Boeing is proof of capitalism’s pitfalls

The recent whistleblower case reflects the growing injustices from corporations.

(Grayson Seibert / Daily Trojan)

In 2019, John Barnett, a former quality control inspector at Boeing, filed a lawsuit against the company. Following two crashes that resulted in the deaths of 346 individuals, the lawsuit stated that employees, facing substantial pressure, were instructed to use inferior parts from scrap bins in the 737 MAX aircraft to avoid production delays. Barnett also revealed that examinations of emergency oxygen systems for the 787 MAX jet revealed a failure rate of 25%.

A 2017 review conducted by the Federal Aviation Administration validated Barnett’s safety concerns. The review revealed that the location of at least 53 “non-conforming” parts in the factory was unknown, and they were considered lost. Despite this evidence, following a four-year investigation, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration closed the whistleblower complaint in Boeing’s favor.

Barnett and his legal team appealed this decision in 2021, alleging that Boeing had retaliated against him for raising safety concerns, thus undermining his career. Later that year, Boeing had settled a criminal charge with the United States Department of Justice for conspiracy to defraud the government regarding fatal design flaws in the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System of the 737 MAX in relation to charges brought forth by other whistleblowers.

In March, Barnett was supposed to report for the third day of his deposition regarding another legal dispute he had raised with Boeing in 2017, but he didn’t show up or respond to calls. Barnett’s attorney called the hotel to request a wellness check. Shortly thereafter, Barnett was found deceased in his truck in the hotel parking lot, with a single gunshot wound to the head. He was holding a pistol with his finger on the trigger, and a note was found in the passenger seat.

The death was determined to be self-inflicted, but a friend of Barnett later said he had told her, “If anything happens to me, it’s not suicide.” Barnett’s lawyer, Brain Knowles, told CBS News that Barnett seemed optimistic about moving on with his life and showed no signs of contemplating suicide, leaving everyone shocked by his death. Boeing stated that they were saddened to hear about Barnett’s death.

The tragic outcome of the corporation’s egregious actions underscore the disastrous elements of our commercial system where profits are prioritized over the sanctity of human lives. Boeing and its monumental negligence serve as a stark testament to the failure of capitalism.

The free market system is the primary reason why Boeing is able to maintain an insurmountable position of power and remain impervious to the consequences of its actions. The company’s callous disregard for safety and its employees’ well-being epitomizes the darkest side of capitalism, where corporate greed eclipses all sense of morality and accountability. Not even the loss of hundreds of lives in two fatal crashes could halt Boeing’s relentless pursuit of profit. 

Boeing resorting to silencing whistleblowers through halting their careers — and even murder, as many allege — is a chilling testament to their unchecked power. The death of Barnett should serve as a wake-up call — a glaring reminder of the urgent need for systemic change. Except, it hasn’t.

The news of Barnett’s death was met with a disturbing lack of outrage, accountability or even concern. The apathy displayed by the general public in response to Boeing’s careless and endless atrocities highlights a systemic failure. This indifference is symptomatic of a society desensitized to corporate misconduct, where businesses wield such immense influence that their misdeeds are shrugged off as the norm.

But at what point are corporations not allowed to act in a manner fatal to human lives to protect their own profits? At what point are they given too much power?

It is naive to assume that the government or any other check of power will limit the immense influence these corporations hold when they have proven to do exactly the opposite. The terrifying silence that followed Barnett’s tragic death speaks volumes about our society’s tolerance for corporate malfeasance.

Boeing’s actions, from compromising safety to allegedly resorting to drastic measures to silence dissent, underscore a dangerous reality: In today’s capitalist system, the responsibility to demand change rests squarely on the shoulders of the general public. We must be outraged, we must be relentless and we must demand accountability. The time for complacency is over; the time for action is now.

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