On The Backs Of The Poor….

2015-03-16_08-52-01WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans now in charge of Congress offer their budget blueprint this week with the pledge to balance the nation’s budget within a decade and rein in major programs such as food stamps and Medicare. More pressing for many Republicans, however, is easing automatic budget cuts set to slam the military.

SOURCE:GOP to offer budget blueprint with Medicare, food stamp cuts – Yahoo Finance.

It is not accident that the GOP wants to take money away from helping  the poor and give it to our already super extravagant military budgets to the tune of exactly $50 billion on each budget. But that is just the first step in the process. The overall goal as the article mentions is to eliminate Medicaid and food stamps entirely from the federal budget and turn it over to the states. Can Medicare be very far behind??

As a stop gap measure the GOP wants to just throw a given lump sum of some undetermined value to the states and then walk away.  The problem with that strategy is that all the States must balance their budget but that is rightly not a requirement for the federal budget. Sending it to the States would mean that in times of downturns helping the poor would have to take a big hit. It is not as if suddenly just working two minimum wage jobs would meet a poor family’s needs during hard times.

Will all those senior citizens who vote exclusively GOP tolerate this happening? If their purse is robbed will they look for other political approaches? I kind of think they finally will. Yes, we have to do something about balancing our federal budgets but doing it on the backs of the poor and with no pain in the military budgets is NOT the way to do it.  We, 5% of the world’s population, spend more than the rest of the world combined on our war-machine.

If we just quit trying to be the policemen of the world and pared our military budgets to be on parity with everyone else our overall budgets would quickly balance. We don’t need to be hip deep in all regional conflicts in the world.  That practice just makes too many enemies who then want to do us harm. We need to step back and tell our world neighbors to take care of their own backyards and we will do the same.

PLEASE DON’T BALANCE OUR BUDGETS ON THE BACKS OF THE POOR.

The Lack Of Integrity…..

2014-04-11_16-53-00

 

I try to follow my hero’s advice and like everyone but this is one of those times that proves difficult to do that.  Balancing the budget on the backs of the poor is a very spiteful way to even try to accomplish that task.

 

The Irony Of It All…

Medicare CardI have been kind of watching the preliminaries for this latest “super committee” forming in Washington to come to some sort of budget deal and I am not impressed. On the one hand my Republican friends often scream that Medicare doesn’t pay enough for the services rendered. That doctors are dropping out of the system due to not making enough money. And then comes the first salvo of this latest round of budgeting. The first thing the GOP comes up with is cuts to Medicare??

I know that many on that side of the aisle are for a total defunding of Medicare and instead just giving seniors a small voucher and then put them out into the private insurance system to fend for themselves. So, maybe this all makes sense from a higher level than I realize. Cut Medicare so that it becomes so underfunded that no doctor will accept patients from that system. David Stockman who was Reagan’s budget director called that “Starving the beast”. That is continue to cut taxes (income) until the government is drowning in deficits. In that regard the GOP has been somewhat successful lately.

I am still on the fence as to whether the GOP will go the way of the Whig party. If they actually do attempt to “privatize” Social Security I think there will be enough of us seniors to insure that they disappear from the landscape. Those Tea Party folks just don’t seem to want anyone to have affordable healthcare; that is except those in the 1%.  Their latest hit against the Affordable Care Act is that with so many new people being able to see a doctor that some physician groups are saying they must limit their patient contact to no more than 15 minutes to keep up with the case loads. They say that is proof that Obamacare will wreck our healthcare in this country. It never seems to occur to them that they need to try to figure out a way to increase our doctors and nurses to meet the load. Maybe a good start would be to help medical students with the bone crushing debt many have when they finally become practicing doctors. These Tea Party folks are just “anti-” to the bone.

But getting back to the budgeting process, We have not actually had a budget from the folks in Washington in over five years. This year both the House and the Senate created bills but then failed to come together for the reconciliation process because the House GOP speaker would not allow it to happen.  With that in mind I don’t see much hope for this latest committee to accomplish much.

A Test of Leadership….

 

JusticeAttorney General Eric Holder says he will not need to furlough any Justice Department employees in the current fiscal year.

