Monday, April 6, 2009

Defense Secretary Announces 'Cuts' — A Whole Lot of Nuthin', Like Many Obama Measures to Date

President Obama's budget includes at least $534 billion for 'defense' — "at least" because that total does not include the black budget, secret government expenditures which go almost exclusively to the Pentagon and spying (an amount probably in the neighborhood of $50 billion).

Among the programs cut is the Lockheed VH-71, the new presidential helicopter. Seven of the nine planned have already been delivered. The cost for those nine? $3.8 billion ... originally. Costs had ballooned to $13 billion. Do the math — from over $400 million to over $1 billion per helicopter. One billion dollars for one helicopter!

The F-22 fighter will be cut back with production ceased at 187 aircraft. Officially, the F-22 costs $140 million each, but that excludes the development costs and all the overruns then, which brings the effective total to somewhere in the neighborhood of $300 million each.

Star Wars, first begun in the Reagan years, will not be cut. It will just undergo another metamorphosis "to focus on threats posed by 'rogue' missile threats such as from North Korea." Rogue missile threats. Does that mean a missile accidentally off target, or a deliberately targeted weapon from a 'rogue' nation (meaning, Iran or North Korea)? Either way, we face a program for a grossly improbable threat that now has racked up hundreds of billions of expenses over the past 25 years. (Improbably because, as has been pointed out time and again for over twenty years, any 'rogue' nation is very unlikely to attack by an easily traced means which would bring absolutely certain, devastating reprisals.)

Star Wars will also see continued life in what, by any reasonable measure, is a deliberately provocative placement of the "European Missile Defense System" in countries bordering Russia. (This continues a clear American strategy of encircling states deemed insufficiently friendly — Russsia, Iran, North Korea.)

More money will be spent on weapons like the Predator drone, used to allow Americans to attack with genuine impugnity in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. $2 billion will buy another 25 drones — $80 million per aircraft.

Meanwhile, Wall Street will continue to see billions, if not trillions, in bailout cash. But Obama seems unlikely to offer any substantive change in health care (since he has already ruled out single payer). Millions more will join the 5 million-plus who have lost their jobs in the past 2 years. And hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, still face losing their homes to foreclosure.

So, defense costs will be modestly reduced. Bailout bonuses to Wall Street will continue to increase. And average Americans' suffering will continue to worsen.

It requires a good stretch of the imagination to see how Obama yet represents any marked change from the Bush years. Lots of window dressing. Playing well with Europeans (G20 summit). Saying the right things to Muslims (speeches in Turkey). And little that is likely to make the Earth safer or Americans (beyond the select ranks of the oligarchs) better off.

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