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Go Back: Home > Earth Island Journal > Issues > Winter 2011 > Spyhopping

Spyhopping

Confessions of a Federal Freeloader

photo of an atomic mushroom cloud

You’ve heard of me but we’ve never met, even though I’ve been part of America’s “power elite” for 60 years. You might call me one of the original Baby Boomers. But I’m not your typical Boomer.

Unlike most aging seniors, I’ve been receiving a government pension since the first day I showed up for work. Heck, I’ve been pulling down a cushy government pension since the day I was born. I’ve never had to contribute one cent to cover the costs of my upkeep: All my needs are met by the government. As you may have guessed, I work for the Defense Department.

But, get this – I’ve never actually worked a day in my life. For my entire career, I’ve been on the dole. I’ve done nothing but sit around, radiating the serenity that goes with being part of a select and pampered minority. There are currently around 10,000 others that have a similar federal job description and we’re all drawing down big bucks, even though 2,645 of us are officially classified as “inactive.”

When it comes to federal subsidies, mine can’t be beat! I receive free housing for life. My appetites are fueled by costly taxpayer-supported imports and billions are spent to satisfy my highly refined tastes. I’m currently housed at a sprawling gated community in sunny New Mexico, guarded by armed police. I have 20,000 government specialists assigned to serve my every need. I fly around the world free on government jets. The Air Force has spent $30 million on “Midlife Improvements” to its B-52H fleet to accommodate my special needs.

Although Washington likes to keep our service under wraps, our work has been called “essential” to the mission of the Armed Forces. We’ve been called “responsive,” “enduring,” “effective,” and “flexible.” Our team is so highly regarded that each year Democrats and Republicans alike rush to increase our budget.

Since the mid-1990s, the funds dedicated to supporting our tribe have doubled to $6.5 billion. At $650 million each, that makes us the highest-paid members of the military, but we’re worth the expense because our war-making abilities help the US retain its position as the world’s preeminent superpower.

But the fact is, I’m growing old. While many Americans are concerned about the rising costs of prescription drugs, I’m lucky to be covered by tax-supported universal health care. The government has even embarked on a costly “life-extension program” to prolong my vitality and “significantly enhance” my abilities. Over the next decade, these costly operations are expected to extend my youthful vigor at least through 2030.

During the Clinton administration, there were calls to kick us off the federal dole. It was argued that our services were no longer needed, that we were actually more trouble than we were worth. Some critics claimed our increasing age made us unreliable and dangerous. Lt. General William Odom (retired) complained our branch of the service had become outmoded and too costly to maintain. “From a professional’s perspective,” he said, “it’s damn hard to work up any excitement about them.” Some radicals have even called for our abolition. (Puh-leeze, don’t get me STARTed!) But thanks to our many friends in military and business circles, President Clinton was forced to compromise. He declared a freeze to keep our numbers from growing but agreed to generous subsidies – a “stewardship” program – to cover our needs.

Back in the day, we used to have to prove ourselves in regularly scheduled exercises. But environmental wing nuts put an end to that. These days, the government has sophisticated computers that “simulate” our work. Now we get passing grades and we don’t even have to break a sweat.

Looking back, it’s been a good life. We may have lived in the shadows, but we knew our services were respected. As we begin to enter our twilight years, it occurs to me that we’ve never paused to thank our fellow Americans for the trillions of dollars lavished on us over the years. So, on behalf of myself and the rest of our unsung brigade of quiet warriors, I’d like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation.

Thank you, America. Thanks for all you’ve given to make our days comfortable and secure.

Oh, forgive me! I forgot to introduce myself. My name is Mark. Mark-61. I’m a nuclear weapon.

Gar Smith is the Journal’s Editor Emeritus. A longer version of this article appeared on the website of the Berkeley Daily Planet.

   

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