Category Archives: budget

Laboratories Of Democracy

If the states are, as Justice Louis Brandeis famously once said, “laboratories of democracy,” then Kansas has just proven that “trickle down economics” doesn’t work. Like other forms of snake oil and quackery, it should be banished from any serious discussion about the economic remedies we need to fix whatever ails us.

In case you missed it, Kansas’ Republican-dominated legislature has just handed Gov. Sam Brownnback a huge defeat, overriding his veto of a bill that would finally raise taxes after years of starvation budgets that resulted in Kansas schools running on shortened schedules and crumbling infrastructure going unfixed. (Let me add: Tennessee just did a similar thing with the official passage of Gov. Haslam’s IMPROVE Act, our first gas tax increase in almost 30 years. It appears Republicans have finally gotten the message that stuff needs to be paid for, and cutting taxes isn’t the way to raise money. I know, weird, right?)

Unlike Tennessee, however, Kansas’ governor remained stubbornly attached to the idea that cutting taxes has some miraculous stimulus effect on a state’s economy. Kansas citizens were willing to give Brownback the benefit of the doubt until they had finally had enough, and let their frustrations be known in the last election. Now, moderate Republicans could join forces with their Democratic colleagues to make a veto override happen:

The legislation undoes the essential components of Brownback’s reforms, which he famously described as part of a “real-live experiment” in conservative governance.

Brownback had reduced the number of brackets for the state’s marginal rates on income from three to two. The legislature will restore the third bracket, increasing taxes on the state’s wealthiest residents from 4.6 percent to 5.2 percent this year and 5.7 percent next year.

Marginal rates on less affluent Kansan households will increase as well, from 4.6 percent to 5.25 percent by next year for married taxpayers making between $30,000 and $60,000 a year and from 2.7 percent to 3.1 percent for those earning less than that.

The legislation also scraps a plan to bring those rates down even further in future years, one of Brownback’s promises to conservative supporters.

Finally, the legislature eliminated a cut Brownback had put in place to help small businesses. Analysts said that the provision had become a loophole, as many Kansans were able to avoid paying taxes entirely by pretending to be small businesses.

Initially, the state forecast that about 200,000 small businesses would take advantage of the break. As it turned out, about 330,000 entities would use Kansas’s new rule. That discrepancy suggests that tens of thousands of workers claimed that their incomes were from businesses they owned rather than from salaries.

“What we were able to do in the last 24 hours can allow us to start down that road, to begin repairing all the damage done after living with Gov. Brownback’s failed tax experiment for five years,” said Annie McKay, who is the president of Kansas Action for Children, an advocacy group in Topeka.

Tuesday’s vote was a rebuke not only for Brownback, but also for Republicans in Washington who have advocated similar cuts in taxes at the national level — including President Trump.

This should forever end the discussion about tax cuts being some magical tonic to lure businesses and increase revenue. Trickle down economics is a fairy tale. Or, for people like our president who prefer a visual representation, let me offer this:

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Filed under budget, economy, taxes

A Tale Of Two Federal Budget Items

Wow, to hear House Republicans these days, the food stamp program called SNAP is rife with fraud and corruption, has grown too big and is adding to the budget deficit. It must die.

Meanwhile, the same people overwhelmingly supported a new defense bill which, while offering some good protections to victims of sexual assault, also was padded with lots of extra spending. Such as:

The bill also restricts the transfer of detainees from Guantánamo Bay, funds construction of a new East Coast missile defense site and gives the Pentagon $5 billion more than requested for the war in Afghanistan.

Well isn’t that peachy! Sequester, semeshter! Because we all know the Pentagon is never, ever corrupt, fraud never happens, and the Pentagon would never add to our budget deficit. Hey, empires are expensive, y’all! :

huffpo-20120208-militaryspendingUS

What a bunch of fiscal phonies. Guess they’re going to force Senate Democrats to vote against this, so they can run those lovely ads accusing such-and-such liberal of voting against helping sexual assault victims in the military. I can hear it now: “They accuse us of waging a war on women, but look what Senator McLefty CommieHippie did!”

Assholes. Two can play at that game. Look who took food out of the mouth of a hungry child so they can continue to fund wars and killing? And you call yourselves Christians? For shame.

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Filed under budget, Congress, defense, deficit, food, Pentagon, Republican Party

“The Dog That Caught The Bus”

[UPDATE]:

The hits just keep on coming:

LOS ANGELES — After years of grueling battles over state budget deficits and spending cuts, California has a new challenge on its hand: too much money. An unexpected surplus is fueling an argument over how the state should respond to its turn of good fortune.

