Tag: budget

Matt Taibbi introduces Paul Ryan

April 22, 2011 | By | Reply More
Matt Taibbi introduces Paul Ryan

What does Matt Taibbi think of Paul Ryan?

Paul Ryan, the Republican Party’s latest entrant in the seemingly endless series of young, prickish, over-coiffed, anal-retentive deficit Robespierres they’ve sent to the political center stage in the last decade or so, has come out with his new budget plan. All of these smug little jerks look alike to me – from Ralph Reed to Eric Cantor to Jeb Hensarling to Rand Paul and now to Ryan, they all look like overgrown kids who got nipple-twisted in the halls in high school, worked as Applebee’s shift managers in college, and are now taking revenge on the world as grownups by defunding hospice care and student loans and Sesame Street. They all look like they sleep with their ties on, and keep their feet in dress socks when doing their bi-monthly duty with their wives.

What about Ryan’s “bold” plan to balance the budget? Well, it’s not entirely about cutting costs. It’s also about drastically cutting income: It “includes dropping the top tax rate for rich people from 35 percent to 25 percent. All by itself, that one change means that the government would be collecting over $4 trillion less over the next ten years.” Ryan’s budget is thus a method of forcing middle class folks to give up valuable benefits so that rich folks can pay less tax.

Bill Maher isn’t pleased about Ryan’s suggestion that he is offering a “cause” rather than a “budget.”

No, it’s not a cause, it is a budget, that’s how we should look at it and it’s how we should solve these things. But the problem is that we don’t have one party that stands up to the other side, we have two parties who are agreeing that we should cut from the EPA and people who do the inspections of food and Pell grants and home heating oil for the poor, and nobody is standing up and saying, “No, we should take it from the defense department, from foreign subsidies, from tax cuts for the rich, for corporations like GE that paid no taxes last year.” That’s what’s wrong with our political system.

And one more thing. This cartoon seems to capture another major aspect of the GOP mindset when it comes to balancing the federal budget.

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Budget cut musings

March 22, 2011 | By | 10 Replies More
Budget cut musings

In the wake of the House voting to defund NPR last Thursday, and after weeks of rhetoric about cutting spending, I decided to take a 30,000 foot look at some of the budget line items of federal agencies and entities and come up with a list for the Congress to examine in detail.

First, I found several news cites (all with roughly the same wording) that a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report found that cutting public radio funding would net zero savings but I couldn’t find the report on the CBO website. I did find a report (dated Feb 18th) on H.R. 2 (the one with the creative title “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act”) passed by the House on January 19th informing Speaker Boehner that the effects of the passage of the resolution would increase deficits in the decade 2012-2021.

CBO and JCT [Joint Committee on Taxation] estimate that, on balance, the direct spending and revenue effects of enacting H.R. 2 would cause a net increase in federal budget deficits of $210 billion over the 2012-2021 period (see Table 1).

And buried at the end,

Although premiums in the individual market would be lower, on average, under H.R. 2 than under current law, many people would end up paying more for health insurance…

Hmmm…anyway…

Disclosure: I’m cherry-picking the non-zero lines tagged “discretionary” from the FY2011 Public Budget Database outlays spreadsheet. I left off lots of departments and agencies. These are the cherries I picked. Be my guest and drill through the 4880 line items and offer up your own list. Also, I did’t want to click back and forth between FY11 and FY12 to “help” out next year, so these are just for the current as yet unapproved spending – it’s a little ironic that most of the “cuts” being bandied are not cuts, but rather budget items that have not yet been approved. Certainly, the FY12 version of these numbers would still need scrutiny. And just because I chose the $1.3 trillion in discretionary items doesn’t mean that any of the “mandatory” lines are funded properly. The non-zero line items tagged as mandatory total $1.9 trillion, so I’m sure there are opportunities for belt-tightening there. At $3.2T total, of course opportunities abound.

Disclaimer: I’m only suggesting that the programs/offices below get looked at hard, not cut indiscriminately. That would be foolish. Well, foolish to the sane.

(Any more “Discl…” words I can use?) And this will get messy, so please forgive in advance the formatting.

Let’s start with the Legislative Branch. I think the before you start cutting programs, you need to make sure your own House (and Senate) are in order. The outlays for the agency labeled “Legislative Branch” total more than $4.6B. Here are some to consider:

Senate: Salaries, Officers and Employees [Senate] – $179M

Senate: Senators’ Official Personnel and Office Expense Account – $402M

Senate: Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper of the Senate – $154M

House: Salaries and Expenses [House of Representatives] – $1.35B

Note: these are above the $123M mandatory compensation of members of the Senate and House, rank and file salaries being $174K, Majority/Minority Leaders being $193.400 and Speaker of the House being $223,500. That total for just salaries is $93,217,100.

Office of Compliance: Capitol Police – $265M

Legislative Branch Boards and Commissions: Open World Leadership Center Trust Fund – $16M

Legislative Branch Boards and Commissions: Capital Construction, Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission – $10M

Guess what, folks? If you trim just 10% off of the Legislative budget, you save nearly a half billion dollars.

