Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Anomaly of Budget Increases in a "Debt Crisis"

We've all heard the Beltway mantra this year: "Cut the budget. Cut the budget."

When push comes to shove, what does this really mean? If powerful lawmakers can exempt extraordinarily wasteful and unnecessary projects from budget cuts while further slashing the already-meager budgets of other important projects that enhance society, what does that say about the priorities of those we have left in charge?

In an all-too-common display of pork politics, Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) has asked President Obama to declare a funding "anomaly" for a list of nuclear weapon programs. In the likely event that Congress can't agree on the FY2012 budget by October 1, the government will likely continue to run on a Continuing Resolution (CR), meaning that most programs will be funded at their 2011 level for the duration of the CR. The anomaly would fund certain parts of the nuclear weapons complex at the higher 2012 levels during the CR. This money would largely go to the Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico.

Heinrich is joined by Rep. Michael Turner (R-OH), Chair of the House Armed Forces Strategic Forces subcommittee. In their letter to President Obama, the two lawmakers write that the anomaly is needed to keep "on track the tight schedule for infrastructure modernization and life extensions of our current warhead types."

Turner wrote In a recent blog post entitled To Remain a World Leader, U.S. Must Stop Mounting Debt, "If Congress and the President do not work together to stunt the unsustainable growth of our debt, the consequences will be grave."

Sorry, Rep. Turner. You can't have it both ways. Squandering billions on new nuclear weapons production facilities and stunting the unsustainable growth of our debt are not compatible. The only anomaly I see here is that such a request can be made by anyone with a straight face.

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