We Had Money In The Federal Budget For What

Isaiah J. Poole

From the House Republicans whose leader, Speaker John Boehner, just three days ago claimed that “we can’t go on spending money we don’t have,” and “our economy is stuck in large part because it’s stuck with debt,” comes this:

The House on Friday approved a sweeping defense authorization bill for 2013 that calls for the construction of an East Coast missile defense system in the United States by the end of 2015.

The bill obligates $100 million next year to plan for the site, but the project would cost billions of dollars in later years that has yet to be funded.

That’s right — the Star Wars missile shield is back, except that this time the threat is not from intercontinental nuclear missiles from Russia, but intercontinental nuclear missiles from Iran.

“You cannot open a newspaper or turn on a TV … without seeing a story of the rising threat from Iran and North Korea to mainland United States,” said Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio), chairman of the Strategic Forces subcommittee that included the East Coast interceptor language.

“With these emerging threats it is inevitable that an East Coast site will be necessary in order to ensure we have the ability to lessen the threats from both Iran and North Korea,” Turner told The Hill.

Well, I am not sure what newspapers or TV shows he’s been watching, but these stories of the “rising threat” of Iranian missiles hitting my Washington D.C. neighborhood have gotten past me. (This does remind me of the old saying about the person who proudly proclaimed, “I stay informed by reading the Times and the Post every day—the Washington Times and the New York Post.”)

On the House floor, Democrats dismissed the missile shield as crass election-year posturing. Michael Crowley at Time last week unmasked its ludicrousness:

The plan itself makes little sense: It addresses an extremely speculative threat. Chinese missiles do threaten west coast, not the east, and despite some seemingly exaggerated warnings, Iran probably can’t land a missile beyond Eastern Europe.

Crowley adds that, in the unlikely event that Iran would be able to both build a functioning nuclear warhead and a missile that could make the journey from Iran to the United States, the United States’ overwhelming ability to attack would make such an effort “an act of suicide by Tehran.”

But what makes all of this more blood-boiling is that while House Republicans could feel we could afford $100 million to begin what would be a multibillion-dollar boondoggle, House Republicans have declared that we could not afford to:

  • Maintain current levels of food assistance for 46 million poor Americans. House Republicans voted to remove 2 million people from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and reduce assistance for 44 million others, at the rate of $57 a month for a family of four.
  • Spend $1.7 billion for programs that address victims abuse or neglect, provide meals on wheels to seniors, or to supplement scarce funding for child care.
  • Cover the cost of a tax credit for the children of working immigrant families, meaning that those families would lose on average an additional $1,800 a year.

The list goes on. The point is that when it comes to the military industrial complex, there appears to be no such thing as wasteful, unnecessary spending. But when it comes to the basic economic security of ordinary Americans, we simply can’t afford it. The message could not be clearer.

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