Sold Down the (Dnieper) River

The administration requested $33 billion to aid the nation of Ukraine. But Congress steeled its spine, summoned its nerve, recalled itself to its responsibilities… and refused the plea.

A hulking majority of congressmen — a “bipartisan” majority — insisted that the $33 billion appropriation was unacceptable.

And so they authorized a $40 billion “deal” instead. That is, they authorized $7 billion beyond the original request. Reports The Associated Press:

The measure sailed to passage by a lopsided 368-57 margin, providing $7 billion more than Biden’s request from April and dividing the increase evenly between defense and humanitarian programs. The bill would give Ukraine military and economic assistance, help regional allies, replenish weapons the Pentagon has shipped overseas and provide $5 billion to address global food shortages caused by the war’s crippling of Ukraine’s normally robust production of many crops…

The new measure includes $6 billion to arm and train Ukrainian forces, $8.7 billion to restore American stores of weapons shipped to Ukraine and $3.9 billion for U.S. forces deployed to the area.

There’s also $8.8 billion in economic support for Ukraine, $4 billion to help Ukraine and allies finance arms and equipment purchases and $900 million for housing, education and other help for Ukrainian refugees in the U.S.

“Our Sons of Bitches”

What percentage of this aid will slip through the dragnet of Ukraine’s “oligarchs?” They will likely siphon away quite a haul for themselves.

We would remind you that Ukraine is among the most corrupt nations of Earth — more corrupt than Russia itself by many metrics.

Yet if it is principled consistency you seek, you will not find it in the foreign policy of the United States or any other power of Earth.

As Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said of Nicaraguan strongman Anastasio Somoza: “He may be a son of a bitch. But he’s our son of a bitch.”

Ukraine’s oligarchs may be “sons of bitches.” Yet they are our “sons of bitches.”

And in times of crisis… which we are told these are… there is little room for shade or nuance. There is little time for debate.

We Can’t Afford to Wait!

As House Speaker “We Have to Pass the Bill so That You Can Find out What Is in It” Pelosi pleaded yesterday:

Time is of the essence — and we cannot afford to wait. With this aid package, America sends a resounding message to the world of our unwavering determination to stand with the courageous people of Ukraine until victory is won.

Madame Speaker is far from alone. Fellow Democrat Rep. Jason Crow argues:

The United States is not interested in stalemates. We are not interested in going back to the status quo. The United States is in this to win it and we will stand with Ukraine until victory is won.

Just so. Yet who precisely is “the United States”? Does it include the millions and millions of Americans who would stay out of Eastern Europe’s roils?

The Taxpayer Is on the Hook

Yet Speaker Pelosi and her mates appear willing to extend Ukraine a nearly infinite line of credit. They are in it “for the long haul.” Journalist Glenn Greenwald:

It is difficult to put into context how enormous these expenditures are — particularly since the war is only 10 weeks old, and U.S. officials predict/hope that this war will last not months but years. That ensures that the ultimate amounts will be significantly higher still.

Of course… behind this line of credit stands the poor beset American taxpayer. He goes upon the hook.

But what if hostilities endure not months — but years? And what if victory is never won? Additional questions:

What will the American taxpayer have won for his sacrifice? What — for the matter of that  — did he win for his sacrifice in Afghanistan? In Iraq?

Perhaps he would be better served if the moneys were wasted on boondoggles at home… rather than wasted on boondoggles abroad.

Domestic boondoggles are nonetheless boondoggles, it is true. Yet they do not eventuate in the detonation of atomic arms. Overseas boondoggles entrapping a nuclear-armed foe may.

Yet the American taxpayer is not consulted. The decisions are removed from his hands.

Has Anyone Asked Why?

Nor can he file his complaint at the ballot box in November— the business is overwhelmingly bipartisan, a joint fleecing.

Against which party can he vote?

He can merely stew. He is a man resigned. His most fundamental questions go unanswered. Greenwald:

We have long ago left the realm of debating why it is in the interest of American citizens to pour our country’s resources into this war, to say nothing of risking a direct war and possibly catastrophic nuclear escalation with Russia, the country with the largest nuclear stockpile, with the U.S. close behind. Indeed, one could argue that the U.S. government entered this war and rapidly escalated its involvement without this critical question — which should be fundamental to any policy decision of the U.S. government — being asked at all.

A Community Service

The bipartisan Ukraine bill nonetheless performs a capital service. It reminds us that Republicans and Democrats stand more united than divided.

The political combats they stage for public benefit often reduce to spectacle. It is a professional wrestling bout with its false feuds, artificial blows and imitation blood.

They batten upon each other with superficially savage and vicious blows. But watch closer. The blows never go home. Backstage, off duty, away from fans and cameras, they are often the tightest friends.

We expect Democrats to spend grandly and gorgeously. Since FDR they have read the identical electoral blueprint.

But Republicans traditionally existed for two purposes: to lower taxes — and to square the books.

Like a sour old schoolmarm with steel in her eye and a rattan in her hand… they might not have been popular.

But you knew where they were. And you could trust them with the checkbook.

But these Republicans are no more. They have gone the route of fedoras, monocles and spats.

They turned away from their old-time fiscal religion, made their peace with big spending… and got elected.

They labeled the old religion “root-canal economics.”

Republicans instead sat at the feet of Mr. Arthur Laffer, with his famous curve. They could spend like Democrats without touching the taxpayer.

Sold Down the (Dnieper) River

Deficits do not matter in the new catechism. Only a few Republican holdouts remain… to keep the tablets.

And so today we drop another tear on the ashes of fiscal responsibility.

As we have noted before, Republicans once defended the approaches to the United States Treasury.

But they have since sold the pass. And both parties have sold us all down a river.

In this latest instance, the Dnieper River…


Brian Maher

Brian Maher
Managing Editor, The Daily Reckoning

The Daily Reckoning