Could The World Possibly Give Up One Aircraft Carrier?

Ed Raymond

We often hear from isolationists and the selfish about how much money we spend on foreign aid. The uninformed—and sometimes the informed—say that it eats up ten percent of our total budget. In fiscal year 2013 we will provide $17.8 billion in military aid to some of our friends—and probably to some of our future enemies, if past patterns hold true. We will provide $31.7 billion for domestic purposes to many countries around the globe in an attempt to help their economies and buy friends. Let’s be frank. Extortion and charity are acts cheaper than war. And that $49.5 billion in foreign aid represents a whopping 1.28 percent of our total budget.
   On the domestic, non-military side, we pay for immunization programs around the globe that save the lives of over three million children each year. Last year our numerous food programs fed 66 million starving people. Here comes the reason behind the title of this column. That food for 66 million cost us only one-sixteenth of the new Jerry R. Ford aircraft carrier we are building for the Navy to sail in 2017. Some naval officers say it’s already obsolete and a military albatross. One large air or shore-to-ship missile can destroy a carrier in a New York minute. If we had eliminated that one carrier from our fleet of eleven carrier groups, we could arrange to feed every hungry person in the world. The Institution of Mechanical Engineers estimates that up to 50 percent of the world’s total production of food is wasted.

The Fighter Plane That Flies Like A Wounded Ostrich

  If we cut our present foreign aid budget by nine percent, it would mean six million more people go hungry—and each American taxpayer would save 44 cents a month. By the time the Jerry Ford is floated, we will have spent $18.3 billion in designing and constructing it. Whoops! We haven’t yet put any planes on the flight deck. According to the Pentagon, our new fighter plane, the F-35, will be the plane of choice for the carrier. We haven’t built an F-35 that can fight yet or take off or land on a carrier, although we have built 65 of them costing at least $160 million each. So far the F-35 has passed only 17 percent of its tests, and only the Air Force version has been built. By the way, the parts of this cash-eating ostrich are manufactured in 47 states, thus all members of The Best Congress Money Can Buy love it and endorse it.
   Engineers and designers have discovered that the Navy version of the F-35 has to be a little more complicated than the Air Force version. (And the Marine Corps version will be even more expensive because the Marines want it to not only fly over the speed of sound, they want it to have the ability to take off vertically!) In order to land a plane on a carrier, it must be reinforced and have a hook to catch the arresting cables. The Lockheed boys haven’t figured out how to do any of that yet. Let’s say it will take $170 million to build each Navy F-35. The new carrier is designed to handle 80 fighters, so it will take another $13.6 billion just for F-35s. Gee, we have spent about $32 billion for the carrier and planes—and we are not finished. We need a few helicopters and planes for other carrier duties. We need at least four Navy escort vessels in the carrier group, including a missile cruiser and destroyers to protect the carrier.  We will need 6,700 crew members to staff the ships and airplanes. Hey!! This is getting expensive! We are talking real money here!

Poverty Is Getting Real Expensive For Americans, Too

   Even with all that oil fracked out of western North Dakota holes, even with a 78 percent increase in per-capita personal income recently, it remains the case that one in nine North Dakotans lives in poverty. Oh, the non-embarrassable politicians such as Governor Jack Dalrymple claim, “That’s the proof our policies for economic growth are working.” My God, I didn’t realize these guys put the oil in the ground, too! That North Dakota went from 38th to ninth in personal income in the last decade because of Republican economic policies is a real howler. These guys could walk down Main Street bare-assed and still not be embarrassed. To have 73,000 North Dakotans in poverty, and 14.1 percent of children ages 0-17 in the same sinking boat, doesn’t even make these politicians blush.

Actually, The Best Congress Money Can Buy
Should Be Embarrassed By Our Poverty

   The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), organized in 1946, maintains various records on 191 nations. Two weeks ago it issued a report on “Child Well-Being in Rich Countries” that ranks the United States in 26th place among the 29 richest countries, in front of only Lithuania, Latvia, and Romania. According to the UNICEF report, “The U.S. has the second highest share of children living under the relative poverty line, defined as 50 percent of each country’s median income, and the second largest ‘child poverty gap’ (the distance between the poverty line and the median incomes of those below the line).”
   Because of higher tuition and dependence on student loans, we rank 25th out of 29 in the percentage of 15 to 19-year-olds enrolled in schools and colleges. We are first or second in a number of categories: (1) teen fertility rate, (2) teens liable to smoke pot, (3) teens liable to exercise, (4) the most overweight teens, (5) the production of porn actors, and (6) infant mortality rate (second highest). We rank in the bottom third when measuring “life satisfaction” among children. We are just in the middle of the countries in the category of overall educational achievement. The U.S. has one of the lowest levels of air pollution and our kids don’t drink or smoke as much as the children of other countries.
   These daily stats for the U.S. are most alarming: (1) five teens commit suicide, (2) seven children are killed by firearms, (3) 914 babies are born to teen mothers, (4) 1,208 babies are born without health insurance, (5) 1,825 children are declared abused and neglected, (6) 2,712 babies are born into poverty, (7) 2,857 high school students drop out, (8) 4,475 babies are born to unmarried mothers, (9) 67 children die before their first birthdays, (10) four children are killed by abuse or neglect. And with over 300 million guns in this country, one-third of parents are worried about the safety of their children. Because of readily available guns, our children have the third highest homicide rate among developed countries.

