November 27, 2006

Bloating Machines

Writing in Harper's, Ken Silverstein points out that Ike Skelton, the new chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, will be just as addicted to feeding the already-overfed defense budget and spending billions on utterly worthless projects like the B-2 bomber as his predecessor was. If one is inclined to follow the money trail, one will also find that "Skelton's entire political career has been funded by the same assortment of defense contractors that footed the bill for outgoing chairman Duncan Hunter."

Now I had basically assumed that everyone on the House Armed Services Committee receives a lot of money from defense contractors, but, in fact, that's not always the case. It is true for, say, John Spratt, Jr., but not for Ellen Tauscher or Lane Evans--to pick two other random Democrats on the committee. So it would be theoretically possible for someone without extensive ties to the defense industry to head up the committee. It just never seems to happen.

Anyway, I tend to think that drastically shrinking the defense budget ought to rank up there with getting out of Iraq, taking action on global warming and shoring up organized labor as a top priority for the new Democratic Congress, but I'll admit, I haven't the first clue how that could possibly come about. As a first step, perhaps it would be nice to have an Armed Services Committee that conducts actual oversight (as opposed to, say, this), or an actual audit of the Pentagon. But, again, it never seems to happen. I suppose if op-ed writers spent as much discussing the deranged state of the military's finances as they do fretting about minor problems with Social Security that may or may not materialize a half-century from now, we might actually get somewhere.
-- Brad Plumer 1:12 PM || ||