The story of how John McCain backed a European-based plane maker named EADS over American-based Boeing for a $35 billion Pentagon contract to make air tankers is swirling around the internet. Additional juice for the story comes from the fact that McCain was richly rewarded by EADS for his actions in the form of campaign contributions, and the fact that a handful of McCain campaign staffers are current or former EADS lobbyists ("They never lobbied him related to the issues," said a spokesperson).
The appearance of favoritism obviously isn't good for the man who made his career crusading against Washington's politics as usual. But let's focus for a second on the fact that McCain sent $35 billion overseas while the American economy is struggling and jobs are in short supply.
If McCain feels that the federal government should select the bidder who offers the best product at the best value (and shun the bidder who just four or five years ago tried to game the federal government out of billions of dollars, as Boeing did), I understand that. In fact, I think I agree with it. The federal government spends wisely and though an American company didn't get the gig, its failure this time around will urge it to become more competitive in the future. And the whole thing certainly beats the no-bid contracts that have become so common during the Bush Administration.
But McCain has to be honest about the fact that his decision to push business to EADS instead of Boeing comes at a price here at home. At a campaign stop in early March, McCain said of the deal, "I think the bulk of that manufacturing and those jobs will be here in the United States of America." He wasn't being straightforward with his listeners. According to a Business Week analysis done by speaking to EADS and Boeing about their proposals, the Boeing contract would have created 17,000 more domestic jobs. And though the EADS contract does create some jobs in America, it does so in 2010 and later, as opposed to immediate job creation under Boeing.
Here's a comparison:
|Jobs Created or Supported in U.S.||Roughly 27,000||44,000|
|Locations||Mobile, AL||300 suppliers in 40 states|
|When||In U.S. starting in 2010 or 2011; starting immediately in France||Starting immediately in U.S.|
In the Democratic race, this is the sort of thing that would get a candidate killed in Ohio or Pennsylvania, where America's industrial infrastructure is rusting to the screws. But McCain is coasting along uncontested while the Democrats beat on each other, meaning that stories like this one don't get noticed. But McCain better hope that there aren't other examples like this that pop up in September and October, or Bush's failing economy, which is already a burden to McCain's electoral chances, will haunt him further.