Boeing's Boondoggle

In the old days of Chicago's corrupt politics, the city's unofficial motto was: "Where's mine?"

Sadly, that Me-first spirit has been alive and well in Washington since September 11. Major corporations have rushed full battalions of lobbyists to the Capitol to take advantage of congress' war fever, wrapping all of their special-interest wish lists in Old Glory. They've been grabbing as many governmental goodies as their fat fingers can clutch, even as they run full-page ads asserting their patriotism and declaring: "United We Stand!"

Consider Boeing's "patriotism." The huge airline maker, which had been in steep decline prior to September 11, saw the attacks as a get-well-quick opportunity. It deployed a legislative attack force of 34 in-house lobbyists and more than 50 for-hire lobbyists to get an extra-special handout from the Pentagon's appropriation bill, passed in December. At the last minute, two senators behind closed doors quietly slipped Boeing's amendment into the bill.

Known now as the "Boeing Boondoggle," this amendment requires the Air Force to lease 100 of the corporation's widebody 767 commercial jets to be used as refueling tankers. The lease price is $20 million per jet. Per year. For 10 years. That's 20 billion bucks handed to Boeing -- about four times what it would cost simply to buy the jets!

The rip-off gets worse. Since the 767s are built as commercial planes, the military will have to spend another $3 billion to convert the 100 jets to tankers. Plus, in 10 years, the planes must be given back to Boeing in the condition they were delivered, meaning taxpayers will have to spend another $3 billion to convert the jets back to commercial use.

This is Jim Hightower saying ... Thanks to Senators Ted Stevens and Patty Murray, Boeing is walking off with $26 billion of our cash, while Bush and the media keep telling you and me to rally 'round the flag and do what's right for America.

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