Government Of, By and For the Special Interests: Rolling Right Along

M1 abrams

Government of, by and for the special interests is rolling right along, despite a national debt that hangs like the Sword of Damocles over all of us. 

A case in point is the on-going debate in Congress about the Abrams Tank. The Army doesn’t want more Abrams tanks. But members of Congress are pushing to force more of them on the Army, anyway.

One factor in this is, of course, the location of Abrams Tank plants. These plants provide jobs for constituents. Voting for the funding because it will keep jobs for your constituents, is, of course, pork barrel voting. But at least the Congressperson who’s doing it has the interests of the people who elected them in mind.

But what about the rest of them? I rather doubt that there are enough Abrams Tank plants in enough Congressional districts to swing a vote in Congress. So, what’s motivating this bi-partisan push to force the Army to buy more tanks, despite the fact that it says it does not need them to keep us safe?

This is just a wild guess, of course, but I’m wondering if campaign donations play a part in this. Or maybe the possibility of a cushy job after leaving office. 

From the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Built to dominate the enemy in combat, the Army‘s hulking Abrams tank is proving equally hard to beat in a budget battle.

Lawmakers from both parties have devoted nearly half a billion dollars in taxpayer money over the past two years to build improved versions of the 70-ton Abrams.

But senior Army officials have said repeatedly, “No thanks.”

It’s the inverse of the federal budget world these days, in which automatic spending cuts are leaving sought-after pet programs struggling or unpaid altogether. Republicans and Democrats for years have fought so bitterly that lawmaking in Washington ground to a near-halt.

Yet in the case of the Abrams tank, there’s a bipartisan push to spend an extra $436 million on a weapon the experts explicitly say is not needed.

“If we had our choice, we would use that money in a different way,” Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army’s chief of staff, told The Associated Press this past week.

Why are the tank dollars still flowing? Politics. (Read the rest here.) 

  • Bill S

    “This is just a wild guess, of course, but I’m wondering if campaign donations play a part in this. Or maybe the possibility of a cushy job after leaving office.”

    That is so annoying. We can’t bankrupt this country making defense contractors rich. Yes. I would feel sorry for Lima. But we just do not have money to waste on unneeded equipment and upgrades.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Actually, if Congress wants to spend money on Ohio, I’m sure that Ohio has roads that need building and other infrastructure issues. That — along with my understanding of how these things work — is why I think campaign donations and similar considerations are what are really driving this.

  • http://fpb.livejournal.com/ Fabio P.Barbieri

    I don’t want to teach my grandmother to suck eggs, and surely you know more about this than I do, but it strikes me that military expenditure is the elephant in the room of America’s fiscal problems. The US military is large out of all proportion to most conceivable needs. For instance, it has more aircraft carriers than all other countries in the world put together – and larger ones, too. This is ridiculous. The greatest naval power the world has ever known, the British Empire at the height of its power, only intended to have a fleet equal to the two next largest ones (“two-power standard”); the USA seem committed to an “all-power standard” where every second naval ship on the oceans is American. But does this overreach do anyone any good? Have America’s immense carriers ever done much to suppress the worst problem on the high seas – piracy from Somalia and elsewhere? Is it not obviously a case of the wrong investment in the wrong place, with no way to disinvest from it at the speed required to deal with rising challenges? The Abrams are the same. Fortress tanks are of limited use, as the Germans discovered with their Tigers; they certainly won’t do much for you in places such as Afghanistan.
    Massive military expenditure has plenty of bad side effects. First, it is so corrupting as to destroy uncorrupt competitors. Where it is possible to make huge sums from one single customer (the State), there is no point in improving one’s offer; it is better to purchase the purchaser, offering the persons in charge inducements they cannot refuse. But in the long run this means that there is no inducement to improve practice and innovate in response to competition, especially foreign competition; and so a whole industry becomes as addicted to that one customer as a junkie to his crack, and eventually dies. IN 1901, the British shipbuilding industry led the world; today there is none, except for military dockyards, and when British companies want to build a tanker or a liner they have to go to Poland, to Italy, to South Korea. The same is true for American shipbuilding industry, and will show all its results as the navy, finally, inevitably, is forced to retrench. Even now I heard it from someone that the monstrous and useless roster of carriers is kept up because if they were not operative, the shipyards that regularly care for and refurbish them would have to close, and all that pool of skills and experience would be lost. In other words, the American shipyards need excessive and useless State expenditure in order to survive.
    Equally bad is the social effect. The reason why America can’t afford a welfare state, and why even the very moderate (and inadequate) provisions she offers risk bankrupting her, surely cannot be unrelated to the immense military expenditure.
    A third awful effect of American military overstretch is that it has fostered bad habits across the world. Americans may from time to time be heard protesting that they can’t be the policemen of the world. Sorry, lads and lasses, you candidated yourselves for the post, and you took it. When there is only one, only one, colossal armed force capable of reaching anywhere on earth and influence almost anyone, then people expect it to. And American policy in the past has been, in effect, to neutralize their own allies. When, in 1956, France and Britain were forbidden from pursuing an absolutely central national interest – the control and opening of the Suez Canal – it sent a signal to the entire world that America would not tolerate autonomous action from allies. The allies heard loud and clear, and, from then on, effectively invested America with the duty of their own defence. This caused an increasingly toxic relationship, where rich and powerful nations who instinctively felt that they could and should amount to more than they did had their own foreign policy effectively managed from Foggy Bottom. The reaction was and remains what you would expect: resentment and ineffective whining. The Americans, on their side, feel unappreciated and regard their allies as freeloading backseat critics. But at this point, while America cannot let go of their enormously excessive military establishment, Europe and to a lesser extent Japan have no desire and no real requirement to build anything comparable. Result, stalemate.
    There is nothing positive about the excessive American military establishment. It cannot be reduced to more reasonable proportions without any amount of unwanted consenquences; and it is bleeding the country white. Something has got to give.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      This is true Fabio. We’re bankrupting ourselves and impoverishing our people for things we don’t need to defend ourselves. By doing that, we aren’t making ourselves safe; we are endangering our future.

      “surely you know more about this than I do, but it strikes me that military expenditure is the elephant in the room of America’s fiscal problems. The US military is large out of all proportion to most conceivable needs. For instance, it has more aircraft carriers than all other countries in the world put together – and larger ones, too. This is ridiculous.”

  • Will J

    Eisenhower warned about the military-industrial complex. Companies put military parts factories in almost every state, so all in congress will support every plane and ship. We spend more on the military than the next 16 countries combined. We need to close many overseas bases.


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