The Silver (And Blue) Lining

Some the best U.S. economic news came out of Cairo yesterday when Egyptian protesters distributed images of the tear gas canisters being lobbed at them. Printed across the bottom in small blue print were the words “Made in the U.S.A.” Hooray. We still manufacture something. Now Barack Obama can include Combined Systems Inc. of Jamestown, Pennsylvania as part of his tour of American factories. Among the things he might mention: “What a lot of Americans don’t know is that while banks were failing and automakers were going under, Combined Systems was going strong producing aerosols, chemical munitions, and multi-effect grenades not only for crowd control here at home but for dictatorial regimes all over the world!”

With an annual gift of about $1.3 billion Egypt is the second largest recipient of U.S. military aid after Israel. If America bought $1.3 billion worth of merchandise from Combined Systems it would probably come out to a sixer of tear gas and 42 muskets. For some reason though, foreign countries get a much better deal on U.S. military contracts. On Friday the tear gas in Egypt was falling like Texas hail.

Unless Mubarak’s economic plan for the past thirty years has been to keep Egyptians poor, it hasn’t worked. That is at the root of the riots. In retrospect when he filled out his annual aid requests maybe he should have checked off corn instead of tear gas. His logic seems to have been “if people find out I’m buying tear gas instead of corn they are going to get pissed off and riot so I better be prepared and get tear gas.”

Maybe I’m na├»ve. It could be that Egyptians don’t like corn and they would be rioting anyway. In that case the police would have nothing with which to control the crowds except corn. Not fun if you consider the dried stuff really smarts when launched at high velocity.