Friday, September 06, 2013

Holy hell in our town: Profits of doom

While Dwight D. Eisenhower famously warned about the military industrial complex in his farewell address, we Americans seem to have chosen to ignore his wise counsel again and again, preferring to instead develop more and more military industrial capacity. Some of us choose to confront that. It is immoral, often illegal, and always profitable in the most corrupt and banal aspects.

That happy analysis brings me to Precision Castparts Corp., right in my town, Portland, Oregon. They are located in many places, but of interest to peace people right hereabouts is that they are at 4650 SW Macadam and will be visited next Wednesday, September 11, by some peace bicyclists who will pedal against war profiteer peddling. I believe they'll be there at about 1:15 or perhaps 1:30 or so, if you'd like to join them in naming a war profiteer--and massive polluter--in Portland. As a war contractor, they create fewer jobs per $million spent than other sectors of the economy, so each military contractor signifies a loss in jobs, not a gain.

This contractor makes parts for most flying machines produced in the US, which of course makes them a military contractor, indeed, in the 100 most awarded. They make parts for the oil and gas industries, the paper industry, and other heavy industrial applications, but of course the Pentagon contracts are the really lucrative, often no-bid, sometimes cost-plus extreme profit contracts.

There is little doubt that PCP has profited handsomely as the Bush and Obama regimes have waged wars. Indeed, on their website the pie chart of sectors shows the general other industries (light color) is about 15 percent of their business, the power industries (red) account for about 20 percent, and the aerospace (blue) is the principal engine of expansion and profit at about 65 percent. Holy prophets of death!
So PCP makes parts and makes many many obscenely fat profits for Pentagon contracts. But we are now waving Tomahawk cruise missiles around and threatening Syrians with them. What is that about? How cost-effective are they? At least we have the peace geeks at our beloved National Priorities Project to help us understand the numbers. Starting with the cruise missiles, you the American taxpayer are forking over about $36,000 every hour in 2013 to keep the Pentagon flush with these killers. As of today, September 6, we are just about to cross the $300 million mark for FY2013. 

What happens if we don't shoot those missiles at someone? We might not "need" to make more. Our contractors--who are very very generous to the politicians who tend to vote for more DoD funding and for enough warmaking to keep inventory moving--clearly profit from Obama's current belligerence. This is referred to in my field of Peace and Conflict Studies as the conflict industry. Make war so we can make more. It's all lucre to them. If making applesauce made them insanely high profits, they'd want us all to eat more applesauce, which would be such a blessing. But no--the high profits come from killing machines or precision cast parts that go into them.

I went to the Trade-Offs page on the NPP site and did the work for our tax contribution from Portland to the Pentagon, which is $974.31 million. I punched in my favorite tradeoffs--what our town could get for that investment in one year. Here is what the calculations show:
  • 200 additional elementary school teachers
  • 5000 additional adults and 10,000 additional children receiving free low-income health care
  • 10,000 homes receiving wind-generated electricity
  • 100,000 homes receiving solar-generated electricity
  • 100,000 additional community college/college/university students receiving $5,500 Pell Grants (NOT loans)

The total trade-offs come to $800.41 million, leaving almost $174 million left, which I would say should go to help develop a nonviolent civilian-based defense system in our town to be a model for the nation. Or maybe some also for more bike trails so we can pay more visits to places like Precision Castparts and let them know their days in Portland are numbered unless they convert to peace.

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