Throwing Good Money After Bad – Again and Again

I am dumbfounded by the American public’s tolerance for military wastefulness. It has been going on throughout my lifetime and instead of being addressed, it has been allowed not just to continue but to grow and grow and grow.

As a young reporter, I used to write “outrage” stories about the hugely inflated prices the military paid for supplies. If my recollection is correct, a common and garden tool like the lowly hammer could cost hundreds of dollars.

But that was minuscule compared to today’s prodigality. Military wastefulness has now reached unbelievable proportions. And I don’t hear a peep from the protesters.

They say they want “fiscal responsibility.” Yet they are silent when their representatives in Congress approve $33 billion more to pursue the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq. That’s in addition to $159.3 billion that Congress approved for the wars in May.

This is supplemental spending. Congress earlier approved a national budget that includes $663.8 billion for the Department of Defense.

And in stark contrast to the way they balked at extending unemployment benefits, the politicians brushed aside any concerns about finding ways to pay for the supplementary military funds. No added taxes, no spending cuts. It simply goes on top of the country’s trillion-plus deficit.

The recent leak of military documents exposing the horror and futility of the Afghan adventure has had no impact on Congress – or the White House. Nor has a report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction that the Pentagon cannot account for more than $8.5 billion.

This was just the latest in a long series of revelations about missing and diverted war funds. The public seems unmoved by the pallets of U.S. currency being airlifted out of Kabul to private accounts in Dubai … or the garbage bags of hundred dollar bills that vanished in Baghdad… or the billions paid to contractors in Iraq for work that was never completed … Or…

I suppose that the hemorrhage of “defense” money has been going on for so long that the American public has come to accept it as the way things are. Remember how we all laughed at the way Sgt. Bilko bilked the Army in that popular TV series (poster above)?

But the swindling today is no laughing matter. Widespread looting is commonplace.

Yet Americans continue to look the other way, insisting that more money must always be found to “support our troops.”

Obviously, the “fiscal responsibility” shibboleth that’s so popular today is sheer humbug.

It’s coming from “conservatives,” who usually support the Republican Party, yet the Republicans in Congress are showing no regard for policies of constraint. They are currently clamoring for extension of the Bush tax cuts to the richest 2 percent of America’s income earners – despite a report from the Congressional Budget Office that puts the cost at a trillion dollars over the next decade.

To them, policies that empower the oppressed and encourage economic recovery are fiscally irresponsible, but enriching the wealthy and pouring trillions of dollars into a bottomless military pit make sense.

And this is the platform they plan to run on come November. Don’t you marvel at the fact that some people might actually vote for them?