Today is the day when food stamp cut-backs take effect. Among the group affected by this are as many as 900,000 US veterans and their families.
That's an interesting data point, and a way for me to write about what the US can afford and what it cannot afford. Let's limit the conversation to the armed forces. That way we are on firm conservative ground and share the reality where car bumper stickers (made in China) decorate so many American cars urging us to "Support the Troops."
Then juxtapose that form of patriotism with the large number of US veterans on food stamps and the cuts in those benefits.
Or walk across the room and look at what we can't afford in the food stamp field:
Starting Friday, millions of Americans receiving food stamps will be required to get by with less government assistance every month, a move that not only will cost them money they use to feed their families but is expected to slightly dampen economic growth as well.
Cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, popularly referred to as food stamps, reflect the lapse of a temporary increase created by the administration’s stimulus program in 2009. They are slated to go into effect separately from continuing negotiations over renewal of the federal farm support program, which looks likely to further cut funds for food stamps, which this fiscal year are expected to come to about $76.4 billion.
The Republican-controlled House version of the farm bill proposes cutting $39 billion from the program over the next decade; the Democratic-controlled Senate would cut $4 billion over the same period.
The food stamp cuts scheduled to go into effect on Nov. 1 will reduce spending by $5 billion in the 2014 fiscal year, and another $6 billion over the 2015 and 2016 fiscal years. They are expected to shave 0.2 percentage point from annualized consumption growth in the fourth quarter of 2013 and trim an estimated 0.1 percentage point off the annual growth rate of the nation’s gross domestic product, according to estimates by Michael Feroli, the chief United States economist at JPMorgan Chase. Those drags may seem small, but right now projections for gains in fourth-quarter gross domestic product hover around an annual rate of just 2 percent.
Bolds are mine. Great savings there, what? Now we can afford more aircraft carriers. Note what the most recent carriers cost:
The final carrier of the class, USS George H.W. Bush, was designed as a "transition ship" from the Nimitz class to the replacement Gerald R. Ford class. Bush incorporates new technologies including improved propeller and bulbous bow designs, a reduced radar signature and electronic and environmental upgrades. As a result, the ship's cost was $6.2 billion, higher than that of the earlier Nimitz-class ships which each cost around $4.5 billion. To lower costs, some new technologies and design features were also incorporated into the USS Ronald Reagan, the previous carrier, including a redesigned island.
Bolds are mine. Or what about the latest, greatest carrier? We are all very excited about it:
Navy's $7bn stealth ship hits the waves: America's largest ever destroyer leaves dry dock for the first time
Butbutbut, you might argue, we need those aircraft carriers to defend ourselves against evil Islamonazist terrorists who attack cities and such. Heh. Also, look at the international comparisons on how many aircraft carriers the US has and how many the rest of the world has:
Seems a bit weird that seven billion for yet another carrier is money better paid than money on food stamps for veterans, say.
None of this should be intended to read as attacking aircraft carrier construction alone. The point I wish to make is that we spend money like it grew in trees in some areas but in others we find our pockets so empty that nothing much can be done. And neither should any of this be interpreted as meaning that the food stamp program couldn't be made better or that nobody ever misuses the system. Rather, we are illogical in which government programs are deemed as important and which are deemed as breeding reliance on the government.
Added later: A smart reader points out that the actual costs of running the aircraft carriers are far greater than just the costs of building them. This is, of course, correct, because they need staffing, maintenance, food supply ships, protection etc etc.