Monday, February 07, 2005

A Lot of Wheat

In a speech before the American Society of Newspaper Editors on April 16, 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower said,

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. . . . We pay for a single fighter plane with a half-million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

How many bushels of wheat would it take today to pay for a single fighter plane? At three dollars per bushel (check the Kansas City Board of Trade wheat futures market for exact prices), it would take 86 million bushels to buy one F/A-22 Raptor at its projected cost of $258 million per plane. That's 172 times the cost that Eisenhower calculated for a single plane in 1953. Incidentally, U.S. wheat production in the coming season is expected to be 2.16 billion bushels. At three dollars per bushel, America's wheat farmers could buy twenty-five F/A-22 Raptor fighter planes. (But then there's the fact that buying only twenty-five would dramatically increase the cost per plane, meaning . . . never mind.)

No doubt America's wheat farmers could wreak quite a bit of havoc on their global competitors with twenty-five F/A-22s.