A tank only politicians can love

Federal lawmakers from both political parties have criticized the sequestration spending cuts because, for one reason, they apply to the Department of Defense. Talk about trimming defense spending makes politicians nervous, and not necessarily because of national security concerns.

Nor does it always make sense.

The Associated Press reported that Congress has spent nearly a half-billion dollars of taxpayer money over the past two years on an improved version of the 70-ton Abrams tank that nobody wants. By nobody, we mean the U.S. military.

Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said the Army doesn’t want any more tanks, but a bipartisan majority in the House plans to spend an extra $436 million developing the tank anyway.

Why? Because the only tank manufacturing plant in America exists in Lima, Ohio, one of the critical swing states in federal elections. It was a core target in both Barack Obama’s and Mitt Romney’s campaign strategy last year.

The tank plant employs 700 workers and drives an estimated $100 million in regional economic activity. It is operated by General Dynamics, a mega defense contractor that spends millions every year lobbying lawmakers.

Neither party wants to shut down a plant in a key state, and further damage an economy that bore more than the nation’s average loss of jobs during the recession — not even if that means spending hundreds of millions of taxpayer money building something that’s not needed.

It’s a classic example of how government spending intertwines with local economies.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to spend that $436 million on a weapon system the military can use, or, heaven forbid, a program to help our veterans?