Boeing's Race to the Bottom

Washington state still has an unfortunate habit of paying workers a decent wage.

Boeing's announcement that it will locate its 787 final-assembly plant in South Carolina has led to predictable condemnation of Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire. It seems she just didn't do enough to kowtow to the aerospace giant. Republicans, who portray themselves as stout protectors of the public purse when it comes to, say, funding basic health care, cast those concerns to the wind when it's time to bribe big corporations. Republican State Rep. Mike Hope of Lake Stevens angrily observed that "the governor of South Carolina wasted no time in calling a special legislative session to adopt a package of upfront grants [$170 million worth] and tax breaks [for Boeing]. I have to ask our governor... 'Why aren't we in session to demonstrate an equally strong commitment to keeping the aerospace industry?'"Of course, the problem isn't a lack of "commitment" to the aerospace industry in a region where generations of workers have devoted their lives to making Boeing planes. The problem is that workers in Washington just don't come as cheap. We have the bad habits of paying people a decent wage and providing good unemployment pay and benefits for people injured on the job—all things that apparently must change if we're to be competitive.But then, the advocacy groups trying to insure South Carolina's "competitiveness" say the same thing. "South Carolina's workers' compensation costs are the highest in the Southeast for small business," frets the South Carolina Civil Justice Coalition, a group that works to improve the business climate in Boeing's new home. They won't be satisfied until South Carolina's "climate" has been made as cheap as Georgia's, Tennessee's, and Virginia's.And on down it spirals. It's not a winnable game, not if Washington wants to keep any allegiance to its own values. In a few years, Boeing will be playing South Carolina off Mississippi.

 
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