Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 20, 2011

WHO AMONG US DOESN'T LOVE TAXPAYER-FINANCED NASCAR ADS?.... With the House voting on several hundred amendments to its spending bill for the current fiscal year, there were plenty of odd votes late in the week. The vote to save millions of taxpayer dollars currently going to car-racing sponsorship is probably worth noting.

The House has voted to let the Pentagon continue using taxpayer dollars to sponsor NASCAR race teams.

By a 281-148 vote, lawmakers rejected an effort by Minnesota Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum that would have ended the practice. McCollum aides said the Army is spending $7 million on a sponsorship this year, and the Air Force and National Guard are spending additional money.

McCollum said the military spends the funds to place decals on race cars and for a few driver appearances. The armed forces hope the sponsorships will help them attract recruits.

Now, there's no real evidence to suggest the multi-million-dollar decals have the intended effect. In fact, the Navy and Marine Corps used to pay for NASCAR decals, but dropped them when officials concluded they were of little value.

But the politics of this turned out to be pretty interesting. For one thing, McCollum received threats of violence for trying to save the public funds.

As for the GOP, to hear House Republicans tell it, "we're broke," which means it's time to take a buzz-saw to the budget. In this very bill, the GOP voted to slash education, job training, environmental protections, food safety, community health centers, nuclear security, energy efficiency programs, scientific research, FEMA, Planned Parenthood, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Social Security Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control, among other things.

But when it came time to save taxpayers $7 million on a seemingly-pointless NASCAR ad, Republicans balked. In all, 30 GOP lawmakers broke ranks and voted with Democrats to save the money, but 209 Republicans voted to keep the NASCAR ad and kill McCollum's amendment.

In other words, we're broke, but leave NASCAR alone.

And Fox News, which also claims to love "austerity," is thrilled.

David Frum's summary rang true: "Government funding for NASCAR: Liberty. Government funding for NPR: Tyranny."

Postscript: By the way, the phrase in the headline comes by way of the made-up John Kerry quote from 2004: "Who among us does not love NASCAR?" Kerry never said this, ever. Maureen Dowd made it up, and the media ran with it.

Steve Benen 8:45 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (15)

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A NYT's columnist , wow wotta name . Kerry and his bride , with all their wealth , must have just been thrilled to have come under the insect glare of such a creature as a NYT's columnist . I bet they save the reference and keep it handy , as an emetic .

Posted by: FRP on February 20, 2011 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

I understand why the Republicans voted against killing the NASCAR ad. Killing the ad would have saved some money, but there is no evidence that killing the ad would cost a single job.

Posted by: Ron Byers on February 20, 2011 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

It's just another stupid U.S. Flag Lapel Pin issue. Can't be seen to be symbolically dissing the troops!

Posted by: GP on February 20, 2011 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

Wait a minute.
You mean to say that NASCAR actually has to be PAID to put the emblems of our armed forces on their cars?
That they're CHARGING the Army to wear that decal?
How about the American flag--do they charge for that? And do they charge rent for the airspace used by the Air Force flyovers?
Here's an idea--the only cars allowed to wear Army emblems are cars driven by Army vets--so we can see who the real patriots are.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on February 20, 2011 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

I have a PhD in mathematics, so I noticed an aspect to this story that perhaps others have missed.

According to Steve's sources, McCollum's amendment lost by a 281-148 vote. A bit later, we learn that only 209 Republicans voted against it.

This means that 72 Democrats ALSO voted against it.


Posted by: David Bailey on February 20, 2011 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK

In isolation there's absolutely nothing wrong with the Army spending recruiting dollars on NASCAR. The Army gets a budget to recruit, and if they find NASCAR to be the most effective way to spend that money, so be it. (If McCollum wants to scrutinize the decision on the most effective way to spend that money, that's a different matter.) It's really just scoring cheap political points.

The problem is, the Republicans have done nothing the past decade but destroy the country and score cheap political points. If the Democrats can learn to win at that game without totally abandoning core values, fine. I'm about ready to throw "impeccable standards of intellectual honesty" overboard for other virtues like, "not trying to wreck the economy so that the rich can loot what the rest of us have left".

Posted by: Equal Opportunity Cynic on February 20, 2011 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

Examples such as this allow for clarity in that the vote reflects an exercise in power, not an attempt by elected officials to better serve our nation.

Where Jerry Brown declared California State swag no longer allowable (noting the indefensible cost), the new Republican majority in the House (and no doubt some of their Blue Dog friends) won't budge on the ultimate swag of any world government! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on February 20, 2011 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

The Army is the primary sponsor for an NHRA drag racing team and sends a complete recruiting event to every race on the NHRA circuit. I've watched the NASCAR fight with a chuckle while wondering if the Army has the NHRA funding tucked away in some other line-item.

Posted by: Lifelong Dem on February 20, 2011 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

In other words, we're broke, but leave NASCAR alone.

I'm betting it was more like "We're Broke, but screw the Democrats."

Posted by: martin on February 20, 2011 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

I am no more in favor of NASCAR ads than the ads that run on sports programming. The first issue is whether the military should have an advertising budget of this nature -- if the answer is yes, then the second issue is how it should spend it. I am told by some consumer companies just how surprisingly effective they find NASCAR advertising to be. So I do think the Congresswoman was a little unnuanced in her framing of this issue.

Posted by: Barbara on February 20, 2011 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

I have no problem with the fact that the Army advertises, but it needs to do it in a cost-effective way. The Army's target audience is 16-24 year-olds. NASCAR is very popular with a very wide range of age groups. That drives up ad costs, and gets the Army less bang for their buck.

The Army should advertise with shows that are popular with young audiences, but not with old. They would reach just as many potential recruits, but be able to do it more cheaply.

Posted by: Tim H on February 20, 2011 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

If the people who voted against this amendment had looked into the consumer behavior research and weighed the cost/benefit ratios of the advertising in order to determine how they'd vote, that's perfectly fine. But I suspect that the masses of GOP votes against the amendment were made simply because a Democrat proposed it. If Jeff Flake or Paul Ryan had proposed it, the amendment might have sailed through. If they're for it, we're against it...

Posted by: meander on February 20, 2011 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

"Government funding for NASCAR: Liberty. Government funding for NPR: Tyranny."

Just more evidence that what we're up against has nothing to do with deficits or the size of government.

This is a culture war: those Bubbas who began losing in the 60's when we started taking away their "god-given right" to look down on Blacks and Women and now, OMG, even Mexicans, are making a last ditch stand, aided and abetted by their corporate masters, to roll back the Rights Revolution that we've fought for the past fifty years.

Aux armes, mes citoyens!

Posted by: chi res on February 20, 2011 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

Can you imagine the apoplexy on the Right if taxpayer monies were used to promote, say, the NBA?

But, of course, NASCAR is the preferred entertainment of those mythic RealAmericans® in the red states, so that makes something like this not merely permissible but imperative.

Posted by: Chet on February 20, 2011 at 6:55 PM | PERMALINK

Keep your gubmint hands off my gubmint Nascar decal!

Posted by: Nancy Irving on February 20, 2011 at 11:53 PM | PERMALINK



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