I saw a meme the other day that said
The money spent on the failed F-35 Jet could buy every homeless person a $600,000 house.
So I got curious.
Let’s play with numbers.
633,782 homeless in the US on one night in January 2012 (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development).
100 F-35 jets built from 2006 to present. Goal is 2,443 total.
F-35A (USAF) $124.8 million. Will be introduced in 2016.
F-35B (USMC) $156.8 million. Will be introduced in 2015.
F-35C (USN) $142.6 million. Will be introduced in 2019.
I am not a mathematician, so my numbers might be inaccurate. Please check them.
100 F-35’s at $156,800,000 = $15,680,000,000
2,443 F-35’s at $156,800,000 = $383,062,400,000
600,000 is the number that comes from the end goal of 2,443 F-35s, at the highest price (that’s a difference of up to $32 million per F-35), figured with the number of homeless who were counted on one night in January 2012. It has taken eight years to build 100 F-35s. Not accounting for newer facilities, more trained workers (aka “more jobs”) and advances in production techniques, it should only take another 293 years to reach that goal of 2,443 jets. Right? 🙂 How many new homeless will we have in that time?
The homeless statistic does not include uncounted homeless (those not surveyed, those living in foreclosed homes, those cramming into tight quarters with family and friends, or those hiding because of their immigration status), the rising numbers of homeless caused by the continued economic problems in this country, or those thousands of people who would not have jobs if the F-35 program were discontinued. The number also cannot represent the fact that nearly all homeless are in transition: most will have housing or be institutionalized at one time or another, and others will take their place.
It does not consider that, 2 years beyond that single night the homeless were inadequately counted, only 100 F-35s were built. At the maximum cost per jet, that’s $15,680,000,000 spent, which means (if the homeless number were accurate and static), a house for each homeless person could be built at $24,740 per home. That’s still pretty awesome, considering a single individual doesn’t need a $600,000 home, but with most homeless surveyed that single night living in major metropolitan areas, what is the cost of a home in those areas? The average cost for a home in San Francisco is $769,800. Los Angeles is $420,300. Seattle is $357,400. Portland is $286,400. St. Louis is $149,900. Boise is $177,600. The “Tiny Houses” movement may be a solution, but with the smaller houses costing $4,500 each and requiring shared shower and sanitation facilities for every quad, the cost for four adults is $18,000 plus the cost of the shared shower/sanitation unit.
This isn’t really about the cost of F-35s, though.
Though well-intentioned, any program designed to provide long-term or permanent “free” housing to the homeless is ultimately like digging a pit on the beach: ten families are lovingly shoveled from the pit, fifteen more will fall in. Resources will be depleted over time, and those doing the digging risk being buried in the collapse. This constant tide of homelessness is due to the difficulties of the economy, the increasing incidences of metal illness in our populations, and the difficulties facing abused persons and their children, some returning military, and most former criminals attempting to reintegrate into society. It does not consider the “freebie effect,” where programs will be further burdened by those who seek to take advantage of programs themselves rather than continue to work to support those who need them.
I think we do need to find ways to reduce homelessness. We also need to stay on top of our game in the wars sweeping the planet, or we will all be worse off. Instead of cutting our defense budget, why not have politicians quit flying to campaign fundraisers on taxpayer money? Why not end government funded research into drunk monkeys, why gay women are more often obese, or how to safely toast marshmallows? (yes, all true!)
Homelessness, like all social issues, has diverse causation. The root word, “Home,” leads us to believe that giving a person labeled “without a home” a home will equalize them with those of us whose label is simply, “person.” It will not. There is a wide spectrum of homeless persons. A battered woman who hasn’t received counseling and been made whole will get in a bad relationship again, whether or not she has a home. An addict who isn’t in recovery and doesn’t have a wholesome framework within which to stay sober is going to relapse whether or not he has a home. A person with untreated mental illness is not going to be made whole with a home. Providing a home is only a small part of the whole issue. In some instances, handing over a home may be worse for the recipient. “Teach a man to fish …” is a significant statement in this area.
Homelessness in the United States *
Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II *
Mary Landrieu Used Taxpayer Money to Fly to Campaign Fundraisers **
Government Waste **
* A Note on the Use of Wikipedia: Typically I avoid the use of Wikipedia as a cited source because it is frowned upon in academia due to its fluid and open nature. I do believe, however, that Wikipedia can be a great secondary source of information, as it gives a good overview of a topic (which helps a person get their bearings before delving into a topic), nearly always with cited original sources (which wise people will check themselves), and it’s open nature makes it more “peer reviewed” than any academic journal on the planet. Wikipedia is also updated more frequently than other sources – a famous personality who died an hour ago will have their final moments in their bio and stats the moment their demise has been documented. Regardless, information sourced from that site should always be reviewed through its cited origin.
** Using Biased Sources: I really don’t like using biased sources! HuffPo is infamous for this, creating shocking headlines and linking to blogs that cite other HuffPo articles. Sadly, when it comes to some minor stories or collections of properly cited articles that share a common theme, sometimes it’s the fastest route. As with Wikipedia, it’s up to you, the reader, to follow the links to the original source before spreading the knowledge or complaining against it.