The “Green New Deal” is Soooooooo Expensive

If you’re talking to someone and they bring up how the government doesn’t have enough money to X for any given X, you can dismiss them as not serious if they are not putting ‘defense’ spending on the chopping block.

Cock an eye toward the US budget and you’ll notice that the democrats have drummed up a bipartisan spirit of spending money like literally never before – no other country in history has spent this kind of wealth on their military. “Oh, No! There’s no money, that’d cost trillions!” is the bipartisan consensus, then they wait ’till the cameras are on the distraction in the oval office and approve the initial phases of a $1.2 trillion nuclear ‘refresh’ or cost increases in the F-35 program – another $1.2 trillion pork-barrel.

The cost of the F-35 just spiralled up a little more, and there was little notice. I suspect anyone who is actually concerned about the budget simply groans and puts their pillow over their head and waits for it to go away. Or, they chalk it up to nationalism as suicide and figure the damage to the planet won’t affect them in their lifetime so it’s the kids’ problem that they haven’t risen up and murdered the corrupt cogs in the corruption machine.

I’ve explained this before, [stderr] but let’s review it again, since it’s the trick that congress and Lockheed-Martin just played on the taxpayers: pay more, get less. Suppose you’ve entered into an arrangement with me to buy 10 apples for $10 – $1/apple. I ask for a downpayment of $5 to fund my obtaining the apples for you. But because my lobbyists did a great job of wining and dining you, you agree to accept 8 apples for $12 instead. Now, why would you do that? It’s simple: I already have $5 of your money and you still don’t have any apples – at this point you’re in the hole and if you walk away from the deal you’ve lost your $5. I never agreed to refund any of it if I couldn’t get you the apples. So, you agree to 8 apples for $12, which means the per apple price is not $1 any more – it’s $1.50. Sure, you agreed to a minor cost hike of $2 on top of the $10 you agreed to, but if you want the 10 apples, you’re going to pay $15 for them. Congresspeople understand this, they just pretend to fall for it over and over and over because they’re in league with the apple salespeople.

Anyway, that’s why nobody can afford a “Green New Deal” – because they’re pretending to be such fiscal dumbasses that they buy F-35s. And that, right there, is the simplest way to understand the whole situation: instead of improving infrastructure, or education, or helping transition the US to a green economy, the leaders of the US have collectively agreed that they’d rather have new nuclear weapons and F-35s.

Bloomberg reports: [bloom]

“The F-35 program remains within all cost, schedule and performance thresholds and continues to make steady progress,” the program office said in its statement. The office “is committed to the delivery of cost-effective warfighting capability across all areas of the program.”

Imagine if you paid for a first class seat on an airline and they told you you had a choice of either walking, or settling for an economy class ticket on another flight. Then, when you agree to that, they tell you there’s a baggage surcharge of $50 for your suitcase. When you finally get to your destination they pat themselves on the back and say “the flight was on time!” That’s what the program office for the F-35 is doing: “Now that we’ve moved the goalposts, we are really close to our goals!” I would like to beat the program office with a tire-iron for even uttering the words “cost effective” in the context of the F-35 program. That’s a lie that’s so out of line that even Trump would have trouble telling it.

Instead, the increase reflects for the first time the current cost estimates for a major set of upgrades planned in coming “Block 4” modifications, according to the report.

“Ensuring our Block 4 efforts are captured in our acquisition baseline and now in our SAR help us to provide full transparency and status on our F-35 modernization progress,” the Pentagon’s F-35 program office said in an emailed statement.

The Block 4 efforts that congress is being expected to pay more for, are the “upgrades” to make the aircraft work more like it was supposed to. The way the “Block” system works is that the features and functions of the aircraft have been divided out into capabilities that the taxpayers will pay for in chunks as they become available. In some cases, the features and functions will obsolete older airframes (which is a nice way of saying: the taxpayers never get what they paid for) – so, you may be able to upgrade a Block 3 F-35 to a Block 4, but a Block 1 is probably already obsolete because there may have been features of the Block 1 airframe that have been improved (i.e.: made to work) in Block 2.

Green New Deal and social reformers haven’t established a long con technique like the DoD and its minions, that’s why they keep losing the budget wars in Washington.

As a potential sign of concern, the Pentagon’s fiscal 2021 proposed budget calls for 17 fewer F-35s than planned – 81, according to the Selected Acquisition Report.

If they’re getting 17 fewer, and the new number is 81, that means the old number was 98. If the price hadn’t gone up, that would be an 18% mark-up. But they’re paying an additional $22 billion.


  1. chigau (違う) says

    Take all of the military budget for other things.
    TheMilitary can crowdfund, maybe start a Patreon.

  2. ridana says

    Ladies Against Women held a “Bake Sale for the Pentagon” outside the 1984 Republican National Convention, and some other venues. Nine million for a Twinkie or a HoHo. Brownies were something like 10 million each, a slice of pie was 8 million, etc.

