Boeing Debacle Shows Need to Investigate Trump-era Corruption

Once considered the “world’s gold standard for aircraft safety,” the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was conspicuously slower than the rest of the world to take appropriate action after a tragic airline crash in Ethiopia credibly called into question the safety of the Boeing 737 Max 8.

That there were problems with Boeing’s software was not unknown to the FAA. Pilots in the U.S. had reportedly expressed concerns that the software limited their control of the planes.

After the Lion Air crash last fall in Indonesia, Boeing undertook a fix but the implementation of the update was delayed thanks in part to Trump’s border wall shutdown. Shockingly, the FAA deemed these delays “acceptable” because there was “no imminent safety threat.”

America’s precipitous downfall — from world leader in safe aviation to dangerous laggard — demonstrates how deeply Trump-era corruption has infected our government and underscores the pressing need for broad congressional oversight.

Happily, there are now lawmakers empowered and willing to investigate. This week, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) who chairs the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, announced the committee would investigate the FAA’s approval process for the 737 Max 8s. Critically, DeFazio emphasized his willingness to issue subpoenas.

DeFazio’s prompt response should serve as a model for other committees. Too often in this era of oversaturation, controversies slip out of the public consciousness before those in charge face proper scrutiny.

Sustained investigative scrutiny ensures that life-threatening corruption receives the warranted attention and undermines Trump’s strategy of creating new controversies to escape accountability for past scandals.

There are other oversight-related lessons to be learned from this latest incident. Since the administration’s corruption has seemingly compromised all areas of the federal government, all House committees should be undertaking oversight, not just high-profile ones like Judiciary.

It is perhaps even more important that committees with lower-profile jurisdictions undertake vigorous investigations because it is less likely that journalists and civil society organizations are dedicating significant resources to uncovering corruption occurring within the Transportation or Agriculture Departments than, say, at the Trump Hotel.

We need proactive oversight because, if anything is clear at this point, it is that what the public knows about this administration’s corruption likely only scratches the surface. If they were willing to risk planes falling from the sky, what kind of quieter threats to our food, medicine, savings and other areas have they allowed to go forward?

House Democrats must start systematically investigating agencies within their jurisdiction in order to avert future crises before they unfold. There were, for example, clear warning signs that not all was right at the FAA, signs that the Republican House chose to ignore over the past two years.

The FAA has not, after all, had a senate-confirmed leader for over a year, and there remains no nominee even now. In typical Trump administration fashion, the acting head is a former airline industry lobbyist.

John Breyault, vice president at the National Consumers League, told the Wall Street Journal that under the leadership of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao “there doesn’t seem to be any meaningful enforcement going on.”

Additionally, some FAA issues predate the Trump administration, such as its mid-2000s decision to outsource plane inspections to aviation manufacturers.

As former President Harry Truman declared, in addition to being the “eyes” of its constituents, Congress must also be the general public’s “voice” and “talk much about what it sees.” Hearings are a terrific platform to not only uncover information but educate the public about abuses of power.

Look no further than freshman Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) to understand the potential of oversight. Although Porter has not reached the icon status of her fellow new member Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), we expect that hers is a rising star, in no small part due to her oversight prowess.

In hearing after hearing, Porter has unleashed her considerable expertise on corporate executives and executive branch officials, illustrating their disregard for the people they serve and the law.

Most importantly, Porter’s questioning reverses our society’s dangerous deference to the wealthy, well-connected and powerful. This default “benefit of the doubt” allows them to escape accountability even though their worst actions often have more serious consequences than do those of the dispossessed to whom our society is so wildly punitive.

Across committees, lawmakers should ensure political appointees have the knowledge and the will to serve the public interest. They should confront CEOs when the official positions they espouse in court or before regulatory authorities directly contradict the niceties they spout before congressional committees. And they should be unafraid to call out lies.

