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“The Enemy Of Wasteful Government”: The Tea Partier Who Loves Wasting Billions On Cold War Weapons

Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio’s 4th Congressional District hates federal spending, except when it’s for his own constituents. If his own district stands to benefit, the five-term Republican congressman and leader of the Tea Party-aligned House Freedom Caucus not only loves government pork—he’ll fight for it even if it hurts U.S. national security by redirecting funding away from vital programs.

Case in point: Jordan has pushed the government to shovel hundreds of millions of dollars into a factory in his district that makes tanks for the U.S. Army. These are tanks that, until this year, the Army did not want.

To be fair, Jordan is just maintaing a long tradition of pork-barrel politics. The tank factory in Lima has been “a favorite program for Ohio delegation earmarks, against the needs of the Army,” Mandy Smithberger, director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the nonproft Project on Government Oversight watchdog group in Washington, D.C., told The Daily Beast.

The plant “has been one of the poster children for Congress adding funding for programs the military neither wants nor needs, for parochial reasons,” Smithberger added.

But Jordan has consistently portrayed himself as the enemy of wasteful government. “Federal government spending is out of control, and it is the responsibility of Congress to fix the problem,” Jordan claims on his official Website.

Jordan opposes federal funding for Planned Parenthood. He called the Export-Import Bank, which finances foreign purchases of American goods, a “waste of money.” Jordan is co-sponsoring a bill to cut federal food stamps, saying it will help to “move our country away from a culture of dependency and back toward a culture of work and upward mobility.”

Jordan championed the 2011 Budget Control Act that mandated across-the-board federal spending cuts. But Jordan was also instrumental in redirecting nearly $1 billion of the Army’s increasingly stressed budget toward building unnecessary tanks.

“We have long advocated for policies that put our fiscal house in order, and reducing our massive national debt should be one of our nation’s highest priorities,” Jordan and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, wrote in a January op-ed. “But we shouldn’t do so by putting our national defense at risk.”

“This year’s appropriation of $120 million in additional funding for the Abrams tank program will go a long way towards doing that,” Jordan and Portman wrote, referring to the Army’s 2015 budget.

But the money Jordan helped funnel into unnecessaary tanks wasn’t really “additional” money. The Budget Control Act—which Jordan defended even when other Republicans soured to it—capped Army spending. The money Jordan and other lawmakers appropriated for vehicles the Army didn’t want came from other initiatives the ground combat branch did want, in particular training and realistic war games, which the branch had to scale back owing to a lack of funds.

“We are still having to procure systems we don’t need,” Gen. Raymond Odierno, the Army’s chief of staff, told Congress in January. “Excess tanks is an example in the Army, hundreds of millions of dollars spent on tanks that we simply don’t have the structure for anymore.”

(Jordan’s office declined to comment for this story.)

The sprawling Joint Systems Manufacturing Center—aka, the Lima Tank Plant—was built during World War II to churn out armored vehicles for the Allies. Today the government-owned plant assembles and upgrades M-1 Abrams tanks, the Army’s most fearsome fighting vehicles.

Thing is, Lima’s been building and upgrading M-1s for decades, ultimately producing thousands of them. So many that, in 2011, the Army announced it had enough of the 70-ton vehicles and proposed to stop buying them for a few years.

The Pentagon explained that the Lima Tank Plant would probably have stayed open, anyway, since it also builds M-1s and other vehicles for export. But the Army’s 2011 proposal, part of the budget process for 2012, would have reduced the plant’s income by a couple hundred million dollars annually and could have forced it to lay off some of its roughly 1,000 workers.

That’s when Jordan and other lawmakers stepped in, pressuring their colleagues to shuffle around $255 million to buy another 42 M-1s in 2012. Lawmakers also added tank money in 2013, 2014, and 2015. The result—hundreds of surplus tanks and a billion dollars in diverted spending.

