By Andy Heaslet
I simply can’t get behind the defense budget that’s being discussed in the Senate this week. It looks like more money for a backup fighter plane engine is in there, along with money for $200 million a pop planes we already have more than enough of, billions for bases abroad, billions for wars that I still don’t support, and money for other special interests totaling more than three quarters of a trillion dollars for FY-2011 alone. The Danger Room at Wired.com has a great synopsis of the House’s billions in last minute pork added to the bill.
I can’t get behind a bill that is laden with so much waste while the American people are being told to tighten their belts and reach for their bootstraps.
This bill pays for war. A lot of it. It pays for imperialism. It pays to line the pockets of greedy CEOs who seemingly stand for everything I stand against.
This bill is simply contrary to my values. I can’t support it. And I have a hard time supporting any politician who will vote “Yea” for it.
But several of my friends and peers desperately want this to pass this year because they want one more thing tacked on to the bill: a Repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT).
The defense budget has long been the sacred cow, Trojan horse, and/or drug mule to which special amendments have found their way into law. This in itself isn’t inherently bad; the process was used to pass a controversial Hate Crimes bill in 2009, for instance, and a sure-fire fix to DADT does sound appealing.
And it’s certainly much less gruesome than bringing the bill to the house and senate floors as a stand-alone bill, which seems to be the primary alternative to date.
This method of passing laws has become the ultimate catch 22 from which no political ideology can escape. With DADT attached to the defense authorization bill, no self-respecting liberal could vote against the bill for fear of alienating a key base of GLBT supporters and allies, even if they don’t support the wars the budget is supporting. On the opposite side of the coin, “Guns, Gods, and Gays” conservatives are handicapped for speaking out against changing DADT policies for fear of being labeled “soft on defense” or “against the troops.”
And neither side can question the need for spending nearly ¾ of a trillion dollars a year on our military.
On top of the tongue-tying effect this strategy places on members of congress, if President Obama endorses this mode of approval for the repeal, he will be hamstringing his own threats to veto the defense authorization bill if it contains funds for pork like back-up F-35 engines and more, unneeded C-17s.
I honestly don’t know what to think.
I emphatically think that the defense budget must be scrutinized at a profound level. And I don’t think they should stop scrutinizing until they’ve found 25% in savings (I’ve got some suggestions, by the way).
But part of me acknowledges that this defense budget will most likely pass without being scrutinized regardless of the DADT language… so why not get something good out of it too?
Here’s the crux of my dilemma: Attaching language to the Defense Budget provides a potential road to success for repealing DADT – but must countless gays and allies compromise the rest of our values for this success?
Andy Heaslet is the Director of the St Louis based Peace Economy Project.
Update: Ike Skelton dares Obama to veto extra F-35 engines and C-17s… this is precisely why I’m concerned about attaching this language to the Defense Authorization Act.