Using stimulus funds in dubious ways

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The pundits and politicians have debated how bellicose our nation’s leadership should be toward Iran’s brutal repression of its citizens. Instead, the talkers should examine the harm done by United States tax dollars and their (our) complicity in the horrors of the nightly news.

Impossible you say? This is not some conspiracy theory existing alongside fantasies of black helicopters and domestic spying. It does not even require top- secret clearance to get the information. In the June 22 edition of the Wall Street Journal were two articles about the German industrial conglomerate, Siemens AG. One headline read, "Siemens Expects to Land $21 Billion from Global Stimulus Spending" (with $8 billion in revenue from the U.S. stimulus spending alone). The other read, "Iran’s Web Spying Aided by Western Technology" and reported that Siemens provided the technological equipment used to censor, eavesdrop and threaten the Iranian people.

Regardless of international implications, United States taxpayers should not be asked to subsidize a foreign company, Siemens, who saw its net profits increase 146 percent in the second quarter of 2009. Yes, you did read that right — an increase in net profits while small business in this country is suffering and our communities see increasing unemployment. What is more problematic is that Siemens is not only profiting at the expense of the American taxpayer but also at the expense of safety and security throughout the globe .

Our State Department has designated Iran as a "state sponsor of terrorism." If a country is designated as a state sponsor of terrorism, American- based businesses cannot do business with these countries. This law can be an effective economic weapon to change terrorist- sponsoring regimes like we find in Iran.

However, there are foreign companies that have continued to spend money with those terrorist- sponsoring regimes, and some of that money has come from the American taxpayer. Siemens AG has long been listed on as one the "Dirty Dozen" international companies who do business with terrorist-sponsoring governments. Divest Terror points out that Siemens has extensive contracts with the government of Iran involving advanced technology and equipment, which may be easily diverted to terrorist activities jeopardizing American lives. Now, shockingly, Siemens is competing for $110 billion of the $787 billion from the American Recovery and Restoration Act. Americans should know that those tax dollars may ultimately benefit Iran’s military and be used to crush the dreams of the freedom- loving citizens of that country.

There is room for a vigorous debate about our president’s public statements regarding the Iranian people’s protest to the legitimacy of the recent election. But the injustice of using taxpayer dollars to help oppress those brave souls should be indisputable, especially when the solution is so simple. Any foreign company doing business with a government designated by the U.S. State Department as a state sponsor of terrorism should not receive any — not one penny — of taxpayer dollars. Once again, this country must learn that throwing money around indiscriminately almost always does more harm than good.


Originally published in the Springfield, Missouri News-Leader

Sarah Steelman teaches political science at Missouri State University and is a former Missouri state treasurer


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