Levin, Jobs and the Defense Industry
Just before the Christmas break Michigan Senator Carl Levin announced that the Senate had approved a Pentagon contract to build ships for the Navy that would create jobs in Michigan.
The statement by Senator Levin said that the contract was awarded to Marinette Marine, a company based in the eastern part of Wisconsin, along the Michigan border in the Upper Pennisula. Levin also stated, “The contract for Marinette Marine is expected to fund 500 direct jobs in Michigan, and support up to an additional 2,500 jobs in Michigan.”
Levin goes on to say that this new contract will be a boost to the economy in that part of Michigan and then ends that paragraph by saying, “It’s a win not just for our own workers, but for national security and the taxpayers.” Such claims are worth looking at.
First, no where in Levin’s announcement or the website of the company does it say what kind of wages the workers will make in these jobs, nor whether they are full time or part time jobs. However, the parent company of Marinette Marine, the Italian corporation Fincantieri, announced in a Press Release that the US government contract was worth $4 billion dollars. The Press Release also states that the contract involves the largest defense contractor in the US, Lockheed Martin and includes a quote from Lockheed’s CEO in the body of the media release.
What would be useful for taxpayers to know is how much of that $4 billion is for wages and how much will the corporation end up pocketing after expenses for the project, which involves the construction of 10 Littoral Combat Ships. It would also be a bit more transparent for the Senator to mention that the company based in Wisconsin in a subsidiary of an Italian corporation.
Second, Levin states that this contract is a win for taxpayers, but he fails to articulate how it is a benefit to taxpayers. There are numerous jobs that are paid for by taxpayers besides government jobs, but this still doesn’t explain how giving $4 billion of taxpayer’s money to a private company is a win for the taxpayers. It should also be noted that Marinette Marine also received $500,000 in state money to train current and new employees because of the contract to build the 10 naval ships, according to a Greenbay newspaper.
Lastly, Senator Levin makes the claim that these new Navy ships will be good for national security. Here Levin does provide some information when he states, “The ships are designed to operate close to the shore, with greater speed, stealth and maneuverability than vessels now in the fleet. They will have the capability to support troops ashore, to combat enemy surface vessels and submarines, and counter enemy mines.”
However, the question should be asked if the US military is currently in need of such naval capacity. Is the US military currently fighting wars that require such vessels? In the two major current US military campaigns in both Iraq and Afghanistan there is no evidence provided by the Senator that such ships would be used in the current wars. More importantly, even if the ships were to be used in such a capacity it does not explain how that is a benefit to national security. How is the US safer because of the occupations of both Iraq and Afghanistan? This burden of proof lies with the US government to provide evidence that supports such a claim.
It seems that the real winners in the contract are the companies within the defense industry, an industry that spends millions every year lobbying Congress in order to get multi-billion dollar contracts. The same industry has also contributed to Senator Levin over the years, with Lockheed Martin being in the top 20 of contributors.