Here is a fascinating story detailing how a network of legislators and corporations works together on bills such as Arizona’s recent and controversial immigration bill. The two-part report shows corporations and trade groups writing laws, encouraging “lawmakers” to promote and pass them, then using the legislation to expand their businesses. In this case, prison companies–one of the few bright spots in our woeful economy–were involved in writing the Arizona bill. Now they stand to make millions from new jails for illegal aliens, especially women and children, awaiting deportation.
All of this was conducted through an outfit called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which disingenuously calls itself a nonprofit—and apparently has the IRS status to prove it. After all, it’s not lobbying, it’s “educating” legislators, as ALEC’s leader states in the report. Of course, ALEC is “educating “our representatives to support the bill prepared by its corporate members so that they can profit off of it later. But it’s still education!
The focus of the report may be domestic, but the implications are obviously wider, including to the mother of all pork-barrelers, the military and its corporate hangers-on. According to the Wall St. Journal, defense now accounts for over $700 billion annually, amounting to over 50% of domestic discretionary spending and an estimated 19% of all federal spending (dwarfing Medicare expenditures).
Of course, we’ve heard talk from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates about the need to cut military spending. The bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform has discussed this as well. And, most fortunately, with the election next week, we are bound to see an influx of deficit-hawk, Republican legislators eager to cut wasteful spending. Right?
Not. When pork wears a uniform, it has a thousand friends—or at least 535, the House and Senate members whose districts and states feed off the swill. We’ve already seen pre-emptive strikes against defense cuts on the op ed pages of the WSJ. And groups akin to ALEC are laying plans to do some “educating.” The Heritage Foundation’s James Carafano, for instance, is talking about teaching benighted freshman who might somehow question whether, in an era when there are no serious military threats to U.S. national security, we must keep on spending ever more. Nothing like bang for your education buck!