On “unsustainability”

Before we get going, I notice that corporate media outlets are excited about a vast number of B-52s that were dispatched from Barksdale AFB in Louisiana to Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar. The huge fleet of bombers landed on Saturday (9 April 2016).

How mammoth is the fleet? The Air Force won’t say, for reasons of “national security,” but in fact it’s only two aircraft, which are supposedly there to fight “ISIS.”™

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I mention this because I find it pathetic that average Americans are so thrilled by war.

Since no bombs fall on the USA (except bombs exploded by the U.S. government in false flag operations), war is a spectator sport; something to be enjoyed with beer and pretzels. That’s why Medicare and Social Security are called “unsustainable,” while endless trillions for war and for military contractors are not.

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I don’t know what the USA expects to bomb, since the U.S.-led proxy war against Syria has already reduced most of the country to rubble. The city of Homs, for example, looks like Gaza…

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Much of Syria is no longer livable. No water, food, electricity, or shelter — nothing but Obama’s mercenaries on one side, and military conscription on the other. That’s why so many refugees fled to other nations, where they are hated by the locals who support the wars that create refugees in the first place.

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BELOW: Navy SEALs bring “freedom and democracy” to Syrians, who “hate us for our freedoms.” Supposedly there are fifty Special Forces personnel in Syria to fight ISIS train ISIS mercenaries to attack the Syrian government and people. Obama says he wants to send 250 more Special Forces personnel to Syria. Is Obama serious, or is he bluffing to see how the Russians will react?

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Anyway the theme of this post is “unsustainability.” Whatever narrows the gap between the rich and the rest is “unsustainable.” Whatever widens the gap is fully “sustainable,” and is “necessary” for reasons of “national security.”

Thus, Medicare and Social Security are called “unsustainable,” while endless trillions for military contractors are not. This madness continues because Americans love war (as long as they don’t personally suffer from it). This is also the reason why military contractors enjoy a “free lunch.”

The infamous F-35 fighter program has already cost over $1 trillion to develop, and the US Air Force is about to spend another $500 million to upgrade hangar facilities at the first air base chosen to host the F-35. Even though the F-35 is not yet off the ground, the Pentagon is prepared to spend another estimated $55 billion to supposedly produce more B-2 bombers. As I have noted in the past, U.S. military contractors no longer make weapons. These days their weapons are forever “in development,” so they can forever suck money from the federal government. Again, Americans don’t mind all this, since they love war. They would rather give up their Social security than halt the theft by military contractors.

Here are some excerpts from the Tom Dispatch blog…

From spending $150 million on private villas for a handful of personnel in Afghanistan to blowing $2.7 billion on an air surveillance balloon that doesn’t work, the latest revelations of waste at the Pentagon are only the most recent howlers in a long line of similar stories stretching back at least five decades. 

This is not “waste.” It is theft. I constantly see news stories about doctors going to jail for having defrauded Medicare, but military contractors are millions of times worse, and no one among them ever goes to jail. Why? Because Americans love war.

Other examples include the Army’s purchase of helicopter gears worth $500 for $8,000 each, plus the accumulation of billions of dollars’ worth of weapons components that will never be used. And then there’s the $50,000 spent to investigate the bomb-detecting capabilities of African elephants. All this is just the tip of a titanic iceberg of military waste.  In a recent report I did for the Center for International Policy, I identified 27 recent examples of such wasteful spending totaling over $33 billion.  And that was no more than a sampling of everyday life in the twenty-first-century world of the Pentagon.

People who claim that “there’s no free lunch” have never seen the Pentagon or military contractors (or Wall Street).

In the late 1960s, Ernest Fitzgerald (an Air Force deputy for management systems) was fired for uncovering $2 billion in excess expenditures on Lockheed’s C-5A transport plane. This at a time when Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara had pledge to bring the efficient business methods McNamara had learned as Ford Motors’ president to bear on the Pentagon’s budgeting process.

McNamara is yet another example of how businessmen are totally unsuited to hold a U.S. government position.

