February 21, 2011

Cravaack defends NASCAR, defunds peace

On Friday, the House of Representatives passed a temporary government funding bill that included massive cuts to social security, heating and food assistance, infrastructure, environmental protection and non-military foreign aid. But is this really about fiscal restraint in the face of a growing deficit and debt? Consider the antics of Duluth's new Tea Party-backed representative, Chip Cravaack:

Cravaack's contribution to the bill was a amendment to strip all federal support for the U.S. Institute for Peace (USIP). The Reagan-era program is tasked with promoting global conflict resolution. Gutting it would "save taxpayers $42 million," Cravaack touted on his website. (For the record, $42 million is roughly .005% of the Pentagon's annual budget). The measure passed.

But when Cravaack had the opportunity to "save taxpayers" a similar amount of cash by supporting fellow Minnesota Representative Betty McCollum's amendment to stop U.S. military sponsorship of NASCAR, Cravaack all of a sudden got less stingy. Arguing that NASCAR sponsorship was in important recruiting tool, Cravaack, along with the House majority, voted no. 

But even when his Tea Party colleagues bucked Speaker Boehner and cut $450 million in funding for a second F-35 engine that the Pentagon didn't want (but happened to be made in Boehner's district by his buddies GE and Rolls Royce), Cravaack again showed his knee-jerk support for all things military and voted to protect Boehner's earmark. 

Cravaack's public statements would make it seem like he cares about balancing the federal budget. But his votes to date show a disturbing trend to oppose any funding for programs he ideologically opposes, while lavishly showering arms merchants with hundreds of millions of dollars in handouts. And sadly he has a lot of company on the Hill. The vote on the F-35 engine was a rare victory for common sense: both Obama and House Republican budget bills actually increase military spending while decimating or outright eliminating programs that millions of people depend on. The current budget "debate" between pro-war Democrats and the Tea Party are a ruse. Until people power changes the tide, we'll continue to see resources shifted from common good toward corporate profits and war.

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