April 20, 2021


Written by Harry J. Burke

Mitch McConnell, I’m tired of your floor speeches

United States Capitol Building Old Senate Chamber in Washington DC

Dear Mitch McConnell,

I watched the floor speech you gave on your Youtube page where you disparaged House Democrats’ first piece of legislation, H.R. 1. Clearly from your tone and the arguments you made, you are not a fan. But for the life of me, I can’t understand why you think those arguments are winners in the realm of public opinion.

In it, as I’m sure you know, the bill would provide a 6 to 1 match for people running for president and Congress. This is to encourage politicians to raise campaign funds through small dollar donations versus focusing on wealthier donors. Clearly, when an affluent contributor is able to fund a politician’s campaign on a much more significant level than an average American, politicians are more inclined to curry favor with those same wealthy elites.

I was, of course, not surprised when you voiced your objections on the Senate floor to H.R. 1. It is your sole purpose in life to thwart any gains by the Democratic Party even if it’s to the detriment of the whole country. That being said I still listened intently to your main argument against this bill. According to you, “H.R. 1 would victimize every American taxpayer…It would put every taxpayer on the hook to line the pockets of candidates, campaigns, and outside consultants. She [Speaker Pelosi] wants you to pay for these things [campaign expenses] with your tax dollars.”

If I understand what you’re saying correctly, you are against American tax dollars going to something you don’t agree with, which in this case is a useful public matching mechanism to finance campaigns.

Which leads me to this list of things I would like to present to you. There are some tax credits, programs, or wars the Federal Government spent or currently spends money on that I don’t agree with. Can you fight for me as an American taxpayer and refund them please?

1) The Iraq War:

As I am sure you remember Mitch, you voted to give President Bush and his Administration authorization to invade Iraq in 2002. It was a mistaken war that took thousands of American lives. Even more civilian lives were lost. There were possibly hundreds of thousands, if one takes into account the direct impact of the American invasion as well as after effects following the toppling of Sadam Hussein. The rise of the Islamic State in Iraq after Hussein’s falling from power significantly contributed to the death tolls of Iraqi civilians, as the Washington Post’s Philip Bump states.

An ill-advised war that cost hundreds of thousands of lives also cost hundreds of billions of dollars.

It is hard to get exact estimates for the total costs of the Iraq War I will give you that. However, several are still staggering. According to Willian Hartung, contributor to the Costs of War report produced by the Watson Institute of International & Public Affairs at Brown University, the budgetary costs of the Iraq war have reached well over $800 billion. No doubt this estimate is higher than the initial one from the Bush Administration, which was only $50 to $60 billion according to Hartung.

It is safe to say, Mitch McConnell, that the war in Iraq was not what the American people wanted their money spent on. I think you owe them.

Total Cost to Taxpayers: Over $800 Billion

2) Payments to Defense Contractors

The United States spends a significant amount of money on defense. According to one estimate by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation using data from 2017, the United States spent $610 billion on its defense. Using the chart below from the same piece one can see that the United States spends more than the next 7 countries combined.

I am not arguing for drastic cuts to military spending. I happen to believe having a strong military is important for maintaining the liberal world order built by the United States and its allies after WWII. It’s also important to curb a growing authoritarian China. All of that said, the amount we spend is still astronomical.

One group we give a significant amount of money to is private defense contractors. According to the Congressional Research Service report on Defense Acquisitions, Defense Department contract obligations were at $320 billion for FY 2017. At $320 billion, the DOD obligated more towards federal contracts than all other federal agencies combined according to the CRS. It has increased significantly since FY 2000 when contract obligations from the DOD were $189 billion.

Mitch McConnell, there are a significant number of taxpayers who don’t want the Federal Government putting such a large sum of money towards private contractors at all. But I want to be fair and say that I see a place for private contractors in defense. The DOD is too large and its projects so vast that divvying services and procuring goods and equipment from outside sources is useful. However, I don’t think it is worth $320 billion, or more than 50% of the DOD budget.

My fear is that if you were to sit down and look over these contracts, you wouldn’t find any reason to contest a significant number of them. I think if you were presented with an option to greatly reduce federal spending through cutting unnecessary DOD contract obligations, and by extension save American tax dollars, your crusade to save the taxpayer would disappear.

And I would know why too. The defense industry gave nearly $17 million to the Republican Party in 2018 alone, or 58% of the industry’s campaign donations.

Total Cost to Taxpayers: $320 Billion

3) Oil Subsidies

Another cost to the federal budget protected by the Republican Party and you Mitch McConnell is the number of tax subsidies American oil producers reap benefits from. You yourself led an effort against a Democratic bill in 2011 that would have ended subsidies to big oil companies. Estimates of the total amount of money these subsidies cost taxpayers vary, but one from the Council on Foreign Relations places the total at roughly $4 billion annually as of 2016.

American oil producers have been doing quite well lately, even more so than in years past. Output from these producers is expected to average 12.06 million barrels per day this year, a new record which passes the previous milestone of 12 million bpd. American oil output is starting to rival international antagonists like Russia and even outproducing Saudi Arabia. The point is, do these wealthy successful oil companies really need these subsidies that add up to $40 billion dollars over ten years? There are other things we can spend that money on that more efficiently benefit the American people.

Total Cost to Taxpayer: $40 Billion Over Ten Years, $4 Billion Annually

I am writing this to highlight how ludicrous your argument is. The federal budget is enormous; over $1 trillion in discretionary spending and $2.45 trillion in mandatory spending. If every taxpayer had veto power on spending they didn’t like, the federal budget would be $0.

That is why we put people’s representatives in charge of spending. Voters set priorities for those politicians through elections, and then they vote on appropriations. The American people have made their priorities about getting big money out of politics clear; they are for it.

So next time the Democratic Party promotes legislation meant to help average Americans have more power in their own elections, don’t give a floor speech about protecting the American taxpayer. Instead, just get the donors from the top ten sectors who have donated to all of your campaigns, which totals $50.3 million, and say, “Don’t worry guys, I have your back.” That is if you haven’t done that already.

All the best!