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The C-5A overcharging fiasco, combined with Lockheed’s financial troubles with its L-1011 airliner project, led Lockheed to beg Congress for a $250 million government bailout.  Wisconsin Senator William Proxmire opposed the bailout, but he unable able to stop it in the Senate. Lockheed was “too big to fail.” And now we have Lockheed Martin’s F-35 combat aircraft.  At $1.4 trillion in procurement and operating costs over its lifetime, it will be the most expensive weapons program in human history.

That 1.4 trillion is only the base price tag. It does not include the endless cost overruns.

Now the Pentagon wants to rush the F-35 into production by making a “block buy” of more than 400 planes that will involve no accountability regarding the quality and cost of the final product.

Yes, the theft is increasingly secret for reasons of “national security.” Trillions are stolen, and nothing is produced. It’s all about keeping us safe from “ISIS.”™

NOTE: spending on military contractors puts money into the economy, and creates jobs. It’s only a few jobs, but that’s better than no jobs. So what’s the problem? The problem is that most of the money goes to the top executives of the military contractors, who live in mansions.

Recall that President Regan (the saint of right-wingers) brought us 640-dollar toilet seats and 7,000-dollar coffee pots. That money doesn’t go to workers. It goes to the executives.

And so, while I constantly call for more federal spending, I also say we must control where the money goes.  Otherwise spending, like taxes, can be used to widen or narrow the gap between the rich and the rest.

The Clinton administration subsidized the mergers of Lockheed with Martin Marietta, Northrop with Grumman, and Boeing with McDonnell Douglas. The Pentagon paid for everything from closing down factories to subsidizing golden parachutes for displaced executives and board members.  Bernie Sanders dubbed the process “payoffs for layoffs,” as executives of defense firms received healthy payouts, while laid-off workers were kicked onto the street.

Like I said above, the money goes to the executives.

Military contractors wanted these mergers so the contractors would become “too big to jail.” Also, by making the market less competitive, the mergers allowed the contractors to charge higher prices for their weapons. Today the contractors don’t even produce weapons. They keep everything permanently “in development.”

Then there are the billions of dollars the Pentagon gives to companies like Halliburton that accompany the U.S. military into its war zones. The Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) comes out with new examples of fraud and theft on a weekly basisIn Afghanistan there is a multimillion-dollar “highway to nowhere,” plus a $43 million gas station in nowhere. There is a $25 million headquarters for the U.S. military in Helmand Province that no one ever used. And don’t forget the payment of actual salaries to countless non-existent personnel known as “ghost soldiers.” And that’s just to begin enumerating a long, long list. Last year, Pro Publica created an interactive graphic detailing $17 billion in wasteful spending uncovered by SIGAR on Afghanistan, complete with information on what that money could have purchased if it had been used productively.  

One reason the Pentagon has been able to get away with all this is that it has proven incapable of doing a simple audit of itself, despite a Congressionally mandated requirement in 1990 that it do so. Thus the Department of Defense can’t tell us how much equipment it has purchased, or how often it has been overcharged, or even how many contractors it employs. In this atmosphere no zero accountability, the military contractors reap endless profits.  Even the attempts as auditing are themselves a scam. A recent analysis by the Project on Government Oversight notes that the Pentagon has so far spent roughly $6 billion on “fixing” the audit problem — with no solution in sight.

Each year the Pentagon’s accounting practices become worse.  The money for endless war (known as the Overseas Contingency Operations account) has become a slush fund to pay for tens of billions of dollars of items that have nothing to do with fighting wars. This scam was used to get around the caps that were placed on the Pentagon’s regular budget by Congress in the Budget Control Act of 2011.

How many trillions of dollars are stolen via this slush fund? We can’t know. The theft is “off-budget” – i.e. classified for reasons of “national security.”

Now everyone wants his own slush fund. And no one calls it “unsustainable”…

The submarine lobby has a separate Sea-Based Deterrence Fund (outside of the Navy’s regular shipbuilding budget). Now there are calls for a nuclear weapons slush fund.

These expanding slush funds have nothing to do with “national defense.” They are money grabs by the executives of military contractors.

BOTTOM LINE: Before we call Medicare and Social Security “unsustainable” and in need of “reform” let’s talk about reforming military contractors.

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