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Wednesday, July 26, 2006 01:00 am

Subsidizing a criminal

Bush administration blows kisses at defense contractor


Even when a big corporation is caught red-handed in an illegal scam to steal billions of dollars from taxpayers, the Bush administration still can’t resist blowing a sweet kiss to the thieving giant.

The Boeing Co. is this particular giant’s name, and it has been a reliable and generous donor to Bush and his Republican Party. Maybe that’s why executives of the Chicago-based military contractor thought they could get away with using the horror of 9/11 as a shield to extract $23 billion from our public treasury through a scheme that involved leasing some of its old passenger planes to the Air Force. Fortunately for us, some whistleblowers made Boeing’s blatant burglary public, and, in 2002, Congress stopped Bush’s Pentagon from going along with it.

Indeed, there was such a public uproar that the Justice Department filed both criminal and civil charges against Boeing. Now, four years later, U.S. Attorney General Alberto “See-No-Evil” Gonzalez has quietly settled the case. Boeing is to pay $615 million, in exchange for which its legal slate will be wiped clean. You might think that that’s a sizable punishment, but wait — here comes the Bush kiss: The Justice Department’s deal allows Boeing to take a tax deduction on the bulk of its $615 million penalty.

This means that Boeing’s punishment for trying to gouge us taxpayers would be subsidized by — guess who? — taxpayers! The settlement, which forces you and me to underwrite criminal corporate conduct, is so stinky that even Republican lawmakers are appalled. Three GOP senators have called the Boeing deal “inexcusable” and “unacceptable.”

If you attempted to rob a bank, as Boeing attempted to rob the U.S. Treasury, chances are that the attorney general would not intervene to give you a subsidized fine. But in the strange place called BushWorld, corporate crime is special indeed.

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