What Do Our Tax Dollars Pay For?

On Tuesday, the Senate passed the Levin-McCain Amendment 58-40, striking 7 additional F-22 fighter planes from the Fiscal 2010 defense authorization bill.

Because each F-22 costs $250 million, the total in Defense Department dollars saved by ending the program is $1.75 billion.

When first planned — in the late 1980s — the Air Force sought to buy more than 700 F-22s. This shrank to 381 aircraft in 2002 as the threats posed by the Soviet Union shrank and with them, the number of aircraft required to meet other threats.

At 381, the Air Force estimated that the size of its fighter force would be a “moderate risk,” i.e., probably able to deal with the then-current and foreseeable threats to American security.

Now, if the Levin-McCain amendment stands, the Air Force will only get 187.

The F-22 is the most advanced fighter in the world. It exists only to ensure air dominance — it’s designed to stealthily enter and secure combatant territory, protect ground forces and unleash devastating aerial attacks.

With a top speed of Mach 2 and high maneuverability, the F-22 commands the air.

But President Obama, Secretary Gates, Sen. John McCain (R.-Az.) and Sen. Carl Levin (D.-Mi.) think production of additional F-22s is wasteful and unnecessary.

The primary driver for these cuts isn’t the lesser threat. It’s budgetary.

So the next question should be, if these aircraft are really necessary — and they certainly are — how can they be afforded?

The conservative answer is to cut wasteful government spending.

Here are a few modest proposals for cuts to federal spending that could save enough money to pay for the F-22s:

$2,932,620,000 for the United Nations
The U.S. stands as the most generous nation contributing to the UN. The UN regular budget for 2008-2009 is $4,171,000,000, of which the US pays 22%, or $917,620,000. The key is the regular budget does not include “peacekeeping operations.” The UN is currently embroiled in 15 peacekeeping operations, costing $7,750,000,000. The U.S. contributes 26% of the peacekeeping budget, or $2,015,000,000. No sum is too large to support the UN’s phenomenal progress in places like Darfur and Palestine.

$400,000,000 for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting
This general fund includes $34,600,000 for “digital transition,” $26,600,000 for “radio interconnection” and $25,400,000 for Ready to Learn, a Department of Education program aimed at improving reading skills in the 2-8 demographic. This year, the CPB gave between $500,000 and $999,999 to NPR, as one of its biggest donors. And the CPB shows no signs of slowing down by proposing a budget of $542,000,000 for FY 2010.

$15,000,000 for the House International Fund for Ireland
From its website: “The Fund’s objectives are to promote economic and social advance and to encourage contact, dialogue and reconciliation between nationalists and unionists throughout Ireland.” Since 1995, the U.S. has given $264,000,000 to the Fund, or one F-22.

$155,000,000 for the National Endowment of the Arts

$768,000,000 to D.C. government
A recently passed (219 to 208) House spending bill would allocate money for potentially funding abortions for the poor using tax revenue and phasing out school voucher programs. Also reduces expenses of national anti-drug program while possibly leading to a needle exchange option for intravenous drug users to prevent HIV infection and making medical marijuana more available.

The Stimulus:

$650,000,000 for cable
Coupons for digital TV converter boxes. To protect every citizen’s natural right to watch Obama’s White House Cribs on primetime ABC.

$300,000,000 for rides
Hybrid and electric cars for the federal government, as well as golf carts for government employees. Wonder if Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D.-R.I.) gets one?

$3,266,584,168 to the Sunshine State
Grant to California for the education “State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, Recovery Act,” or federal money that is going toward state support for elementary and secondary education through Local Education Agencies and Institutes for Higher Education. With schools like UC Berkeley, which has a $2.9 billion endowment, there’s always room for (federal) improvement.

$8,000,000,000 for trains
Creation of new high-speed rails, justified by Amtrak’s proven reliability/profitability.

$1,000,000,000 for the ocean
Construction of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration office buildings.

$30,000,0000 for mice
Wetlands restoration in San Francisco Bay Area to protect wildlife, including the endangered harvest mouse — one of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s (D.-Calif.) pet (no pun intended) projects.

$1,000,000,000 to CH2MHill Plateau Remediation Company
Allocated for a remediation company in Richland, Washington. Purpose is to maintain, repair and alter waste treatment and storage facilities.

$138,533,000 for Democratic Interior Senate pork
Government money drawn for the districts of Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D.-Calif.), Robert Byrd (D.-W.Va.), Arlen Spector (D.-Pa.), Daniel Inouye (D.-Hawaii) and Harry Reid (D.-Nev.). Sen. Feinstein’s district is slated $73,700,000 for 35 projects. $460,000 will go to an essential “artist’s cabin,” as part of the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area’s Artists-in-Residence Program, which promotes creativity among sculptors, painters, etc.

$111,872,000 for Sen. Inouye from Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education
Includes, $33,000,000 for education of native Hawaiians. Sen. Inouye’s earmarks represent 10% of total Labor/HHS earmarks, which, frankly, is not surprising.

$15,000,000 for a car or two
To renovate a border crossing in Montana that averages about 2 passenger cars and 4 trucks per day.

$9,500,000 for a website
Allocated to the General Services Administration, for redesigning the stimulus’s official website. For the tens of average Americans and hundreds of thousands of lobbyists, unions and government bureaucrats that visit the site every day. May cost as much as $18,000,000 over next 5 years.

Without budget, but looming:

$80,000,000,000 for recreation
Sen. Ted Kennedy (D.-Mass.) proposed to pay for renovating and creating parks, playgrounds and bike trails. This will supposedly improve general health by encouraging exercise.

$700,000,000 for wild horses
The Restore our American Mustangs Act (actual title) would require the Bureau of Land Management to acquire 20 million additional acres for the wild herds over the next five years. Tens of thousands of government-owned wild horses may have to be slaughtered due to lack of resources otherwise. Bill has already been approved by the House, and is waiting on the Senate.

Total: $99,492,109,168 (roughly 398 F-22s)

Ok; so maybe the Air Force doesn’t need 400 more F-22s. Maybe they could spend the rest on other things that make us safe.

Ballistic missile defense, anyone?