White House Budget Call

White House spokesman Jay Carney opened a media conference call on the President’s proposed budget then Heather Higginbottom, Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) took over then answered questions.

Obama’s budget proposal would reduce the deficit to $901 billion.  He inherited a $1.3 trillion deficit from George W. Bush.  Republican Presidents have been responsible for 82% of our national deficit.  The White House, in this call, called on Congress to address the looming budget deficit act currently looming as the result of inaction last fall.  The agreement to which Obama caved last summer in a desperate deal to save the country from defaulting on its obligations would have devastating effects.

The President wants to invest #376 billion in short term spending to expand the economy.  This includes extending the payroll tax cut, build infrastructure including broadband, give businesses investment tax credits for capital projects and other measures.  I hate th epayroll tax cut.  For the first time in history it means part of Social Security is being funded by general tax revenues thus, for the first time, meaning the social safety net is contributing to the deficit.  This is only because the amount workers and employers are paying into the system is being cut to stimulate economic growth.  There are other, better ways to do this without providing Social Security’s opponents ammunition for eliminating it.

He also wants to eliminate the Bush/Obama tax cuts for the rich and redirect defense spending from the wars into infrastructure investment.  Republicans have spent billions of tax dollars building infrastructure in Iraq and Afghanistan while refusing to do so stateside.  With crumbling roads, bridges, an ancient electrical grid, desperate needs for water and sewage systems and airport expansion along with the need for high speed rail it is time for conservatives to invest in America for once.  This would also create good, well paying middle class jobs for those desperate for employment.

The cut of $476 billion over ten years for the Pentagon is really only a drop in the bucket.  The DOD budget grew from about $350 billion twelve years ago to upward of $800 billion because of Bush’s wars of choice and waste.  There is no rational need for such lavish spending in a time of austerity and few real strategic threats.  There is no longer a strategic mission in Afghanistan for instance.  Bin Laden is dead.

We must rethink this mentality that cutting spending will expand the economy.  It has the exact opposite effect.  Americans are desperate for jobs and are sick and tired of losing their homes, seeing criminal bankers go free and of not having health care.  The country faces major challenges and it is up to good government to assist everyone not only the rich and powerful.

A Few Cutting Remarks

Throughout the country, the taxpayers have been revolting. Shocked by the enormity of the taxpayer revolt, and the untimely retirement of several hundred politicians, today’s current legislators, civil servants, and business executives have suddenly became the “people’s champions.” In a parallel universe, we can report the following, just since the latest election:

— Congress got the taxpayers’ message, and cut tax-supported junkets to only 15 per member. “The people have spoken,” said Rep. Horace Sludgepump from the Bahamas where he was on a fact-finding tour for the Maritime subcommittee. However, Rep. Sludgepump cautions that forcing Congressmen to stay at home and work for a living could bring chaos to the nation. Nevertheless, he promises to cut expenses even further three months before the next election.

— The Department of Defense was able to significantly reduce its budget by cutting back on the hours its golf courses and officers clubs were open. Complaining about the cuts were tax-reforming members of Congress whose districts were in the golf club re-appropriation. However, they were voted down by congressmen from Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota who were pleased to tell their constituents there would be new naval bases in their states.

— The Governor’s office announced that although the administration was forced to make severe cuts in education and human services, by strict cost-counting measures it was able to maintain staff salaries, and keep off the unemployment lines 125 administrative assistants, 265 executive assistants, 835 assistants to the administrative assistant, and 1,255 deputy special assistants.

— The budget cuts directly affect the nation’s 200,000 homeless veterans. But, there’s an upside to this. Sixty-three-year-old Cpl. Willie Joe Lumpkin, a veteran of the Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars, re-enlisted. “After being downsized three times in the past decade and having the bank foreclose on my mortgage,” says Lumpkin, “at least I now have a bed and meals.” Lumpkin is expected to have shelter in Afghanistan for at least the next year.

