Thursday, September 21, 2006

Why Congress cuts social programs

.... a weapon that was designed to fight an enemy that no longer exists, which may be a spectacular design failure, and which costs up to ten times as much as the last generation's still-excellent and still-superior weapon, is to be mass-produced by a government steeped in a budget crisis of its own making, at a time when vital social services are being slashed. The funding bill for this plane was endorsed by a research group whose president is a board member of a subcontractor and was passed by a Congress heavily subsidized by the F-22's chief contractors. In just this one election year of 2006, members of Congress received $1,124,646 in contributions from Lockheed Martin alone ($949,271 to House reps, $175,375 to senators), and that doesn't even account for the huge contributions from other contractors like Connecticut-based Pratt and Whitney (still wonder why Chris Dodd and Joe Lieberman voted for the Chambliss amendment?) and Texas Instruments.

Defense appropriations remain the most hideously undercovered ongoing story in America. Some of this is probably due to the fact that defense companies have a long history of owning major media outlets (Westinghouse and GE being prime examples), but even beyond that there seems to be an instinctive reluctance on the part of reporters to even consider covering military waste stories.

Since both parties are heavily subsidized by defense contractors and accustomed to giving them whatever they want, whenever they want (Lockheed Martin even has the contract for the Internet server in Congress, for Christ's sake), neither party ever raises the issue with reporters. This allows people like John Boehner to keep a straight face when he sighs and says things like, "Look, we're broke," before slashing $600 million in foster care funding, as he did last year. And while Democrats may object to these same cuts, you'll hardly ever hear any of them mention -- oh, by the way -- that they just voted to buy 183 of the world's most useless airplanes at $361 million a pop. The F-22 -- useless as tits on a bull against Al Qaeda, but it sure will look nice flying over next year's World Series opener! Why not? It's not their money.
I could fault the reporter for considering the F-16 as a superior aircraft but at least he is writing about the issue. This article is, of course, not in a normal mass media news publication but from Rolling Stone, which has decided to get back in to covering politics in a big way. Social programs don't have rich contractors to toss big money around Washington.

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