Looting Our Lives

The strong — perhaps savage — accusation in the title of this short paper is in response to the post 9-11 marshalling of resources for enlarging the war powers of the U.S. government. All this is in support of a worldwide drive for profit and power, without limit, by the Bush-Cheney state capitalist directorate. A principal ?cover story? for these processes is the Guns and Butter dogma: the U.S. can afford both without limit.

See for yourself in the following data.



Cost of building housing for the 600,000 homeless families in the U.S.

= $59 billion =



Army Comanche Helicopter program $48.1 BN & Navy Joint Standoff Weapon program $11.2 BN (SAR) [2]

Investment needed to provide 20% of U.S. electricity supply from renewable & clean sources [3]

= $80 billion =

Navy SSN 774 Virginia Class Submarine program $71BN & Navy Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle program $8.7BN (SAR) [2]

Annual shortfall to meet federal safe drinking water standards and replace aging facilities [4]

= $11 billion =

Total cost of the Navy’s “Future Surface Combatant” program (SAR) [2]

Additional annual investment needed to improve the condition of U.S. roads and bridges [5]

= $42 billion =

Navy Trident Sub program $35 BN & Army Interim Assault Vehicle program $7 BN (SAR) [2]

“More than twice the net value of the plant and equipment in America‘s manufacturing industries” [6]

= $5.3 trillion =

Costs of creating U.S. Nuclear Weapon Overkill Capacity, 1940-96 [7]

Rehabilitation of all unsafe U.S. dams [8]

= $2 billion =

Tactical Tomahawk Cruise Missile (SAR) [2]

Electrification of 50 miles of main-line railroad [9]

= $210 million =

One Global Hawk Unmanned Drone (PAC) [2]

Annual cost to provide sanitary water to the 2.4 billion people worldwide [10]

= $10 billion =

2 Navy CVN6-B Aircraft Carriers (SAR) [2]

3,500 miles of Maglev (magnetic levitation) Train Lines, running at 266 miles per hour [11]

= $99 billion =

F-22 Raptor Advanced Fighter program, [$228 million / plane] (SAR) [2]

Research program to develop zero emissions, coal gasification power plants [12]

= $11 billion =

Amphibious Assault Ship program (SAR) [2]

100 New Natural Gas School Buses to replace high- polluting diesel buses [13]

= $12.7 million =

One Longbow Apache Helicopter (PAC) [2]

Expand Medicare to everyone in the U.S., saving 18,000 Americans annually from death due to lack of health insurance coverage [14]

= $41 billion =

C-17A Heavy Airlift Airplane program (SAR) [2]

Portion of “No Child Left Behind Act” left unfunded in 2003 federal budget This program was to help schools in impoverished areas. [15]

= $ 4 billion =

C-130 Aircraft Avionics Modernization program (SAR) [2]

Annual cost to enroll 1100 Children in Head Start Pre School Programs [16]

= $7.9 million =

One “Upgraded” Abrams Tank (SAR) [2]

Five years of funding for a global tuberculosis control program [17]

= $9.1 billion =

E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System program (SAR) [2]

Fix deteriorating U.S. school buildings [18]

= $268 billion =

One third of the estimated cost of the Joint Strike Fighter program. [19]

Estimated cost of reopening the 64 general hospitals closed in 2000 [20]

= $3.1 billion =

CH-47F Cargo Helicopter program cost. (SAR) [2]

Enacted and proposed cuts to New York City Public Libraries, FY 2003 & 2004 [21]

= $52 – 55 million =

Two MH-60 S Helicopters (PAC) [2]

Cost of salaries for an additional 561,000 nurses, an increase that will be necessary by 2010 [22]

= $20 billion =

DDG-51 Guided Missile Destroyer program (SAR) [2]


1. AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust 2002 Annual Report, p2. ;

2. SAR = DoD Selected Acquisition Report Summary Tables September 30, 2002. http://www.acq.osd.mil/ara/am/sar/2002-SEP-SARSUMTAB.pdf PAC = DoD Program Acquisition Costs By Weapon System. February 2002. http://www.dod.mil/comptroller/fy2003budget/fy2003weabook.pdf

3. “Renewing Where We Live”. Union of Concerned Scientists: http://www.ucsusa.org/publication.cfm?publicationID=349

4. American Society of Civil Engineers “Report Card for America‘s Infrastructure”, Drinking Water: http://www.asce.org/reportcard/index.cfm?reaction=factsheet&page=6

5. Federal Highway Administration “2002 Status of the Nation’s Highways, Bridges, and Transit” : http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policy/2002cpr/es8.htm

6. Seymour Melman, After Capitalism, P 100.

7. Seymour Melman, After Capitalism, P 100.

8. Association Of State Dam Safety Officials, April 16, 2002: http://www.damsafety.org/layout/subsection.aspx?groupid=15&contentid=85
9. John E. Ullmann, Engineering estimate.

10. New York Times “Price of Safe Water for All: $10 Billion and the Will to Provide It” Nov 23, 2000.

11. New York Times, “China Tests German-Made Fast Train; Deal Awarded” January 1, 2003

12. Seymour Melman and Ben Abrams, engineering estimate.

13. Rebecca Sayre, Union Of Concerned Scientists; also http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_vehicles/trucks_and_buses/page.cfm?pageID=244

14. Thomas Bodenheimer, M.D. Physicians for a National Health Program: http://www.pnhp.org/hcinfo/?go=medicare_qa ;
Karen Davis, President, The Commonwealth Fund The hidden cost of a fragmented health insurance system: http://www.pnhp.org/news/archives/001697.php

15.Office of Congresswoman Tubbs Jones: http://www.house.gov/apps/list/press/oh11_tubbsjones/pr_030108_education.html

16. Administration for Children & Families, “Head Start Program Fact Sheet”, FY 2002: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/hsb/research/2003.htm

17. Global Plan to Stop TB Phase 1: 2001 to 2005 http://www.stoptb.org/GPSTB/Introduction_pages_13to22.pdf page 15.

18. NEA estimate: http://www.modernschools.org/need

19. George Runner, “Califronia Needs to Compete for Key Military Jet Contract,” Los Angeles Times, Nov. 2, 1997.

20. Seymour Melman, engineering estimate; Office of Inspector General , “Hospital Closure 2000” http://oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-04-02-00010.pdf
21. The City Of New York, Summary of Reduction Programs, Fiscal Year 2004 xecutive Budget , http://www.nyc.gov/html/omb/pdf/srp4_03.pdf

22. US Dept of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupation Projections and Training Data, 2002-3

* Seymour Melman is Professor Emeritus of Industrial Engineering, at Columbia University. His latest book is After Capitalism: From Managerialism to Workplace Democracy (Alfred A. Knopf, 2001). A web site offers selected papers by Seymour Melman, including recent, 2002-3, shorter papers on the U.S. war in Iraq. The website includes a complete outline, with bibliography, for a course on War Economy that previously was offered at Columbia University. Research and layout by Benjamin Abrams.


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