While the harsh federal budget cuts imposed by March’s sequestration have led to heated spending debates in Congress (and left education, housing, and social services programs reeling), there’s one thing at least that everyone can agree on: the need for more tanks. Everyone except the army, that is. Congress has voted to dish out $437 million over the next two years for the production of Abrams tanks, in spite of repeated insistence by senior military figures that they don’t need them. Why spend so lavishly on presents we know will go unopened upon arrival? It’s the economy, stupid. Or so say the congresspersons whose districts take part in the manufacturing process.
General Dynamics, which operates the Abrams plant in Lima, Ohio and spent close to $11 million last year lobbying Congress, says that including subcontractors some 18,000 folks across the country are employed in the production of the Abrams tank. So to keep them employed in a tough economic climate, the Army will have to swallow this bitter and quite expensive pill. It’s a conundrum that, if Heller-esque in its absurdity, is nevertheless a tough one to solve. What’s certain, though, is the difficulty of seriously trimming the budget when no one is willing to cut themselves a slightly slimmer slice of the pie. Here, the loony apotheosis of what is a very American trait–an inability to eek out, even when we want to, those helpful words: “No thanks. I’m full.” // Patrick Barrett