, who declined to give his name….

Buyers were reportedly recruited to line up at the Shanghai store Friday as well, with promises of a free breakfast and $15.

And I thought farmworkers in America had it tough!

What does it mean?  Well, one office wag said that the failure to meet the demands of the clamoring horde showed that the Marxist dictate "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" had totally broken down in China.

Another co-worker saw parallels with the Opium Wars of the 19th century.

Personally, I think my colleagues were simply dredging up the few things they remembered from their long-ago college history and political science classes to try and show off.

Well, I can play that game too.  I think Mao's dream of a communist utopia in China has been done in by one of his great rivals, Deng Xiaoping, who once famously defended economic reforms by declaring “It does not matter if a cat is black or white; as long as it catches mice, it is a good cat."

Well, Deng, there are a bunch of your cats in China now, and they all want to catch iPhones.

It truly is an "Alice Through the Looking Glass" world these days.  As paid workers in a communist country riot trying to buy iPhones, here at home Republicans are actually denouncing presidential candidate Mitt Romney as a "vulture capitalist"  who practiced "crony capitalism"  as an executive at the private-equity firm Bain Capital.

Somewhere, Herbert Hoover and Ronald Reagan are weeping.

Meanwhile, our Democratic president went on television Friday morning to unveil his plan to actually shrink the government.

Somewhere, Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson are shaking their heads in disbelief.

For the final word, though, let's return to Beijing.  She was only talking about the iPhone, but this lady sums it all up:

A 60-year-old woman who gave only her surname, Chen, said the melee ruined her plans to give her son the latest iPhone for his birthday.

"There are so many people, and it's so cold, and now they say they won't sell us the phone," she said. "This is just so, so wrong."


CES: The connected living room on display

Goldberg: Romney's authenticity problem

Romney answers rivals' attacks on his Bain Capital record

Economy: Reorganizing government out of the subsidy business

-- Paul Whitefield

Photo: Police try to seal off the area as thousands of customers line up outside an Apple store in Beijing. Credit: AFP / Getty Images

Romney's 'firing' riff is more revealing than it seems

Mitt Romney's opponents are taking unfair advantage of his maladroit remark that he likes "being able to fire people who provide services to me." Romney, of course, was talking not about dismissing or downsizing employees but canceling a contract with a private health insurer. So the shots at him are cheap, though irresistible.

But Romney's use of this particular F-word is revealing in a different way. Breaking or not renewing a contract is part of the capitalist system, but why use the word "fire"? In its ordinary meaning, it refers to a boss sacking an underling, a hierarchical transaction. What if Romney had referred to a divorce as a husband "firing" his wife? Why couch the insurer-insured relationship as one of hire-and-fire? Perhaps because you're a boss temperamentally and historically.

Yes, but wasn't Romney speaking metaphorically? Sure, but our choice of metaphors tells a lot about us. What Romney's choice told us is that he sees the world in terms of bosses and employees.


Mitt Romney: An unexpected tumble on the way?

Santorum, Gingrich fail to cut Romney down to size

Mitt Romney snubbed by Massachusetts' top newspaper

Mitt Romney: How he could lose in New Hampshire, even if he wins

-- Michael McGough

Photo: Mitt Romney campaigns at Exeter High School in Exeter, N.H., Jan. 8. Credit: Charles Dharapak / AP Photo

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

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.


Need jobs? Call on government

New U.S. bomb gives Iran something to think about

Southwest Airlines orders 150 new jetliners from Boeing

-- Paul Whitefield

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



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Santorum's faulty premise on healthcare reform |  March 26, 2012, 5:20 pm »


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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.

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