The amount is a matter of debate, but by any measure significant: between $1.2 billion, projected by Gov. Jerry Brown, and $4.4 billion, the estimate of the Legislature’s independent financial analyst. The surplus comes barely three years after the state was facing a deficit of close to $60 billion.

Governor Moonbeam did what Ah-nuld was unable to do in two terms. Brown is a Democrat, but a fiscally responsible one. Which just goes to show: if you want to actually balance budgets, not harp and moan about them, elect Democrats.

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Ruh-roh. Republicans have made budget deficit alarmism the main reason for their existence, but facts and math have thrown a wrench in their political plans:

Republicans who have made the deficit their central ideological focus are, in some sense, the dog that caught the bus. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated this month that the deficit for this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, will fall to about $642 billion, or 4 percent of the nation’s annual economic output, less than half the 2011 deficit and about $200 billion lower than the agency had estimated three months ago.

The agency forecast that the deficit, which topped 10 percent of the gross domestic product in 2009, could shrink to as little as 2.1 percent of the G.D.P. by 2015, a level most analysts say would be easily sustainable over the long run.

In fact, Republicans’ insistence on chasing the “exploding budget deficit” fairy tale has been problematic for their political strategizing:

House Republicans had envisioned a plan to reach a comprehensive deficit reduction deal predicated on a showdown in July over the debt ceiling. That showdown was supposed to drive both sides back to the bargaining table, but a rapidly falling deficit, rising tax payments and huge infusions of cash from the newly profitable, federally controlled home financing agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have scrambled those plans. Now, the debt ceiling may not have to be raised until October or November, in the next fiscal year.

Awwww…. Meanwhile, the Tea Party is digging its heels in, continuing to call for cuts and refusing to negotiate with the Senate on reconciling the two chambers’ differing budget proposals. This is all because the Republicans are in utter disarray. I’m not sure an image of a Republican Party unable to find its own ass with a map and a compass is how the GOP envisioned going into the 2014 midterms.

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Filed under budget, deficit, Republican Party, Tea Party

$700 Toilet Seats

Hey guess what, everybody! Someone found $900 million worth of stuff in the Pentagon’s sofa cushions:

The Army program charged with keeping thousands of eight-wheeled Strykers running over the past decade had its eye so much on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that it neglected to keep its books.

It accumulated nearly $900 million worth of Stryker replacement parts – most of them in an Auburn warehouse – with much of the gear becoming outdated even as the military continued to order more equipment, according to a Defense Department Inspector General report released late last year.

Take, for instance, the $57 million worth of obsolete infrared equipment the Army has not installed in Strykers since 2007. It lingered at the Stryker warehouse until the Inspector General called attention to it last year.

Or, the 9,179 small replacement gears called pinions the Army bought as a temporary fix for a Stryker suspension problem that surfaced between 2007 and 2009. The Army took care of the root malfunction in 2010, but kept buying pinions.

It needed only 15 of the gears. The 9,164 extra pinions are worth $572,000, the Inspector General reported.

Yes, Republicans. Do tell me how we can’t possibly cut the Pentagon budget without “endangering the homeland.” I’m all ears. And while you’re at it, remind me how food stamps and Head Start are budget-busters but the Pentagon ordering hundreds of millions of dollars of parts it can’t even use is not.

The Stryker inventory is purchased from major defense contractor General Dynamics, which has a no-bid contract. They, of course, had no comment. Of interest:

The military had awarded General Dynamics a no-bid contract that promised to reimburse its expenses for maintaining the Strykers while adding a fee, giving the company little incentive to control costs.

Yes, that would be wrong. Because freedom and SHUT UP.

BTW I find it amusing that the article quotes Lexington Institute “defense analyst” Daniel Goure, who is quoted as saying of the error,

“This is truly much ado about nothing” he said. “It’s essentially miscommunication.”