The attorney general says he will be able to avoid furloughs because of additional money in the recently enacted legislation, combined with aggressive steps to freeze hiring and cut contracting and other costs

Source: Holder: No furloughs at Justice Department – CBS News.

I’m sure the purpose of this article was to show how well the Justice Department was run. They brag that they don’t need to lay off workers because they found the necessary 10% budget cuts elsewhere. Being the contrarian that I am while it is a good thing to not have to lay off anyone, to me it shows the opposite of good fiscal management. It means their budgets were bloated to start with and now some of the bloat had to be removed.

I know from having to do budgets in the corporate world that budgeting and expense planning are as much of a game as anything else. You always put more into the budget because you know that some of it will be cut.  The secret was to know where the line is.  If you bloat your budget too much  to where it is obvious that you have done that then a much heavier knife will be used and you end up a loser. If you are naive enough to only put down what you actually need then you also suffer the consequences.

Knowing all these games I was almost in favor of the sequestered  10% across the board cuts to government spending. Where the cuts do real damage like in the recent case of air traffic controllers they can be amended. Where there are cases like the above with the Justice department we should maybe be looking at additional cuts in next year’s budgets.  I’m sure government agencies are not immune from this typical corporate gaming.

But then we come to the defense department all of this stuff seems to be moot. Every year, at least for this millennium, the defense departments bloats their budgets beyond any actual need and then the congress adds even more. Defense department spending has increased dramatically during this period while everything else has suffered. I am hoping that the recent talks about serious reviews of the DOD budgets are well, serious.

The other thing we need to get serious about is healthcare costs. Since we have thrown out the most obvious solution that the rest of the world has discovered to these ever rising costs (that is single-payer system) we will have to find a unique solution.  Reigning in costs means giving some people and corporations less money for their services or finding more efficient ways to do things.  I have not really studied this area much but I seem to remember that there are billions, if not trillions , of dollars wasted each year due to medical errors and over-billing Medicare. Lets get serious about those things too. Maybe they need a sequester too. 🙂

I know that some folks will look at this post and the previous one and see a conflict. Since I am a pragmatist  I like to look at all the angles. You never know which one might be right for a given situation.

Finally Some Sanity???

In his first major policy speech Wednesday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel signaled he will be taking a hard look at the way the Pentagon spends its money and at whether the US military needs quite so many officers….

That’s because too often the weapons systems that Pentagon officials buy “are vastly more expensive and technologically risky than what was promised or budgeted for.” And the hard truth is that the most pressing problems the world faces “do not necessarily lend themselves to being resolved by conventional military strength,” he said.

“Indeed the most destructive and horrific attack ever on the United States came not from fleets of ships, bombers, and armored divisions, but from 19 fanatical men wielding box cutters and one-way plane tickets.”

Source: Hagel invokes Eisenhower as he signals era of austerity at Pentagon (+video) – CSMonitor.com.

Maybe we will finally get at least a small dose of sanity in our Defense Department spending. For way too long this department of the federal government has been given carte blanche to spend whatever they want. There has literally been no accounting for the spending; even the department itself has no idea where the money goes!  This would not be so sad if it were not for the fact that the DOD amounts to half of our discretionary spending in this country. Far far more than any other country in the world.  Here we are reducing many social services while continuing to expand our spending on weapons systems that have long lost their usefulness.

I pray that secretary Hagel can get a little sanity back into this process. It was taking the two wars started by the Bush administration “off-the-books” that started the latest massive slide in our deficits.  We are spending millions, perhaps billions on drones (no body knows), while continuing to buy multimillion dollar planes that serve little purpose other than to enrich a particular representative’s electoral district. A fellow blogger friend who lives in Arizona mentions an aircraft graveyard there that contains thousands of mothballed planes. Maybe it is time to pull a few of them out and drop the billions being spent for new ones.

We could easily drop the defense department budgets in half and still maintain a military superiority fifty times greater than any other country. Lets get back to spending our tax dollars on our crumbling infrastructure and on our people instead of unneeded bombs and weapons of destruction. Lets finally bring some sanity back into this process….

