Why isn't the Raptor part of a stimulus?

The Obama administration has put together both a $700 billion stimulus package and a $3.5 trillion budget for the coming year, claiming that government spending will restart the flopping economy.  Obama wanted to focus on “shovel-ready” projects to get ditch-digging started as soon as possible.  However, the Pentagon tubed a program that not only had people already employed but also produced the kind of fighters that keeps America dominant in the skies.  Hugh Hewitt wonders in today’s Washington Examiner why this shovel-ready project got buried:

The planes cost less than $150 million each to build. We can get 100 more F-22s for $15 billion. Given that our six-month deficit for the fiscal year under way is already scraping $1 trillion, what’s $15 billion for an extended run of unchallenged air superiority against existing and –crucially—unknown threats?

Did I mention that the F-22 is shovel ready? Remember all those jobs President Obama wanted to “create or save”? Evidently there is a category of jobs he doesn’t count among those worthy of retention –those on the national security shift.

Even if the Raptor wasn’t a guarantor of margins of safety for every American soldier, sailor or Marine operating below its shield, even then you’d have to conclude that the shuttering of its production line in an era of giant job losses was indicative of a remarkable, deeply ideological hostility towards defense spending.

The second coming of the Carter Administration is upon us, heralded by this almost wanton sluffing away of a weapon of unmatched capabilities and the simultaneous paring of missile defense appropriations.

The Carter reference, in this case, relates to Jimmy Carter’s cancellation of the B-1 bomber program shortly after taking office.  I recall this quite clearly, as the Admiral Emeritus worked for Rockwell International, the prime contractor for the B-1, and would have lost his job had he transferred to that program as he had been planning.  Carter decided to cancel the B-1 to focus on the new work being done in stealth technology, but Ronald Reagan reinstated it, convinced that America could walk and chew gum at the same time.

This seems like a similar circumstance.  The question for the Pentagon appears to have been whether to buy more Raptors or wait for the F-35 Lightning II deliveries in a couple of years.  The correct answer would have been to do both; buy more Raptors and keep 95,000 people employed, while waiting for the Lightning IIs.

Would it cost more money? Of course, but let’s put that in perspective.  Fifteen billion dollars amounts to a whopping 2% of the total price tag for Porkulus.  Unlike at least half of Porkulus’ spending, it would actually provide immediate work, saving existing American jobs.  Not just any jobs, mind you, but hard-core, high-paying manufacturing jobs, the kind that politicians like Barack Obama laments when they disappear.  I’d guess that many of them are union jobs, too.

Unlike most of the supposedly shovel-ready projects in Porkulus, this delivers a usable, valuable product that serves the government’s legitimate purpose of national defense.  It doesn’t feed the pork-barrel demands of Congress, and most importantly, it’s a proven military system.

I wrote in February that the Raptor was a no-brainer for a government looking to provide economic stimulus.  I got the “no brain” part right.

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