People Who Know What An “Experienced” Vegetable Is

   Economic history in this country tells us that when more than 23 percent of total income goes to the top one percent, the total economy soon collapses. In 1928, a year before Black Friday and the beginning of the Great Depression, the hogs in the one percent gained more than that 23 percent. A simple economic fact: when all the economic gains go to the top, the middle class no longer has enough purchasing power to keep the economy going. Guess what happened in 2007 during the George W. Bush years. The top one percent went over the 23 percent mark. The top one percent now own 42 percent of America’s wealth. Because millions of Americans cannot spend more, retail sales dropped 0.4 percent last March. The annual median household income keeps falling. In 2010 it was $51,144. It is now down to $45,018. We are in very dangerous economic territory again. The median wage for half of the workers is now $34,000. That means the lower half are paid less than $34,000. A quarter of the jobs pay less than $22,000—in this very wealthy country! How much did that median wage go up in the last 40 years? Would you believe seven percent?! We are now a low-wage country, with 103 million making below $36,000. That’s one-third of the total population.
   Now we have one million homeless people and close to 140 million Americans living paycheck to paycheck. They do not have access to three months of “cover money” for emergencies. We have over 48 million living at or below the poverty level, which is now $23,201 for a family of four. We have 20.6 million in “extreme poverty.” They make less than $9,000 a year for a family of three. We have six million with no income other than food stamps, which means these people are living on $6,000 or less per year. Social Security is the only money keeping 90 percent of seniors out of poverty. We also have to remember that before Medicare, half our seniors had no health insurance. Now 95 percent are covered.
   In 2013 we have set a record of having over 47 million on food stamps. You qualify if your income is under $15,000. The SNAP list grew by ten million during the Bush decade. In 2002 only half of the eligibles signed up. That number is now up to 75 percent.
   Some states are hiring food stamp “recruiters” because the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) brings big money to the states. The Republican governor Rick Scott and the Republican legislature of Florida are hiring recruiters to find 300,000 Floridians over 60 who haven’t applied but are eligible. If they sign them all up, it means $381 million of federal money comes into the state. Presently 3.35 million Floridians are on food stamps, up 1.9 million in just four years. My goodness, those are “compassionate” conservative Republicans. That great Tea Party and Confederate state of Alabama created this enticing pledge for its SNAP eligibles: “Be a patriot. Bring your food stamp money home!” Now that’s a real “family value.” These must be the people who buy “experienced” vegetables. They have been discarded by grocery stores to food discount stores. They are often good enough to eat if cooked quickly.

What Is A Hedge Fund Manager Worth?
What Is A Nurse Or Teacher Worth?

   The top ten U.S. hedge fund managers in our casino capitalism averaged over $1 million an hour in 2012, with the top one over $3 million an hour. What do these magicians do for a living? Why, they invest the money of the very rich so they can become obscenely rich, usually because the Vegas casino games they play are rigged with the help of The Best Congress Money Can Buy. In 2012 the top ten managers “earned” $10.1 billion, close to $1,057,692 an hour. It takes the average American family 21 years to earn that. Money paid the ten top managers would pay the annual salaries of 250,000 entry-level teachers or 196,000 new registered nurses. Almost all hedge funds have fewer than 100 employees, but most of them make more money than corporations that employ many thousands. We now have over 9,000 unregulated hedge funds. Why don’t we ask The Best Congress Money Can Buy, with sharpened pitchforks in hand, how this is possible? Perhaps someone can answer why we have too much to eat and more people hungry, too much to wear and more people naked, and too many houses and more people homeless than ever before. Why do we tolerate a country of super-abundance and super-plenty while we have a land of starvation, nakedness, and homelessness?

Maybe “The Poor Should Drink Less And Work
Harder,” But They Are Still More Charitable Than The Rich

  I still remember about ten years ago when New York City ran a food collection for hungry people in the city. The mayor asked that school children in the city schools bring contributions of canned and prepared foods to collection points. There was an assumption that students in the wealthier sections of the city would contribute much more than those from poor sections. The opposite was true. Poor schools contributed three times more per capita than the wealthier schools. When asked why, the students from poor sections said, “We know what it is to be hungry.”
  In a recent column “Why The Rich Don’t Give To Charity,” Ken Stern revealed that the top 20 percent contributed only 1.3 percent of their income to charity while those in the bottom 20 percent donated 3.2 percent. Australian Gina Rinehart of Hancock Mining, the world’s richest woman, says, “Beauty is an iron mine.” She claims that “the poor should drink less and work harder.” Evidently she doesn’t share any of her gigantic pile of beans with the poor either.