May 13, 2003
The Other Side Of The Balance

The expense of Bush's recent trip to the Abraham Lincoln has stirred various lefties to paroxysms of silly nastiness. COINTELPRO Tool (him again! last post on 5/9), the Man Without Qualities (last post on 5/7), and others have blogged on their various misrepresentations.

What I have yet to see is the argument that the trip may well have saved the taxpayers money. This would be impossible to prove, but is at least plausible, and a knowledgeable person (perhaps someone at Sgt. Stryker) might be able to come up with some rough estimates.

Here's one possible line of argument:

I have read that the armed forces often pay substantial reenlistment bonuses, since training a new person is so expensive and time-consuming. With 4000 sailors on board, it's possible that even a one-year one-percent increase in the reenlistment rate on the Lincoln would save the Treasury more money than the president's trip cost. Would his trip produce such an effect? It can't have hurt. (Can anyone provide me with the URL for the news story reporting only one negative thing the sailors said about Bush -- that he put ketchup on his t-bone? It was quoted extensively in one of the blogs on my blogroll, but I can't find which one.) It's also likely that news coverage of his flight to the Lincoln had a positive effect on the morale of other ships and military units in all four services, an effect that again would likely have helped reenlistment rates at least a little bit.

Of course, such an effect would be difficult to detect and impossible to prove, since there are too many other variables. I assume reenlistment rates vary not only from year to year but from unit to unit, depending on the likelihood of combat, particular duties assigned, friendliness or hostility of local populations, exchange rates, even the weather. If the rates for the Lincoln or the Navy overall go up next year, it would be hard to prove that they would not have done so anyway, and if they go down, it could well be by less than they would have if Bush hadn't made the trip.

Here's another possible line of argument:

So far, I have only looked at this from a narrowly financial point of view, it's effect on the Defense Department personnel budget. A wider analysis is also possible, though even less measurable, so I'll keep this short. Better morale helps win wars with fewer casualties, and probably cuts down on accidental deaths and injuries in peace time, too. I suspect that aircraft carriers are like other complex organizations: surely a happy crew is a competent crew?

Again, I don't have the specialized knowledge to prove this hunch. Perhaps my readers can help me out.

Update: (11:30 PM)

No thanks to my lazy readers (just kidding!), I managed to find the article mentioned in the middle of the fourth paragraph: Daily Pundit links to Jim Miller on Politics, who quotes large excerpts of the story in the Everett Herald, the Lincoln's hometown paper.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at May 13, 2003 09:23 PM

Don't know whether this helps or not, but I blogged some stats from the Lincoln's recent ten month tour. * 352 re-enlistments ($4.5 million in tax-free reenlistment bonuses)


Posted by: Chuck on May 15, 2003 03:14 PM


if W's t-bone was anything like what we used to get on my ship, ketchup would be more than appropriate, it would be necessary. (boxes of meat we received via vertical replenishment were marked "USDA Grade D, BUT EDIBLE" I used to say that being on a ship was like being in prison, only the food wasn't as good.)

Then again, I didn't get to eat the same steaks that they served in the officer's galley.

Every Wednesday was SLIDER DAY, which meant hamburgers (sliders) for lunch. They were so bad, the only way I could eat them was to spread peanut butter on the bun & call it a Jiffy Burger.


Posted by: Rob on May 19, 2003 09:22 AM

When I got out, the bonus for Nuclear Power Plant Operators (nuc's like me) was $25K, and it definitely wasn't tax free.

Posted by: Sparkey on May 19, 2003 10:04 PM