Photo via Virginia
You may have heard some of the criticism (it was quite vocal) leveled at Democratic Congressmen who added $330 million to the Air Force budget for state-of-the-art jets that the Pentagon said it didn't want or need. Much of the furor arose since Congress appeared to be buying unnecessary, extravagant airplanes precisely at a time when the same very lawmakers are lambasting corporations for buying and using such unnecessary, extravagant airplanes. In response to all the hubbub, the Dems have said they'll scrap the plan.According to the AP,
House Democratic leaders said Monday that they will not force the Pentagon to buy four new passenger jets used to ferry senior government officials.How nice of them, right? So are members of Congress finally and forcibly learning lessons in efficiency, at a time when such lessons are sprouting up all around them? After all, Congress did vote to cut out a few F-22s from the defense budget that were deemed unnecessary by military leaders.
Not quite. If anything, this episode should go to show the continued willingness of Hill congressmen to be frivolous with spending (on what amounts to personal habits)--it's hard not to be reminded of those Wall Street barons who were vilified (partly thanks to the efforts of these congressmen) because of engaging in behavior like flying on expensive private jets in the face of the recession.
Let it be noted that $330 million is hardly a drop in the bucket in the US defense budget--as those who left comments on my post about the scrapped F-22s will attest. And congressmen aren't agreeing to scrap the plan because they've got a new MO to be more efficient lawmakers--they're scrapping it because they got caught, essentially, and it quickly became very unpopular.
Two of the planes would be the C-37 – the military equivalent to the fancy Gulfstream 550 – and cost taxpayers $130 million at a time when lawmakers have made villains of bailed-out auto executives who rely on corporate jets to travel. While the jet is not as fancy as the Gulfstream 550, it is considered a cushy ride that is typically reserved for VIP government officials, including members of Congress.
So what's green about all this then? In truth, very little. Yes, jets are resource-consuming and emissions-generating to make and use, and high level politicians will now go on using the jets they already had instead of acquiring new ones. Hardly a victory. But it's the fact that being strapped for resources of all kinds has acquainted many with the concepts of frugality and efficiency, and that's important to note--people are eager to hold our lawmakers accountable for unnecessary expenditures.
Whether this will persist after the US emerges from the recession, of course, remains to be seen. If congressmen are taking notes, they could come out of the recession with some solid ideas on how to streamline budgets and spending--many of which could appear populist and please voters--though this seems nearly preposterous in its plausibility.