Walk Around Money
Back in the day, local pols would go out onto the street and share walk around money with frontline workers as an incentive to get out the vote. It was a tried-and-true method that also led to corruption now and then, but that's another story.
The thought came to mind when I was reading the fascinating piece in The Post today by Dana Hedgpeth and Sarah Cohen. The reporters examined a database containing 26,000 records about some $2.8 billion in spending by U.S. forces in Iraq through something called the Commander's Emergency Response Program.
Instead of seeking votes, the soldiers dishing this walk around money are looking to win hearts and minds. A $100 here, a million there. Here's a riff about stuff they found in the database (click and look around for yourself):
"Army documents show that $48,000 was spent on 6,000 pairs of children's shoes; an additional $50,000 bought 625 sheep for people described in records as "starving poor locals" in a Baghdad neighborhood. Soldiers ordered $100,000 worth of dolls and $500,000 in action figures made to look like Iraqi Security Forces. About $14,250 was spent on "I Love Iraq" T-shirts. More than $75,000 sent a delegation to a women's and civil rights conference in Cairo. And $12,800 was spent for two pools to cool bears and tigers at Zawra Park Zoo in Baghdad."
The program was meant to be for "short-term, small-scale 'urgent humanitarian relief and reconstruction,'" as they put it. Their probe found that it has turned into something far more amorphous and open-ended.
Military folks say the program works. It may. The reality for now, however, is that no one knows for sure where all the money has gone, and whether the people supplying the cash, you taxpayers, are getting enough in return.
Somebody, please tell me the right price of hearts and minds these days.
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Posted by: Nick | August 12, 2008 8:08 AM
Posted by: wjs | August 12, 2008 9:43 AM
Posted by: Wasted Spending | August 13, 2008 10:36 AM
Posted by: joseph towers | August 13, 2008 12:17 PM
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