You’ve drawn up your budget for the year based on your best guess for your income (salary, wages and the like) and your expenses (mortgage or rent, food, clothing, entertainment and the like). Just over half-way through the year, you realize that you guessed wrong: you need to spend more money than you had budgeted. What do you do?

Our Congress simply passes a “supplemental appropriations” bill. According to the Congressional Budget Office, “Supplemental appropriations provide additional funding to a government program for the fiscal year already in progress, over and above the funding provided in regular appropriation laws.” Once-upon-a-time, these were emergency measures; for the past decade, at least, it’s S.O.P.

At 6.11 pm on Tuesday, the House of Representatives voted 308-114-10 to approve a supplemental appropriations bill that includes, among other things, $37 billion for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, according to the NY Times. By my count (see the Google spreadsheet), this Supplemental Appropriations bill allocates $48 billion to the war effort – that includes allocations for DoD, State, USAID and the Office of the President. It also includes direct allocations for Pakistan and Jordan, not just Afghanistan and Iraq.

More House Republicans (160) than Democrats (148) supported the bill, which was requested by the Obama Administration. More Democrats (102) than Republicans (12) voted against the bill, which required a two-thirds majority for passage. Last year, only 32 Ds voted against a similar bill; it wasn’t an election year. So much for change, eh?

Back in May, the Senate had passed its version of this bill, HR 4899, Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2010, by a vote of 67-28-5. There it was the Republicans who opposed the supplemental appropriations bill: 26 of those 28 votes were Rs. (Only 12 Rs voted “yes” in the Senate.) So much for political party integrity and consistency.

Congress continues to, in effect, write blank checks to the Pentagon. For example, we learned this week that the Pentagon “cannot account for over 95 percent of $9.1 billion in Iraq reconstruction money, according to an internal audit.” The lost $8.7 billion came from Iraqi oil revenues from 2004 to 2007.

We learned five years ago that “$9 billion in UN oil-for-food reconstruction monies — funds administered by the US government for the Iraqi people via the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) — was unacccounted for.”

And Juan Cole points out that we are on track in Afghanistan to repeat our financial mistakes in Iraq:

AP notes that the US has put $51 billion into Afghanistan since 2001 for education, roads, water, jobs and electricity. Now Washington is planning to spend another $20 bn. in Afghanistan the coming year alone. That total sum, $71 bn. is greater than what was spent (from US monies) on Iraq.

Where is the outrage? Not only are we spending money we don’t have, we can’t even spend it well.

Where is the outrage? The Washington Post details chaos and a “throw money at the problem” mentality in our “homeland security” efforts … and the other media yawn and columnists talk about why it’s not good (“Pulitzer”) journalism.

Where is the outrage? WikiLeaks reveals an escalating counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, data that put to rest any government or NATO claim of “winning” — and the media and political pundits yawn (“we already knew that“).

For almost nine years, Congress and the President (first Bush, now Obama) claim that we need to borrow billions of dollars — and have supplemental appropriations every year — in order to conduct a war half-way around the world … for what? It’s not going to “stop terrorism” (see Israel). It’s not going to introduce a secular democracy (see Iraq). It’s not going to magically introduce “western capitalism” (see the break-up of the Soviet Union).

What we are doing is continuing to line the pockets of America’s military-industrial complex with money borrowed from the rest of the world …. while sending our young men and women to die for … what, exactly?

And the media — supposedly the government watchdog — remain largely silent on the latest debit in this credit-card war.

Perhaps we are so numb that our only logical response is no response. And if that’s the case, I truly fear for the future.

KATHY GILL, Technology Policy Analyst
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