What’s the total cost of attracting industry?

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By The Staff

Lockheed, the world’s largest "defense" contractor which in 2007 sold $41.8 billion worth of weapons throughout the world, needs $500,000 from Florida taxpayers to expand its capacity in Ocala to "ramp up" production of the Hellfire precision-guided missile that has been used widely in Iraq and Afghanistan to rain death and destruction not only on enemy tanks and installations but also upon thousands of helpless people who happen to get in the way.

According to Newsvine.com, Nov. 7, “The Hellfire missile is perhaps the deadliest anti-tank, anti-slow moving aircraft weapon in the world today. The pride and main armament of the Army’s Apache AH-64 and the Marine’s AH-1W Super Cobra’s, (used to be) … the first line of defense in a shooting war and are depended on for their battleground superiority. Not any more,  thanks to Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the Hellfire’s two variants, the ‘BlastFrag’ and the ‘Heat.’

“Lockheed Martin, intent on more profits, gave the classified plans, including capability, functionality, performance parameters, etc. to none other than Halliburton’s safe haven, the United Arab Emirates. Warming to the idea of buying U.S. Hellfire missiles, the U.A.E. Air Force asked for and received the classified plans for the Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missile … The State Department caught wind of this plan to sell the U.A.E., a clearing house for terrorist money, these missiles and pounced to stop it.”

Lockheed continues to sell the Hellfires to both Egypt and Israel, no doubt thus making the Middle East safer for the resolution of age-old animosities.

Locally, your "leaders" have moved quickly, without general public input, to exempt one of the world’s richest companies from paying property taxes in order to bring a few more jobs here when the Marion County Commission voted on Dec. 16, to exempt Lockheed from $100,000 in taxes, thus enabling the State of Florida to approve an additional $400,000 in exemptions. The County Commission, however, did have the approval of the Marion County Economic Development Commission, the Chamber of Commerce and the City of Ocala, all of whom apparently subscribe to the Leonora Helmsley philosophy that “only the little people pay taxes.”

Lockheed plans to expand its Ocala production site in Silver Spring Shores by increasing its workforce by 125 from the 680 now on board. Of these 125 jobs, 75 will be $8- $9 hourly workers with no benefits, and will be subject to termination at any time. The 50 engineers who will earn roughly $50,000 plus another $23,000 in benefits no doubt will be pulled from Lockheed facilities elsewhere.

Why on earth would Lockheed even want what to them is less than a pittance from a county where schools are in dire need, shelters are closing, and the lines at Brother’s Keeper and the Salvation Army grow longer each day? After all, the director of the local plant, one of the top 10 in the country, according to Industry magazine, reports that Lockheed is “very community minded.”

With a county unemployment rate of 10 percent, 1,800 homeless children, perhaps 10 percent of local citizens receiving food stamps, and virtually everyone experiencing dissolving assets, of course we need jobs in this and almost every other county. But shouldn’t these jobs be oriented toward improving the lives of more than just the individual workers involved?

The Marion County Economic Development Council and the Chamber of Commerce might better work with local bankers, builders, teachers and physicians to develop the “new thinking” that Einstein said we need to survive. With low-cost housing virtually non-existent, why can’t the county work with builders to improve existing housing and build affordable housing for those who make scarcely more than minimum wage?

Of course while our troops are still in danger,  we want them to have adequate resources, but will the killing ever stop if the only growth industry in the United States is the production of military materiel?

Yes we need jobs – but only those that enhance, not degrade our humanity. Your County Commission has made you complicit with the concept of eternal war.

Are you going to sit back and leave it all to Obama, or will you speak out and help be the change that the majority of us have called for? Now is the time to call Charlie Crist and your Florida legislators to protest these surreal actions.