The House of Representatives passed the Wall Street bailout bill this afternoon. So since the Senate passed it earlier, it will now shortly become enacted into law. (Update: The President signed it and it is now law.)
A $700 billion bailout for Wall Street. Wow. I still don’t know the details of the changes made in the text since Monday, when the House voted against it.
I think $700 billion is ways too much federal funding to be appropriating in such a hurry. It happened because of the fear and pressure inculcated by the blackmail note that Paulson and Bernanke delivered two weeks ago. I have seen proposals that involved smaller amounts being pumped into the financial-sector bailout right now, allowing time for a much deeper reform of the regulatory system and a more far-reaching and better considered plan to support distressed citizens to be crafted over the next few months… I thought those plans looked considerably preferable. But too many congressional leaders are hand-in-glove with the bankers for the community-services people to get much of a look-in.
$700 billion is $2,333 for each woman, man, and child in the country. Add that amount onto our now-over-TEN-TRILLION national debt.
But we should remember that each year, in recent years, Congress has been appropriating just under that same amount of money, in order to keep our bloated military fed, deployed, and fighting.
Bloomberg’s Tony Capaccio reported yesterday that,
- The U.S. military wants an increase of $57 billion in fiscal 2010, about 13.5 percent more than this year’s budget of $514.3 billion, according to the Pentagon’s outgoing comptroller.
The White House hasn’t approved the request and Pentagon officials will make a strong case for it, Tina Jonas said.
Some of the increase reflects a determination to include in the base budget some costs that have been funded through emergency legislation, Jonas said in an interview.
The expense of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been funded this way, even as many lawmakers, including Senator John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, complained these requests include other spending, mask the military’s true cost and complicate their budgeting process.
(HT: Noah Schachtman.)
So that will be a DOD budget request of $571.3 billion for FY2010.
- Defense spending, adjusted for inflation and not counting the cost of the wars, has increased about 43 percent since fiscal 2000. The proposed 2010 increase reverses a plan released in February that projected base budgets to be flat or slightly down.
“There is an effort under way to see if we can move away from” supplemental spending measures and rely “increasingly on base budgets to fund these conflicts,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said.
“We are going to be involved in persistent conflict for some time to come; that’s the reality of the world we live in and we need to budget for that,” he said during a press conference Sept. 24.
The basic defense budget Congress approved for fiscal 2009, which started yesterday, is about $514.3 billion.
This is all crazy. What “persistent conflict” is Morrell talking about? Iraq? Afghanistan? God forbid, Iran?
In Iraq, we need to get all our troops out as fast as it can be done “responsibly”– that is without having them shot at as they leave. There are various plans for how that can be done in a time period of anything between about four months and a year. Obama is still nowhere near calling for total withdrawal. But if, as I hope, one of his first acts is to take the whole question of Iraq back to the Security Council in a very open-ended way, then the multi-party negotiations that ensue there may well result in a plan for a US troop withdrawal that is total and relatively speedy– and more important still, for the establishment of an intra-Iraqi and regional political context within which that can occur in the best way possible.
Regarding Afghanistan, the knowledgeable British Ambassador there has now reportedly told his French counterpart that the war is unwinnable using military means, and support for the US-led military effort continues to dwindle among many NATO “allies”. (E.g. Canada and Australia.)
Regarding Iran: No! No! No! Attacking that country would truly be catastrophic.
The budgetary facts of life– as well as all the other facts of international life today– surely tell us as Americans that it’s time to radically reduce the military footprint we are now carving onto the world.
The Wall Street bailout has, in more than one sense, now “passed.” These mammoth(and oh so destructive) military budgets will come back and bite us again and again each year until our leaders figure out there’s a better way for our country to interact with the rest of the world, and meet the security needs of everyone concerned, including ourselves, if we place serious reliance on means other than military means to do so.
“Persistent conflict” will bring us only “persistent insecurity” and further hemorrhaging of our nation’s wealth.