Goure appears all over the mainstream press with regularity. You’ll see him quoted in the New York Times and he’s on NPR, Fox and NBC, to name a few. As he was in this story, Goure is always identified merely as a “defense analyst with the Lexington Institute.” First of all, he’s a vice president, not a mere “analyst.” And then, of ocurse, no one ever bothers to mention that Goure worked in the Bush Administration Defense Department, was part of the PNAC study group that gave us the glorious Iraq War, and that the Lexington Institute is another one of those free-market, the-Constitution-is-cemented-in-the-18th-Century far-right talking point factories which has taken such extreme positions as advocating we withdraw from NATO. Furthermore, the Lexington Institute is funded by the same defense contractors that its “analysts” are always defending in the press (indeed, Lexington Institute founder James Courter was a lobbyist for such defense contractors as Lockheed Martin and SRI International.) So, y’know, just your average military industrial complex neocon.

This $900 million “no big deal” is proof of the grift and graft you get when the for-profit private sector bellies up to the government sugar tit. But again, it’s no big deal! Only $900 million! Quit yer whining! (By the way, that’s 90 times more than what we give Big Bird.)

Fiscal phonies.

By the way, we only needed 15 pinions but somehow managed to buy 9,179 of them? And nobody noticed? Shouldn’t there be some kind of Congressional investigation?

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Filed under budget, military contractors, Pentagon

First Draft Tuesday

The Paul Ryan budget, now with electrolytes!

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Filed under budget, deficit

Get In Line, Asshole

[UPDATE]:

Maybe he just suffers from Billionaire’s Tourettes Syndrome:

[kyte.tv appKey=MarbachViewerEmbedded&uri=channels/405150/1623313&tbid=6696&p=5744&height=450&width=640]

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It’s so cute when the 1% realize they’ve lost control of the narrative:

Tim Pagliara’s frustration turned to action on the upper slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Scaling Africa’s tallest mountain for the fifth time last November, the CEO of CapWealth Advisors in Cool Springs was thinking — again — about the fiscal and spending problems facing the United States. Specifically, he found himself wondering — again — why the bipartisan Bowles-Simpson plan failed to get traction after it was released in late 2010, especially during and after the contentious debt ceiling debate of last summer.

Mount Kilimanjaro? I do my best thinking when The Captain and I heli-ski the Vallée Blanc! To each his own, old chap! To each his own.

/snark

I don’t know why this story from a Nashville business rag chapped my ass but it did. It just screams 1% privilege, and how the Ownership Class is trying desperately to take the narrative back from the great unwashed who went and Occupied their cocktail party. Pagliara has formed a 501(c)(4) called Citizens for Enacting The Bowles-Simpson Plan and, according to the article, he’s evidently sunk more than $50,000 of his personal fortune into the organization. He’s also trying to recruit other well-heeled CEOs to the cause because, as he notes:

“The American people are tired of hearing about birth control pills,” he said.

Yes, we are tired of hearing about it. But until Republicans stop attacking it with actual legislation in our state legislatures and the nation’s capitol, we’re gonna keep talking about it, because from our cold, dead hands, buckaroo! So stick a cork in it.

And you know what else? That’s what you get for voting for fucking Republicans, Tim Pagliara. That’s what you get for giving $1,000 to Marsha Blackburn, who was first in line at the microphone to fearmonger about losing her “religious freedom” because of the private insurance mandate for contraception. Which started this whole mess. What the hell did you expect?

Pagliara is hoping a passion for Bowles-Simpson will sweep through the nation with the same fervor as the Occupy movement — yes, he really said that. Which is just so laughably clueless. I hate to break it to you but no one cares about the damn budget deficit unless it’s politically useful to do so. Because Ronald Reagan proved that “deficits don’t matter,” in the immortal words of the last Republican vice president, whose administration rammed through tax cuts for the wealthy while also engaging in not one but two full-fledged wars and a massive unfunded Medicare prescription drug benefit which sent our budget deficit soaring in the first place.

Look, it’s an election year. The more the economy improves, the more you will hear about birth control and abortion and President Obama being a radical blackety-black man and did we mention he’s black? And maybe foreign? And the less anyone will care about your precious Cat Food Commission. Which is what we on the left call it, since that is what it will reduce senior citizens to eating … those of us not swilling champagne after scaling Mount Kilimanjaro for the fifth time, that is.

This is what the Republican Party has become. If you want all of your free-market fairies, you have to buy the Bible-banging, fundamentalist crap too. You have to expect to spend copious amounts of time discussing what the Bible says about birth control, abortion, gays, environmentalism, Muslims, and everything else.

