IT SHOULDN'T BE...

IT SHOULDN'T BE A CHOICE. Far be it for me to disagree with Enlightened Being and Creator of Fire Mike Tomasky, but his post on the Department of Homeland Security's funding allocations seems a bit wrongheaded. His point is that the cuts in cash for New York and Washington may well make sense -- who says terrorists won't next strike fear in our hearts by striking the Heartland? Fair enough. But it's not really the case that "New York�s still getting a lot of money, as is Washington." DC will get $46.5 million from the DHS's main grant program, and $4.3 million from their state-oriented program. To give an idea of scale, DC's state grant will be less than Rhode Island, Wyoming, or Puerto Rico's. It's simply not a lot of money, and it's coming out of a total pot of less than $2 billion, also not a lot of money.

Nor does Mike's confidence in the DHS's allocation system seem well-placed. The orgnaization's inspector general, furious at his inability to compel changes, just wrote a book called Open Target about how deeply dysfunctional the DHS is, and how totally unprepared they've left the country. (See TAP Online's interview with the guy here.) Among the revelations is that while $20 billion has been spent to secure air travel, only $250 million has been spent securing mass transit. And the DC metro system assumedly received only a fraction of that. 94 percent of cargo containers that enter our ports go unexpected, and we don't have near the number of biological and nuclear sensors that we needed.

The question isn't whether Omaha deserves some funds. Mike's hypothesis is certainly viable, and it's truly a wonder we've not seen attacks of the sort he predicts. What's strange and unsettling, though, is how small the dollar amounts truly are. DC and New York shouldn't need their funds slashed so Montana can have theirs increased. A couple months back, we passed $70 billion worth of tax cuts. That money could have ticked off every item on the counterterrorism community's wishlist. And now we want to repeal the estate tax, at a time when every public health and nuclear preparedness expert says we're woefully unprepared for a WMD attack? It is, quite literally, insane. This administration's spending priorities are criminal, and when we buy into the DHS's bullshit rationales over "landmarks" and unimpressive applications (one of the reasons DC got little money -- as if this were college admissions rather than terrorism), we're missing the forest for the trees.

--Ezra Klein

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