Wealth, not stealth

January 09, 1991

It is hardly coincidental that on the same day the estimates of the budget deficit went up another $50 billion Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney announced the cancellation of a stealth fighter plane program which could have cost $57 billion. As painful as the cuts may be for 11,000 workers now facing layoff, we have to start somewhere in dismantling what President Eisenhower called "the military-industrial complex."

Such projects are virtually useless in terms of improving the quality of life of the average person in the United States. If we had paid the 11,000 workers to sit at home, few people would have known the difference. For grim evidence of where uncontrolled arms spending can take a nation, we need only look at the Soviet Union. That nation's economic woes can be traced to the fact that a huge component of the work force even now remains involved in that country's "military complex."

In the closing days of World War II, George Orwell wrote these perceptive words: "To raise the standard of living of the whole world to that of Britain would not be a greater undertaking than the war we have just fought." The task, he said, could be achieved if only we would commit ourselves to it for 20 years.

How strange it is that we are willing to commit immense amounts of labor and resources to creating instruments of destruction, yet we are unwilling to commit those same resources to building the kind of stable, secure, productive political and economic systems that Britain represents today.

So for starters, let us make this suggestion: Take the $57 billion to be saved by the stealth cancellation, take the 11,000 workers who are being displaced, and put all that labor and resources to work on a specific project, say, building modular houses to be made available to entry-level American workers. Even if they never paid a cent, we would be no worse off than if we had committed those same resources and that same labor to stealth airplanes.

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