Executive Branch – $463M

Executive Branch: Office of National Drug Control Policy – $30M

Executive Branch: Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund – $47M (under the Bureau name of “Unanticipated Needs” – I think they are no longer unanticipated)

Oddly, the line item for compensation of the President is zero. Not sure where that’s stuck…
More follows….

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De-heroification … dispelling some Reagan myths

February 15, 2011 | By | 7 Replies More
De-heroification … dispelling some Reagan myths

Now that the hoopla of February’s first weekend has faded, let’s hope the deification process fades as well. It must have been such a downer for the Reaganites and their 100th birthday celebrations to have to compete with the NFL and the most watched Super Bowl ever…the gall to schedule such an event on the holiest of days! Amidst all the reminiscing and nostalgia, I did happen to see a few articles not as admiring, such as Michael Kinsley’s on Slate. I like this part:

In the economic sphere (discussed in last week’s column), the Reagan hagiographers give him credit for things he intended that never happened, such as smaller government. On the world stage, they credit him for things he never intended that did happen.

I’m not going to get into the myriad of philosophical elements of Reagan’s legacy on what he did and didn’t do and what gets attributed correctly or not. I don’t have the time, or the inclination, and there are a host of Gipper love books and a couple like Will Bunch’s Tear Down This Myth: How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future for your reading pleasure.

It’s human nature to see things from one’s too often myopic viewpoint and human nature to remember things they way we want, to the point of manufacturing memories that just aren’t true. Such is the case with Reagan and that nostalgia. Longing for the days that never were. And the political right and its Murdoch media arm are very good at enhancing the myth that is the goal of the Reagan Legacy Project, “recalling” those good old days of Reagan.

Truth or not, there are several topics that are now commonly tied to Reagan’s legacy; myths of smaller government, lower taxes, less spending. And most people have no idea how much the debt and deficit grew under Reagan.

The military has a nice term known as BLUF – which stands for Bottom Line Up Front. This is going to get tedious, so I’ll cut to the chase:

In raw numbers not adjusted for inflation, Reagan increased federal spending by $466B (69%) over what he inherited, averaged a %177B deficit (+180%), added $1.40 trillion to the debt (+178%), enjoyed a pretty substantial increase in the GDP (+77%), but increased the debt to GDP ratio by 15%.

Even adjusted to a FY2005 baseline to account for inflation, Reagan still increased federal spending by 22%, averaged a deficit that was 99% more than Carter’s average, increased the public debt by 100%, and as the adjusted GDP increase was only 28%, that 15% increase in debt to GDP was a lot more substantial.

Reagan added 13,000 non-defense federal employees – the IRS grew despite his wishes. (Clinton decreased the non-defense federal workforce by 99,000.)

I’ll deal with each piece individually, but that’s it in a nutshell. If you want to know more and how I determined this, read on…

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How big is the U.S. military budget?

April 1, 2010 | By | 1 Reply More
How big is the U.S. military budget?

This article by the U.K. Guardian puts it in perspective:

[T]he United States spent a staggering $607bn (£402 bn) on defence in 2008. Currently engaged in what will likely be the longest ground war in US history in Afghanistan. Harbourer of thousands of nuclear weapons. 1.5m soldiers. Fleets of aircrafts, bombs and seemingly endless amounts of military technology.

I know that many Americans would read the above paragraph with pride and contentment. I consider it succinct evidence that we are a paranoid war-mongering nation. I consider these enormous military expenditures tragic, considering all of the other things that we could and should be doing with most of that money.

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GOP Budget/Strategy Goes From Nothing to Worse

February 24, 2010 | By | Reply More
GOP Budget/Strategy Goes From Nothing to Worse

The Republican Party has decided upon a strategy of complete denunciation, obfuscation and obstruction as its best tack to regaining political hegemony in American politics. The Obama administration’s stimulus bill was passed to seek to control the fallout of the impact of the financial crisis upon America.

The president sought bi-partisan support for the bill that included (in my opinion) too many GOP style tax breaks. The president’s bill received three Republican votes. But, the fact that only three GOP votes were cast in favor of the stimulus bill in both chambers of Congress has not kept Republicans from touting the benefits of the Obama stimulus plan to their districts and states. The Republicans then voted against the president’s budget without posing any alternative, while claiming they had an alternative with no numbers! And, the Republican no-numbers budget had even larger deficits than the budget proposed by President Obama. The Republican alternative to Democratic healthcare proposals was nothing; which was endorsed by the minority whip Rep. Roy Bunt (R-MO).

The Republicans voted against an equal pay bill that was needed after the conservative US Supreme Court threw out a claim of a woman for equal pay because she did not file suit when she was hired some 30 years ago, but after she left the company where she had worked, only then findng out she hadn’t been paid as much as men who had worked for her. The Republicans voted against a bill to allow the government to withhold funds from companies that refused to allow female civilian contractors of American companies in war zones to file suit against their co-workers and employers for multiple forcible rapes by male co-workers while on the job overseas. The Republicans voted against “pay as you go” which required that as you increased spending for any item in the budget you had to make a specific tax increase or budget cut to fund any increase. This legislation was in place when President Clinton balanced the budget and there were “surpluses as far as you cans see.” The Republicans filibustered the Democratic defense spending bill. The Republicans voted against troops and Veterans Affairs bills

supported by Democrats.

