Anyway, I'm noticing that the health care debate has kinda drowned out every other important issue out there. I don't think that's a good thing. For example, if we all weren't obsessed with the health care endgame (with good reason, to some extent) then someone besides Matt Taibbi and Winslow Wheeler would have noticed this:
Unlike the HASC and SASC (House and Senate armed services committees), the appropriations porkers have not changed their squiggly little tails; they have continued to raid the Military Personnel and O&M accounts to pay for their pork.
What I see is the following:
$1.9 billion in gross reductions to the Military Personnel (pay) account based on the arbitrary justification that there was need for an "undistributed adjustment," or in some cases "reimbursables." $2.1 billion in net reductions from the O&M account in the base bill; $1.4 billion of that reduction was based on phony justifications (indirectly based on some flimsy GAO analysis never made public), such as "historic underexecution." (If you want to review my analysis of this flimsy GAO analysis , see it at http://www.cdi.org/friendlyversion/printversion.cfm?documentID=4535.) The House and Senate Appropriations Committees also raided the direct war fighting O&M account in Title IX of the bill by $1.5 billion. Total O&M raids, thus, amount to $3.6 billion.
Taxpayers for Common Sense tallied up the 1,720 earmarks in the bill costing $4.2 billion, but as TCS stated, that's just the earmarks they will admit to. Not counted in that tally are the 10 C-17s for $2.5 billion, nine F-18s for a half a billion dollars (in the war funding part of the bill), plus the added $465 million for the GE engine, plus ???
What most people don’t understand about earmarks is that they are not achieved by simply adding to the top number for the whole federal budget. Earmarks have to come out of the approved number for that particular appropriations bill. So if you want a highway earmark, the money has to come out of some other highway program.
In the defense bill, it usually works like this: Congress sticks in a few extra airplanes or ships as a handout to this or that member, usually in exchange for his vote somewhere else on some other issue. To pay for those earmarks, the favored targets for cutting are usually two parts of the defense bill: Personnel (i.e. military pay) and Operations and Maintenance (which includes such things as body armor, equipment, food, training, and fuel). Those of you who wondered over the years how it could be that soldiers in Iraq could somehow be left without body armor, well, here’s your explanation. They usually took the armor off those kids in order to pay off some congressman with an extra helicopter or two.
Okay, so we're cutting the money we have available for soldiers' pay and basic equipment so we can pay for a bunch of pet projects for fancy weaponry we won't be using anytime soon because we're in a freaking asymmetrical war with a bunch of people who live in caves and hide out among civilians in towns. And if that's not enough, might I remind you of the massive fraud that occurs every day in defense contracts. Throw in the scandals around veterans' health care, including the Walter Reed debacle a few years ago, and it's absolutely disgusting the way the people in power (of whatever party) treat our troops. These men and women are putting their lives on the line for us, and you'd be forgiven for thinking Congress and the contractors treat them like they're a nothing more than a nuisance.
What gets me is this. Our Congress and the contractors we entrust with some important logistical tasks for our armed forces are systematically stealing from our troops, which affects morale and readiness. I agree with Taibbi - where are the flag-waving, supposedly armed forces-loving conservatives on this? You'd think the people who are so cavalier with accusations of treason that they'd accuse people who oppose a war of it would certainly throw such terms around when it comes to actively picking the pockets of our soldiers and preventing needed supplies from reaching the front lines. Maybe it's so far under the radar that most conservatives simply don't notice it (though Taxpayers for Common Sense, a conservative group, apparently caught it)? Whatever it is, I'd hope things like this would catch fire if we weren't all concentrating all our energy on health care. But I'm not going to hold my breath.