This is what happens when corporations run the government.
As the world was grounding 737 Max airliners this week, following the second crash involving the new jet in five months, the Trump administration, serving as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Boeing, declared "no basis to order grounding."
This from an administration and president that claim climate change is a hoax, radiation and pesticides are healthy, and that "raking" prevents forest fires.
When President Trump finally buckled to pressure and grounded the 737 Max Wednesday, he said he "maybe didn't have to" but thought it important "psychologically."
And why shouldn't everybody trust the judgment of a guy who didn't know the difference between HIV and HPV, proposed that exercise is bad for you, and claimed that vaccines cause autism? Trump says he has a "natural instinct for science" because an uncle taught at MIT.
But Trump's late uncle didn't tell him to protect Boeing. That was Boeing's chief executive, a frequent visitor to Trump properties, phoning Trump with a plea not to ground both the 737 Max 8 and Max 9.
That corporations make safety decisions for Trump (himself a failed airline owner) isn't surprising. The acting head of the Federal Aviation Administration is formerly of American Airlines and of the Aerospace Industries Association, of which Boeing is a prominent member. Trump is expected to nominate a former Delta Air Lines executive for the top FAA job. His acting defense secretary is a former Boeing executive.
In Trump's broader corporatocracy, fully 350 former lobbyists work, have worked or have been tapped to work in the administration, the Post's Philip Bump reported, using data from the liberal group American Bridge 21st Century. The 24 at the Transportation Department lag behind only the 31 at HHS and 47 in the executive office of the president.
The corporate hold over the government hurts U.S. credibility overseas. After the crash of one of its Max 8 airliners, Ethiopian Airlines opted to send the doomed plane's black boxes not to the United States but to Europe. U.S. resistance to grounding the 737 Max raised worldwide concern about a "defiant" United States (Bangladesh), its credibility "eroded" because government is "too cozy" with business (Hong Kong) and is swayed by "corporate interests … to ignore reality" (Australia).
Nobody yet knows whether the Ethiopian Airlines crash had the same cause as October's similar Lion Air crash in the Java Sea near Indonesia. But, clearly, the procedural fix circulated by the FAA in November was inadequate, and a Boeing software update, which government officials planned for January, never came. The Wall Street Journal reported that the delay was caused, in part, by the government shutdown. The corporate FAA chief denies this, but the pilots' union had warned that the shutdown suspended safety oversight.
Trump facilitates the corporate takeover by running his administration on autopilot. A disproportionate number of "acting" officials -- they hold the FAA's top three positions, run the Pentagon and interior department, and serve as Trump's chief of staff and budget director -- reduces congressional oversight and weakens enforcement.
In addition, the billions of dollars that corporate executives invest in lobbying and campaign contributions have generated healthy returns: a corporate tax cut, an assault on regulations and unrelenting efforts to shrink enforcement. The president, who previously attempted to privatize 30,000 FAA jobs, again proposed slashing the FAA in his budget this week.
Corporate victories keep coming. The Los Angeles Times just obtained emails showing EPA officials moved to block NASA from monitoring pollution levels. Politico recently obtained data which showed that the Interior Department gave oil drillers nearly 1,700 waivers of safety rules implemented after BP's Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
The Union of Concerned Scientists has documented more than 70 "attacks on science," many benefiting corporations: censoring scientific language, suppressing studies, weakening advisory panels and such. The group suspects "inappropriate corporate influence" in rolling back fuel efficiency, chemical and methane standards, repealing the Clean Power Plan, suppressing known health risks, expanding oil and gas leasing and bailing out the coal industry, among others.
The American consumer pays the cost. Three days before the crash in Ethiopia, I took a Southwest 737 Max 8 flight to Denver. I knew it was the same model that had crashed in October, but I trusted federal officials' claims to have addressed the problem with new pilot instructions (which were insufficient) and the promised software fix (which never came).
Like millions of Americans, I long trusted that the federal government tried to protect food, air, water and safety. Trump's corporatocracy broke that trust.
Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.