The Republicans even voted against a bill co-sponsored by Republicans to set up a bi-partisan commission of the deficit so as to reign in government spending (they did this because President Obama supported the legislation). After taking months to “negotiate” a Senate healthcare reform bill, Republicans then said they weren’t going to vote for their own bill. Republicans have criticized President Obama for the failed Christmas bombing but, many voted against the bill to install the costly full body scan equipment for US airports which would likely detect such bombers. Perhaps the Republicans will oppose President Obama’s proposed bank tax to fund the bailout of the banks. I wonder?

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Spending priorities of the United States

December 25, 2009 | By | Reply More
Spending priorities of the United States

The Intelligence Daily puts the national defense budget in perspective. It is expected to hit almost $1 Trillion dollars in 2010:

The U.S. spends more for war annually than all state governments combined spend for the health, education, welfare, and safety of 308 million Americans.

Economist Joseph Stiglitz and finance authority Linda Bilmes offered these statistics in their book, The Three Trillion Dollar War:

“The Pentagon’s budget has increased by more than $600 billion, cumulatively, since we invaded Iraq.” With its 1,000 bases in the U.S. and another 800 bases globally, the U.S. truly has become a “Warfare State.” Today, military-related products account for about one-fourth of total U.S. GDP. This includes 10,000 nuclear weapons. Indeed, the U.S. has lavished $5.5 trillion just on nukes over the past 70 years.

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America’s paranoid irrationality

October 13, 2009 | By | 1 Reply More
America’s paranoid irrationality

How paranoid have we become? Here’s what Allison Kilkenny of Alternet has to say:

The culture itself is sick, which is why America has a military budget that is almost as much as the rest of the world’s defense spending combined, and is over nine times larger than the military budget of China, and yet Americans feel more afraid, and more paranoid, than ever. Everyone is against us, we’re told. Everyone hates our freedom, and our amazing culture. China wants to overtake us. The entire Middle East wants us dead. Europeans laugh at us, and think we’re stupid. Emperor Penguins are plotting something. Canada is about to attack.

And then there’s Iran. Don’t even get us started on Iran. Until Americans decide to break this addiction to “The List,” this cycle of irrationality will continue into the foreseeable future.

And see this post, for the best friend of America’s politicians: peddling nightmares.

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The Jindal Rebuttal

February 25, 2009 | By | 6 Replies More
The Jindal Rebuttal

I’ve mentioned the Louisiana Gov before, as he signed a Discovery Institute plan to allow creationism in biology classrooms into law. It shouldn’t have surprised me that Bobby Jindal was the chosen figurehead to rebut the first public Obama address to Congress. After all, he is young and dark with at least one foreigner for a parent. It seems a natural, from a certain game-playing point of view.

But the talking points have all been heard before. His speech may well have been finalized weeks ago. The allegations of “pork” about the massive stimulus bill are what irk me. The examples cited are so silly, I wonder how anyone believes them. The sum of all the line items to which so-called conservatives object add up to a fraction of the bill.

One line item he cited was a small fraction of a billion to upgrade aging government vehicles to newer, more fuel efficient models: Pure pork to the failing American Auto makers? It’s significantly less than what they are asking for as an encore direct handout.

There were mentions of some classic pork projects, like energy research and environmental studies. No one really needs to know how to prevent the collapse of our lifestyle, civilization, or species. Do they?

One allegation that puzzles me every time a conservative says it is that this stimulus bill builds a bigger government. How? One of the issues with it is that no bureaucracy was set up to monitor spending. No new agencies are being created, nor are existing ones being expanded. Exactly how is this spending measure making government bigger?

The biggest buildup of Big Brother government agencies was enacted by the previous administration. Why didn’t they object for the last 7 years? Homeland security is a bureaucracy established to coordinate the bureaucracies sitting on top of the agencies that actually do things having to do with internal and external security.

His parable of volunteer Katrina rescue boats was well aimed. They had to violate insurance regulations as if the flooding of a city was a non-typical circumstance. But it is a poor illustration of Big Brother governance. That the Dubya appointed management of FEMA failed, and his backup, Dubya himself, failed and that the manpower established to deal with such events was engaged on a foreign mission for which the Army was inadequate is hardly proof that government itself is a bad organization to organize rescue efforts.

But it does prove that we should be more careful in electing and appointing those in charge.

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Obama will jettison Bush’s accounting fraud

February 22, 2009 | By | Reply More
Obama will jettison Bush’s accounting fraud

This from the NYT:

For his first annual budget next week, President Obama has banned four accounting gimmicks that President George W. Bush used to make deficit projections look smaller. The price of more honest bookkeeping: A budget that is $2.7 trillion deeper in the red over the next decade than it would otherwise appear, according to administration officials.

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