Here’s an example of crazy spending:
“Lawmakers from both parties have devoted nearly half a billion dollars in taxpayer money over the past two years to build improved versions of the 70-ton Abrams.
But senior Army officials have said repeatedly, “No thanks.”"
I can’t even call this the “military industrial complex“, because the military doesn’t want it. This is more like the congressional industrial complex.
The problem isn’t that more tanks will be bad. I’m sure that they’re amazing tanks. The problem is that spending $436M on tanks that will serve no useful purpose and will require a lot of maintenance and upgrades means that we’re not spending $436M on something else. Like education, or infrastructure, or paying down the debt. And this is only just one very visible example of this. There are countless other examples that I’m sure result in much larger aggregate spending.
This is why we need to get money out of politics as much as possible.
It’s easy to see why Jim Jordan and Rob Portman support building more tanks, because the tanks are built in their district. They’re representing their voters. But I suspect that a large part of the other 266 votes needed for this are won by General Dynamics spending $11M in lobbying last year. An $11M investment for a $436M contract – not bad ROI. Add to that all the lobbying and campaign contributions from the legion of more than 560 subcontractors, and you can understand why this passed.
There is an argument that we need to keep General Dynamics and these subcontractors in business so that we maintain the tooling for building these tanks, just in case. There is a kind of naive logic to it. But it assumes that the only way to maintain the tooling is to use it, and that clearly isn’t true. Tools last longer when you don’t use them, and maintaining tools that you don’t use is much cheaper than maintaining tools that you’re using. Putting them in mothballs would keep the tools ready at a much lower cost. And we’re only talking about the tools that are unique to building tanks. Most of the tools are general purpose, like lathes and drill presses.
The real problem there is that these businesses have become over-dependent on building tanks. We do need to pay them something to maintain their tooling, but they need to develop other lines of businesses and more flexible skill sets so that they aren’t so dependent. But they’re like addicts, and we keep giving them their fix.
Now imagine the situation if we eliminated campaign contributions, and gave congressmen a stipend and required them to stay out of industry for five years after leaving office. In other words, imagine greatly reducing the allure of lobbyist money.
Suddenly General Dynamics and those 560 subcontractors are only as strong as the voters in their businesses. Representatives in districts like Jim Jordan and Rob Portman will still have a lot of voters to pay attention to, but in other districts with smaller number of voters dependent on building tanks, representatives will be more willing to consider the other ways that $436M can be used.