Of course neither Obama nor the Congress nor the news media think of this past weekend’s launch of hostilities with Libya in these terms. But it’s what’s happening. Three weeks ago we were being told by Obama, the Democrats, the Republicans, and lord knows Fox News, that the “U.S. is broke”. We “must cut spending and cut the deficit”. It was all nonsense then and it’s nonsense now. All the talk about needs to cut the deficit were nothing but political posturing to cover for the truth which is that they don’t want to help ordinary Americans and they don’t care about jobs. The “they” is the elected folks from both parties.
Now a chance to get involved in a war over oil and the story is different. On Saturday in the first few hours alone, the U.S. launched over 119 cruise missiles. Cruise missiles don’t come back. Launching one is the same as burning money. Actually it’s worse. Money can be easily replaced by the government – just click and create the new bank reserves. A cruise missile represents lost real goods and resources. Goods and resources that could have been used for productive purposes and strengthened the economy. Instead, they simply go boom. Oftentimes taking human life with them. A cruise missile costs $1,066,465 each. 119 cruise missiles is $119 million gone in an hour or two. Those missiles could have been spent on job-creation and stimulus producing jobs, teaching children, and feeding families. But instead, in a few hours on Saturday, March 19 the U.S. launched a lot of jobs over Libya.
Lest you think this is just the crank ramblings of a left-over 70’s anti-war commenter (which it may well be), let me quote one of the greatest generals of the 20th century. Dwight Eisenhower described the opportunity costs of military escapades and equipment as:
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter with a half-million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. . . . This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”
Mark Thoma summarized the whole situation quite succinctly. His entire post:
We have enough money to pay for military action in Libya, but not for job creation?