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How This Shitty Jet Could Provide 23 Years of Free College for Everyone

One failed jet vs. providing higher education to two generations.

$1.45 trillion is a lot of money. That’s the estimated total cost of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which can’t even fire its own gun until 2019 due to software issues. It’s also the estimated cost of providing tuition-free public higher education for every student in the US until 2039. Which one would you choose?

The F-35 is the epitome of Pentagon waste and cronyism. The US has already spent roughly $400 billion on the jet, made by top defense contractor Lockheed Martin. The Pentagon has already promised to buy 2,443 jets for the Air Force, Navy, and Marines in an effort to “modernize” the current fleet of fighter jets.

But the F-35 is a lemon. Last year, it was revealed the F-35’s 25mm cannon couldn’t fire due to inefficient computers, and even once it does, the jet is unable to carry even a minimal amount of ammunition.

“There will be no gun until [the Joint Strike Fighter’s Block] 3F [software], there is no software to support it now or for the next four-ish years,” an anonymous Air Force official told the Daily Beast. “Block 3F is slated for release in 2019, but who knows how much that will slip?”

Along with weapons issues, the F-35 can’t even fly — its fleet was grounded for month in June of 2014 after engine malfunctions resulting in the jet catching fire before takeoff. Since 2007, the F-35 has been grounded 13 times due to takeoff issues. In 2008, the RAND corporation tested the F-35 in a simulated air battle with China, and graded the F-35’s performance as “double-inferior,” warning in its report that the F-35 “can’t turn, can’t climb, can’t run.”

To truly illustrate the astonishing waste behind the F-35, this interview with Pierre Sprey, the man who designed the F-16 fighter jet, reveals the inefficiency and stupidity that led to the F-35 project:

On the other hand, the estimated cost of tuition-free college for all US students enrolled in public colleges and universities is approximately $62 billion, when accounting for all tuition dollars paid at those schools. That’s actually $7 billion less than the federal government spent on federal aid programs for college students in 2013. If we were to do away with the F-35 program, completely revamp the way our government funds higher education, and start from scratch, we could allocate $62 billion in funding for tuition-free college every year for the next 23 years.

That education would also pay for itself over time, providing additional financial resources as a new crop of highly-skilled graduates enter the workforce. Those graduates would be free from having to make monthly payments on student debt, allowing them to have more disposable income to spend in local economies. And as economists have consistently shown, more money circulating in local economies means more demand for local businesses, which means more jobs created.

The choice is clear — free college makes a hell of a lot more sense than an expensive jet that doesn’t work.



Tom Cahill is a writer for US Uncut based in the Pacific Northwest. He focuses on coverage of political, economic, and environmental news. You can contact Tom via email at [email protected]

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