The United States gives about $1.23 billion in military aid to Egypt yearly. Now some of that aid is temporarily being put on hold, leaving not only Egyptians on edge, but some American companies, who want that money to keep flowing because they are the ones benefiting.
“The U.S. doesn't cut a check to Egypt. It deposits the aid in an account at the Federal Reserve Bank,” reports CNN’s Chris Lawrence.
“That money pays American defense contractors to build the weapons and parts for Egypt,” including “$400 million to General Dynamics for tank kits, and $2.5 billion to Lockheed for F-16s.”
Lobbyists for the companies are partially to credit for helping them earn these contracts.
“They reminded lawmakers that if the Boeings and Lockheeds can't build weapons for Egypt, all those small town suppliers—from Lima, Ohio to Oxford Michigan—will get buried.”
Former Congressman Jim Kolbe is familiar with that pitch.
"The contractors have a vested interest in keeping the process going forward,” Kolbe says, so freezing aid would hurt the U.S.
“Cutting the aid won't get the government out of paying off the defense contracts it signed,” Lawrence reports.
Kolbe says, "It's going to end up costing the taxpayers a lot of money and getting nothing in return.
“The bottom line,” Lawrence says, “even though the U.S. has only transferred about half of this year’s $1.2 billion into the Egypt fund, withholding the other 600 million doesn't really save any money and may end up costing jobs.”
This morning Speaker Boehner is pledging to make a Sandy relief bill a priority in the new Congress after abruptly pulling a similar bill late Tuesday night, right after the House passed the fiscal cliff deal. That move had lawmakers on both sides of the aisle enraged and politicians in the Northeast venting their anger.
New Jersey's outspoken governor, Republican Chris Christie, said yesterday: “National disasters happen in red states and blue states and states with Democratic governors and Republican governors. We respond to innocent victims of natural disasters, not as Republicans or Democrats, but as Americans. Or at least we did until last night. Last night politics was placed before hosts to serve our citizens. For me, it was disappointing and disgusting to watch.”
Boehner says lawmakers will vote tomorrow for a $9 billion measure, with more money later. Congressman Frank Pallone is a Democrat from New Jersey. His district includes Union Beach and Belmar, both towns hit hard by Superstorm Sandy. Outraged this morning over Congress’ handling of the Sandy aid vote, he joins us live from Washington.
Rep. Pallone agrees with Governor Christie’s assessment that politics came into play here. He even concludes that the Tea Party doesn’t consider a natural disaster in a blue state as important as a natural disaster in a red state, and that is the reason why Speaker Boehner neglected the Sandy relief bill. “I really think that the speaker doesn't care about New York and New Jersey,” he says. “The fact of the matter is that he was afraid to bring this up yesterday, in my opinion, because the Tea Party and the right wing did not want to vote for the spending bill for…New York and New Jersey.”
Many musicians jumped in to offer help after Superstorm Sandy hit the northeast. Several big name artists like The Rolling Stones and Billy Joel performed in an epic concert here in Madison Square Garden earlier this month to aid victims of the storm. But there were also many smaller benefits around the country, including one put on by two bands from Tampa—"Stix of Fire" and "Circle 4".
Made up of high school teens, the young artists raised almost $6000 for a relief fund, saying they did it because so many people have offered help to them during their own local disasters and they wanted to do the same for victims of Sandy. Seventeen-year-old Nicholas McDonald of is a member of "Stix Of Fire" and 16-year-old George Pennington is a member of "Circle 4”. They come to “Early Start” this morning with their story and a live acoustic performance.
People all over the country continue to grieve for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. In the wake of the tragedy, many have asked how they can offer the slightest bit of help to those affected. The United Way of Western Connecticut has created an answer by setting up a fund to provide support services for those Newtown residents affected by the tragedy. This morning, “Early Start” reports that the Sandy Hook School Support Fund has so far raised $3 million. Will Rodgers is a selectman in Newtown, CT and Kim Morgan is the CEO of the United Way of Western Connecticut. They are leading the efforts to raise money for the fund and come to the studio to talk about it today.
Morgan says their original intent for starting the fund was to “be a guardian” and lead people to a legitimate place for donations. “Our intent is then to hand over the funds to the community and really have them decide.” Currently, it’s an “undesignated fund.” “We’re trying to be as broad as possible, in terms of contemplated uses,” Rodgers explains. “People are very quick to react, and we really want to take the time to think about this thoughtfully, and ensure that we’re matching the resources to the established need,” Morgan adds. “Some of the needs may be around mental health issues. We just don’t know at this point." But control and input from the local community will help to decide where the funds will ultimately go.
While the fund has so far raised $3 million dollars, Morgan explains that donations range from $10 to $100 thousand and have come from all over the world. “It is logistically very daunting,” Rodgers says. Donations include toys and food, and while he says they appreciate everything, they aren’t really interested in receiving perishables right now. “We’re trying to encourage people to contact the particular entity they’re donating to make sure that their donation that they have in mind is needed,” Rodgers adds. “Goods require human effort to move and distribute, and we are pretty swamped right now."