But I’m just a simple guy so what do I know….

The Republican Budget….

 

Source: Will Fractured House Republicans Unite on Budget? – ABC News.

“When you’re looking at a budget, you’ve got a watch the gimmicks,” Ryan warned.

Gimmicks indeed.  One of the tools Mr. Ryan proposes to balance his so-called budget plan is the total repeal of Obamacare.  Is he the only one to see that as impossible?   As usual he wants severe cuts to the safety net while actually increasing military spending.  Yes, Mr. Ryan I am “watching the gimmicks”.  Like the battles for Social Security eighty years ago the battle for even a limited version of universal healthcare were hard fought. Does he really think we will simply eliminate them so the rich can get a few more tax cuts?

If you are really serious about your concern for deficit spending you can’t ignore the place where most of our discretionary money goes and that is to the military black hole.  Gimmicks Indeed…..

In order to balance his budget he assumes that unemployment levels will reach historic all time lows in the coming years.  He assumes that seniors will blindly accept the pennies on the dollar vouchers in place of universal healthcare. Gimmicks Indeed…

I realize that these budgets are purely political documents so gimmicks are the primary tool to make them balance. That doesn’t bother me too much.  What bothers me is the seemingly heartless approach that Mr. Ryan takes toward balancing his budget proposals. But then again he is just being true to his idol Ayn Rand in that regard.

Budget Minded Republicans……

Banner -Off The Top

budgetI know the current version of the Republican party is supposed to be all about fiscal austerity but I have trouble actually seeing them live out that concept. When it comes to the safety net and so-called “entitlement” issues they scream about needing to cut back or at least for total accountability. But when it comes to the bloated military expenses, homeland security and tax breaks for the rich they appear to throw that concept out the window. Of course that means that their austerity programs, if they are implemented as they suggest, will end up being done on the backs of the poor as almost everything else is “off the table”.

We spend more than the other 96% of the world combines on our supposed security. Our military budgets eat up so much of our prosperity as to force future looking programs off the stove.  Education, our R&D forces, and our colleges suffer as a result of our insistence that to be safe we must spend so much on our war machine. In fact we throw so much money into the military that they don’t even bother to try to determine if it is going to the best place. For that matter they really don’t even try to categorize where it is even spent.  But that doesn’t seem to phase the Republican senators and congressmen in Washington. They continue to demand more and more of our precious resource for this bloated machine.

For that reason I have little confidence that my budgeted minded friends are really serious about budgets but are really more concerned in reducing or even eliminating the very function of government or at least making sure that 47% don’t get things they supposedly haven’t earned.  If they were really serious about our current deficits they would be looking at  our war machine first not last.  When you throw trillions of dollars into a black hole you dictate that much of it will be spent unwisely or even fraudulently.  They demand total accountability for agencies supporting our safety net and nothing for our industrial/ military complex. How strange is that???

About Those Budgets…

 

source: House to Vote on Short-Term Increase in Debt Limit – WSJ.com.

budgets1By including the requirement that a congressional budget be passed, House Republicans are acting on their frustration with the Senate, which hasn’t adopted a budget since 2009. Both chambers are supposed to pass one by April 15 each year, then reconcile their differences and pass a compromise. The government has been able to operate without a formal budget for four years only because that document represents non-binding guidance. Actual spending bills are written later.

I am going to surprise many of you by proclaiming that I agree with the above statement! It is about time that the Democrats live up to their constitutional duties and tell us where they want to spend our tax dollars. In some ways I agree that these guys are the party of “tax and spend” and that is ok as long as it is done responsibly.  We depend on our representatives in government to keep our infrastructure in place and to help those of us who temporarily need a hand.

I will admit that the GOP headed by Mr. Ryan put their cards on the table with budgets. But, I certainly don’t agree with his budget that gets balanced on the backs of the poor in favor of his rich donors. The Democrats need to produce an annual budget to tell us where they want to spend our dollars. To my liberal friends I’m sorry if I let you down by siding with the GOP on this issue. But, being a fiscal conservative I must admit that GOP gets it right once in a while.