— The president of Mammoth State University said that it too will cut expenses. Beginning next semester, the university will eliminate the departments of history, journalism, and philosophy, recruit high school students with at least a “C-” average who are willing to pay the increased tuition rates, add low-paid graduate assistants to teach megasection classes formerly taught by full-time professors, and cut the library budget by 35 percent. When asked if those changes weren’t severe, the President replied, “We tried to be as humane as possible. We allowed our 1,249 administrators to keep their jobs, have maintained our $6 million football program without restriction, and added three more PR people to better explain the mission of the university.”

— Slagheap World Airlines announced that in the spirit of national cost cutting, it would cut back its cockpit crew to one pilot and eliminate flight attendants, meals, and life rafts. “This way,” said the president, “we won’t have to penalize our loyal stockholders by lowering our return on investment.”

— The Association of American Landlords, which had lobbied extensively against annual safety inspections and property tax increases because they would be unfair to their tenants who would be required to pay higher rents, has also made concessions. Beginning September, in the spirit of tax reform, the landlords will sub-divide all apartments, and raise rents only 10 percent. “Sharing a bathroom and kitchen will bring people closer together,” said the Association president from his McMansion Media Room.

— Newspapers have been swept up in the spirit of reform. At the Daily Bugle, publisher Ben “Cash” Fleaux, from his villa in Bermuda, announced that his newspaper was forced to eliminate stories about local government, consumer and environmental reporting, and news of the courts when it cut its editorial staff by half in order to maximize profits during the Recession. To compensate, the Bugle is running more PR releases and added more stories about celebrities in rehab.

— The medical insurance industry, in keeping with the spirit of cost cutting, today announced it was cancelling coverage for 25 percent of its subscribers. “We hated to do it,” said an insurance spokesperson, “but some people insist on getting catastrophic illnesses, and that’s unfair to the rest who are healthy and don’t apply for benefits.”

— Finally, Dr. Guy Nacologist, the state’s richest obstetrician, announced that in keeping with the spirit of tax reform, he was now requiring all his patients to deliver their babies in eight months, thus saving a full month. When asked if he had also considered lowering his fees, he looked at the reporter, and then pointedly proclaimed that with the increase in country club fees, his patients were lucky he didn’t raise their costs by a similar amount.

[Walter Brasch says that since columnists are the soul of a newspaper, they should be downsized only after the last editor shuts off the lights in the newsroom. He reminds his readers that without their support, he’s likely to become unemployed and a burden on their hard-earned tax dollars. His next book is Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution, available at amazon.com and other stores after June 20. Also check out his YouTube video.]


America At A Crossroads

As the official Deficit Commission report awaits release tomorrow America is at a crossroads created by the nation’s rich and super rich to impose an austerity program.  What we need is a jobs program not a job killing program.  The future of the country, whether we move forward and establish economic growth or continue the downward spiral of the past thirty years is under debate.  Forwards or backwards?  

It really is this important.  While the official report does call for some cuts which are sensible the overall policy proposal is bad economics and imposes unneeded austerity which will destroy an economy largely based on consumer spending.  This type of economy is dependent upon people’s discretionary income.  That is what is left after the essentials are funded (food, clothing and shelter).  Without income people cannot spend and 70% of our economy shuts down.

This is what we’ve seen as the financial meltdown caused by unbridled Wall Street greed and a feverish push by radical elements to deregulate crashed the global economy.  It spread to middle class people who thus lost their jobs then their homes.  The mess created by securitization of mortgages, mortgage fraud and other types of illegal activities created a massive job loss nationally.  

Job creation is the number 1 issue facing America, NOT the deficit.  In severe economic times basic economics (anyone taking Econ 101 learns this) demands government deficits to create jobs and kick start a sagging system.  The stimulus bill was designed to do just this and was successful on the small scale attempted to do obstructionism by Republicans and corporate Democrats.  The TARP program under President Bush saved millions more jobs while costing a mere $25 billion.  That is about what it costs to fund unemployment compensation for six months.  Had there been no TARP the long term cost to taxpayers would have been hundreds of billions based on the long term unemployment problems facing Americans.