  3. Some Old Programmer says

    It recently occurred to me that we commonly name military weapons systems after presidents. As the F-35 is expensive, useless, and co-opts funds better spent elsewhere, maybe this thing should be dubbed the “F-35 Trump”. Hmm, I need to call my Senators …

  4. blf says

    (This is a (reconstructed) cross-post from poopyhead’s current Political Madness All the Time thread here at FtB.)

    This could be interesting, How the Green New Deal was hatched in a London bar (podcast)†:

    In 2007, Larry Elliott [the Grauniad’s economics editor –blf] met a friend to discuss the financial crisis. Over the course of the evening, and several drinks, they cooked up the Green New Deal — a plan to deal with the effects of the economic crisis and the threat of climate change. They formed the Green New Deal Group and, though Gordon Brown and Barack Obama briefly flirted with the idea, it did not progress much further.

    But in 2018, the youngest US congresswoman in history, the Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, picked it up and the idea has been gaining traction ever since. Ocasio-Cortez’s plan mixes old and new. She wants a living-wage job for anyone who wants one; universal healthcare; and basic income programmes as part of a “detailed national, industrial, economic mobilisation plan” that would ensure the US is powered by 100% renewable electricity, and eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing, agriculture and other industries.

    Elliott talks to India Rakusen about how the deal first came to fruition and why it is essential if we are to tackle climate change.


      † I don’t like podcasts too much and haven’t yet actually listened to it.

  5. says

    In the 70s there was a Tshirt that read “it would be nice if education was fully funded and the pentagon had to hold a bake sale.” Good point.

    This topic really freaks me out – it has become one of my tests for whether a politician is serious, or if they’re just lying the imperialist lie. Very few politicians in Washington seem to be speaking honestly about finances, because they keep pretending that our ridiculous military expenditures make sense.

  6. Dunc says

    It makes perfect sense if you look at the USA not being a country with an insanely bloated military and an empire, but rather a global military machine with a hostage civilian population and a flag.

  7. jrkrideau says

    @ 6 Dunc
    I’d say you’re right.
    I once saw Pakistan described as an army with attached country. This seems to apply to the USA as well though I think we need to include the major arms makers as well.

    Oh, Al Jazeera reports that the Iranian parliament has passed a bill labelling the US Army as “terrorist”. Oh good, the US Army and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard get to shoot each other on sight as each side tries to apprehending the terrorists. The US military must be weeping into their beer.

    With the removal of the sanction exemptions, the White House has just infuriated Turkey and China. I know Trump wanted to get rid of NATO, but did he really want to turn Turkey into a ally of Iran and Russia? And I do not think that India and Japan will be jumping with joy.

    Every time I think even the evil trio in the White House cannot be that stupid, I am wrong. I suppose they have convinced Trump that the US will make a bit more money on oil exports.

    @ Marcus
    I wonder if Lockheed will be able to get the order down to 1 in that tranche?

  8. jrkrideau says

    The “Green New Deal” is Soooooooo Expensive
    As an old housemate of mine used to say, “If you think education is expensive, see what no education costs”. I think that applies here in spades.

  9. Curious Digressions says

    This is a terribly naive question. I don’t have a background in military equipment. What’s the deal with F 35’s? Are they just the New Shiny to make American military great? They just seem like a money pit with minimal return.

    If an F16 costs around $18 million and an F35 costs at least $115 million, wouldn’t it be more useful to have 6 F16’s than one F35 in any air combat situation that military personnel might encounter? Yeah, yeah, the F35 has stealth capabilities (“They’re INVISIBLE”), but how useful is that, really? Most of the “combat” in which the US has been involved in my living memory has been the equivalent of taking a gun to a knife fight. What’s the benefit to “more advanced” in that situation? Is there a reasonable expectation of dog fights with similar level of tech that we can realistically expect in the foreseeable future? Is there a demonstrated ground-to-air missile avoidance improvement?

    I get that it’s political suicide to suggest cutting the military budget, but why wouldn’t the armed forces advocate for equipment that is most useful to them?

  10. komarov says

    Judging by the numbers money is no object. Adding a few billion or a trillion here and there do not seem to deter anyone as long as it goes somewhere interesting, such as the military or a company prone to employ retiring politicians.

    Social support, for example, could be made a military expense and covered (but not administrated) by the DoD. Call it civil defence. For instance, poor people are more vulnerable to exploitation by The Enemy (TM). They could accept bribes because they desperately need the money to survive*. What’s more, their morale will be low and hence their enthusiam for that great nation of theirs may have waned a bit. Spies and terrorists are everywhere (naturally) and will hesitate to take advantage of this situation. Therefore the US should officially embrace run-away capitalism and accept that loyalty and patriotism aren’t instilled but purchased.**

    I was going to use environmentalism (“Planetary defence” for marketing purposes) as an example, but the fact that military minds and defence secretaries everywhere aren’t already clamoring for sustainability and national self-sufficiency proves that even a sarcastic remark in that direction would be pointless.

