The Army insists it doesn’t need any more Abrams tanks—but Congress is ready to spend $436 million on the program again this year. This gets at the surreal dilemma of the sequester, in which agencies have a tough time implementing cuts because cash cows such as the Abram enjoy special protection on Capitol Hill.
"If we had our choice, we would use that money in a different way," Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army's chief of staff, told The Associated Press last week.
The Army has a fleet of 2,400 Abrams, but a production line in Lima, Ohio means that political interests trump the recommendations of top military officials. Richard Lardner of the AP says it's no surprise that two Republicans are the champions for more tanks. Rep. Jim Jordan, whose district includes the plant and Sen. Rob Portman are two of Capitol Hill’s most prominent deficit hawks. “They say their support is rooted in protecting national security, not in pork-barrel politics.” - Read more at Yahoo
KARZAI’s GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PRESENT Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai confirmed Monday that he has been receiving ‘ghost money’--bags full of cash from the Central Intelligence Agency dropped off in duffle bags and backpacks, used for “various purposes,” The New York Times’ Mathew Rosenberg reports.
The Afghan president also thanked the United States for its financial contributions. The Wall Street Journal noted that Karzai also received euros from Iran.
Though Karzai said he had received just “a small amount” of CIA money, former and current advisers of the Afghan leader said cash deliveries “have totaled tens of millions of dollars over the past decade and have been used to pay off warlords, lawmakers and others whose support the Afghan leader depends upon.” Read more at The New York Times
SEQUESTER SHUTS SMITHSONIAN EXHIBITS The Smithsonian Institution will begin closing three small exhibits in the African Art Museum, the Smithsonian Castle, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden starting Wednesday to cope with the sequester cuts that took effect March 1. Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas told The Washington Post the exhibits were chosen by “what would affect the public the least.” - Read more at The Washington Post
FEDERAL DISASTER COSTS ARE $136B AND GROWING “The government’s disaster-relief spending is itself something of a disaster,” The Fiscal Times’ Yuval Rosenberg writes. “A new analysis from the Center for American Progress finds that the federal government spent $136 billion on disaster relief from fiscal 2011 to 2013. That works out to nearly $400 per household each year.” And though they are spending billions of dollars each year, “government agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Office of Management and Budget have failed to keep comprehensive tabs on the total levels of disaster-relief spending, the CAP report found, making it harder to properly budget for such spending.” - Read more at The Fiscal Times
THE ALARMING PRICE OF SEXUAL ASSAULTS IN THE MILITARY “The Veterans Affairs department spent almost $872 million in 2010 to deal with the health impacts of sexual assaults on former military personnel....This figure is based on the $10,880 dollars the Veterans Administration spends to treat each sexual assault victim after he or she leaves the service,” writes The Fiscal Times’ David Francis. “Former Defense secretary Leon Panetta estimated nearly 20,000 occur each year within the military…It’s not clear how much the Pentagon spends dealing with these attacks. But because of the nature of how the military deals with sexual assault allegations, it’s likely that it costs the Pentagon tens of millions of dollars. - Read more at The Fiscal Times
FEDERAL RESERVE: WE’VE DONE WHAT WE CAN ON JOBS Although unemployment remains high, there is little sign that “Fed officials are considering an expansion of their four-year-old stimulus campaign as the Fed’s policy-making committee prepares to convene Tuesday and Wednesday in Washington,” The New York Times’ Binyamin Appelbaum writes.
“The benefits of additional asset purchases appear modest, at best. The consequences of buying more bonds are uncertain. And officials are frustrated that their monetary policy is being forced to play a role that most economists and Fed officials say could be more easily and effectively performed by fiscal policy…. Another reason the Fed is not embracing new measures is that it already has tied the duration of low interest rates to the unemployment rate. The Fed said in December that it intended to hold interest rates near zero at least as long as the unemployment rate remained above 6.5 percent, provided that inflation remained under control.” - Read more at The New York Times
AMERICANS FAITH IN FISCAL POLICY STILL WAVERING The monthly Peter G. Peterson Foundation's "Fiscal Confidence Index” scored a dismal 44 (out of 100) for April, "indicating strongly negative public sentiment. That’s similar to the previous three months of 2013, when the confidence index ranged from 40 to 46. Just 42 percent of Americans “believe Social Security will have enough money to provide benefits for their retirement; 86 percent believe that without reforms, Social Security and Medicare. - See the index here