The country is in lockdown in response to the novel coronavirus, the federal government has voted to spend nearly $3 trillion to stabilize the economy, and over 72,000 Americans have died in the past two months.
So why not toss a truly meaningless gesture that adds rank militarism into the equation? A week ago, I watched the Navy's Blue Angels and the Air Force's Thunderbirds, demonstration flight squads, fly over New York City, the epicenter of the pandemic, in a "tribute" to first responders, doctors, nurses, and other people involved in treating the sick and dying. Now the Angels have made it to Texas, where the governor, Greg Abbott, is acting as an advance man for this display of aviation excellence.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) May 6, 2020
Such displays are both a waste of time and money and an insult to the hard work and suffering going on. The website Gothamist tallied up various estimates of what it costs to have the Blue Angels do a flyover and came up with a pretty fat figure: as much as $450,000 per mission. Task & Purpose, a website that covers military and defense issues, reports that the Pentagon is sending the squadrons to at least 22 cities at a cost of at least $1.3 million, or "enough to purchase dozens of ventilators at, say, $20,000 a pop." Jared Keller comments:
"Ensuring that VA medical facility staff, as well as clinical and administrative employees, have the appropriate PPE to protect their health and the health of the veterans they serve is essential to countering the pandemic," a group of senators wrote in a letter to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie this week. Busting out the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds, while entertaining, is not.
The Pentagon dutifully contends that because the members of the squads need to train anyway, these flyovers "incur no additional cost to taxpayers." Well, maybe it's time to reconsider such ornamental luxuries, then. Judging by recent, profligate legislation coming out of Congress, the federal government has signaled it is willing to make current and future taxpayers bear any burden and meet any hardship when it comes to spending public dollars. The least it can do is ask the people being honored how they want money to be wasted.
Start your day with Reason. Get a daily brief of the most important stories and trends every weekday morning when you subscribe to Reason Roundup.