Before Stimulating New Jobs, First Do No Harm

March 2, 2009 - 8:54 AM
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National defense is not and should not be a “jobs program.”  OK, with that out of the way, let’s talk about 95,000 national defense jobs.
 
“The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits topped 5 million for the first time since record-keeping began in 1967,” reported the Associated Press on February 27.  “And the number of first-time claims hit 667,000, the highest level in more than a quarter-century.”
 
At this point, fixing blame for this mess is pointless – although the fault lies entirely with Republicans and Democrats in Washington.  The real question, of course, is what to do to heal the ailing economy.  And the correct medical answer, of course, is to first do no harm.  Which means don’t make a bad situation worse.  Or put another way, don’t add to the problem. 
 
And that means President Obama should instruct the Pentagon to keep building the number of F-22 Raptors the Air Force says it needs to protect this nation from potential belligerents who might see the United States’ weakened economic state and decide, as Vice President Joe Biden predicted, that now might be a good time to “test” our rookie president.
 
The F-22 is the most sophisticated fighter jet in the world.  Although potential enemies such as China and Russia are scrambling to build something comparable, nothing in the air today can match the Raptor.  Nothing. 
 
Here’s how Dr. Loren Thompson - Chief Operating Officer at the Lexington Institute, which devotes considerable attention to defense matters - describes the F-22’s critical role in our national defense…
 
“Command of the air is the central, indispensable mission of the F-22.  It is the reason why the plane is stealthier than any other aircraft in the world, why it is more maneuverable, why it is more fuel efficient at high speeds, and why it is crammed with more sensors and computing power than any plane of similar size.  Command of the air is also why it costs so much -- about $150 million for each additional plane.
 
“What does that high cost get us?  An Air Force that can use all its other planes in wartime without fear of horrendous losses.  An Army that can continue to operate, as it has over the last 50 years, without suffering any casualties from hostile aircraft.  And a defense posture that can deter war without threatening the use of nuclear weapons.
 
“Every potential aggressor in the world knows that if it faces the F-22 in aerial combat it will lose, and that if the F-22 is sent to attack targets in its nation, the targets will be destroyed.  Our enemies cannot see the plane with their radars, and they cannot catch it with their fighters.  They are defenseless against it, and will remain so for decades to come.  No other weapon in our arsenal provides that kind of defense and that kind of deterrence.”
 
The plane is American ingenuity and technology at its finest.  And admittedly, it ain’t cheap.  Then again, you get what you pay for.  And national defense is no place to be penny wise and a pound foolish.
 
In his “State of My One-Month-Old Presidency Address” before a joint session of Congress last week, the president said one way to pay for all the new and expanded domestic programs in his $3.6 TRILLION budget would be to “reform our defense budget so that we’re not paying for Cold War-era weapons systems we don’t use.”  In other words, cutting guns to pay for butter.
 
Holy Jimmy Carter, Batman!
 
And high on the potential chopping block is continued production of the F-22 Raptor.  The Air Force says it needs 381 F-22s to assure it can meet its national defense objectives.  So far, 183 have been built.  At stake is a looming presidential decision to continue production of the Raptors or to shut the program down completely.
 
If President Obama shuts the program down, the Air Force will only have half the fleet of fighters it says it needs to safeguard the country.  And in doing so, the president will also put an estimated 95,000 additional Americans on the unemployment line – 25,000 who work directly on the project, and another 70,000 who work for sub-contractors and suppliers in 44 different states.
 
Again, national defense should never be used simply as a jobs program.  However, while President Obama is busy spending billions of dollars “creating” make-work jobs, does it make any sense to lay off 95,000 who are currently working in real jobs tied directly to the country’s national defense?
 
For both military and economic reasons, President Obama should make the decision to keep building the F-22s.  The eyes of the world’s bad guys are upon him.