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Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Ukraine ‘Loans’ Are Still a Rip-Off Job

State of the Union: Speaker Johnson should be punished if he insists on treating the American people like idiots.
Congressman,Mike,Johnson,(r),Attends,House,Judiciary,Committee,Field,Hearing
Credit: Iev radin

While normal people were celebrating Easter this past Sunday, House Speaker Mike Johnson was on Fox News to tout the upcoming push for Ukraine aid in the lower chamber. The particulars are still vague, but no less disturbing for that.

The point I’d like to fix on here is that Johnson seems to think structuring the aid as a loan is a live option. I guess it’s manuring season in Louisiana. As we’ve written before, a zero-interest waivable loan is just a grant by another name—a name that, lawmakers hope, will bamboozle the American people into thinking they’re not really handing out more money to Ukraine.

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“Once Ukraine gets back on its feet, they will be an economic powerhouse because of their access to mass deposits of critical minerals, oil and gas,” claimed Sen. Lindsey Graham in support of the idea. 

If any poor booby in Congress thinks this will be a bona fide loan, I advise that he exert the supreme effort to use his noggin. If Ukraine is such a prospective powerhouse because of its natural resources and human capital, why wasn’t it a massive European success story before the outbreak of the war? If the good senator from South Carolina proves to be wrong, the loans will be a significant drag on Ukraine’s fisc—as every war loan and indemnity in history has been, from the settlement of the Haitian revolution up until now. Forcing Ukraine to continue payments will keep it weaker and less able to defend itself without American help, the Ukraine boosters, now hard-headed realists, will argue. Why not give them a fighting chance with the forgiving stroke of a pen?

This is, frankly, goofy. It’s also insulting. As I wrote when the proposal was first floated, I think further Ukraine aid is not a good idea; I think it is out of step with the priorities of the American people; I also recognize that sometimes, in a representative democracy, your position loses. Fine. But trying to get around the “representative democracy” part by pulling a fast one instead of making the case for the policy you really want—that should be punished. 

If Republican leadership allows this to go through, there should be consequences—ultimately from the voters, but also from any legislators who have something approaching a principle. The House motion to vacate rule is still there. Why not give it a spin again, for old times’ sake?

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