Your tax dollars at work

The New York Times treats us to this lengthy article documenting just how well numerous Bush Administration officials have done since leaving government for the private sector to work on homeland security matters.
While, for example, the famous success of St. Rudy of Giuliani in cashing in on the growth-industry-that-is-paranoia with Giuliani Partners may be so great that it is sufficient to keep him out of serious consideration for national office, other moves include former Deputy Homeland Security Secretary (and Clinton Impeachment operative) Asa Hutchinson to the Venable law firm, Tom Ridge to Savi Technology’s board (which will be conveniently acquired by Lockheed Martin), and others enumerated.
While there are ethical limitations and federal laws against lobbying one’s own former federal employer, let’s just say that those are easily avoided legally, or otherwise.
Just think of this as another branch of “compassionate conservatism”: why should the governmental largesse revolving door be strictly limited to defense contractors? Now, we can bring in various aspects of paranoid domestic security as well, and expand the largesse to a whole new group of players; thousands more people can now count themselves as having a meal ticket to the great federal gravy train.
Is there a solution to this? Perversely, there is. It’s called “traditional conservatism.” The government will need to stop handing out sweetheart contracts– best of all, stop spending the money at all. I realize that the Democrats’ likely answer is to complain that we’re not spending enough on port security, but that doesn’t seem to resonate with anyone. We’ll never get traction arguing that how we spend the taxpayers’ money is wrong; I’m suggesting that we stop spending this money (at the federal level, anyway) at all. Simple. Cut the fat out of this spending. And the lean. And the bone.
[I also have a long-winded reason why we should radically decrease our defense budget (and fund the DOD 100% by a petroleum tax), but that’s for another day; right now, I’m saying, once and for all, that virtually all “homeland security” spending (to the extent it represents an increase over, say, what we were spending on September 10, 2001 in real dollars) is excessive. There has been no showing that increased monetary spending (or the increased federal power under the USA PATRIOT Act, and other programs and court decisions) have successfully thwarted so much as a single terrorist attack, or indeed, that these measures or spending would have thwarted the September 11th events.]
We have to reconcile ourselves to something: September 11th was horrible. Short of having having lost a family member myself, or having fled the towers themselves, I will say I know more than most, having gotten a front row seat from my window a block north of the WTC, and then, as a further reward for this, got to breathe in stuff generally regarded as “bad” for months, and lost my job as the office building was shut down, got nightmares from my observations, etc. Enough about me. September 11th was a personal tragedy for a great many people.
I will finally say it, now that we are moving on five years after: that’s all it was. Yes, it was, in many ways, a logistical failure of a great many arms of government… from intelligence to airport security to air traffic control to local police and fire coordination… but it was not a rupture in the fabric of the uniterse. It was not a reason to toss out centuries of constitutional protections and the rule of law. It was not even in the same league as such existential threats to the nation as ten states in rebellion, the Empire of Japan and the Third Reich, or Soviet nuclear ICBMs (think “Cuban missile crisis.”) 9-11 was an act of war principally in rhetoric. What it really was, of course, was a terrorist act. It was, in common parlance, “a crime”. A large one. But still that. Designed to get our attention, and make us act. And act we did: but hyperbolically… Well, it’s time we started thinking rationally, again.
9-11 has been exploited for far too long. But, in the end, it was a one-off. A singleton. In short, it won’t happen again (certainly not like that.) And more to the point, nothing of the kind of paranoia driven “homeland security” expenditures will stop it if it does.
Such expenditures will, of course, greatly enrich the recipients of such governmental largesse, and through the magic of recycling campaign contributions to those responsible for the largesse, help those on the government side hold power and dispense still more largesse. (What they will not do, of course, is make us “safer”, or “totally secure,” or anything of the kind.)
But the spending and campaign contributing will go on. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.