Money, money, money,… money makes the world go ‘round, that clinking clanking sound that makes the world go ‘round.”
Yes, you movie buffs guessed it. That’s right out of the Broadway play and movie cabaret, but what has a decades-old movie or play have to do with the good old USA?
Well, it seems things haven’t changed, and if we look at our Congress, and even glance at the ongoing budget considerations, you will come away with mumbling, “Money, money, money.” Yep, that’s the way we keep score, and lately it’s like certain companies and individuals have won the lottery.
Just consider this: The current administration is proposing to add $80 billion (at last count) to the defense budget.
Of course, the +$80 billion increase is a lot more than the Defense Department requested, but that doesn’t matter to those generous members of Congress who are loading up every branch of the armed services, with extra ships for the Navy, more men for the military and adding planes that will never see combat.
Not only that, but there are gobs of military bases the Pentagon has requested be closed, and you and I know there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell those bases will be closed. Congress is going to increase the Defense Department budget by some ungodly amount, and they will refuse to even consider closing any of the facilities on the Pentagon list of bases to close.
Of course, we have 150,000 troops posted overseas to keep countries like Japan and the Philippines safe.
These troops are left over from World War II, and serve no purpose except to cost us billions in defense spending each year. The sum total of wasted money is easily north of $200 billion, and with the deficit soaring, our health care costs and the needs of children and college students at an all-time high, why waste $200 billion?
The answer is actually fairly simple.
It’s just a matter of dollars.
You know it’s the old “money, money, money” again, but those defense dollars must go to the right people, and those people aren’t folks who need health care, college students or needy kids. The $200 billion would easily pay for a complete college education for every high school graduate for the next five years, and have enough money left over to pay every child in America’s health cost for the next decade and go a long way toward universal health care.
So why won’t Congress do the right thing? Former President Dwight Eisenhower pinned it on the Military Industrial Complex. In other words, there’s money to be made during a war or building the armaments necessary to fight a war, or paying companies to supply the troops around the world.
Peace is not good for business. If you are building yet another tank or destroyer or paying to put troops in the Philippines, its jobs and money for the big companies.
That is why, during a Republican administration, the Defense Budget soars. There is not a country in the world that is a legitimate threat to the USA. The phony hand-waving by our Congress because of the threat of North Korea, China or Russia is just like fake news.
We have military that is more than a match for any or all of the above countries. Russia has a budget of only 20 percent of our Defense Budget, and China and North Korea aren’t anyone’s idea of realistic threats to us.
The increased Defense Budget is just another bone like the tax bill to reward the big corporate supporters of the present administration. What could be simpler than that? Republicans always cut the taxes of the wealthy, pad the Defense Budget and cut benefits for the poor and middle class. It’s what Republicans do. Who could possibly be surprised at that observation?
Of course, it’s not just unnecessary Defense Department spending, it’s also a failure of Congress to close bases and other facilities that are no longer needed and to quit adding ships the Navy says they have no use for and planes the Air Force doesn’t want.
But let’s look at closing bases.
This little boondoggle is a bipartisan issue and Democrats are as guilty as Republicans. I have yet to see one congressman or senator vote to close a base in their state or district.
We have outmoded pieces of decades old military equipment sitting on runways and in storage that are useless in a modern war, and of course that’s bad enough, but our and your home state congressman or senator not only wants to keep those pieces of junk lying around, but they insist they be replaced and added to even though they know it’s a waste of money.
Naturally, when you confront one of our representatives about closing a base in their state, they will cook up some farfetched, implausible scenario that shows why their home state pieces of outmoded junk should be kept in top shape, and no, we can’t shut down the Little Rock Air Force Base or you fill in the blanks.
But what really gets me is the lack of accountability. If an elected representative is going to waste $200 billion of taxpayer’s money, at least they should have the guts to stand up in a town hall meeting and defend their actions.
Of course, you and I know they won’t, and what’s even worse is when it’s time to run for office again, they show up with their hands out, unless they are like Congressman Bruce Westerman, who has sugar daddies in the forestry companies, who since 2014 have kicked in $142,000 into campaign funds.
Well, what a coincidence, do you think the super corporate friendly forestry bill he has introduced has anything to do with all that money? Environmentalists are lining up to oppose making our National Forests industry timber farms, and guess what? Surprise, surprise, the timber industry supports the bill.
My God, congressman, have you no shame? Why don’t you have the guts to show up for a town hall meeting and answer some of your constitutions questions?
Are you afraid some little gray-haired lady will hit you will a tough question, or do you just want to keep sucking the public tit without being held accountable for the way your voting?
Richard H. Mason of El Dorado is a syndicated columnist and author and former president of the Arkansas Wildlife Federation and the state Pollution Control & Ecology Commission. He may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.