Mike the Mad Biologist

If those who are upset about runaway government spending were serious, they would look at defense spending, which has increased in nominal terms by 75% percent. Consider what even a small level of war department waste would buy for us:

With a price tag now approaching $330 million per plane and a total program cost of well over $65 billion, the C-17, produced by weapons-maker Boeing, has miraculously evaded every attempt to squash it. In fact, Congress even included $2.5 billion in the 2010 budget for ten C-17s that the Pentagon hadn’t requested.

Keep in mind that $2.5 billion is a lot of money, especially when cuts to domestic spending are threatened. It could, for instance, provide an estimated 141,681 children and adults with health care for one year and pay the salaries of 6,138 public safety officers, 4,649 music and art teachers, and 4,568 elementary school teachers for that same year. Having done that, it could still fund 22,610 scholarships for university students, provide 46,130 students the maximum Pell Grant of $5,550 for the college of their choice, allow for the building of 1,877 affordable housing units, and provide 382,879 homes with renewable electricity — again for that same year — and enough money would be left over to carve out 29,630 free Head Start places for kids. That’s for ten giant transport planes that the military isn’t even asking for.

I know this makes me a Dirty Fucking Hippie, but that’s a lot of jobs. It would also help students stay out of debt (or at least, lower the debt they accrue). And housing is good too! Admittedly, these benefits would not concentrated in key electoral college states, but, still, it’s a lot of jobs.

Comments

  1. #1 Gingerbaker
    March 5, 2010

    Right on!

    This is the elephant in the room, alright, and it’s a fracking huge elephant.

    It is about time we all start talking about this – the US will not survive as a 1st world nation if we do not drastically reduce military expenditures.

  2. #2 Martin
    March 5, 2010

    Just pulling out of Iraq and Afghanistan would free up $150b a year. Then there’s all those unnecessary foreign and domestic bases to be closed. The military budget is a disgrace and ties up funds which could be better used for:
    1) Deficit reduction
    2) Infrastructure improvements
    3) Social programs
    AND
    4) Tax cuts for those that need them (under $30k pa)

    Shit…a REAL national health insurance system would be small beans compared to the military budget.

  3. #3 John Danley
    March 5, 2010

    Yes, but we desperately need those cargo planes to deliver bibles to unamerican communist infidels.

  4. #4 katydid13
    March 5, 2010

    There are legimate difference in defense spending, but I think all rational people should be able to agree that generally, if the Pentagon doesn’t want it, we shouldn’t be buying it. Shouldn’t that be our starting place except in rare instances when we are convinced they are totally wrong?

  5. #5 Chuck
    March 5, 2010

    How many Jobs does 1 C-17 Cargo Plane create inside and outside of the military and for how long?

    Doing “What if” means looking at all “What if”s.

  6. #6 Art
    March 5, 2010

    C-17s, a relatively capable and adaptable transport aircraft, don’t really bother me much. Lots of uses and a lot of documented need.

    The F-22, an aircraft designed to fight a war that may never come, is largely a waste. Spaced-based missile defense, a concept that has never shown any capability, is a complete waste.

    Better than half of the US armies conventional, large war, war capability is wasted simply because it is money spent on a type of warfare nobody does any more. By the time it is needed it will all be ten or twenty years out of date.

    The greater part of the air force is useless for the wars we fight. It has gone out of its way to avoid the realities of its responsibilities to support the soldier on the ground. It has no interest in small and simple airframes that excel at prosecuting the bush wars we face. They want to fly above it all. Untouchable at mach 2 and 50,000 feet.

  7. #7 Scott
    March 6, 2010

    Googling “C17 jobs”, one finds a Boeing spokesperson quoted as saying that the C-17 program provides about 30,000 jobs across 43 states. Other numbers are as low as 5,000 or 14,000, directly or indirectly. It’s hard to tell how much of that is “direct” jobs. Aviation Week reports about 6,250 jobs directly related to the C17 project, most of them in Long Beach, with maybe 25,000 indirect jobs nation wide.

    So, yes, that is a lot of jobs. And yes, aerospace workers tend to make 2, 3, or 4 times as much as teachers do, so the money doesn’t seem to go quite as “far”. One could argue that the money might be better spent on different jobs, in different states, at different wages, to build different things, but that wasn’t the argument that was made. The argument made was that instead of buying hardware (airplanes), we could spend the money on jobs.

    It’s the same fallacious argument made about the Apollo program back in the day: “Why should we throw all those dollars into space?” The vast majority of the money doesn’t go to procure the metal and plastics. Most of it goes to the scientists who come up with the new technologies, and to the engineers and construction workers who design and build the things.

