Let’s see. The United States is broke. Our government has no choice but to cover the costs of our troops fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq and to pay out disaster relief before Memorial Day recess. So what do the President and the speaker of the House focus on? Cutting a deal to ram through $18 billion in energy pork while nobody’s looking.
Never mind that the $18 billion is for unnecessary federal energy loan guarantees ($9 billion for nuclear power and $9 billion for renewables) or that the latest analysis suggests that more than a quarter of the applicants for these loans are likely to default on them. Nor does it seem to matter that just last month at House hearings, both the chairman and the ranking member voiced skepticism about making these loans until they had much more information.
Last week, Republican senator Thad Cochran urged Senators to resist amendments to the War Supplemental Bill that are unrelated to the military or disaster relief. After hearing about this and other deals, Republican senator Tom Coburn was blunter: “The emergency designation of this bill,” he argued, “is a farce designed to evade the budget rules that require Congress to pay for new spending.” You’d like to think that the House Appropriations Committee would block this one when it comes up for a vote later this week.
The nuclear industry, though, is eager for a bailout. Those keen for renewable energy subsidies are as well and succeeded in lobbying the White House and the House leadership to get them to cut a deal. And so a deal was cut.
One is tempted to say this is Washington business as usual except in this case, it’s more about subsidies for buddies than it is about making any money. Given how deep in debt our government is, it is hard to believe that this is what our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq are fighting for or what their commander in chief should be promoting in a bill for their relief. Tea-party activists, fiscal conservatives, voters, and just plain taxpayers, take note.
– Henry Sokolski is the executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center in Washington, DC and co-editor of Nuclear Heuristics: The Selected Writings of Albert and Roberta Wohlstetter.