Nikki Haley Resigns from Boeing Board In Protest Over Bailout
In an unexpected development, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley resigned from the Boeing Co. board of directors.
In an unexpected development, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley resigned from the Boeing Co. board of directors. The company announced the news Thursday. The company is actively advocating for a $60 billion stimulus for the aerospace industry, an idea that Haley said violated her principles of government.
Standing on Principle
“I cannot support a move to lean on the federal government for a stimulus or bailout that prioritizes our company over others and relies on taxpayers to guarantee our financial position,” Haley told Boeing’s management. “I have long held strong convictions that this is not the role of government.”
Boeing, she said, was headed in a direction she could not support, which left her no choice but to resign her position. President Donald Trump said he supported bailing out airline companies and Boeing.
“Yes, I think we have to protect Boeing. We have to absolutely help Boeing,” Trump said. “Obviously when the airlines aren’t doing well then Boeing is not going to be doing well. So we’ll be helping Boeing.”
While the business is looking for $60 billion in relief for the industry, it did not enumerate the amount it is hoping to secure for itself. However, it is mostly requesting loan guarantees, which the federal government tentatively has penciled in for half of the assistance it may provide. The remaining $30 billion would be direct grants that companies would not be obligated to repay.
“This will be one of the most important ways for airlines, airports, suppliers and manufacturers to bridge to recovery,” the company said. “Funds would support the health of the broader aviation industry, because much of any liquidity support to Boeing will be used for payments to suppliers to maintain the health of the supply chain. The long term outlook for the industry is still strong, but until global passenger traffic resumes to normal levels, these measures are needed to manage the pressure on the aviation sector and the economy as a whole.”
Aside from the Covid-19 virus outbreak, Boeing faces unique challenges. After two deadly crashes of its new 737-MAX aircraft, the company suspended production of the model, causing layoffs to ripple through its suppliers, notably Spirit Aerosystems. Dennis Muilenburg, former CEO, was forced to resign when communication between company executives leaked out. The internal memos cast the company leadership in a negative light in regard to safety concerns for the 737-MAX.
Boeing also experienced setbacks with its Starliner spacecraft, which experienced a computer error on its most recent test flight. The company also reported communication errors with the craft and NASA identified 61 safety fixes for the astronaut capsule.
Boeing currently employs 160,000 workers in the US where it assembles all of its aircraft, according to CNN. In addition to serving civilian aviation companies, Boeing is also a key defense contractor and the state’s largest exporter by product value. It’s business is so large that its woes materially affected the entire US economy in 2019, driving the GDP down by 0.4 percentage points, according to the White House Council of Economic Advisors.
Future President Haley?
Haley was in a unique position on the Boeing board as a former Trump administration official. Although her former boss supports the call for an industry-wide bailout, she chose to break with him in a possible political gambit. Bailouts during the Obama administration prompted the Tea Party movement that sought to return Washington to fiscal conservatism.
Haley’s name has been mentioned as a possible Republican presidential contender for 2024. She has ties to the establishment, both as a former Governor of South Carolina and as a Trump loyalist.
“Talk to any pollster and talk to anybody that’s involved in politics, she is at the top of the list for a lot of different jobs — not just president,” said Rep.Ralph Norman, R–S.C. “Nikki Haley has made a record for herself that the people respect. When she was governor, she delivered. She wasn’t an empty rhetoric politician. She did what she said. So, she’ll be at the top of the list.”
Critically, she left her post in Washington on good terms with Trump, a rare feat for anyone to accomplish. She followed it up with a book defending the president and assailing some of his advisor-turned-critics including former Chief of Staff John Kelly and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
By taking a stand against a government bailout for Boeing, Haley is casting herself as a fiscal conservative even at a time when the president is not.
Haley is no stranger to Boeing either as it has a large manufacturing facility in South Carolina. During her time as governor, she helped the company repel efforts at unionization, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Haley’s relationship with the Republican Party is complicated just as it is with Boeing. Her resignation will likely have no impact on the final decision to bailout the company and airline industry as a whole, but it could be a symbolic move to add to her record in advance of her return to politics. The larger Republican base, fiscal conservatives, and the extreme right Tea Party would all likely view Haley’s decision as admirable.