    So, make a better argument, and I might agree with you. I personally like teachers and policemen. But throwing out non-sequiturs only does your position a disservice.

  8. From another Blog:

    “If they had, what would have become of the C-17, the Air Force’s giant cargo plane? With a price tag now approaching $330 million per plane and a total program cost of well over $65 billion, the C-17, produced by weapons-maker Boeing, has miraculously evaded every attempt to squash it. In fact, Congress even included $2.5 billion in the 2010 budget for ten C-17s that the Pentagon hadn’t requested.”

    Commenter Scott is to be commended for his directness and unassailable logic in this matter.

    That being said, it would be polite and politically correct to simply say the blog author’s cost data for C-17 is inaccurate, but it is more appropriate to say it is completely false. Please note and quote your DoD data sources to substantiate your claim. The average fly away cost of Boeing C-17 to the AF has been in the area of 200 million.

    Furthermore, there is NO substantive data to corroborate or support the SECDEF’s claim “we have enough” C-17s. The 2005 Air Mobility Study and the comments within the 2006 QDR based on AMS were completely debunked by the GAO and remains so. No new data has been produced and 2010 QDR offered no new data to back this contention. Moreover, the President’s recent call to kill the plane is based on this same debunked data.

    And oh, the “think how many jobs we create with that 2.5 billion” argument. Is there some sore of cognitive or associative disconnect substance being released in the drinking water of the US, designed to affect learned journalistic colleagues along with those who think a blog makes them journalists and the views of “average” citizens? Exactly how do you think these aircraft come into being? A wave of a magic wand and pixie dust?

    No, they are built by 30,000 highly skilled workers at Boeing’s Long Beach and St. Louis plants, supported by 702 suppliers in 42 or more states. And when one applies first phase Keynesian economic multipliers of appox. 9.7 jobs directly linked to the core manufacturing position, the number expands to the 300,000 range. Conversely, the ripple effect throughout the economic system is instantly ascertainable in a positive or negative way depending on whether it is job loss or job gain. Literally millions of jobs and livelihoods (yes, families)are affected, be it the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, are impacted.

    John Keynes was simply one of the world’s most brilliant economists, despite a brief falling out of favor in the aftermath of the Nixonian economic strategy failures in the early ’70s which some attributed to a misapplication of Keynes’ postulations.

    Keep in mind that traditionally, the automotive and aerospace industries represented, and to a significant degree, still represent, the core of the country’s industrial base. Despite all the talk about it’s better to let these “low-tech” jobs get offshored to developing economies, nothing is further from the truth. USBIS’ Alan Tonelson’s important work “The Race to The Bottom: Why a Worldwide Worker Surplus and Uncontrolled Free Trade Are Sinking American Living Standards” completely debunks such assertions.

    Particularly troubling are his observations that the vaunted “high-tech” and “IT” jobs that are to act as savior once those “obsolete” manufacturing jobs are completely exported are not and will not materialize here. That sets the stage for a Las Vegas style consumer/service economy across the US.

    The fact is, a country MUST make things of value for internal and external economic growth, otherwise, it could soon lose its sovereign right to exist.

    Readers truly interested in adding to their knowledge base may find this linked Department of Commerce document most compelling from the standpoint of C-17 economic impact.

    http://www.emotionreports.com/downloads/pdfs/GHHDOC_C17_2005.pdf

    Since the above erroneous C-17 cost number is being used in other blogs, it’s clear that through a well coordinated effort, this deliberately misleading data is being issued to blog authors and other net based mediums as a talking point.

    As a famous propagandist once said in essence, “The big lie often repeated becomes the truth”.

    Myron D. Stokes
    Managing Member
    Global HeavyLift Holdings, LLC

  9. #9 Mike
    March 6, 2010

    Scott,

    You’re right in that I should have pointed out that the velocity of spending money on unneeded planes is lower than that of spending it on schools or roads. But the idea that ten additional planes is adding more science and engineering jobs is a non-sequitur that only does your position a disservice. So, make a better argument, and I might agree with you.

  10. #10 Mike
    March 6, 2010

    Myron,

    The $2.5 billion is from the 2009 budget allocation for ten planes. The 2005 estimate you cite proposed a 2008-2012 cost of $178 million per plane–given that the actual cost is $250 million, the value of that report is questionable.

    Your Keynes comment is odd: if you actually took the time to wipe the flecks of spittle off your keyboard and read my blog, you would realize that I’m a Keynesian. If we were maxing out our capacity to rebuild all of our infrastructure (roads, bridges, sewers, classrooms, adequate class size, public health needs, just to name a few things that would run to a few trillion dollars), and we still needed to create jobs, then, sure, let’s build cargo planes. But we should be spending on those things first (and their economic velocity is much higher than defense contracting too).