Social Security adds not one cent to the deficit but the Cat Food Commission would cut those benefits and send millions of American seniors to the pet food aisle for their grocery shopping.  Why?  This isn’t a deficit issue its an issue of morality.  The immoral types bent on impoverishing America for their personal benefit are attempting to impose such austerity that they can achieve complete political control.  Without money even for food how would seniors, the poor, the undereducated ever be able to contribute to candidates who would vouch for them and their interests?

Thus America is at a crossroads.  The Deficit Commission plan which has resulted from hysteria created by the super rich (Koch brothers and others) through the Tea Party will kill millions more jobs.  As much as I’d like to see the bloated Defense budget slashed, for example, that would destroy jobs in the defense industry.  That must be done but not right now.  We can slash welfare for corporate agribusiness however.  Corporate America is enjoying record profits at the expense of workers producing unprecedented productivity.  These riches are nbot being shared with those who are creating them however.  Instead the austerity budget would throw more of them onto the streets.

This entire controversy is manufactured to benefit the rich.  Cutting the deficit by rolling back the Bush tax cuts, all of them, would eliminate $1 trillion of the deficit.  Instead Republicans would eliminate unemployment compensation further killing our consumer economy.  We must create manufacturing jobs which will sustain middle class lifestyles.  We can do so by investing in desperately needed infrastructure, clean energy and education.  The biggest single thing we can do to reduce the deficit is to pass a single payer health care system.  Every other civilized nation does this at half the cost we spend with better outcomes.  Socialized medicine does work.  We are spending ourselves towards national bankruptcy due to health care.  This madness must stop.

Scrapping the cap for Social Security, eliminating agribusiness welfare and establishing sane, rational and effective national health care while allowing the tax cuts for the rich to expire solves most of the deficit issue.  More than that however, we must spend our way to prosperity.  Believe it or not that is the only solution which has ever worked in such hard economic times.  Business doesn’t expand and hire during such times and this is what we’re currently witnessing.  Corporate America is accumulating massive cash reserves yet refusing to hire workers and expand.  In such times it is incumbent upon government to be the job producer.  Don’t believe the myth that government cannot create jobs, they do every day.

You will be bombarded by misinformation over the coming months.  Use your head and ask if any such proposals will create jobs or destroy them.  Cutting the budget instead of passing new, aggressive job expansion programs will set us on the path to poverty for all excepting the richest.  Do we really want to continue this slide towards serfdom?  Establishing growth through job creation is the only path to follow yet one the right wing has purposely sabotaged.  This sabotage of the American economy was strangely rewarded at the polls by idiots this month.  The amount of such activity is going to increase drastically as these economic obstructionists feel they received a mandate.

America is at a crossroads, which direction will we go, up or down?

DADT Unconstitutional According to Federal Judge

U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips declared the Pentagon’s policy of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell unconstitutional yesterday.  The case was filed by Log Cabin Republicans and determined on the basis of violation of person’s rights to free speech, free association and due process.  The decision is an embarrassment to President Obama who campaigned on repealing the policy but never has.  It is ironic that a GOP organization of gay conservatives accomplished this victory.

DADT is bad policy because no evidence exists to maintain the argument that military readiness or effectiveness is in any way compromised in armed forces allowing gays and lesbians to serve their nations openly.  Instead members of our armed forces are forced to lie and cover up their sexual orientation in violation of honor codes and are forced out if it is discovered.  That is a violation of their rights to due process since they have not violated any criminal statues.  The right to freely associate is a basic liberty for which LGBT military people are denied.  Any chance sighting in a gay club, neighborhood or other venue can be cause for suspicion and dismissal.

The argument which can be advanced against Judge Phillips’ ruling would seem to be that when someone joins the armed forces they voluntarily suspend their constitutional civil rights.  I imagine we’ll see this appealed and settled, ultimately, in the Supreme Court.  Don’t hold your breath waiting for Antonin Scalia to approve.  Five men wearing dresses will decide whether our civil rights are upheld.

Judge Phillips was appointed by President Clinton under whom DADT became policy.  She serves on California’s Central District court.