Saturday, May 19, 2012

Interesting Responses to My Recent Piece on Military Waste

Picasso’s famous painting depicting the horror of the first bombing of civilians by war planes in Guernica, Spain, during the 1937 Spanish Civil War.
My May 5 post on “Welfare Waste versus Warfare Waste” generated a number of critical comments on DNRonline after it was published in the May 15 Daily News-Record as an an op-ed piece, and also from some readers of the Mennonite World Review blog “Our World Together” where it was posted last week.

Here are some interesting responses from readers of the latter:

“The basic mission of the AMARG facility in Tuscon is to reclaim used aircraft and parts rather than paying contractors to produce new ones. According to the Davis-Monthan Air Force base web page, AMARG saves taxpayers $11 for every $1 invested in the facility.
“I strongly agree with your overall premise, but the fact that you choose one of the most cost-effective facilities in the entire US military system as evidence of your point severely weakens your credibility. If you are writing an article on waste, I question the wisdom of making an anecdote out of what is essentially an effective recycling facility.”           - jon                            

“Harvey- Explain to me how the money spent on defense products is 'wasted' and is 'gone forever' while welfare spending 'circulates in the economy'. I do not necessarily disagree with your overall position that we have too high a defense budget, but I'd like to hear the rationale for those baseless economic arguments. All the men and women who built those aircraft, not to mention the parts supplier that maintained them, the companies that fueled them etc. would likely disagree with you.
“Add the fact that our overall defense budget is roughly $600-800 billion of a $3 trillion budget (20 - 25%) and I think this argument gets long in the tooth fairly quickly. Much emotion, little logic, I think."           - bjw

Here are some of my own further reflections:

Thanks for your responses.

When it comes to economics, I'm totally not an expert, but it does seems obvious that money spent on a fighter plane doesn't help the economy in the way that investing in, say, a Boeing 707 that transports goods and people multiple times a day for a productive lifetime, and which can then still be used for spare parts after its retirement.

The initial expenditure of billions of dollars on the 4000 Air Force planes in Tucson did of course add stimulus to the economy, as would investing in building 4000 Egyptian style pyramids. And some of the "waste" of building multiple pyramids could be recouped by selling some of the surplus bricks to interested tourists and other would-be pyramid builders. But compare that to investing in 4000 small businesses and other infrastructure that could create a thriving city of economic activity rather than ending up in the kind of "graveyard" we have in Arizona, one that appeared to be void of any activity at all on the day we saw it.

Meanwhile, none of us is raising the moral question of whether aircraft should be ever be used to rain death on innocent people and create havoc and destruction from the air, especially through saturation bombing of cities or villages or the napalming of God's creation, as these Vietnam era planes were capable of doing with great efficiency.

The Wright brothers and other early pioneers in flight certainly didn't have such military use in mind, and when airplanes were first used in the bombing of Guernica in the Spanish Civil War, there was worldwide outrage over the kind of terror that created (note Picasso's painting commissioned to commemorate that tragedy).

Who would have thought that we would now, just 75 years later, take that kind of holocaust for granted as a normal part of "defense"?
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