  11. #11 Gingerbaker
    March 6, 2010

    “…And oh, the “think how many jobs we create with that 2.5 billion” argument. Is there some sore of cognitive or associative disconnect substance being released in the drinking water of the US, designed to affect learned journalistic colleagues along with those who think a blog makes them journalists and the views of “average” citizens? Exactly how do you think these aircraft come into being? A wave of a magic wand and pixie dust?

    No, they are built by 30,000 highly skilled workers at Boeing’s Long Beach and St. Louis plants, supported by 702 suppliers in 42 or more states…”

    What a smug self-serving post from someone with a financial stake in the maximization of military spending.

    At the end of the day, the nation can spend its tax monies on projects that are good strategic investments for the future economic, social, environmental, and educational progress of the nation, or it can squander them on boondoggles like a few large military-spec airplanes that, hopefully, will never be more productive than when they slowly oxidize in the desert upon decommission.

    The point is not that highly-skilled work forces make these products – we want our work forces to be highly-skilled. The point is that we can no longer afford to be making vanadium plasma, boron-quenched buggy whips.

    Only some of our friends in Europe can afford those buggy whips now if they wanted them – you, know, countries that don’t have 13-figure deficits because they didn’t squander 150% of their capital over the past 50 years.

  12. #12 Min
    March 6, 2010

    “In fact, Congress even included $2.5 billion in the 2010 budget for ten C-17s that the Pentagon hadn’t requested.”

    Your stimulus dollars at work! ;)

    Or, as conservatives like to say, digging holes and filling them up.

  13. #13 Molly, NYC
    March 6, 2010

    You mostly reference what it would buy us in education, but I’m reminded of one of the things about the HCR debate that I find infuriating: The insistence that it be entirely self-supporting.

    Over the last decade, the Rs made every major decision in light of how they could best act as a conduit between the US Treasury and the pockets of their pals. The Joe Sixpacks paid a trillion–with a TR–for the C-17s, and the war in Iraq and Halliburton and Blackwater, no-bid contracts for whatever Republican donors had to sell, defense-related or not, at whatever price they chose to sell it, and we paid, and we paid, and we paid–and almost none of us have a damn thing to show for it.

    But now comes a proposal that could actually benefit the little guy, and what’s the reaction in Congress? Suddenly Washington becomes Old Mother Hubbard. “Oh, we don’t have money for that! (And don’t even bother bringing up single payer.) No, you’ll have to pay for that yourself!”

    We did pay.

    This issue always makes me think of that Chris Rock routine about the breadwinner who works his ass off and his meager, and minimally fair, reward is the big piece of chicken at dinner.

    Only the breadwinners here didn’t get the chicken. They didn’t get anything.

    Here’s a thought: It’s clear that, while torturing people doesn’t get the truth out of them, it does get whatever behavior the torturer wants. Suppose we waterboard Cheney, Erik Prince, et al. until they cough up trillion or so they took, and use it for schools and health care.

  14. Mike: Your measured response to my comments are appreciated, although there is no spittle to remove from the screen. And yes, I sensed an appreciation for Keynes on your part but was not sure why you chose to follow the drumbeat of those seeking to kill what is inarguably the worlds finest airlifter.

    I think it appropriate to quickly address the unfounded, if not sophomoric, comments of Gingerbaker, who clearly has no grasp of the relatively young (operational since 1993) C-17′s capabilities which from a technological standpoint is anything but a “buggy whip”. Furthermore, and in partial to response uninformed assumptions of a perpetual state of Afghanistan-esque conflict, C-17 has proven itself indispensable in a world wherein conventional and assymmetric warfare exists comcomitantly along with an uptick in humantarian/disaster relief scenarios. Add to this Communist China’s worrisome emergence as an economic and military force (their massive, DoD acknowledged,buildup of ships, planes, tanks and other ground assault vehicle is quite conventional) to be reckoned with, who by the way are building their own versions of the “unnecessary” C-17, F-22 and the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System (core to US naval defensive and offensive capabilities) having stolen the technology, as confirmed by intelligence services, from the US.

    I stand by the flyaway cost of C-17 at 200 million to the AF (even the 250 million per plane inclusive of maintenance programs and at least one shipset of replacement engines of the 2009 Defense Budget 2.5Bil authorized and appropriated despite a bitter assault by the Arizona Senator and certain industry allies inclusive of Airbus and Lockheed-Martin, is a far cry from 330 million)since I am personally aware of Boeing’s — through enhanced production efficiencies combined with continuous process improvement and the benefits of PICOS, Purchase Input Cost Optimization — can produce this indispensable airplane at 180.

