Populist Ignorance?

Tuesday Donald Trump again illustrated how little he knew and he did it via his favorite medium, Twitter. The problem is his followers and many others actually like what they read or heard about. Let’s explore.

Tuesday morning the Chicago Tribune posted an article in which Boeing’s CEO Dennis Muilenberg was quoted as saying, “Anyone who paid attention to the recent campaigns and election results realizes that one of the overarching themes was apprehension about free and fair trade.” Very shortly thereafter Donald Trump tweeted, “Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!” Was this a cause and effect situation? I guess only Trump knows for certain. However it would be in character for the dangerously thin skinned Trump.

People love to complain about wasteful government spending and $4 billion for a single aircraft does sound like a lot of money. The problem is that Trump’s statement is highly inaccurate, based on a lot of assumptions and almost no facts. It played well with the low information, less highly educated voters who “swept” Trump into office by a deficit of over 2.5 million votes.

I don’t have the time and space to list all the falsehoods and ignorance exposed in that single tweet so I’ll briefly hit a few highlights.

Air Force One is a call sign or a program. It is not a single aircraft. In fact it is a minimum of two aircrafts. Boeing doesn’t have a $4 billion contract to manufacture a single plane. It currently has a $170 million contract for developmental work on the project. Unlike Trump’s personal plane Air Force One isn’t just an ostentatiously decorated airliner. The planes that serve as Air Force One are essentially flying command centers from which the President can run the nation in wartime. They don’t have gold plated buckles on their seatbelts but they can repel hostile fire and survive a nuclear war. Anyone who wants to pretend they are classy can get a seatbelt buckle gold plated by a plethora of suppliers. Cutting edge anti-missile defense systems can’t be gotten “off the shelf’ at your local airplane supply store.

As to the very effective with Bubba, “Cancel order!” that would be impossible since literally nothing has been ordered. It’s like saving auto jobs in Michigan that were never leaving in the first place. Opps, Trump claimed to do that too. At the moment Boeing is one of two airplane manufacturers capable of making a plane that meets the requirements of the Air Force One program. The other is European-based Airbus. I think it would be a good idea to keep the jobs and spending in America!

Boeing made the current aircrafts serving in the Air Force One program and claims to not have made a profit on the deal. Boeing, who does expect to get the order when it becomes reality in several years, again does not expect to make money on the deal. Boeing does it for prestige which helps it sell other aircraft world-wide. According to Muilenberg, Boeing delivered 495 737’s from its Renton, Washington factory last year. That supports a lot of well-paying American jobs! In fact Boeing employs more than 75,000 people in Washington alone.

Some of the hard feelings over Air Force One stem from the fact that the Secret Service won’t let Trump use his current plane after the inauguration. That bothers the greedy Trump. He had figured he could fly around in his plane and simply bill it back to the taxpayers at a profit. There is evidence he was setting up for that during the campaign. After all, to Trump all airplanes are basically equal; his just has more decorations. During the campaign his campaign spent $6.7 million on air travel in his plane which he billed to his financiers. In fact the Secret Service was billed $1.6 million for the “privilege” of flying on it. In case you are wondering you, the taxpayer, picked up that tab. At a 10% profit margin that is $830,000.

Trump doesn’t know what he is talking about which would not be dangerous except that he will be the President next month. The average American doesn’t know most of the facts I cited here today. That is not because they are stupid. In most cases they are simply too busy with life! They should not have to know these things; that is what they pay the elected representatives to know.

Trump’s not going to get to fly around in his personal plane and bill all of us for it. There is also a school of thought that he brought this up at the time he did to “punish” Boeing. If that is the case it backfired – Boeing’s stock took a little nosedive but closed Tuesday’s session slightly up. Populist sounding ignorance is ignorance nonetheless. Ignorant, thin-skinned, vindictive leaders are dangerous!

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