As the Libya debacle circles and feints and threatens to blow up into a Watergate-size scandal (only a threat so far), one countercharge surfaced last month that was as predictable as the sun rising in the east or Lindsay Lohan getting arrested. One reason security was lax at the Benghazi compound was … not enough money! Like a neglected sibling, the State Department has gone begging while spoiled-rotten Defense gets all the goodies. Congress denied and a diplomat died.
Whether a paucity of funds or carelessness and lack of foresight played the greater role in this particular foreign-policy failure remains to be seen. The point is, whatever the policy problem, “underfunding” will almost certainly join the lineup of usual suspects. And whatever the social problem, “funding” will pop up as one of the solutions, if not the entire solution.
Over at The Weekly Standard, Andrew Ferguson recently spent a few fruitful hours perusing 90Days90Reasons, a pro-Obama website originated by bestselling author Dave Eggers. Every day, an actor, author, or other culture-maker explains why he or she is voting for President Barack Obama. Over and over, it comes down to money. “Programs” loom large in the Obama rationale: “words with talismanic power,” according to Ferguson. “President Obama will ‘fund programs’ or ‘not cut programs’ that will rescue the environment or curb domestic violence or teach civility or help the disabled or train the jobless. The proper program can do everything but play canasta.”
Or can’t it? If Congress can appropriate money for a “robo-squirrel” to study interaction between squirrels and rattlesnakes, why can’t it pony up for a canasta-playing robot? That would be a big hit at senior care centers, and who doesn’t want our seniors to be happy and fulfilled? The same people, presumably, who rob State to pay Defense, and if you can’t see the connection between robo-squirrel and a few extra Marines to guard a high-risk embassy, then you’re probably no more confused than the average congressional staffer.
The problem is not funding, underfunding, or unfunding, but priorities. Washington has none, unless you count the overwhelming priority of justifying and growing every department, agency, board, and, yes, program that it sets up. Pet projects scream for their share of the pie along with the basic business of defending foreign ambassadors. Setting priorities is tough even for a family, much less a massive bureaucracy that spends roughly $300 million every hour. In fact, the challenge has become well-nigh impossible, but if we don’t do it, reality will.