As it has for decades, the U.S. this year will spend hundreds of billions of dollars on its military. Political support for that spending remains strong, through peace and war, in part because the Pentagon is careful to disburse it across virtually every Congressional district and through 200,000 defense contractors. Critics claim the system encourages waste, but hawks say it helps guarantee a strong military, tying Pentagon budgets to the political benefit of every member of Congress, regardless of their party.
Today, the Biden administration is replicating the strategy in hopes of safeguarding U.S. efforts to create an electric vehicle battery industry that can compete with China’s. Congress approved about $250 billion in spending to support a 10-year buildout of private refineries to process lithium and nickel into battery components, and factories to assemble battery packs to power millions of EVs. So far, the administration is spreading it widely, especially to red states, many of whose members of Congress oppose the battery subsidies but perhaps can be softened up by largesse sent to their home districts: In October, the Department of Energy awarded $2.8 billion in battery industry grants to companies in 14 states under the infrastructure law, $2.3 billion—or 80% of it—to projects in 10 red or purple states.