American Socialism: The Useless Weapons Industry

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Ben Cohen
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Seal of the United States Department of Homela...

The L.A Times has done a must read piece on the ludicrous amount of money the US government is spending on domestic security measures. The article reports:

A decade after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, federal and state governments are spending about $75 billion a year on domestic security, setting up sophisticated radio networks, upgrading emergency medical response equipment, installing surveillance cameras and bombproof walls, and outfitting airport screeners to detect an ever-evolving list of mobile explosives.

While this seems sensible, upon closer inspection, some of the 'anti terrorism' equipment being dispersed around the country is positively ridiculous:

On the edge of the Nebraska sand hills is Lake McConaughy, a 22-mile-long reservoir that in summer becomes a magnet for Winnebagos, fishermen and kite sailors. But officials here in Keith County, population 8,370, imagined this scene: an Al Qaeda sleeper cell hitching explosives onto a ski boat and plowing into the dam at the head of the lake. The federal Department of Homeland Security gave the county $42,000 to buy state-of-the-art dive gear, including full-face masks, underwater lights and radios, and a Zodiac boat with side-scan sonar capable of mapping wide areas of the lake floor.

Up on the lonely prairie, Cherry County, population 6,148, got thousands of federal dollars for cattle nose leads, halters and electric prods -- in case terrorists decided to mount biological warfare against cows.

In the Los Angeles suburb of Glendale, where police fear militants might be eyeing DreamWorks Animation or the Disney creative campus, a $205,000 Homeland Security grant bought a 9-ton BearCat armored vehicle, complete with turret. More than 300 BearCats — many acquired with federal money — are now deployed by police across the country; the arrests of methamphetamine dealers and bank robbers these days often look much like a tactical assault on insurgents in Baghdad.

When you consider that only 14 Americans have died in Islamic extremist terrorist plots targeted at the U.S. (not including war zones) since 2001, it would seem logical that $75 billion a year is somewhat excessive. There is an argument to be made that without the spending, the US would have been far more easily attacked, but it is a struggle to rationalize Al Qaeda operatives pinpointing a resevoir in Nebraska as a major target in its Jihad against America.

Of course, one would assume that the Federal government spends money rationally. It doesn't, and the industry that has emerged around 'defense' makes sure it stays that way. Tech companies that produce fancy weapons lobby politicians to convince the public that danger lurks in every corner of the country, the scare tactics work and tax payers money get doled out to these private corporations. It is a socialistic endeavor except the public derives little benefit from it other than having fancy looking equipment. Rather that spending $75 billion on new technology, the US instead could pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan, help the peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians and spend the money on creating jobs and building infrastructure at home. The threat of terrorism would be dramatically reduced and America could pull itself out of its economic slump.

But then the US government isn't in the business of being sensible, so expect more money for cattle prods in the Mid West just in case the bad guys decide beef is top of the 'must attack' list.

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