Friday, February 19, 2010

Money isn't money when it's spent on defense

It’s not a conspiracy, nor is it a case of bias. Rather it's a holistic condition so comprehensive that the mind, both personal and collective, is unable to wrap itself around any sort alternative. Recently, the lead story in The New York Times brought this home.

The ominous head line warned, “Party Gridlock Feeds New Fear Of A Debt Crisis: A Rising Fiscal Alarm.” (No Shit, Dick Tracy.) The second paragraph of the story cast a spotlight on our oligarchs’ mindset. The paragraph read:

After decades of warnings that budgetary profligacy, escalating healthcare costs and an aging population would lead to a day of reckoning, economists and the nation’s foreign creditors say that moment is approaching faster than expected, hastened by a deep recession that cost trillions of dollars in lost tax revenues and higher spending for safety net programs.

Notice what isn’t mentioned as a major contributor to our deficit, such as a war in Afghanistan that is costing taxpayers a cool $57,000 per minute, or a trillion-dollar-a-year defense budget.

I guess these don’t exist. They are phantom wisps floating around somewhere overseas, well out of the public’s view.

If Napoleon’s army ran on its stomach, ours runs on its tires. Now the Pentagon is telling Congress that gasoline in Afghanistan costs our military $400 a gallon. That is what the Pentagon calls the “fully burdened cost of fuel” once all the expenses of moving fuel in and around a country that is without either infrastructures or gas stations.

Of course there are some locations so isolated that fuel has to be airlifted in giant bladders carried by helicopter. In that case, the fully burdened cost of gasoline jumps to $1000 per gallon. Factor in the fact that the large trucks used to haul tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles get seven miles to the gallon and you’re looking at one hell gasoline bill.

All of this assumes that the trucks carrying fuel escape roadside bombs and make it to their destinations. In June of 2008, 44 trucks carrying 220,000 of gasoline were lost to attacks while trying to deliver fuel to Bagram Air Field. That’s $88 million of gasoline up in flames. You could bail out a lot of underwater home owners with that kind of money.

Military sources call Afghanistan a “logistical nightmare.” It is said that in discussions of military affairs, amateurs focus on tactics while professions sweat logistics. I guess the amateurs planned Obama’s surge.

Obama plans to form a panel to “find answers” to our nation’s looming fiscal crisis. And I fear that this panel will reek of a prejudice for a neoliberal Washington Consensus as a solution that would include slashing social programs and privatizing as many government programs as possible.

Just when you thought Social Security “reform” was dead…

We may rest assured that no politician will have the courage to even suggest that a good place for some vigorous deficit reductions would be the endless corridors of the Pentagon. This simply wouldn’t do.

Besides, reducing defense spending does nothing for Wall Street while privatizing Social Security does much. And we all know whose going to be wielding the scalpel when it comes time to slash expenses.

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