You can always use an extra transport plane -- that's the way I figured it. After all, when you're thinking of moving a lot of people, or even a lot of cargo, from here to there, what's better than a C-17? And why not a brand-spanking-new C-17, instead of one of those ratty old used ones?
I knew just where to find one, too.
I called Congress.
And not just any old place in Congress. When you want to get things done, you have to go right to the particular people who make those particular things happen, so that's just what I did.
I called the House Appropriations Committee.
They weren't expecting me.
"I'd like one of your C-17s," I told them.
"Our what?" they asked. They sounded surprised.
"I hear you're ordering up a bunch of C-17s for the Pentagon. I'd like to put in a request for one of them."
"What do you need a C-17 for?" they wanted to know.
"What's need got to do with it?" I explained.
Now, it's not like C-17s were the only thing the Appropriations Committee had been ordering up for the Pentagon -- at least according to all the stories in the papers. Ships. Planes. Armored vehicles. Presidential helicopters. Hundreds of billions of dollars of stuff, the stories said, which is a pretty typical annual budget for the Pentagon -- but it included billions of dollars of stuff that the Pentagon didn't even want!
That's where I saw my opening.
"Look," I said to the nice man on the phone. "You're insisting that all these things get built, right?"
Right. It means jobs in the congressmen's districts.
"Even though the Pentagon doesn't want them."
Right. It's good for the economy.
"Even though Secretary Gates says he doesn't need them."
Right. It means contributions from defense contractors.
"Even though Secretary Gates says the same money you're wasting could go for other stuff, like counter-insurgency programs, instead of all this fancy hardware."
"What's your point?" (The nice man on the phone wasn't sounding all that nice anymore.)
"My point is you're just trying to keep the contractors happy."
"So why not keep me happy?"
Are you a contractor?
"Do I sound like a contractor?"
I had him there.
So I pressed my advantage. It wasn't just about making me happy, I told him -- it was about keeping the C-17 happy, too. Why keep saying yes to building all those planes, and making sure they're built in strategically located factories all over the country, if they're only going to sit in some Pentagon warehouse somewhere?
"So I'm willing to take one of the planes off your hands," I said. "You know, give it a good home."
And this happiness of mine, the man wanted to know --
And the plane, too, I reminded him. Don't forget the plane's happiness.
"And this happiness of yours," he tried again. "What's it's worth to you?"
It would mean everything, I told him. I've never had a transport plane. I've --
"You don't understand," he said. "What would it be worth to you...in numbers?"
"It's a 10!" I told him. "Definitely a 10!"
"With how many zeroes after it?"
That's when he hung up on me.
I'd have settled for a battleship.
# # #
Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at email@example.com.