There’s a longish op ed in tomorrow’s Washington Post where in the author takes Congress to task for an astonishing $8.9 billion in pork disguised as “defense.” The article is heavy reading and difficult to really understand — but $8.9 billion is pretty complicated.
We’re in the middle of simultaneous wars against terrorism and insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the outcomes are anything but certain. To help fight these wars, Congress passed a gigantic $416 billion appropriations bill for the Department of Defense in July, which President Bush signed into law on Aug. 5. The measure, the president declared, ensures that “our armed forces have every tool they need to meet and defeat the threats of our time.”
Well, not exactly. If you look at the hidden details of the legislation, it’s clear that Congress has failed dismally — and deliberately — to fulfill its constitutional mandates to “raise and support armies” and to “provide and maintain a navy.”
Legislators have amply demonstrated that what they’re really interested in is raising and providing some home-state pork to impress voters in an election year. To that end, they have busied themselves with squeezing funds for war essentials such as training, weapons maintenance and spare parts — things troops in combat need more, not less, of — to send extra dollars their constituents’ way. And it’s equal-opportunity raiding: Both Republicans and Democrats have been fully engaged in this behavior. Even Capitol Hill’s self-proclaimed “pork buster,” Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who has made a regular practice of calling his colleagues on their gluttony, has essentially given the gorging a wink and a nod.
A pork-hungry Congress has long been with us, of course, but this year, with our armed forces engaged on two major fronts, Congress has pushed the pork in the defense budget to an all-time high, totaling $8.9 billion. And even as they did so — and voted to fund wartime operations at only a fraction of what nearly all analysts agree is needed for the duration of 2005 — conservatives, liberals and moderates alike have presented themselves as doing everything they can think of to support the troops in the field. Don’t believe it.