NPR reporter Julia Simon had a story today that exemplifies the best and worst of public media.
She starts with an incredibly good question: all educated Americans know that the US gives mega money to Egypt annually, but what does that money actually buy?
In a very easy to understand narrative Simon takes us on a guided tour of what happens with this money. SPOILER ALERT! It never leaves the USA. It actually purchases a bunch of bloated, American-made cold-war weapons systems of which Egypt already has plenty. Best quote:
There’s no conceivable scenario in which they’d need all those tanks short of an alien invasion.
– Shana Marshall, Insert Relevant Institution Here
Simon then follows with specific examples of companies who lobby Washington to keep these purchases going.
So far so awesome. But then the story just ends. There is the requisite comment that this is just how things are and the inertia of existing programs is difficult to change etc. We’ll just have to leave it there.
Conventional wisdom achieved: the military industrial complex is what it is, sigh.
But there’s a giant Nile crocodile in the room that is utterly absent from this story of a corrupt developing country spending proxy billions of American taxpayer money on unnecessary American made weapons, isn’t there?
Oh wait! Corruption!
The subtext of the story for those actually paying attention is that someone, somewhere, is getting a lot of kickback for these deals. Probably a lot of someones. In fact a lack of corruption in this set-up would be so astonishing as to deserve its own mention.
But I guess that sort of exploration is for the kind of investigative reporting that either doesn’t exist much anymore or is too focussed on Anthony’s Wiener.