If you want to have a grown-up conversation about grown-up things then stick with the Democrats. I know, you guys like to think that we’re all Commies and hippies but here’s the thing: Republicans all fall in line behind whomever is screaming the loudest at the moment. All of the sane people have been purged out of the Republican Party. If you want fiscal responsibility, well Republicans are the ones who told you that deficits don’t matter. Instead I give you Nashville’s own Jim Cooper, a notorious fiscal hawk who was pushing for a vote on this Bowles-Simpson stuff to begin with. You should have given him your $1,000, if that’s what you’re after. If you want a robust military, there’s always Joe Lieberman to bang the war drums. You want to drill, baby, drill? I give you Sen. Mary Landrieu. Much as I wish every Democrat in Congress were Bernie Sanders, they’re not.

In fact, since you guys worship “divided government,” let me show you the divided Democratic Party. Give the Democrats all three branches of government and I guarantee you will have all the haranguing and negotiating and compromising that gives the Third Way folks hard-ons. You will think it’s Christmas in July, I guarantee it.

But hey, don’t listen to me. Keep hoping Bowles-Simpson will take the nation by storm. Maybe it will, what do I know. It just seems to me that during an election year, adult conversations are on hiatus.

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Filed under budget, politics, Tennessee

GOP Stupidity, Now With Electrolytes

Oh fer crying out loud.

Jonathan Capehart Ron Christie was just on MSNBC saying of President Obama’s plan to tax millionaires, “they can write a check to the IRS any time they want!” He then called the president a hypocrite for taking advantage of the Bush tax cuts, instead of voluntarily taxing himself at Clinton-era levels.

Har de har har! Oooh good one! You got us now! /sarcasm

I hear this crap from conservatives a lot, but usually it’s coming from the idiot ahead of me in the beer line at a hockey game, or overheard at the Pancake Pantry, or it’s some internet troll posting over at Post Politics. It’s not something we hear from professional political pundits who are members of the Washington Post editorial board who once advised Michael Bloomberg and have won Pulitzers. who are adjunct professors at George Washington University.

So I’ll explain it slowly and carefully to you:

If it’s voluntary that means it’s not a tax. Got it? That’s called charity. No, really! Look it up! And if we could depend on charity to do everything from feed the poor and provide for the sick and vulnerable to paying off our national debt which includes trillions spent on our pet wars and global empire-building, we wouldn’t be in this position, now would we?

And simply crossing your fingers and hoping people will do the right thing isn’t a practical or effective national policy, now is it? It’s not like it’s ever worked before, anywhere in the world, ever in time, now has it? Now grow the fuck up, people.

I swear to God, Republicans are putting satirists out of business.

[UPDATE]:

Apologies to Jonathan Capehart. It was Ron Christie making that bone-headed point. Jonathan Capehart is much better looking than Ron Christie. Don’t know how I could have made that mistake. Hazards of blogging in a hurry, I guess. Lesson learned.

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Filed under budget, conservatives, Republican Party, taxes

Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before

Q: What’s the difference between a single mother on welfare and the F-35 fighter jet?
A: The welfare mom actually works:

August 5, 2011 (by Lieven Dewitte) – For the third time in less than a year, the Pentagon has grounded all F-35 joint strike fighters because of a mechanical problem. The F-35s thus join the F-22 Raptors in stand down mode.

All flight and ground operations for the Joint Strike Fighter were ceased after the integrated power package (IPP) on a U.S. Air Force variant test aircraft failed on August 2nd during a ground maintenance run at Edwards Air Force Base.

The 20 operational test and training aircraft were parked and will stay that way until engineers and technicians can find why a power system that starts and cools the aircraft failed during an engine ground test Tuesday at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Flight and ground tests could potentially be suspended for a few weeks.

Heh. No wonder they call the F-35 the jet that ate the Pentagon. From last May:

The Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and many foreign partners plan to buy thousands of the fighter-attack jets over the next two decades to replace a variety of aging aircraft, but the development schedule of the stealthy fighter has slipped five years to 2018 and the projected cost to the Pentagon for 2,457 aircraft has ballooned to $385 billion, making it by far the most expensive weapons program in history.

The Government Accountability Office reported that although Pentagon management of the program is improving, developers have only completely verified 4 percent of the F-35’s capabilities. The program received another blow this week when the Senate Armed Services Committee learned that the Pentagon will likely have to spend $1 trillion over the next 50 years to operate and maintain the fleet of F-35s. Evidently reeling from sticker shock, Sen. John McCain demanded that “we at least begin considering alternatives.” But is it too late to prevent the F-35 program from devouring the Pentagon’s future procurement budgets?

That’s a rhetorical question, right? There’s always money for war, you idiots!

