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Friday, June 26, 2009

Congress Sides With The Military-Industrial Complex

by dday


Lawmakers defy veto threat on F-22 fighter

Congress on Thursday moved forward with plans to build more Lockheed Martin F-22 fighter jets, disregarding a veto threat from the Obama administration.

Lawmakers also moved to authorize the funding for an alternative engine for the Joint Strike Fighter F-35.

Congress is setting the stage for a showdown over the 2010 defense authorization bill with the administration and in particular Defense Secretary Robert Gates, as the Office of Management and Budget issued a statement outlining the veto threat Wednesday over both issues.

Gates proposed the cuts earlier this year as part of an effort that he said would better spend taxpayer dollars on military priorities. He has said he’s confident the Air Force will have enough F-22s.

Lawmakers pushing to save the programs say the F-22 and second engine for the F-35 are vital to national security.

They also argue eliminating the F-22 program would kill off jobs during a brutal recession.

I hope even the lawmakers saying that first line aren't dumb enough to believe it.

As for the "weaponized Keynesianism" of the second, keep in mind that these are the same people who constantly bite their nails about the budget deficit, who claim that government never created a job, or that a spending bill is not a stimulus bill. Not to mention the fact - a fact I don't even like - that the total military budget will expand this year, as funding for the F-22 and the needless new engine for the F-35 will shift into other military priorities, ones that also create jobs. My preference would be to shift all this military spending into something creative instead of destructive, but without being able to close out these projects when they outlive their usefulness, we just create a monster. This country spends nearly as much on our military than the rest of the world combined, and far too much of that leaks into the pockets of contractors who build things that go unused, or gets put toward projects which quadruple in cost from projection to completion. The money is wildly inefficient, comparatively speaking, and this entire notion of military spending as sacrosanct makes it impossible to fund the rest of government without the fiscal scolds carping about deficits.

To segue into a separate point, there will be a conference committee on this, and so the White House certainly has the ability to use that tool, which the Republican majority used time and again, to take this funding which the Pentagon did not seek out of the bill. Practically every bill that passed through Congress from 1994-2006 got scrubbed of anything remotely progressive and sent back to each chamber with a nice big "take it or leave it" Post-It Note on the front. Many think that this is the way a decent health care reform bill can be pushed through the Congress, and that this is all part of the 31-dimensional chess the White House is playing. While they've already offered the veto threat on the military spending, and that might come about, it's important to look at the past experience with conference committees and this Administration. The short answer is: they don't like to use them and are more concerned about their personal schedule. The credit card reform bill can be instructive here.

In the Senate vote for that legislation, Tom Coburn added a supposed poison pill amendment allowing concealed weapons in public parks. The Senate passed the bill, and the House had already passed a version without that amendment. But rather than go to a conference committee, the House just up and passed the Senate's bill, with the guns in parks amendment, Obama signed it, and now we all can take our snub-noses to Yosemite. The official reason given was that the President wanted a bill on his desk by Memorial Day.

And they did exactly the same thing with the war supplemental. Many people had problems with provisions like the IMF loans or cash for clunkers, which certainly could have been fixed if anyone cared to do so. But the White House wanted it to move quickly, and so the Senate passed the House's bill.

I should note that at the end of Ezra's post today comes this:

(The President) wants to sign a bill in October.

I'm happy to believe that the White House has a secret strategy to fix the health care bill in conference, but recent history shows that they are far more interested in scheduling than these fixes. Maybe if they really, really care about a certain provision, it will get excised or included. But none of us actually know what those concerns truly are.