    Tell me, exactly what replaces this aircraft near, mid or even long term, to handle military airlift requirements and a disturbing increase in natural disasters like Haiti and Chile in which the C-17 played and is playing, so magnificient a role? 32-42 year old unreliable C-5s (The REAMP-RERP C-5M program will NOT be completed) which have NEVER met mission expectations and the 50 year old C-130 Hercules which even in its latest “J” iteration carries 22-25 tons versus C-17′s 87? Not to mention that C-17 can operate out of the exact same underprepared or virtually non-existent air ops infrastructure tactical environment in a war theater or disaster zone as the Hercules: just ask any military personnel stationed in Afghanistan.

    What about Airbus Military’s Turboprop A-400M that finally achieved first flight late last year and is 12 tons overweight — thus limiting it to C-130J capacity of 25 tons — overbudget and whose consortium cost to South Africa of 340 million (SA numbers) caused it to cancel its order?

    The issue here isn’t cost, it’s need. And appropriate data provided in my previous communication and readily available elsewhere if one cares to look, debunks the SECDEF’s, SECAF’s and President’s assertions of it is “not needed”.
    http://ow.ly/1f3ez

    Boeing C-17 is a proven national asset and a national system giving this country a military reach and disaster response capability superior to any nation on earth – the benefit, I guess. of being THE world power in the manner of ancient Rome, Medo-Persia and Greece among the historically acknowledged 7, despite China’s challenges to that reality.

    I do believe that you, unlike too many who should know better, recognize that the industrial base and the defense industrial base are one and the same, inseparable, inextricable and absolutely critical to national and economic security.

    Be well.

    Myron D. Stokes
    Managing Member
    Global HeavyLift Holdings, LLC

    Ps; in a separate issue, would appreciate your comments on current state of LEMS research

  15. #15 Gingerbaker
    March 6, 2010

    “I think it appropriate to quickly address the unfounded, if not sophomoric, comments of Gingerbaker, who clearly has no grasp of the relatively young (operational since 1993) C-17′s capabilities which from a technological standpoint is anything but a “buggy whip”. Furthermore,…”

    Buggy whip as in a mode of thinking that says that the US needs or can afford to be the preeminent non nuclear military powerhouse in the world. I don’t give a shit if the C-17 slices bread or does its own lobbying in Washington.

    It is still an excellent example of the enormous excess of the the military-industrial complex that the famous liberal Dwight Eisenhower explicitly warned us about. The military complex that has bludgeoned Congress into spending us into a deca-trillion dollar debt which is a much graver National Security crisis than any two-bit dictator will ever pose. To say nothing of the blowback of that the international expression of this power and mindset which led directly to 9/11. All thanks to people like you who celebrate expenditures on a needless, immoral, and redundant military infrastructure and who give little thought to the long-term consequences that kind of spending produces.

    “Boeing C-17 is a proven national asset and a national system giving this country a military reach and disaster response capability superior to any nation on earth – the benefit, I guess. of being THE world power in the manner of ancient Rome, Medo-Persia and Greece among the historically acknowledged 7, despite China’s challenges to that reality.”

    Well, that about says it all. What a pathetic and tragic world-view you have. Basically adolescent, which is a step below “sophomoric”, BTW.

  16. #16 Paul Murray
    March 7, 2010

    Unfortunately for this POV, “security” (ahem) is one of the USA’s main exports. The deal is simple: the USA will protect you from your own populations, and in return, you will denominate sales of oil in USD (which we print at will).

    Oil, of course, is the #1 crucial, irreplaceable element of civilistation as we know it. Oil is proxy for wealth.

    A sweet deal, for a long time. And clever – potentates never lose interest in more “security”. No problem with market saturation. And if they stop buying, why, you can just sell some security to the other guy!

    The problem is, well, the USA is losing its wars. And everyone knows it. So the USA, as a participant in the global marketplace, has all this “inventory” that its clients are stating to question the value of. A tough spot to be in.

  17. Mike: One other quick clarification: The 10 are indeed for the 2010 Defense Budget unless I somehow misunderstood you.

    By the way, the quality of discourse in this medium is atypically high, with most commenters making strong efforts to substantiate their viewpoints.

    Well done.

    Cheers,
    Myron D. Stokes
    Managing Member

    Global HeavyLift Holdings, LLC

  18. #18 Dave Smethurst
    April 16, 2010

    One argument I heard made is that if the US govt does not buy the C17′s the manufacturing capability will be lost. How many of the planes are built each year, ,iol;itary or the commercial version? Do they all come down the same line? If they build many, the the 10 the military doesn’t want, are just extra profits.

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