Members of Congress are not much different, especially when weapons are built in their districts. But we are faced right now with the opportunity for real savings in a number of areas.
Take the building of C-17 cargo planes. Folks, this is a no-brainer. Here is a plane that our Air Force says it does not need for its mission, the Pentagon has refused to include in its budget and Defense Secretary Robert Gates has called a waste of taxpayers' money, even urging a presidential veto.
Common sense dictates that spending an added $1.5 billion this year on top of the $2.5 billion wasted last year should not even be up for discussion. If the American people got ahold of this one, they would be screaming from the rooftops.
But wait, is this a case of Congress-knows-best? Somehow they have more compelling facts or a better sense of what the Air Force needs than the Air Force? If you buy that, then you must believe that pigs can fly.
Oh, but wait again, maybe that is exactly the point — there is enough pork-barrel politics that is causing some members of Congress to push for a plane we don't need or want and sticking us with the BIG bill. Apparently, some members are intent on proving that pigs do fly.
Why else would they jam these C-17s down the throats of an overly stretched military during a period of record deficits and budget belt-tightening? Keeping this program alive saves a few jobs at a horrendous cost.
The problem, of course, is that contracts and subcontracts are in about 40 states.
Everyone is concerned about congressional earmarks, as they should be. Last year there were nearly 10,000 at a total cost of $16 billion. But think about this: The earmark for this one plane over a two-year period is $4 billion — 25 percent of that total!
More facts: We now have 223 C-17s and 111 C-5s, as well as 223 smaller C-130s. We are modernizing the C-5s that will carry 200 percent more cargo than the C-17s, fly 50 percent faster and use 40 percent less fuel. And by modernizing those planes, $8.9 billion is returned to the Air Force to spend on planes it wants and needs.
Now, what is wrong with that picture?
Maybe that is why Secretary Gates has stated: "The leadership of the Air Force is clear. They do not need and cannot afford more C-17s." Some in Congress want to keep the pork at what Gates calls "an unnecessary potential cost to the taxpayers of billions of dollars over the next few years."
So this really is a no-brainer. Save the taxpayers' money, don't add to the deficit, provide for a stronger defense, get rid of a pork-barrel program. Congress should listen to the Pentagon on this one.