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Typical of what may stand between us and our Social Security benefits is the F-22 Raptor fighter plane and the dysfunctional political process that inflicts these horrendous costs upon us.

The Raptor may not be the worst decision made by politicians subservient to campaign contributors, but it has to rank up there with the greatest of the Golden Fleece Awardees. At least John McCain made an unsuccessful bid to stop it.

These planes represent $25 billion in sunk costs of research, and now, coming off the assembly lines, they will cost $135 million each. By comparison, the "unbeatable" F-16 they replace costs $25 million.

Theoretically, we need the F-22 to fight the Russians and the Chinese, but "hello," the Cold War ended 10 years ago.

And that's not all.

We are building three aircraft carriers at a cost of $33 billion along with the next generation destroyer and submarine fleet to match the Russian equivalent that will never get built.

Our military budget, not including the extra cost of Iraq and Afghanistan, is $450 billion a year, which is roughly five times the combined military expenditures of China and Russia.

Apart from the regular military budget, the war on terror is estimated to have cost another $450 billion thus far.

It is impossible to delineate among the homeland security, veterans benefits, and the variable costs of the war itself, but it almost doesn't matter.

The cost of the whole package is so overwhelming and seemingly unending that it can't help but impact what we would otherwise have had in the way of social benefits.

James Surowiecki, writing for the New Yorker, points out that the defense spending today is like the Silicon Valley of the 1990s. "When you give lots of money to an industry with no audits and no supervision, people lose discipline," according to Surowiecki.

Congressional representatives cannot bring themselves to vote against the defense industry and their lobbyists -- even when the spending makes no economic sense.

We've increased military spending by 40 percent since 2001, but there are no senators today acting like Harry Truman when he hopped in his Desoto to ferret out waste and theft at military bases across the south.

With no adult supervision, it's conceivable that as much as 20 percent of today's military budget is waste or outright theft. That would amount to $90 billion a year.

What is criminal about this congressional behavior is the extent to which the troops on the ground fail to get the support they need in the way of body armor, vehicle armor, and night vision goggles for which the Senate voted to cut funding earlier this year.

Apparently, goggle manufacturers hadn't ponied up enough in the way of political contributions or lobbying fees.

At this point, I've read all the books -- "Cobra II," "Fiasco," "State of Denial" -- they all point out failures due to lack of financial support in the trenches. It's clear from these spending patterns that not many of today's congressmen or administration members actually served in Vietnam or have their own children fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Spending gargantuan sums of money is bad enough, but wasting it is even worse. Our government has a long history of reneging on promises starting with the soldiers of the Revolutionary War who fought for four years with a promise of pay that never materialized.

The amount of money we are borrowing and spending is just staggering, and something will have to give.

I predict that, like the ragtag army of the revolution, the beneficiaries of Social Security and other social programs will have less political clout than a weapons manufacturer who just received a $50 billion dollar contract with a 20 percent profit margin. It's depressing to think about who will be the loser, but I think we can guess the answer.

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