Now This Log

Tuesday, 13 November 2001 : "Post stuff"

This op-ed by David Broder deserves a lot of attention; if not for the plane crash, I would say it should have been on the front page of the Post...

No Time To Haggle [Washington Post]
In the aftermath of Sept. 11, we discovered belatedly that the government had brushed off warnings from three blue-ribbon commissions that this nation was ill-equipped to defend itself against any form of terrorist attack. Now we are about to learn whether similarly clear and authoritative warnings about the possibility of Russian nuclear weapons and materials slipping into the hands of terrorists will be treated with the seriousness they deserve.

...Bush administration budgeteers are trying to save a few million dollars by holding back a successful 10-year-old program to assist Russia in securing its vulnerable nuclear materials and ensuring that penniless Russian nuclear scientists do not join or assist hostile forces. The program was launched in 1991 by Sen. Richard Lugar, the Indiana Republican, and then-Sen. Sam Nunn, the Georgia Democrat...

President Bush ... has spoken of his concern about nuclear weapons or materials falling into terrorist hands. But his budget last winter proposed cutting overall defense nuclear nonproliferation programs by $100 million, with roughly $55 million coming out of the programs focused on Russia. As Nunn told me the other day, there is "a puzzling disconnect between the president's words and his budget recommendations."

[Even!] Former secretary of state James A. Baker III told me, "I can't think of a better use of our funds. It is probably some of the best money we could ever spend."

All this makes it mind-boggling that Congress and the administration are haggling over the [comparatively] minuscule sums involved. ... Spending discipline is important. But if, God forbid, a terrorist ever slips a suitcase nuclear weapon, with stolen Russian materials, into the United States, we will rue the day the government decided this was a good place to economize.
There was a particularly good Post staff editorial today too:

Meet Patriotic Pork [Washington Post]
The [tax break] provision that [Kenneth Kies of PricewaterhouseCoopers] advances would reduce taxes on corporations' overseas investment income. It's hard to see how this measure, which would encourage firms to keep money outside the country, would do anything to stimulate the American economy.

As it fights a war on terrorism, the United States also faces the threat of a global recession that could be the worst in years. Thousands of ordinary workers have already lost their jobs, and many thousands more may do so. The economic stimulus will succeed only if it pumps money into the bits of the economy where it will stimulate demand effectively. That means targeting it at business investment and at less well-off consumers, not tossing cash at random supplicants.

The senators who larded the bill in committee ought to feel ashamed of themselves, but they're not the only ones. It seems to us that lobbyists such as Mr. Kies and clients such as General Electric and IBM also bear some responsibility. Normally in Washington we assume that such corporations will grasp for whatever they can get; it's up to those in Congress to resist their more egregious graspings. But do the chairmen of GE and IBM really want to pursue their narrow self-interest at a time when everyone else is being asked to think of the common good -- at a time of war? Imagine the stir it would cause, and the impact it could have, if just one of them said, "Better spend the money on the troops. We'll be back when the war is over."

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