According to the Pentagon, the production and acquisition costs of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jet, the military’s most expensive weapons program, have risen yet again, this time by 4.3% since 2010 to $395.6 billion. If you’re talking about the total cost of the system, including maintenance and support for the nearly 2,500 planes that will some (endlessly delayed) day be produced for the military, that has now reached an estimated $1.51 trillion, a 9% rise since 2010. All this for a plane that some experts doubt has any particular purpose in the future U.S. arsenal.
At last, however, the House of Representatives seems to have had enough of wasteful spending programs. Perhaps its members also read the recent poll that shows Americans generally support more funds for the Defense Department — until, that is, they are told just how much is spent on defense compared to other budget items. Then, 75% of them (67% of Republicans) back significant cuts, an average of 18%, in that budget to reduce the federal deficit.
Whatever the explanation, last week the Republican-dominated House finally took out the pruning shears and acted with remarkable decisiveness. They sent a bill to the Senate cutting $310 billion from the deficit over the next decade. The F-35 program went down in flames.
Oh wait, that’s my mistake. Actually, they slashed food stamps, children’s health care, funds to hospitals that serve the poor, and Medicaid — all in order to shield the Pentagon from future cuts. In fact, the House bill actually adds more than $8 billion to the Pentagon budget. As the New York Times reports, if the House bill were to become law, “the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that more than 20 million children would face reduced food and nutrition support, almost 300,000 would be knocked off the federal school lunch program, and at least 300,000 would lose access to the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.”
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