Recently, reviewing lobbying disclosure reports, the Washington Times discovered "that 18 of the top 20 recipients of federal bailout money spent a combined $12.2 million lobbying the White House, the Treasury Department, Congress, and federal agencies during the last quarter of 2008." Citibank alone, according to the New York Times, fielded "an army of Washington lobbyists," plunking down $1.77 million in lobbying fees just in the fourth quarter of last year.
And it isn’t only sinking financial institutions begging for federal dollars that have bolstered their Washington lobbying corps. So have the biggest US armaments companies–"drastically," according to reporter August Cole of the Wall Street Journal. In 2008, he found, Northrop Grumman almost doubled its lobbying budget to $20.6 million (from $10.9 million the previous year); Boeing upped its budget from $10.6 million to $16.6 million in the same period; and Lockheed-Martin, the company that received the most contracts from the Pentagon last year, hiked its lobbying efforts by a whopping 54% in 2008.
If you want to get a taste of what that means, then click here to view an ad for that company’s potentially embattled boondoggle, the F-22, the most expensive jet fighter ever built. What you’ll discover is not just that it will "protect" 300 million people–that’s you, if you live in the USA–but that it will also "employ" 95,000 of us. In other words, the ad’s threatening message implies, if the Obama administration cuts this program in bad times, it will throw another 95,000 Americans out on the street. Now that’s effective lobbying for you, especially when you consider that for any imaginable war the U.S. might fight in the coming decades, the F-22, built to counter a Soviet plane that was never produced, will be thoroughly useless.
We don’t usually think of the Pentagon as a jobs-and-careers scam operation, a kind of Mega-Madoff Ponzi scheme that goes BOOM!, though it is clearly designed for the well-being of defense contractors, military officers, and congressional representatives; nor do we usually consider the "defense" budget as a giant make-work jobs racket, as arms experts Bill Hartung and Christopher Preble recently suggested, but it’s never too late.
In his most recent piece, "The Looming Crisis at the Pentagon," Chalmers Johnson, author of the already-classic Blowback Trilogy, including most recently Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic, makes vividly clear just how little the Pentagon is organized to consider the actual defense needs of the United States. It is, he writes, "squandering staggering levels of defense appropriations on aircraft, ships, and futuristic weapons systems that fascinate generals and admirals, and are beloved by military contractors mainly because their complexity runs up their cost to astronomical levels. That most of these will actually prove irrelevant to the world in which we live matters not a whit to their makers or purchasers. Thought of another way, the stressed out American taxpayer, already supporting two disastrous wars and the weapons systems that go with them, is also paying good money for weapons that are meant for fantasy wars, for wars that will only be fought in the battlescapes and war-gaming imaginations of Defense Department "planners."
In many ways, the Pentagon remains a deadly organization of boys with toys that now poses a distinct economic danger to the rest of us.