One Stimulus That Makes Sense

The Congress and President Obama are in a full scale battle over the so-called stimulus bill. Much of what is at issue is whether the spending is really stimulative to the economy and whether the nearly $900 billion bag of goodies are in the long-term interest of the country. Meanwhile, a project which is in the nation's long-term interest and could save 95,000 jobs may go by the wayside.

Recently, Tom Donnelly wrote an article in the Weekly Standard advocating defense spending as a more effective stimulus than much of the domestic pork under consideration by Congress. He wrote:

Defense investments also meet the definition of a sensible stimulus according to mainstream economists: Government should spend where private resources are slack; though the defense industry was trimmed down in the 1990s, there is tremendous excess capacity in major sectors like aircraft and shipbuilding. Defense spending would also meet other critical benchmarks. . .  Major programs depend upon a nationwide manufacturing base. Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor on the F-22 fighter, but the program is the effort of 1,000 suppliers who employ 95,000 people -- including an efficient, unionized manufacturing workforce -- in 44 states.

The F-22s are intended to replace an aging fleet of other aircraft models, many of which are more than 30 years old. These aircraft are intended to perform multiple functions and, the Air Force contends, are the most effective aircraft to operate in "high threat" environments. If, for example, the military were ever tasked with the assignment to knock out Iranian nuclear facilities or to establish a no-fly zone in Georgia, the F-22 would be the aircraft to do it.

In the case of the F-22s there is a looming deadline of March 1. The 2009 Defense Authorization Act requires the president to certify that continued production of the F-22s is in the national interest. Unless he does so, the F-22 will cease production, suppliers will shut down, and layoffs will commence. It is not surprising that there is broad-based concern that the White House may let the program terminate -- and with it, tens of thousands of jobs.