The congressional hearings on the economy are dominating the national media. One of the Republican members just made a cute comment. He said, “If you like the way the federal government manages AIG you will really love national health care.” Cute and clever commentary makes for poor decision making. Clever is very different than being smart. We wonder if the congressman would make the same analogy with our military?
We live in rural northwest Missouri. Generally speaking, the high class folks around here are proud rednecks; we have upgraded ourselves from the lower class of hillbilly. To be clear, a redneck is a hillbilly with an opinion and a computer. Down the road a piece is a trading post called St. Joseph, Missouri. The local newspaper there had an article this morning on the economic impact of the Missouri Air National Guard base located at Rosecrans Field in St. Joseph. The estimated impact: $75 Million.
The article is well written and details some of the economic expenditures on local business. “Three local companies are among those selected by the 139th Airlift Wing to do maintenance and energy conservation work this year at Rosecrans…” and “A Kansas City firm, …., and a St. Louis firm, ….., have been awarded contracts totaling another $118,000 to do study and design work for replacing taxiways and maintenance on the base administration building.” Whooee, look at me. We are talking about real money.
It is sort of amusing that the St. Joseph School District is presently engaged in a campaign to renew a 63 Cent Levy and a Bond proposal to build two new schools. The folks down there are up in arms challenging the frugality of the St. Joe Schools. The refrain of local letters to the editor: “The School Administrators are paid too much!” The Big Shot leader of the Air Guard Base makes as much money as the school Administrators – but hey, he is military and the Federal Government pays for him.
Even more interesting is the local hospital in St. Joe, Heartland Health. The annual budget of Heartland is around $300 Million a year. Given the age of the population in Northwest Missouri, and the generally lower wages of the population, Heartland receives about 80% of their income from government tax dollars through Medicare and Medicaid. We are talking economic impact with the bonus of keeping the population healthy.
If the government of the City of St. Joesph awarded a contract of $118,000 for ‘study and design work’ there would be a major uproar in the local newspaper. The redneck assessment: “What a waste? What is a professional? Someone who comes from over fifty miles and carries a briefcase.” But when the military issues contracts (paid by federal dollars) it is called economic impact.
So here is the point: Taxpayer money spent on the military is considered valuable as a positive economic impact. Taxpayer money spent on education or health care is considered irresponsible use of our money. Every nickle spent on education and health care is scrutinized with distrust, every nickle spent on the military is considered an investment in our safety.
We are not arguing against the military. We are submitting that our values are really out of whack. We are also submitting that our military is the finest in the world – one might deduce that government sponsored education and health care might also be the best in the world.