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.) 

Who Does Congress Really Listen To? (it’s not us)

Fiscal Cliff vote in the House.

Who forced a fiscal cliff deal? Try

foreign investors

Washington is now all too aware that foreign

creditors and investors will punish it for any

macroeconomic mismanagement. American

competitiveness was at stake in the fiscal cliff

negotiations.

By the Monitor’s Editorial Board | Christian Science Monitor 

Take a guess. Which of these put more pressure on US lawmakers to strike a deal and avoid the “fiscal cliff” – voters or global financial markets?

If you picked markets, you may be right.

On the day after the last-minute agreement, an uptick in global stock prices seemed far more welcome in Washington than the reaction of voters. The reason is that foreign creditors to the US Treasury had been near a tipping point in wanting their money back, possibly forcing a crisis for US debt.

Investors worldwide now demand the US government display more stability and trust. Globalization has given them a big say in the policy logjams of many countries, and the United States is not immune. Its lingering disputes over issues like taxes and spending have become a prime indicator of its ability to remain innovative, reliable, and productive.

Elections do have consequences, for sure. But today so does a country’s economic competitiveness, measured in part by its level of dependability, openness, and flexibility in governance. On those sorts of attributes, the US needs work. Consider these latest rankings:

On a global index of innovation, the US has dropped from No. 1 in 2007 to 10th. On economic competitiveness, it has dropped to seventh in the last few years. And compared with other countries, the trust by Americans in their government ranks 54th.

The greatest weakness of the US is seen in its lack of macroeconomic stability. On that measure it fell last year from 90th to 111th.

Economic freedom in the US has been falling and now ranks 10th – behind even the African country of Mauritius. It ranks fifth in the ease of doing business, according to the World Bank.

In 2012, the US fell from the top tier of a “global prosperity index,” which measures such nonmaterial factors as entrepreneurship, safety, education, and governance. It now ranks 12th. (Read more here.)


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