Short Fuse

Pork barreling: Shoot down this appropriation

July 19, 2009
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With its parts suppliers spread all over the country, the F-22 fighter jet is harder than crabgrass to get rid of. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates says 187 F-22s will suffice, and that after that, production should end. Nevertheless, the House wants to buy another 12 of the jets, while a Senate appropriations bill calls for an additional seven, at a cost of $1.75 billion. President Obama has threatened a veto, and Senator John McCain, the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, has joined the fight on the president’s side. Weapons spending shouldn’t be treated as a jobs program, McCain says. He’s exactly right. His Senate colleagues should follow his lead.

Wall Street: Amnesia sets in quickly

Of all the lessons in last year’s meltdown on Wall Street, perhaps the most obvious is the danger - for big banks as well as for home borrowers - of going too deeply in debt. In the run-up to the crisis, once-proud firms such as Bear Stearns borrowed vast sums, so much so that they were helpless when the assets they held as collateral turned out to be worthless. But memories run short. Goldman Sachs, which held up relatively well in last year’s turmoil, announced its quarterly earnings this week. According to the website The Business Insider, investment analysts who took part in a conference call pestered the firm about having too little debt.

Homeland Security: Color charts are for paint

In the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, the Bush administration unveiled a color-coded threat-alert spectrum ranging from green (“low risk of terrorist attacks’’) to red (“severe risk’’). But the alerts, which supposedly were based on the latest intelligence on terrorist activities, have always come across as arbitrary, vague, and incomplete. When the threat level rises from yellow to orange, who is at risk? Who should respond? By doing what? For how long? Fortunately, new Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano understands the limitations of the system. She formed a task force last week to consider modifying or scrapping it. But there’s no need to waste time, paper, and printer cartridges ginning up a report that says what everyone already knows: The color-coded alerts help no one, and should be abolished now.

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