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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

February 9, 2010 at 10:00 AM

Twelve o’clock high: Richard Shelby’s attack on Boeing isn’t over

Top of the News: For all of Boeing’s success with the 787 and 747-8 test flights, another big test is emerging in Washington: Sen. Richard Shelby.

The Alabama Republican had placed a blanket hold on 70 high-level Obama administration appointees, a virtually unprecedented use of senatorial priviledge. He was quite honest about the reasons: he wants the Air Force’s new tanker built in his state by Airbus and Northrop Grumman (he also wants an FBI Terrorist Device Analytical Center to be located there). Shelby’s office said he will release most of holds — except regarding the Air Force.

It’s not even clear that Airbus will bid in the new round of the long-running tanker competition. Airbus’ parent EADS and Northrop have accused the administration of favoring Boeing. And for a few months it has appeared that the Puget Sound region had its best shot at winning this work in years.

Shelby’s moves muddy that outlook — even though the GOP is in the minority, it seems to have much more power in the Senate than Democrats. And more Republican seat pickups in the fall elections could return new roadblocks to Boeing.

The Back Story: The Dow is up today over hopes that the European Union will save Greece from its debt crisis. Unfortunately, Greece isn’t the only member in trouble. Add Ireland, Portugal and Spain to the list.

If the past three years have taught us anything, it’s that crises keep moving. So I’ll be skeptical of whatever reassurances the European Central Bank offers. We shouldn’t be complacent here — and I’m not talking about the hysteria about the federal deficit. First, our globalized markets will be pulled down by sovereign debt issues elsewhere. Second, most of those toxic “assets” from the real-estate crash are still out there — just hidden or off-loaded to the Federal Reserve. Bottom line: The over-leveraging of the past years has yet to unwind.

Today’s Econ Haiku:

Oh, what a feeling

If Toyota can stumble

No one should be smug

Comments | More in Aerospace/Boeing

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