This is a tale of government spending on two seemingly unrelated programs. On the one hand you have the biggest expansion of a particular government entitlement since 1966 and on the other fighter planes that are vital to our nation's defense. The threads that tie the two are aging and money. Aging is hard on everyone and every thing but neglect of only one of these programs threaten both the old and the young.
President Bush's expansion of Medicare prescriptions for seniors has resulted in an increase of 18.7 percent in total Medicare spending over 2006. In dollars that translates to $63 billion. Was this money well spent? Well, according to one of the authors ofa study released by the Annals of Internal Medicine:
We found that it had a modest but significant effect on both savings and drug use," said Dr. G. Caleb Alexander, assistant professor of medicine at University of Chicago Medical Center and one of the study's authors. "Despite extensive debate, it was not clear to what extent Part D would save people money or allow them to obtain drugs they might not otherwise be able to afford."
In other words, they just don't know. There were some positive results and some results that they were not able to measure because the government did not release certain information that would have aided the study. The one thing they did find out is that more medicine was dispensed to more seniors than before. They do not know if seniors actually took the medicine.
The F-15 fighter jet is crucial to our nation's defense. We rely on the F-15 to protect the continental United States while it also serves in combat missions overseas. On average these planes are 25 years old with some of the oldest planes around 30 years of age. After being flown for several decades the fleet is showing its age resulting in stress cracks in its fuselage. The result of this was punctuated by a crash on November 2, 2007 where an F-15 broke in half during a simulated dogfight.
The Air Force grounded 180 F-15s and has found stress cracks in nine of them so far. It is highly possible that most of these planes will never fly again. That leaves a huge hole in the air defense of our country. The F-22 is the replacement for the F-15 but there are not enough of them in our fleet to cover the short fall. According to Wikipedia the cost of a single F-22 is $361 million and the total cost of the Pentagon's F-22 procurement program is $62 billion.
It should be evident from the numbers of the two programs, prescriptions for seniors and the purchase of new F-22 fighters, that they are almost equal. But only one of these programs protect us all and is the prescribed duty of the federal government. Had this money been spent on new F-22s our air defense would not be weaker than it was just last year. Defense of the country is the first responsibility of the federal government. Without a national defense all of us are vulnerable. The old, young, and infirm. What good is a prescription for medication if you are not alive to take that medication?
Here are links to two Chicago Tribune stories that prompted this article: