Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Pouring money down a rat hole

In this week’s syndicated column on page 2 of The Nugget, Joel Brinkley talks about the fortune in American treasure being poured down an aid rat hole in Afghanistan. Specifically, a...

...$760 million program, to strengthen government agencies, was America’s single largest non-military expense in Afghanistan over the last year. All of it was money thrown away.
The mind dulls when confronted with large numbers like that. But $760 million spent another way would allow Washington to give every single public school in the nation’s 25 largest cities almost $200,000 extra this year.

I like Brinkley’s work. He’s got a clear eye and a real passion for exposing corruption. A “crusading journalist” in the best sense of the term. He’s also got a Sisters connection. He earned a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the Cambodian refugee crisis in 1979, an honor he shares with Sisters photographer Jay Mather.

His juxtaposition of giving money away to corrupt warlords and cleptocrats versus investment in schools is a rhetorical device — but the point is still valid.

We have frittered away billions in aid to corrupt regimes — from Afghanistan to Egypt. We continue to provide aid to Israel as though Israel is the underdog in the Middle East and often get a finger in the eye for thanks.

Meanwhile, we are disinvested in our own country — infrastructure, education, the things that we need to invest in to hold our own in an increasingly competitive global economy.
I do not argue that simply throwing money into education will produce better results. That’s been proven false. But investment that includes the implementation of best practices, financial incentives for improved teaching and outcomes is critical to shore up America’s crumbling education capacity.

Then there’s the sorry state of our transportation infrastructure, and we’re falling behind in our communications infrastructure, too.

This doesn’t have to generate into a left-right, big government vs. private sector brawl. There are a lot of different ways to make the kinds of investments we need. But as long as we’re talking taxpayers’ dollars, I’d rather fix a few potholes than give another cent to the Mubaraks and Karzais of the world...

Jim Cornelius, Editor


  1. Let us all revolt and with hold our money from government on April 18th! It might finally get their attention as to how unhappy the working man's money is being used and abused!

  2. so we send lots of money down rat holes through the federal and state and local government. What or who do you suppose is at the bottom of those rat holes?


    1. Some very big corporations who are part of a very complex food chain, which at the highest level cycles huge quantities of money from tax payers into their treasuries. Corporations have more cash on hand now than ever before. how much comes from the huge sucking sound that is them pigging out at the public trough.

    2. Jobs. Lots and Lots of Jobs. some useless some useful but all with paychecks to middle class people supporting middle cals families spending it on food rent clothes gas cars ipods pc's etc etc. Millions of jobs

    3. Private services like the Doctors who see medicare patients,

    So the people want to cut spending... don't think so. Betcha it never happens.

    What really needs to happen is for everyone to stop expecting something for nothing. one way or another we will end up paying this bill, either through increased taxes (the sooner we do it the less the impact will be) or if we fail to do that,through massive inflation that will be a defacto tax on our life style.

    Wise up, pay up.

  3. Afghanistan is a long doomed nation-state that we should have seen coming around again when the Russians/Soviets left Kabul.

    We are not there to build schools, liberate women, or otherwise "nation build".

    We are there because of the country's over-arching military geography. A geography that allows U.S. to build significant air bases/deploy troops in order to continue playing "The Great Game" in this region.

    We have built the mirror image in Kurdistan, another regional nation-state however one that is immensely civilized, under law, and eternally grateful to the U.S. for a number of things and issues (primarily protection from both Saddam's Iraq and Turkey) via Operation Northern Watch and U.S. diplomacy.

    Every penny sent to Afghanistan, as is every U.S. service member's life, is either stolen, wasted, or misspent.

    In the end, as they always have, it is the Afghan - rich or poor - who comes out the only "winner" and will then prepare for the next go-around of armed stupidty for profit.

  4. While I applaud you listing our support for Israel among our Government's poor allocation of funds, your characterization as an underdog is off the mark. Israel has the strongest, most aggressive military in the region and continues to occupy and assault it's neighbors. Perhaps we have different understandings of what "underdog" means?

  5. No, I think our definition is the same. Think you missed a couple of key words in that sentence.

    "We continue to provide aid to Israel AS THOUGH Israel is the underdog in the Middle East and often get a finger in the eye for thanks."

    Israel was once the "underdog" and now, as you point out, is the dominant military power in the region, by a wide margin.

  6. Yes, you're absolutely right - I had misread it. Thanks.

  7. Yes, you're right - I misread it. Thanks

  8. Jim,

    To revisit this subject -

    The current issue of Rolling Stone Magazine features an excellent article by Michael Hastings on GEN David Petraeus and his role in Afghanistan post GEN Stanley McChrystal.

    Unlike the McChrystal article, the Petraeus piece is an objective piece of journalism that I found well worth reading.

    In talking with those I am close it is important to note, if both RS articles are read back to back and then specific points compared (now vrs then), the war in Afghanistan is now very much in a "Let's find an exit strategy" mode.

    It is also interesting we see very little coverage on the war anymore. Essentially, the main stream Media has stopped covering Afghanistan given it is completely unsafe for them to do so any longer...

    And in lieu of the first RS article and the assumption of authority by Petraeus, access to the war by the Media is now strictly confined and managed through both the U.S. and AFGHAN, as well as NATO.

    We saw the same take place in Iraq, where Operation New Dawn (post combat operations in Iraq) gets scant attention in the U.S. media given that theatre is now, essentially, unsafe for journalists of any stripe and restricted by the Iraqi GOV to such a degree nothing worthwhile can or is being covered.

    However, all is not lost.

    The Media is doing a superb job of covering Lady Ga Ga and Lindsey Lohan.

  9. Secretary of Defense Gates said this last weekend that anyone who proposes landing forces in Asia Middle East or Africa should have their head examined. I think that is all the reporting you need from that region. Bring the troops home. Let these countries manage their own affairs. Lets break our deadly dependency on oil.

    Oh wait... Exxon needs profits. OK . guess we get to pay $5 for gas and ship boys and girls to the meat grinder too. But exxon shares will do fine.