The Pentagon isn’t able to tell federal auditors what happened to more than $1.3 billion in funds intended for construction projects in Afghanistan.
The money was dispersed through a program established to speed up the rebuilding process in Afghanistan by giving money directly to military officers to build roads, bridges, dams and other projects to avoid the lengthy bureaucratic procurement process.
But in the rush to spend and build, much of the money paid out by the Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP) between 2004 and 2014 has gone unaccounted for, according to auditors who spent the last year trying to find it.
A new report released Friday by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction says the Defense Department could only provide its office with documentation for $890 million, or roughly 40 percent, of the total $2.2 billion in funds.
The auditors blamed the Pentagon’s financial and project management process for not sufficiently tracking spending, saying DoD’s system doesn’t contain enough data or comprehensive information relating to the actual costs of the projects.
The auditors took the information the Pentagon did provide and divided it up into categories like education, health care, water and sanitation. Aside from transportation, the item that had the most expenses was labeled “unknown.”
U.S. Central Command responded to the inspector general’s findings, or lack thereof, by saying that some of the unaccounted for CERP funds had been shifted to other military needs. “Although the report is technically accurate, it did not discuss the counterinsurgency strategies in relationship to CERP,” the Central Command said.
In total, the U.S. has doled out about $3.7 billion through CERP funds, with $2.2 billion coming from the Defense Department.
This is just the latest report from SIGAR highlighting the Pentagon’s problems keeping track of the enormous amount of money flowing into Afghanistan. Earlier reporting suggested the U.S. has lost some $100 billion in the reconstruction efforts.
Billionaire John D. Arnold, a former energy trader and hedge fund manager turned philanthropist with a focus on health care, says Big Pharma appears to have a powerful hold on members of Congress.
Arnold pointed out that PhRMA, the main pharmaceutical industry lobbying group, had revenues of $459 million in 2018, and that total lobbying on behalf of the sector probably came to about $1 billion last year. “I guess $1 bil each year is an intractable force in our political system,” he concluded.
The Wall Street Journal’s Richard Rubin says Elizabeth Warren’s proposed taxes could claim more than 100% of income for some wealthy investors. Here’s an example Rubin discussed Friday:
“Consider a billionaire with a $1,000 investment who earns a 6% return, or $60, received as a capital gain, dividend or interest. If all of Ms. Warren’s taxes are implemented, he could owe 58.2% of that, or $35 in federal tax. Plus, his entire investment would incur a 6% wealth tax, i.e., at least $60. The result: taxes as high as $95 on income of $60 for a combined tax rate of 158%.”
In Rubin’s back-of-the-envelope analysis, an investor worth $2 billion would need to achieve a return of more than 10% in order to see any net gain after taxes. Rubin notes that actual tax bills would likely vary considerably depending on things like location, rates of return, and as-yet-undefined policy details. But tax rates exceeding 100% would not be unusual, especially for billionaires.
Joe Biden on Thursday put out a $1.3 trillion infrastructure proposal. The 10-year “Plan to Invest in Middle Class Competitiveness” calls for investments to revitalize the nation’s roads, highways and bridges, speed the adoption of electric vehicles, launch a “second great railroad revolution” and make U.S. airports the best in the world.
“The infrastructure plan Joe Biden released Thursday morning is heavy on high-speed rail, transit, biking and other items that Barack Obama championed during his presidency — along with a complete lack of specifics on how he plans to pay for it all,” Politico’s Tanya Snyder wrote. Biden’s campaign site says that every cent of the $1.3 trillion would be paid for by reversing the 2017 corporate tax cuts, closing tax loopholes, cracking down on tax evasion and ending fossil-fuel subsidies.
There were 18 million military veterans in the United States in 2018, according to the Census Bureau. That figure includes 485,000 World War II vets, 1.3 million who served in the Korean War, 6.4 million from the Vietnam War era, 3.8 million from the first Gulf War and another 3.8 million since 9/11. We join with the rest of the country today in thanking them for their service.