Commentary: Boeing gets corporate welfare in S.C.

Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint took time out of their busy schedules to pen an op-ed that recently ran in the Myrtle Beach Sun newspaper.

They wrote passionately about the silly labor dispute over Boeing's decision to build a new plant in North Charleston to the dismay of the unions in its home base of Washington.

The National Labor Relations Board has put in a complaint about the move, claiming it was illegal retaliation against unions. The senators and a gaggle of South Carolina officials have piled on and said it "is a malicious attack on millions of workers in South Carolina and other right-to-work states, as well as a government-led act of intimidation against American companies that should have the freedom to build plants in the location of their own choosing."

Despite the noise, the North Charleston plant is currently under construction and is moving forward. The issue is little more than a game of superficial politics. Boeing has a right to build in South Carolina and is doing just that.

But there is an overlooked aspect of the dispute. According to an analysis by The (Charleston) Post & Courier, Boeing is being given a package of incentives worth more than $900 million - at least $150 million more than Boeing has said it would spend to build the plant - this while education and other important programs are being cut, undermining the state's ability to compete over the long haul.

That essentially means South Carolina taxpayers are building the plant and giving Boeing maybe a couple hundred million dollars on top of it. Question for all those who claim to love the free market: If Boeing is such a great deal, why aren't market forces enough to help the company make a profit without the public's help? And if it isn't such a great deal why should the public be on the hook if the rosy predictions about annual economic impact are never realized?

Graham and DeMint might call Boeing a private enterprise. I call it a glaring example of corporate welfare. That doesn't seem to bother the senators much, because while they oppose welfare in the form of $250 or $500 monthly checks to poor, single-mothers, they are happy on the national level to dole out millions to billion-dollar corporations while watching their state-level brethren do the same.

They also claimed that right-to-work states - states that actively crush union formation - are "outperforming forced-unionism states."

This is what they didn't mention: South Carolina, one of the country's strongest right-to-work states, has among the nation's lowest wages and highest unemployment rates, worst rates of health insurance and millions of workers who are afraid every day of losing their jobs if they decide to use their free speech rights in ways the boss might not like, with little recourse.

Wake me when the senators and other elected leaders spend as much time finding solutions to those problems as they are fighting the ghosts of South Carolina unions past.