Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Whatâ€™s the right metaphor for the endlessly complicated assemblage of porkbarrel stuffed into federal spending bills?
Is it a Rubikâ€™s cube, something to be finally and fully revealed when you figure out how to untangle all the interlocking layers? Or more of a matryoshka doll, the nested Russian figurine that reveals yet another copy of itself every time you open it up and think youâ€™ve finally reached the last?
A new book by Winslow Wheeler details an approach to national defense many voters may not know about. Nor even students of porkbarrel. Itâ€™s called The Wastrels of Defense: How Congress Sabotages U.S. Security. And itâ€™s all about how congressmen scrub defense-related budget items to make room for pork.
Wheeler spent thirty years as a congressional staffer working on national security issues, on both sides of the aisle. He learned that lawmakers are not simply using the opportunity of a spending bill to lard it with unrelated spending. Theyâ€™re actually cutting defense expenditures on training and equipment and the like. A kind of sausage-making thatâ€™s simple in essence, complicated in ugly political detail. In one chapter, Wheeler recounts how $2.4 billion in actual defense-related items was chopped from a bill while $4 billion in pork was added.
Military spending can also be ill-conceived. But obviously, it should be advocated or opposed on the merits. Not arbitrarily funneled into wasteful favor-trading.
This is Common Sense. Iâ€™m Paul Jacob.