As the deficit spirals to record levels, there’s no shortage of politicians eager to cut the fat from the federal budget. What exactly constitutes “fat” is usually a matter of perception, and a proposal by Rep. Betty McCollum to end the Pentagon’s sponsorships of NASCAR race teams illustrates how even the smallest of proposed cuts can generate a lot of pushback.
McCollum’s amendment to the 2011 budget has been met with resistance from NASCAR, where three cars — Ryan Newman’s #39 Army car, Dale Earnhardt’s #88 National Guard car and AJ Allmendinger’s #43 car — are sponsored by the military. On Ryan Newman’s official Facebook page, the 2008 Daytona 500 winner has posted an appeal to fans to tell their congressman that they “support the U.S. Army’s involvement in motorsports.”
NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston argued in favor of the sponsorships, saying they’re effective in connecting the services with the type of people who
“NASCAR fans are the kind of people who fight America’s wars, which would put into question the wisdom of banning the military’s ability to reach out to them,” Poston told the Virginian Pilot.
The director of the Army’s sponsorship also defended the program, telling the Wall Street Journal that the service finds it to be effective.
““Youth surveys show that motorsports is a passion point for young Americans,” Col. Derik Crotts told the paper. “It is critical that the Army use these passion points to communicate with prospects and their influencers.”
McCollum, a Democrat from Minnesota, said on her website that sponsoring race teams while we’re proposing cuts in programs that support veterans and law enforcement is irresponsible.
“Taxpayer-funded NASCAR race cars are an absurdity at a time when the Republican-Tea Party is cutting federal support for homeless veterans, law enforcement officers, and firefighters. I know NASCAR fans are passionate and patriotic. This amendment gets the government out of NASCAR and gives them the opportunity to encourage the private sector to demonstrate its patriotism by donating a military sponsorship,” McCollum said.
What do you guys think? Are these sponsorships — more than $100 million in the 10 years DoD has sponsored race teams, according to McCollum — worth the money? Is it a wise investment for recruiting or a needless waste of taxpayer dollars?