After the painful debt ceiling political theater we just endured, though, this is a hard pill to swallow. I just can’t believe we’re cutting programs vital to people’s health and welfare while sinking hundreds of billions of dollars into the bottomless pit that is the Pentagon. And yes, this truly is a black hole:

Air Force officials themselves may now doubt the wisdom of the size of the commitment to the F-35. According to a recent Aviation Week story, Air Force Undersecretary Erin Conaton placed new emphasis on the importance of the Air Force’s next-generation long-range bomber. With procurement funds sure to be tight in the decade ahead, Conaton hinted that the Air Force may have to raid the F-35’s future budgets in order to help pay for the new bomber.

Ah well, nothing to see here, let’s move along to the next trillion dollar bomber program! Bygones!

You know what’s funny? President Obama has already pledged to cut $400 billion from defense, while Leon Panetta has said anything over $350 billion would be tragic. So I guess that means we’ve agreed on $385 billion, the cost of this one failing program, hmm? You wanna bet?

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Filed under budget, defense, deficit, Pentagon

Manufactured Crisis

How did the phony “debt crisis” supercede the actual jobs crisis in our national discourse? Thom Hartmann talks to FAIR’s Jeff Cohen about yet another failure of our media elites to do their fucking jobs. Warning: sports metaphor ahead.

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Filed under budget, Media

Because There’s Always Money For War!

WTF? We’re slashing budgets right and left, cutting back on “entitlements” and Medicaid and Pell Grants and having hissy fits over the paltry sums of money NPR receives, but we have a spare $7.5 billion to build nuclear bombs in Oak Ridge?

It’s a YES on the new bomb plant for Oak Ridge. Last Wednesday, the Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration published its Record of Decision in the Federal Register. And the decision was no surprise: they selected the alternative they previously identified as their “preferred alternative;” a Uranium Processing Facility with the capacity to produce 80 nuclear secondaries per year.

The Record of Decision came on the heels of an audit performed by the Army Corps of Engineers that projected the cost of construction will soar to $7.5 billion. Of course, no one imagines costs will be constrained to that total over the next twelve years of construction. With half a billion dollars already spent on designing the facility and designers saying they are only 50% complete, it is clear that neither common sense nor fiscal responsibility will stand in the way of the bomb plant.

What the hell? Who are we building these bombs for? We already have more nuclear weapons than any other country on earth. What are we going to do, use them on some guys armed with box cutters? If 9/11 proved anything at all it’s what a colossal waste of money our Defense budget is. Anyone else remember how the big conversation pre-9/11 was the resurgence of the ridiculous “star wars” program?

It’s not just $7.5 billion for Oak Ridge, either. We’re set to spend $100 billion on a fleet of new ballistic missile launching submarines and $55 bilion on new bombers.

Why do we need these weapons? Who are we fighting? Who is the enemy? A bunch of men in pajamas in the hills of Waziristan riding around on donkeys? Are you kidding me?

I’m not the only one wondering:

At this stage in history, U.S. nuclear weapons serve no useful purpose other than preventing another nation from using nuclear weapons against the United States. And a study by two professors of military strategy at U.S. military colleges has suggested that that mission could be accomplished with roughly 300 warheads, compared with the 1,550 deployed warheads permitted under the New START treaty, and the roughly 5,000 currently in the U.S. stockpile if one counts all categories of non-deployed weapons. Going down to these levels would save additional billions in reduced operating and maintenance costs for the arsenal as a whole.

Not only have a growing list of former secretaries of state and defense, presidents and prime ministers, scientists and retired military officials called for the elimination of nuclear weapons, but if pushed by budgetary realities so would many current U.S. military leaders. While they won’t say so publicly, if forced to choose between nukes and major conventional systems it is my bet that nukes would lose out in that particular budget battle.

That wasn’t some pot-smoking DFH, that was William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy.

It is the height of hypocrisy that Republicans and Conservadems like Joe Lieberman refuse to touch our Defense budget, yet keep crying about how the nation is broke. Oh my, we’re broke, we can’t pay our bills, oh dearest me, we’re just going to have to make grandpa go without his blood pressure medicine and grandma will have to eat cat food, what else can we do? Meanwhile we’re spending hundreds of billions of dollars on nonsense like this. We’re supposed to think of the jobs making those fighter jet engines, but somehow teachers and social workers don’t have real jobs?

This is insanity.

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Filed under budget, defense, Tennessee