    *Poor people are notorious for their corruptibility, whereas rich people, as we all know, are paragons of virture and immune to mammon’s temptations.

    **Historically, this seems to work very well as long as you stay on top of your bills

  11. says

    Some Old Programmer@3 only US Navy aircraft carriers are named after Presidents, and only some of them. Other military equipment is named using systems that sometimes are coherent, and sometimes aren’t. For example all US Army helicopters are named after Native American tribes ie Apache, Chinook, etc. The Air Force has no real consistent naming scheme, and sometimes the names are ignored. The F16 is officially known as the Fighting Falcon, but it’s just as likely to be referred to as the Viper. The F35 is named the Lightning II in homage to the WW2 Lockheed twin engine fighter the P38 Lightning.

    Probably the most unfortunate naming of a US weapon, at least post war, was naming the M247 self propelled antiaircraft gun system the Sergeant York. Alvin York, who won the Congressional Medal of Honor in WW1, was renowned as a sharpshooter. The M247 had trouble even locking onto a stationary target, and it was eventually cancelled after something like a billion dollars in early ’80s money was spent.

    Curious Digression@9, the excuse is always that technology keeps improving, so you have to keep developing new equipment that uses that technology. If you don’t you won’t be ready for the bad guys when they produce it. And you have to be ready to fight the really advanced bad guys like Russia and China, even if you’ve spent almost 20 years fighting counterinsurgency campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan

    The USAF is in fact experimenting with armed versions of turboprop training aircraft that might be far cheaper to operate, and have a longer loitering time over those kind of battlefields than jet fighters. Whether they’ll be high tech enough to satisfy the bureaucracy and some of the pilots, who want to be associated with the latest high tech, is another question.

  12. says

    This topic really freaks me out – it has become one of my tests for whether a politician is serious, or if they’re just lying the imperialist lie.

    Even if some politician was serious, and even if they miraculously got elected, it still wouldn’t make any difference—their party members simply wouldn’t allow some outlier to reduce the military expenditures.

    One more thing, about a year ago, as we were collectively despairing over the F-35s and bemoaning the fact that we must talk about these awful planes instead of being able to devote our time and attention to kitten photos, I promised to provide some placeholder photos of cute and fluffy puppies to keep us cheered up while we are patiently waiting for this F-35s nightmare to finally end. Here is today’s puppy photo— She’s four months old, her name is Roksana. By the way, for those of you who still remember that comment thread a year ago, back then I commented here with the name “Ieva.”

  13. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Green New Deal and social reformers haven’t established a long con technique like the DoD and its minions, that’s why they keep losing the budget wars in Washington.

    Well, the DoD have the superior scam, but the Green scam is still pretty impressive.

    The greens have been scoring wins all around the world, including in many US states, whether it’s massive subsidies for solar and wind, or green electricity mandates that exclude nuclear, or the premature shutdown of nuclear power plants that cannot compete in a market because the market is rigged in favor of solar, wind, and their natural allies of natural gas.

    The Green New Deal is also just a repeat of the same con that’s been going on for like 50 years. Literally, people like Amory Lovins have been repeating the same lie that solar and wind are either ready or almost ready for 50 years now. It’s worse than fusion advocates.
    They have a pretty sweet con going.

    For example, look at the foremost “scientific” “expert” of the Green movement. The guy is probably making lots of money from a natural gas tycoon.

  14. voyager says

    I don’t get how the average American isn’t enraged by this story. This is their tax money being wasted and the debt being incurred will be the responsibility of their children and grandchildren if civilization lives that long. Does the big, shiny airplane make them feel safe or cock of the walkish?

    Thanks for the puppy pic. I needed that.

  15. bmiller says

    Andreas: I am so dense. I just assumed another long-winded Latvian (I kid, I kid) had joined us!

    That totally makes sense now. And the puppy photo is adorbs!

  16. says

    bmiller @#15

    I recently finally put together my new website. (It’s obviously.) Freelance artists are strongly recommended to have websites, but I had been procrastinating making mine for way too long. Apparently, I’m a lazy person. I had been using my legal name out of inertia in various places, but there was no way I would use a female name for my new website. So I switched to using a male name everywhere.

    By the way, “Ieva” is the Latvian spelling for the Biblical name “Eve.” My mother did an awful job at choosing a name for me.

    And the puppy photo is adorbs!

    Personally, I believe that my dogs and their puppies are the cutest beings in the world. Yet whenever I’m posting their photos everywhere, I fear that my behavior might be akin to that of those annoying parents who shovel their babies’ photos in random strangers’ faces thus causing immense irritation and boredom.
    The first time I made a joke about placeholder puppy photos, others seemed to react positively. I hope that I still haven’t started annoying people already. Besides, I HAS MOAR PUPPIES! I think pet owners are justified to imagine that theirs are the most adorable pets in the world.

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