Why Pentagon won’t say how it would cut $55 billion

 

Source: Why Pentagon won’t say how it would cut $55 billion starting Jan. 1 – CSMonitor.com.

BudgetsOne reason is because the Pentagon would then have to show its cards, some argue. That is, it would have to tell Congress how it would reallocate funds from its lesser priorities to its higher priorities, says Todd Harrison, senior fellow for defense budget studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), warned back in August.

“Once you show people there are higher- and lower-priority items in your budget, then the lower-priority items become the target, and they’re likely to get cut no matter what,” he says. Mr. Harrison is one who suggests that the Pentagon “would be wise to start planning.”….

Now that we are finally winding down Mr. Bush’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan I hope the budgeters in congress take a serious look at our defense spending. The Department of Defense is the only department that has more than doubled during the last twelve years.  I pray that President Obama will also live up to his pledge to begin stepping back from being policemen of the world. I am hoping that he will have the guts to take on the industrial/military establishment and put then into a peace time mode from a financial standpoint. That alone would go a long way to balancing our budgets.

During the later parts of my employment in the corporate world I was required to set up budgets on an annual basis. Part of the process of allocating the money was I was forced to give priorities to where my group would spend the dollars allocated to us.  How the Department of Defense can get everything they want year after year is dumbfounding to me. What is even more dumbfounding is that they also frequently get money for projects they don’t even want.

I have no problems making sure that the boys and girls who make up the bulk of our military forces get a living wage but even there I hear that many are living below the poverty level! Much of the money seems to be spent on things related to  cold war strategies.

I mourn the fact that so many in the GOP are more willing to put cuts on seniors and the poor rather than to reign back some of these unknown military expenses.  Lets start these forthcoming budget talks by requiring the DOD to actually tell us where they spend all the money we throw at them. But, then again I doubt if they could even do that. Are we still buying $10,000 toilet seats. I wouldn’t be surprised.

But I am just a simple guy so what do I know….

About The Debt…

We are three billion in the hole and will be three billion more next year, and not a Congressman has got the nerve to ask voters to pay part of it.  —  January 29, 1933    Will Rogers

Obviously this quote was said long before even Grover Norquist’s parents were born but it is equally true today as it was in Will’s time. The fact of the matter is up until President Bush, taxes have always gone up to help pay for our wars. But when so many  from the GOP crawled up to the altar of Mr. Norquist with their pledges to NEVER raise taxes this tradition was very unwisely flushed down the toilet. When will we ever learn to never say never? Sometimes it seems that those guys in congress love their party more than the love their country. I don’t know; I’m just a simple guy but it seems that way to me.

Here is some now insightful words from 2007:

Source: Bush Breaks 150-Year History of Higher U.S. Taxes in Wartime – Bloomberg.

Republican Senator John McCain said that while he’s “not averse to asking for more sacrifice,” he rejects a tax increase, even one on wealthy Americans, to help pay for the war. “I’m not sure what the point would be,” said McCain, who supports Bush’s troop buildup and may run for president in 2008. “I would ask them to make other sacrifices, but I’m not sure I would want to raise their taxes just because we’re in a war.”

Unlike apparently Mr. McCain I am a history buff and I firmly believe in learning from the past in order to keep from making the same mistakes over and over again.  The sharpest rise in the national debt in the last sixty years came as a result of taking President Bush’s wars “off the books”. It is the primary reason we are where we are today.

As Will says their  doesn’t seem to be a congressman, especially those of the GOP variety, who have the nerve to ask  at least some of the voters, especially those who have profited greatly during these times, to help pay for these wars.

It seems pretty simple to me that if wars are necessary then asking citizens to pay for at least part of them is the right thing to do. But maybe the problem with this one, and in fact most of them in my lifetime, is that none of them were really necessary.

When we get into hard times in this country we have always asked those who are much better off than the rest of us to chip in a little of their wealth to help out and in the past they have for the most part gladly done so.  There is a bible verse that goes something like this, “For those who have gained much, much is expected”.  When will we start living by that code again?

Public overwhelmingly supports large defense spending cuts

Source: Public overwhelmingly supports large defense spending cuts | iWatch News by The Center for Public Integrity.