But Jordan has defended his tank welfare as being vital to national security. “No other facility in America possesses the unique capabilities of the Lima plant,” he wrote. “It is the only plant in our country capable of producing and upgrading the Abrams main battle tank, and the industrial base and skilled workforce that supports that effort is irreplaceable.”

The facility “is not like a light switch that can be flipped on and off,” Jordan added. “Recreating this industrial base would have been more costly to the government than sustaining minimum production.”

We’ll never know if that is true. For the 2016 budget, the Army is once again asking for more M-1s, just like it always said it eventually would. This time, Jordan won’t have to force the Army to build tanks it doesn’t want just to keep his constituents in Lima happy. “I will continue seeking to instill fiscal sanity in government,” Jordan proclaimed on his website, apparently without irony.

 

By: David Axe, The Daily Beast, October 15, 2015

October 16, 2015 Posted by | Budget Control Act, Federal Budget, Jim Jordan, Tea Party | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The High Life Has Ended For Team Jeb”: Are Donors Getting Annoyed At How Little They’re Getting In Tangible Political Results?

There’s a fascinating piece up at Politico this morning from Eli Stokols and Marc Caputo that documents the Jeb Bush presidential campaign’s new interest in frugality.

On the first day of a two-day Iowa swing back in August, Jeb Bush flew from Davenport to Ankeny in a private plane. The next day, after he spent more than four hours bounding around the State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, a top adviser attributed Bush’s high energy level to having spent less time in transit.

I didn’t know Ankeny, a Des Moines suburb, had its own airstrip. But I digress.

Those days are over.

Last week, Bush spent three days in Iowa, traveling again from Des Moines to the state’s eastern edge, campaigning in the Mississippi River towns of Bettendorf and Muscatine — but this time, he went by car. The campaign also cancelled its reservation at the tony Hotel Blackhawk in nearby Davenport, staying instead at a cheaper hotel. More and more, Bush is flying commercial.

“The high life has ended,” said one Florida operative familiar with the campaign’s operation. “They’re running a more modest operation in the last two weeks, and the traveling party has definitely shrunk.”

If you read the whole piece, Bush campaign operatives are at pains to deny they’re having money troubles. (We’ll know more about that shortly when third-quarter fundraising and spending and cash-on-hand numbers are available.) No, we are told, they’re just smart little squirrels saving up those acorns for the long slog of the primary season. But it’s also clear they fear donors are getting a little annoyed at how little they are getting in the way of tangible political results for the ducats they’ve coughed up:

Conceived as a fundraising juggernaut that would “shock and awe” opponents into oblivion, Bush’s campaign is suddenly struggling to raise hard dollars and increasingly economizing — not because he’s out of money, but to convince nervous donors, who are about to get their first look at his campaign’s burn rate, that he’s not wasting it.

“At a certain point, we want to see a bang for the buck. We’re spending the bucks — and we’re seeing no bang,” a longtime Bush Republican said.

Bush is stuck at 7 percent in an average of national polls. He’s at close to 9 percent in New Hampshire, putting him in sixth place in the early state he most needs to win. Although his poll standing isn’t much better, Marco Rubio is starting to catch the eye of deep-pocketed establishment donors impressed by his leaner operation and unique appeal as a candidate.

Moreover, Bush’s Super-PAC has just spent a solid month running ads, especially in New Hampshire, without any notable payoff so far.

The Politico article doesn’t explicitly say it, but you figure one fear Team Bush has is that donors will decide the whole enterprise is now set up to subsidize itself, spending down the massive early war chest it built up whether or not Jeb’s going anywhere other than Palookaville. This is precisely the accusation Erick Erickson is making about Rand Paul’s campaign in a post that urges the Kentucky senator to “take your campaign out back and shoot it.”