Democrats won a majority in the midterms by promising to bring populist accountability to corporate America and the Trump administration. Mounting oversight at a scale and fervor proportionate to the scope of elite corruption in 2019 America will be key to Democrats retaining and expanding that majority.

This article originally appeared on The Hill.

August 21, 2019
Craig Collins
Endangered Species Act: A Failure Worth Fighting For?
Colin Todhunter
Offering Choice But Delivering Tyranny: the Corporate Capture of Agriculture
Michael Welton
That Couldn’t Be True: Restorying and Reconciliation
John Feffer
‘Slowbalization’: Is the Slowing Global Economy a Boon or Bane?
Johnny Hazard
In Protest Against Police Raping Spree, Women Burn Their Station in Mexico City.
Tom Engelhardt
2084: Orwell Revisited in the Age of Trump
Binoy Kampmark
Condescension and Climate Change: Australia and the Failure of the Pacific Islands Forum
Kenn Orphan – Phil Rockstroh
The Dead Letter Office of Capitalist Imperium: a Poverty of Mundus Imaginalis 
George Wuerthner
The Forest Service Puts Ranchers Ahead of Grizzlies (and the Public Interest)
Stephen Martin
Geopolitics of Arse and Elbow, with Apologies to Schopenhauer.
Gary Lindorff
The Smiling Turtle
August 20, 2019
James Bovard
America’s Forgotten Bullshit Bombing of Serbia
Peter Bolton
Biden’s Complicity in Obama’s Toxic Legacy
James Phillips
Calm and Conflict: a Dispatch From Nicaragua
Karl Grossman
Einstein’s Atomic Regrets
Colter Louwerse
Kushner’s Threat to Palestine: An Interview with Norman Finkelstein
Nyla Ali Khan
Jammu and Kashmir: the Legitimacy of Article 370
Dean Baker
The Mythology of the Stock Market
Daniel Warner
Is Hong Kong Important? For Whom?
Frederick B. Mills
Monroeism is the Other Side of Jim Crow, the Side Facing South
Binoy Kampmark
God, Guns and Video Games
John Kendall Hawkins
Toni Morrison: Beloved or Belovéd?
Martin Billheimer
A Clerk’s Guide to the Unspectacular, 1914
Elliot Sperber
On the 10-Year Treasury Bonds 
August 19, 2019
John Davis
The Isle of White: a Tale of the Have-Lots Versus the Have-Nots
John O'Kane
Supreme Nihilism: the El Paso Shooter’s Manifesto
Robert Fisk
If Chinese Tanks Take Hong Kong, Who’ll be Surprised?
Ipek S. Burnett
White Terror: Toni Morrison on the Construct of Racism
Arshad Khan
India’s Mangled Economy
Howard Lisnoff
The Proud Boys Take Over the Streets of Portland, Oregon
Steven Krichbaum
Put an End to the Endless War Inflicted Upon Our National Forests
Cal Winslow
A Brief History of Harlan County, USA
Jim Goodman
Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue is Just Part of a Loathsome Administration
Brian Horejsi
Bears’ Lives Undervalued
Thomas Knapp
Lung Disease Outbreak: First Casualties of the War on Vaping?
Susie Day
Dear Guys Who Got Arrested for Throwing Water on NYPD Cops
Weekend Edition
August 16, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Uncle Sam was Born Lethal
Jennifer Matsui
La Danse Mossad: Robert Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein
Rob Urie
Neoliberalism and Environmental Calamity
Stuart A. Newman
The Biotech-Industrial Complex Gets Ready to Define What is Human
Nick Alexandrov
Prevention Through Deterrence: The Strategy Shared by the El Paso Shooter and the U.S. Border Patrol
Jeffrey St. Clair
The First Dambuster: a Coyote Tale
Eric Draitser
“Bernie is Trump” (and other Corporate Media Bullsh*t)
Nick Pemberton
Is White Supremacism a Mental Illness?
Jim Kavanagh
Dead Man’s Hand: The Impeachment Gambit