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.) 

A Few Quick Takes on Obama’s State of the Union Address

President Barack Obama, official portrait

President Obama gave his annual State of the Union Address tonight.

There were no surprises in the speech. Most of what the President said has been in the news for a long time now. In fact, several of his major proposals, such as gun control, have been the subject of presidential speeches or press conferences in the past few weeks.

I agree with some of his ideas and disagree with others. Quite a bit of the speech was filler of one sort or the other, either introducing people who the president felt would exemplify the need for his proposals, or in just illustrating and explaining what he wanted.

I’ve attempted to boil it down to a few quick takes to make it easier to see where he wants to take the country. We’ve already discussed several of these proposals quite a bit here on Public Catholic. I expect that we will go over some of them in even greater depth in the future.

In the meantime, here are my quick takes on the President’s speech. If you think I left out something important, feel free to bring it up in the comments section.

Jobs, Taxes and Wages

1. … we can’t ask senior citizens and working families to shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction while asking nothing more from the wealthiest and most powerful … we can’t just cut our way to prosperity.

2. I propose a “Fix-It-First” program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country. I’m also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade what our businesses need most: modern ports to move our goods; modern pipelines to withstand a storm; modern schools worthy of our children.

3. Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families.

4. Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race. And today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy.

The Deficit, Health Care & Energy

1. Reduce taxpayer subsidies to prescription drug companies and ask more from the wealthiest seniors. We’ll bring down costs by changing the way our government pays for Medicare, because our medical bills shouldn’t be based on the number of tests ordered or days spent in the hospital – they should be based on the quality of care that our seniors receive.

2. Save hundreds of billions of dollars by getting rid of tax loopholes and deductions for the well-off and well-connected. 

3. My Administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits. But I also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research and technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects our air and water

Climate Change

1. We must do more to combat climate change. 

2. I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago.

Home Ownership

Right now, there’s a bill in this Congress that would give every responsible homeowner in America the chance to save $3,000 a year by refinancing at today’s rates. Take a vote, and send me that bill.

Education

1. Tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America. 

2. I ask Congress to change the Higher Education Act, so that affordability and value are included in determining which colleges receive certain types of federal aid. And tomorrow, my Administration will release a new “College Scorecard” that parents and students can use to compare schools based on a simple criteria: where you can get the most bang for your educational buck.

Immigration

Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship – a path that includes passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English, and going to the back of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally.

al Qaeda, Afghanistan, Cyber Terrorism

1. Tonight, I can announce that over the next year, another 34,000 American troops will come home from Afghanistan. This drawdown will continue. And by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over.

2. Today, the organization that attacked us on 9/11 is a shadow of its former self. Different al Qaeda affiliates and extremist groups have emerged – from the Arabian Peninsula to Africa. The threat these groups pose is evolving. But to meet this threat, we don’t need to send tens of thousands of our sons and daughters abroad, or occupy other nations. Instead, we will need to help countries like Yemen, Libya, and Somalia provide for their own security, and help allies who take the fight to terrorists, as we have in Mali. And, where necessary, through a range of capabilities, we will continue to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to Americans.

3. America must also face the rapidly growing threat from cyber-attacks. Now our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions, and our air traffic control systems. We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing in the face of real threats to our security and our economy.

International Trade Agreements 

1. We intend to complete negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership.

2. We will launch talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union.

The Military and Defense Spending

1. We will maintain the best military in the world.

2. We will ensure equal treatment for all service members, and equal benefits for their families – gay and straight.

3. We will draw upon the courage and skills of our sisters and daughters, because women have proven under fire that they are ready for combat.

Long Voting Lines

When any Americans – no matter where they live or what their party – are denied that right simply because they can’t wait for five, six, seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are betraying our ideals. That’s why, tonight, I’m announcing a non-partisan commission to improve the voting experience in America. 

Gun Control 

1. Background checks

2. New laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals.

3. Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets.


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