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly , October 15, 2015

October 16, 2015 Posted by | GOP Campaign Donors, GOP Primaries, Jeb Bush | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“To Regulate Or Break Up?”: The Difference Between An Insurrectionist And An Institutionalist

Anyone who has been able to sit through both the Republican and Democratic presidential debates is very well-versed in the chasm that currently exists between the two parties. When all is said and done, the public is going to have a very clear choice between two starkly different directions for our country to embrace in November 2016. That is a good thing – especially for Democrats who seemed intent on watering down the differences in the 2014 midterms.

But Tuesday’s debate also clarified the differences between Clinton and Sanders. Matt Yglesias does a good job of teeing that up.

To Clinton, policy problems require policy solutions, and the more nuanced and narrowly tailored the solution, the better. To Sanders, policy problems stem from a fundamental imbalance of political power..The solution isn’t to pass a smart new law, it’s to spark a “political revolution” that upends the balance of power.

As we know from both the debate and their position statements, Clinton wants to regulate the big financial institutions and Sanders wants to break them up. The argument from the Sanders wing is that we can’t trust the government to be the regulator.

I remember that same argument coming up between liberals during the health care debate. Those who dismissed the ACA in favor of single payer often said that any attempt to regulate health insurance companies was a waste of time. I always found that odd based on the Democratic tradition of embracing government regulation as the means to correct the excesses of capitalism.

This basically comes down to whether you agree with Sanders when he says that we need a “political revolution that upends the balance of power” or do you agree with Clinton when she said, “it’s our job to rein in the excesses of capitalism so that it doesn’t run amok.” Peter Beinart calls it the difference between an insurrectionist and an institutionalist.

Depending on where you stand on that question, your solutions will look very different. That helps me understand why I never thought Sanders’ policy proposals were serious. Someone who assumes that the entire system is rigged isn’t going to be that interested in “nuanced and narrowly tailored policies” to fix it.

But in the end, this puts even more of a responsibility on Sanders’ shoulders. If he wants a political revolution to upend a rigged system, he needs to be very precise about what he has in mind as a replacement to that system. Otherwise, he’s simply proposing chaos.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 15, 2015

October 16, 2015 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Financial Institutions, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , | 6 Comments

“Our Current Distemper”: “Asymmetric Polarization” Emanating From The Radicalization Of The Republican Party

As we head towards what will probably be another fiscal crisis in December, perhaps managed by a caretaker Speaker of the House, coinciding with the frenzy of a presidential nominating contest in which nearly all Republicans are running against their own party’s leadership, it’s a good time to step back and remind ourselves how we got to this juncture.

In pursuit of perspective, Bloomberg View‘s Francis Wilkinson interviews Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute and Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution. As you may recall, Ornstein and Mann published a book in 2012 entitled It’s Even Worse Than It Looks, which broke from the usual “balanced” assessment of blame for the nation’s problems that prevails in the MSM and much of academia and pointed at the phenomenon of “asymmetric polarization” emanating from the radicalization of the Republican Party.

Now that the political dysfunction they analyzed has if anything intensified, have Ornstein and Mann changed their minds about any of this? No, as you can quickly see from the interview. But I’d point to a succinct quote from Mann that addresses the preconditions for recovery:

There is no clear path out of our current distemper. The solution, like the diagnosis, must focus on the obvious but seldom acknowledged asymmetry between the parties. The Republican Party must become a conservative governing party once again and accept the assumptions and norms of our Madisonian system. That will likely require more election defeats, more honest reporting by the mainstream press and more recognition by the public that the problem is not “Washington” or “Congress” or “insiders” or politicians in general.

The burden is on the GOP because they are currently the major source of our political dysfunction. No happy talk about bipartisanship can obscure that reality. Unless other voices and movements arise within the Republican Party to change its character and course, our dysfunctional politics will continue.

Remember how annoyed much of the punditocracy was on Tuesday night when Hillary Clinton listed “Republicans” as among the “enemies” she was proud of earning? That reflexive annoyance, not Clinton’s “partisanship,” is a big part of the problem.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 15, 2015

October 16, 2015 Posted by | Congress, Democrats, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“The Crazies And The Con Man”: Hoodwinking The News Media And Self-Proclaimed Centrists

How will the chaos the crazies, I mean the Freedom Caucus, have wrought in the House get resolved?

