Friday, July 23, 2010

How Many Billions Of Tax Dollars Get Wasted In Afghanistan Before People Do Something About It?


Late last night the Senate tried overcoming a Republican filibuster against H.R. 4899, the war supplemental legislation the House passed which includes "sweeteners" (like money for states to keep teachers, firemen and policemen employed). Cloture failed miserably, not even getting to 50%!. It failed 46-51, 11 of the most conservative Democrats (+ Lieberman) joining all the Republicans to keep the filibuster going and, in effect, send the bill back to the House with instructions to take out the domestic spending and just go for the war. The aisle crossing Democrats were Evan Bayh (IN), Mark Begich (AK), Michael Bennet (CO), Tom Carper (DE), Mary Landieu (LA), Claire McCaskill (MO), Mark Pryor (AR), Arlen Specter (PA), Mark Udall (CO), Mark Warner (VA), and Jim Webb (VA).

In other words, the Senate is fine with $40 billion to waste on an unwinnable catastrophic war but refuse to fund American economic recovery with $20 billion. Like I've been saying all year, the Senate should either be abolished altogether or, if that offers to many constitutional hurdles to overcome, turned into a ceremonial chamber where they can all wear powdered wigs and ermine robes but stop interfering in government.

When the House originally passed the bill on July 1, the Republicans were almost totally united against it-- only Mark Kirk, Timothy Johnson and Mike Castle voting NO-- and 15 mostly reactionaries Blue Dogs, joined them to declare they love them some war spending but don't believe in spending on American families. [The Democrats following Boehner's lead that day were mentally unbalanced and retiring Brian Baird (WA), Bobby Bright (Blue Dog-AL), Jim Cooper (Blue Dog-TN), Kathy Dahlkemper (Blue Dog-PA), Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (Blue Dog-SD), Betsy Markey (Blue Dog-CO), Jim Marshall (Blue Dog-GA), Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN), Jared Polis (anti-war Dem-CO), Ike Skelton (MO), Vic Snyder (AR), John Tanner (Blue Dog-TN), Gene Taylor (Blue Dog-MS), Pete Visclosky (IN), and Peter Welch (anti-war Dem-VT). Obama had been threatening to veto the House bill, so apparently the conservative Democrats he used to make common cause with when he was a senator plus the Republicans, are doing him a big favor.
“The funding included by our colleagues in the House of Representatives for education jobs is critical,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye, a Hawaii Democrat. Still, he said “we cannot delay further the funds necessary to ensure that our servicemen and women have everything they need to do their jobs.”

...The Senate dropped a House provision that would have restricted brand-name drug companies from paying generic-drug makers to delay putting lower-priced pharmaceuticals on the market. That proposal was intended to cut drug costs in government health-care programs, freeing up money for aid to states.

The Senate also cut $5 billion for Pell college tuition grants, $1 billion to promote summer jobs for teens and $700 million to improve border security.

Lawmakers are under pressure to complete the legislation before their August recess. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he may have to furlough some staff if he doesn’t receive the money by mid-August.

Not many Americans who don't get paychecks from the U.S. government have spent time on the ground in Afghanistan-- especially outside of Kabul. I have-- twice and for long stretches. I could have told the Bush or Obama Administrations just what a federal auditor has reported: taxpayer money is almost totally wasted when spent there. It accomplished the equivalent of flushing it down the toilet. We have no business trying to insert ourselves into their world. Even well-meaning projects are idiotic-- and costly. The stuff we build tends to be "too complex and costly for the Afghan government to maintain."
U.S. officials acknowledge that they plan to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to hire contractors to operate a complex of buildings in troubled Kandahar and other facilities in Afghanistan for the next 10 years.

A federal auditor complained in a report that the buildings constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the Afghan national police represent an "outrageous waste of taxpayer money." He said the problems are representative of a "regular negative pattern" in overly complex construction in the country.

"Why in the world are we continuing to construct facilities all over Afghanistan that we know, and the Afghans know, they will not be able to sustain once we hand the facilities over?" asked Arnold Fields, the special inspector general for Afghan reconstruction.

His critique comes at a time when the Obama administration is funneling billions of dollars into projects as part of its efforts to strengthen the country's central government and security forces.

With support for the Afghan war declining and concerns about U.S. government spending rising, aid for Afghanistan is an increasingly sensitive political issue for the administration.

This is not the first time Washington has been accused of overbuilding projects for a frail allied government. During the George W. Bush administration, U.S. agencies were faulted for building power plants in Iraq that were never employed to capacity because they were too complex for Iraqi engineers to operate.

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At 9:34 PM, Anonymous Steve Hutcheson said...

The US like the rest of the world spends 20 times the amount it spends of foreign aid and development on defense. There is no Department of Peace.


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