How to Buy $22,000 for a Buck

If we cut the defense budget, we're doomed. It's just that simple. Foolishly, President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates want to cut the military to the bone, leaving our troops in the field starving and naked, armed only with rocks and sticks. Luckily, we have FOX News' Sean Hannity to warn us of our impending destruction.

This has been, in my view, a very dangerous week for this country -- and I'm being serious. When we have Democrats kissing up to a brutal, murdering dictator by the name of Fidel Castro -- we just played that tape for you just moments ago -- we're going to meet with now Iran without preconditions; we have missiles fired off over North Korea, and the president says they broke the rules, we're going to go back to the UN, and he's going to cut, not only missile defense, but our defenses dramatically.

I'm thinking they don't understand the nature of the last 100 years in human history and how many 100-plus million people died under dictatorial regimes. Am I wrong?

It's a stupid question; if you're Sean Hannity, of course you're wrong. It's his job to be wrong -- he's a professional BS artist. In reporting on the proposed "cuts" to the defense budget on April 6, CNN told us, "The proposed overall fiscal year 2010 Defense Department budget is almost $534 billion, or nearly $664 billion when including the costs of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The current Pentagon budget totals slightly over $513 billion, or almost $655 billion including the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts."

Quick pointer here, Hannity -- $664 billion is more than $655 billion. "Cut" is really the wrong word to use here. And is missile defense the answer to North Korea's repeatedly failed missile launches? Not if you ask the Union of Concerned Scientists. As I've reported before, the only purpose of missile defense is to waste money -- it doesn't work and there's no reason to believe it'll ever work. All it does is make stupid amounts of money for military contractors.

F-22 RaptorThere are weapons that are being cut -- like Boeing's F-22 Raptor -- but that money is being shifted to other programs and weapons. We don't actually use the F-22, we just fly them around. In both Afghanistan and Iraq, the fighters are pretty much useless. See, terrorists and militias don't actually have an Air Force, meaning this fighter doesn't have anything to fight.

In his fearmongering over this non-existent cut to defense spending, Hannity is doing double-duty as a propagandist -- he's trying to get the perpetually panicked right to freak out and hate Obama (it's not much of a challenge) and he's doing the grunt work for corporations like Boeing, who are going to be big losers with these new budget priorities. In pretending to be worried about what cutting these programs would mean for you, he's actually trying to get you to support throwing your own tax dollars down a rathole.

If this is what's happening in the national media, imagine what's happening behind the scenes. While propagandists like Hannity are lobbying you, others are lobbying congress. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, lobbyists spent $3.42 billion in Washington in 2008 -- 14% more than in 2007. The Associated Press reported yesterday that lobbyists spend the big bucks because it pays. Those $3.42 billion were investments, not contributions.

And those investments pay off well. AP's article looks at a study by the University of Kansas that focused on "efforts by hundreds of companies in 2003 and 2004 to push through a one-time tax 'holiday' that lowered for a year the tax rate they paid on profits earned abroad."

Those companies spent $282.7 million lobbying and enjoyed a return of $62.5 billion in tax breaks. This is a 22,000% return on their investment. To give you an idea of what that means, imagine a store where you can buy $22,000 for a buck. That's the store lobbyists manage to build for their clients on this issue.

"It calls into question what Congress did in 2004," said Stephen Mazza, who conducted the study with Raquel Alexander and Susan Scholz. "It clearly is a very lucrative field for lobbyists. Congress wanted to create jobs, and what they probably did was create jobs for the lobbyists."

"There's literally no way that you can take an action in Washington by simply coming to town and sitting around on street corners waiting for it to happen -- you really do have to have professional help," Robert S. Walker, a former Republican congressman now with the lobbying firm Wexler & Walker Public Policy Associates. "It would be like going to court without a lawyer." On the other hand, hiring a lobbyist is like going to the bank with the combination to the safe.

Steps are being taken.

[Government Executive:]

Bush administration political appointees at the Defense Department have until the end of the week to sign President Barack Obama's ethics pledge, or they will be asked to resign, according to internal correspondence.

In an April 7 e-mail, Robert Rangel, special assistant to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, gave all Bush holdovers until the close of business on Friday to sign the agreement, which puts restrictions on post-government employment.

Politicos who refuse to comply will be required to leave their position by the end of April.

The measure is meant to close the "revolving door" between government and lobbyists, where people work at a government agency, make friends and build connections, then leave the agency, only to return as a lobbyist exploiting those friendships and connections. Those who leave today were never interested in making a career in public service -- their entire purpose in working at the agency was to network, then come back as a lobbyist.

In signing the ethics pledge, agency personnel won't be allowed to come back and lobby the Obama administration if they leave their current position. The Department of Defense will no longer be a vocational school for Washington lobbyists. I'd imagine there are a lot of desks being cleared out at the DoD today.

Unfortunately, those people will be right back in a week or two, as lobbyists with the combination to the safe.


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