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Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Power Of The Purse

by digby

Somebody blurted out a little ugly truth:

Six antiwar demonstrators were arrested Wednesday at the Garden Grove office of Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Santa Ana) after camping there overnight and telling her they wouldn't leave unless she promised not to approve more funding for the war in Iraq.

Most of the protesters are members of the group Military Families Speak Out, and some have relatives in the armed forces. They entered the office about 7 p.m. Tuesday during an open house. They sat on the floor in the lobby and refused to leave unless the congresswoman made the statement they wanted. Sanchez, who opposes the war, refused.

The lawmaker's staff initially chose not to call police and allowed the group to stay overnight. Police removed the protesters in handcuffs about 8:15 a.m. Wednesday, while Sanchez was attending a meeting of Orange County Latino leaders.

The protesters were taken to the Garden Grove Police Department, where they were issued misdemeanor citations for trespassing. Five were released pending an October court hearing, but Robert Dietrich was being held because he refused to sign a document promising to appear in court.

Sanchez, Orange County's only Democratic member of Congress, voted in 2002 against giving President Bush authorization to invade Iraq. More recently she voted to begin pulling troops out within 90 days.

Tuesday night Sanchez said she could not support the protesters because the $145 billion in Iraq war funding was in the same bill that would provide money to build the C-17 aircraft in California.

"I never voted for this war," she said. But "I'm not going to vote against $2.1 billion for C-17 production, which is in California. That is just not going to happen."

I actually appreciate Sanchez's honesty here. It makes it possible to have a real dialog about what's going on.

When people evoke the "power of the purse" in terms of Iraq, I'm not sure they are looking at it from the same angle as politicians are. It is really the power to provide government welfare for defense contractors and all their workers and pork barrel projects for others --- even if we have to start illegal wars to justify them. Sanchez is protecting her constituents' jobs, which is part of her job..

I hate to go all Ike on everyone because it's so damned predictable, but this is what happens when you base an economy dependent on warmaking --- which we have done ever since WWII. It's one of the overlooked motivations (out of many) for the Iraq invasion and it is so entrenched in our way of life now that it's hard to fathom it ever being challenged. The cold war justified huge amounts of defense spending and the PTB (powers that be) were very nervous about how to compensate when it ended. Missile defense was a poor substitute. And then along came Osama and the blank checks were issued again. Huzzah.

It's just another way that big money distorts our politics. Sanchez's statement makes it quite clear that the "power of the purse" is not about stopping anything. It's about funding all kinds of things that have been set up over many years to keep politicians like Sanchez in line. She really does have to answer to her constituents --- many of whom make their living off the military industrial complex dime. You can't blame her.

Every time you ramp up military spending you further entrench these jobs and money in communities around the country and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. That's why they do it. Regardless of what happens with Iraq this distortion is going to continue --- the GWOT is one of those fabulous wars without end, so they will be able to keep the defense money flowing for years. Huzzah, huzzah.

Jonathan Schwarz at A Tiny Revolution reminds us today of a famous essay by a very famous member of the SCLM from a few years back:

[T]hree weeks after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, here's famous New York Times reporter R.W. Apple unconsciously explaining how Bourne was completely right:

August 20, 1990

The obituaries were a bit premature.

There is still one superpower in the world, and it is the United States. More than any other country in the world, its interests, its exposure and its reach are global, as the events of the last two weeks have demonstrated so vividly.

Washington is not the backwater that it seemed to some when the action was all in the streets of Prague or at the Berlin wall....there is a rush of excitement in the air here. In news bureaus and Pentagon offices, dining rooms and lobbyists' hangouts, the fever is back - the heavy speculation, the avid gossip, the gung-ho, here's-where-it's-happening spirit, that marks the city when it grapples with great events.

''These days, conversations are huddled,'' said Stan Bromley, the manager of the Four Seasons Hotel, where King Hussein of Jordan stayed. ''People are leaning closer together. It's serious business.''

Washington is full of individuals who are bored by the idea of raising children, or curing diseases, or building bridges that don't collapse. But dealing out death in great quantities—that they find very, very interesting indeed.

As do the big money boyz who make lotsa bucks off the enterprise, spending little more than peanuts to buy off the workers and the politicians to keep the cash flowing.

Only in a society and economy fueled by high tech imperial warmaking could "sacrifice" be seen as a result of ending the war. But that's how Sanchez sees it, and rightly so. Her constituents would sacrifice their well-paid livelihoods if she were to vote against that defense spending bill. Neat how that works, isn't it?

We've always had huge government welfare programs for white, educated high tech workers in the defense industry and there's little hope of changing it short of something very dramatic. It's just the poor black women and children in inner cities we needed to "reform." Good thing they aren't taking advantage of the taxpayers anymore.