While politicians, insiders and experts may be divided over how much the government should spend on the nation’s defense, there’s a surprising consensus among the public about what should be done: They want to cut spending far more deeply than either the Obama administration or the Republicans.

Anyone who has even casually followed this blog knows that I am an advocate of major reductions in our war machine spending. I often cite that the U.S. spends more on its military than the rest of the world combined and we are only five percent of the world’s population. Doesn’t anyone else see how ridiculous this situation is? Well it turns out that there are actually other, many others in fact, that want to see deep cuts in our military spending!!  Hallelujah !!

Lets look as some of the details of this report:

By far the most durable finding — even after hearing strong arguments to the contrary — was that existing spending levels are simply too high. Respondents were asked twice, in highly different ways, to say what they thought the budget should be, and a majority supported roughly the same answer each time: a cut of at least 11 to 13 percent (they cut on average 18 to 22 percent).

In one exercise, a larger group chose to cut the defense budget (62 percent supported this) than to cut non-defense spending (50 percent) or to raise taxes (27 percent). They then chose to cut deeply as a means to address the deficit. In yet another exercise, respondents first read pro and con arguments for the nine major mission areas that now compose almost 90 percent of the budget; then a majority of Republicans and Democrats selected lower levels in eight of the nine areas.

If this is the general perception among the public at large then why do our military budgets continue to consume half of all our discretionary spending? One answer is politics. The politicians just don’t want to see military spending in their districts go away so they scratch each others backs and vote to keep it all. This, as the report indicates, includes items which have long since served their purpose.

The exercise in the second paragraph above might just be the most enlightening. When it comes to severe reductions in military rather than see their taxes raised. Unfortunately instead of heeding these statistics most of the politicians have chosen to cut the safety net out from under the lower classes than to do either of the above. Since it is a fact that lower-income folks vote far less frequently than the public at large this is probably the inevitable and shameful result.

But what do I know…

Where Does the Money Go????

There has been a lot of talk lately about deficits and such. It “seems” some of our politicians have finally gotten the message but this is not the first time so I am more than a little skeptical.   But they still are living in a different world than the rest of us as they don’t seem to have a clue as to what causes this problem. They want to blame it on everyone except the elephant in the room. That elephant is shown on the graph to the right. This is the discretionary budget for 2011. You have to scroll down pretty far to see all of it but I think it is worth the effort.

Let’s say we eliminate the following departments entirely:

  • Commerce (they keep business from gouging us)
  • EPA (they make sure our air is breathable)
  • Interior (they manage our national parks and such)
  • Treasury (they keep our money flowing)
  • Energy (they keep the oil companies at bay)
  • NASA (they help manage our many satellites)
  • Agriculture (they help our farmers)
  • Justice ( they help us enforce our laws)

If we eliminate all these departments entirely we could cut our spending by 11%. That is a pretty substantial amount but eliminating those agencies would be pretty serious for our day to day living. But wait, there is another way to do the same thing and that would be to cut the military budget by15%. The military would probably have to order one less aircraft carrier, a few less million dollar bombs, and maybe even cut the Pentagon staff by a few percentage points.

Which would be better for it’s citizens?  I don’t know of anyone who claims to have an IQ above 60 who would have to think much about this. But it seems that our politicians just can’t seem to understand!  They say it is impossible to take even 1% from our military as then we would be putting our sons and daughters at risk.  All the rest of the countries in the world manage their defense with a small iota of what we do and their sons and daughters are safer than ours. Of course the reason for that is that they don’t put them in harms way in the first place.

Do we really need to spend hundreds of times more for our military than almost any other country on the earth? Do we really need to be the “enforcer of democracy” around the world or can that happen within the population actually seeking democratic freedoms?  Do we really need to be the policemen of the world? How about we change and become a peacemaker superpower instead? I bet we could do that and eliminate our deficits at the same time.

If all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail.

If all you have is a military on steroids then everything looks like a conflict we need to be involved in.

But what to I know….

Thanks to my Quaker friends at One Minute for Peace for providing me with the graph to the right. See them at:

www.afsc.org

www.oneminuteforpeace.org