The budget busting sequestration

Updated: Saturday, August 3 2013, 12:38 AM EDT
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KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - It made for an unusual standoff last week when Congress insisted on providing the U.S. Army with more tanks.

Even while the Army insisted it didn't want any more.

Tonight, in Tom's Corner, Tom Van Howe says the faceoff in these budget-conscious times would be high comedy, if only it was funny.

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So there they were last week—General Ray Odierno, the Chief of Staff of the Army, facing a subcommittee of the House of Representatives.

All members of the same body that preaches austerity at every turn. The same bunch that has sequestered enough budget cuts that, according to the Washington Post, thousands of cancer patients have reportedly been turned away from clinics that could no longer pay for their treatments; that who knows how many seniors and disabled are going hungry because their Meals-On-Wheels have been discontinued; that children are being booted from head start programs.

And there they were, telling the Army's top general that he needed more Abrams tanks, at nearly $8 million a pop, while he told them the Army neither needed nor wanted any more.

"If we had our choice," the general said, "we'd use that money in a different way."

Rep. Jim Jordan chose the standard empty patriotic response: "...IF it was not in the best interests of the national defense for
 
The United States of America," he said, "then you would not see me supporting it the way I do."

Sure.

Jordan is a former college wrestler and coach who is now the darling of the American Conservative Union for campaigning to require a vote of the people to raise taxes or increase spending. He's never been in the armed forces but does have a law degree.

And there he was, this fiscal hawk, telling the Pentagon that, only in the interest of national security, it should be compelled to purchase a half-billion dollars worth of new upgraded Abrams tanks that the Pentagon says it doesn't want.

The Pentagon points out that it already has two-and-a-half thousand such tanks, and would be interested in brand-new, redesigned tanks four years from now.

But Jordan says, "no...do it now."

It may or may not be of interest to point out that Jordan represents the city of Lima, Ohio, the very city where the Abrams tank is put together.

Why the rest of Congress seems to be going along with this is beyond comprehension.

I don't know how many hungry people could be fed with a half-billion dollars... But I'd guess a lot.

This kind of upside-down thinking in a time of government austerity—I don't know what else to call it—affects all of us, so I have an idea.

So many people enthusiastically buy military-style weapons for their personal arsenals these days: you know, the much-talked about assault weapons with the giant magazines, that surely there are some among them who'd like to be the first on their block to boast of their very own Abrams tank.

It's true the Army pays nearly eight million dollars for each one, but, as you might guess, they depreciate enormously the minute they get driven off the lot. Particularly if they're battle-scarred.

So, according to various internet postings, they'd wind up costing cost as little as two-and-a-half million dollars each.

What a deal.

And I'm sure the argument could be made, just as it has with assault rifles, that Abrams tanks, with all their incredible fire power, would be just super for deer hunting.

Then the proceeds could be used to assist cancer patients get treatment, provide meals for the hungry, and get kids back in headstart programs.

It's a natural. A twofer. Congress can force the Pentagon to buy that which it doesn't want, then authorize the sale of surplus at a reduced rate to raise money for programs that need the money.

But while writing this, something Will Rogers said maybe a hundred years keeps keeps running through my mind.

"I never lacked material for my humor column," he said, "when Congress is in session."

In this corner...I'm Tom Van Howe.
The budget busting sequestration
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Demand for core capital goods, considered a good guide for business investment plans, rose 2.2 percent in March after a 1.1 percent drop in February. It was the best showing since a 3 percent rise in November.

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