I have no idea.

But as this column went to press, practically the whole Republican establishment was pleading with Paul Ryan, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, to become speaker. He is, everyone says, the only man who can save the day.

What makes Ryan so special?

The answer, basically, is that he’s the best con man they’ve got. His success in hoodwinking the news media and self-proclaimed centrists in general is the basis of his stature within his party. Unfortunately, at least from his point of view, it would be hard to sustain the con game from the speaker’s chair.

To understand Ryan’s role in our political-media ecosystem, you need to know two things.

First, the modern Republican Party is a post-policy enterprise, which doesn’t do real solutions to real problems. Second, pundits and the media really, really don’t want to face up to that awkward reality.

On the first point, just look at the policy ideas coming from the presidential candidates, even establishment favorites such as Marco Rubio, the most likely nominee given Jeb Bush’s fatal lack of charisma. The Times’ Josh Barro dubbed Rubio’s tax proposal the “puppies and rainbows” plan, consisting of trillions in giveaways with not a hint of how to pay for them — just the assertion that growth would somehow make it all good.

And it’s not just taxes, it’s everything.

For example, Republicans have been promising to offer an alternative to Obamacare since the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, but have not produced anything resembling an actual health plan.

Yet, most of the media, and most pundits, still worship at the church of “balance.” This creates a powerful demand for serious, honest Republicans who can be held up as proof the party does too include reasonable people making useful proposals. As Slate’s William Saletan, who enthusiastically touted Ryan but eventually became disillusioned, wrote: “I was looking for Mr. Right — a fact-based, sensible fiscal conservative.”

And Paul Ryan played and in many ways still plays that role, but only on TV, not in real life. The truth is his budget proposals always have been a ludicrous mess of magic asterisks: assertions that trillions will be saved through spending cuts to be specified later, that trillions more will be raised by closing unnamed tax loopholes. Or, as the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center put it, they’re full of “mystery meat.”

But Ryan has been very good at gaming the system, at producing glossy documents that look sophisticated if you don’t understand the issues, at creating the false impression his plans have been vetted by budget experts. This has been enough to convince political writers who don’t know much about policy, but do know what they want to see, that he’s the real deal. (A number of reporters are deeply impressed by the fact he uses PowerPoint.) He is to fiscal policy what Carly Fiorina was to corporate management: brilliant at self-promotion, hopeless at actually doing the job. But his act has been good enough for media work.

His position within the party, in turn, rests mainly on this outside perception.

Ryan certainly is a hard-line, Ayn Rand-loving and progressive-tax-hating conservative, but no more so than many of his colleagues. If you look at what the people who see him as a savior are saying, they aren’t talking about his following within the party, which isn’t especially passionate. They’re talking, instead, about his perceived outside credibility, his status as someone who can stand up to smarty-pants liberals — someone who won’t, says MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, be intimidated by “negative articles in The New York Times opinions page.”

Which brings us back to the awkward fact that Ryan isn’t actually a pillar of fiscal rectitude, or anything like the budget expert he pretends to be. And the perception he is these things is fragile, not likely to survive long if he were to move into the center of political rough and tumble. Indeed, his halo was visibly fraying during the few months of 2012 he was Mitt Romney’s running mate. A few months as speaker probably would complete the process, and end up being a career-killer.

Predictions aside, however, the Ryan phenomenon tells us a lot about what’s really happening in American politics.

In brief, crazies have taken over the Republican Party, but the media don’t want to recognize this reality. The combination of these two facts created an opportunity, indeed a need, for political con men.

And Ryan has risen to the challenge.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, October 12, 2015

October 16, 2015 Posted by | House Freedom Caucus, House Republicans, Paul Ryan | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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