Many of us have criticized our politicians for years for abandoning the national interest in favor of petty or corrupt interests. I have worked in this town for decades and I have never seen the situation quite this bad where lobbyists seem to have unprecedented and open control of Congress. No greater example can be found than the move this week to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on tanks that the Army does not want and experts overwhelming say the country does not need.
Both Republicans and Democrats (the same people complaining about the cuts in budget under the sequester) joined together to order $500 million of new Abrams M-1 tanks that no one wants. Why? Because of a powerful lobby and a company who sweetened the pot by spreading the contracts around to key districts. The Army has other uses for the $436 million that would make the country safer but members want their cut of the defense pork. Then of course there are also those countless educational, scientific, and public welfare programs slashed for lack of money.
The money has changed two budget hawks into pork profiteers. Rep. Jim Jordan and Sen. Rob Portman have insisted that the Army will order the tanks which will likely add to hundreds now rusting in storage areas. They are joined by liberal Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown. Ohio will benefit most from building the tanks. The Lima plant is operated by the land systems division of General Dynamics, which spread around $11 million last year on lobbyist members of Congress.
Jordan makes no apologies for insisting that money needed for national security should be shifted to an unwanted program: “Look, (the plant) is in the 4th Congressional District and my job is to represent the 4th Congressional District, so I understand that . . . But the fact remains, if it was not in the best interests of the national defense for the United States of America, then you would not see me supporting it like we do.” Really? Experts have lined up to say it is not in our best interests. The military has told you it is not in our best interest. But you are not convinced?
By the way, our tank fleet, on average, is less than 3 years old.