Monday, December 15, 2003

Hysteria and the Hysterical Hysterics Who Have It

The facts are as follows. Halliburton has a contract with the U.S. Government to help rebuild Iraq. As part of that contract, Halliburton's (pre-tax) profits are calculated by a percentage applied to Halliburton's own costs to provide goods and services. Halliburton's costs are routinely reviewed by government auditors as part of the payment process. One of these routine audits noted that gasoline Halliburton imported into Iraq for civilian use until the domestic oil industry is rebuilt cost more when it came from Kuwait than when it came from Turkey. Further inquiry determined that Halliburton's Kuwaiti subcontractor was charging more for gas and Halliburton either (a) hadn't caught the increased costs, (b) thought it was entitled to be paid despite the differences in price, or (c) let the issue slide by while hoping to make some extra money. The total amount of extra money Halliburton received because of the higher cost from the Kuwaiti supplier (who charged $61 million more than Turkish suppliers) was between $1.2 million and $4.3 million; at most, that's about four thousandths of one percent (0.004%) of Halliburton's gross revenues of $10.81 billion for the past nine months.[1] President Bush applauded the auditors and, discounting Halliburton's explanation, said he expected the additional money to be repaid.[2] Vice-President Dick Cheney was CEO of Halliburton and on its board of directors until he resigned to serve as Vice-President several years ago.

Democractic presidential hopefuls responded with the following bits of hysteria:
Howard Dean: "We've recently learned what many Americans have suspected for a long time - special interest contributor Halliburton is overcharging the American taxpayers. Now this President is preventing entire nations from bidding on contracts in Iraq so his campaign contributors can continue to overcharge the American taxpayers."[3]

Dick Gephardt: "The Bush administration's policy in Iraq of putting the corporate special interests first is unacceptable. Vice President Cheney's former employer won a contract without a competitive bid and proceeded to bilk the American taxpayer for tens of millions of dollars. It is time for a change. As president, I will put the American soldiers and taxpayers first and the corporate special interests last."[4]

John F -word Kerry: "Halliburton is guilty of shameful war-profiteering, and they need to be held accountable. It's dead wrong that Halliburton is bilking American taxpayers by overcharging the government $61 million for fuel while our troops on the frontlines are underfunded, overextended, and some have literally been left to buy their own body armor. Think about what $61 million could buy for our troops in need rather than lining the pockets of Halliburton executives. The Bush Administration should be ashamed that they bent over backwards for their biggest contributors while leaving American troops in danger."[5]

Wesley Clark: "George W. Bush is a president for Big Oil, of Big Oil, and 'buy' Big Oil. He is more concerned about the success of Halliburton than having a success strategy in Iraq."[6]

John Edwards: "Based on today's report, we now see the truth . . . A company that donates huge sums to the president and once was chaired by the vice president is now war profiteering at taxpayer expense. This war profiteering is poison to America . . . We need an antidote now." [7]
The first thing that stands out here is an hysterical, wild-eyed preference for slithery rhetoric over facts. John F -word Kerry says Halliburton "overcharged" the government by $61 million and neglects to mention that happened because the Kuwaiti subcontracter "overcharged" Halliburton by the same amount. Never mind that $61 million dollars will only buy about ten Blackhawk helicopters, the money Halliburton actually stood to receive -- the only ‘extra profit' involved -- is at most $4.3 million. That's about seven hundredths of one percent (0.07) of the amount Kerry claims was "overcharged" to Halliburton's profit. It's also not the "tens of millions of dollars" Dick Gephardt says was bilked" from the American taxpayer: "4.3" is not equal to "10," or any multiple thereof.

The second thing that strikes me is the Democrats' hysterical delight in legitimizing their loopiness with even loopier conspiracy theories. Maybe that's why they get so irate over the idea of "gun nuts" with "vast, right-wing" conspiracies -- the Democrats believe that only the military is entitled to have guns, and only Democrats with conspiracy theories are entitled to run the military. (Hmmmm . . . I wonder of John F -word Kerry was talking about silenced Blackhawks? It's plausible; Blackhawks are a lot cheaper and quieter when they're built without engines). A few months back we were treated to Hillary's dark speculations that President Bush knew about 9/11 beforehand, and now US policy in Iraq is being intentionally described as a plot to bilk the American people and repay Bush's campaign contibutors. Never mind the fact that the whole "overcharge" business was discovered by an audit that is routinely performed for the precise purpose of catching overcharges, it still proves what the Democrats ‘knew all along' -- that "George W. Bush is a president for Big Oil, of Big Oil, and 'buy' Big Oil. He is more concerned about the success of Halliburton than having a success strategy in Iraq." It amazes me that leaders of the Democratic Party can talk this way while at the same time castigating Republicans for "divisiveness."

The third thing that strikes me is how calmly Democrats react when the same thing happens in matters closer to their hearts, i.e., their publicly-funded vote-buying projects. When a scheme enacted ostensibly to provide for the public welfare or "invest in America" turns out to be more expensive than originally allowed it's not an "overcharge" that calls forth shame, anger, and denunciation. Nor is it part of a pork-barrel plot to bilk the American people and buy off key Democratic constituencies. It's simply business-as-usual or, perhaps, an indication of how the problem is even bigger than we thought it was and why Democrats need to address it by raising our taxes so high we'll need wheelbarrows to tote the payments.

Forget policy issues -- these guys aren't intellectually or morally mature enough to be President.

[1] Markets & Stocks: Halliburton Company

[2] "If there's an overcharge, like we think there is, we expect that money to be repaid."

[3] Dean campaign's official website

[4] Gephardt campaign's official website.

[5] Kerry campaign's official website.

[6] Clark campaign's official website.

[7] Edwards campaign's official website.

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