Category Archives: budget

Ironic

CNN tells me there is a debt deal, Twitter tells me it’s worse than default, RedState is in an uproar and I’m sure tomorrow the Villagers will remind us all that if everyone hates it, well it must be wonderful.

Huzzah.

I find it terribly ironic that the movie “Battle In Seattle” is playing on cable today. Or perhaps it’s not irony, perhaps there’s a DFH working for Liberty Media. Anyway, it’s a good reminder of how we got in this mess, that our problems are systemic: globalization and the jobs it funneled away from America. And also that protest may be our last hope.

I dunno. This dysfunctional nation and the constant selling out of the people’s interests will come back to haunt both political parties.

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Boehner FAIL

John Boehner couldn’t muster up enough votes in the House for his debt plan, and with good reason: it sucks. It doesn’t address the long-term debt and it’s a short-term fix, which means we’ll be going through this whole frustrating exercise again in six months in the heat of a presidential campaign. In other words: it’s a political game.

I just don’t get it. I can’t imagine what Boehner is thinking, wasting so much time and effort and political capital on a failed plan that will just result in the same awful scenario in a few months. This has to be the mother of all political miscalculations: does Boehner really think the Republicans are coming out smelling like a rose here? Poll after poll says otherwise.

Yesterday I spoke to my Conservative Friend™ about this; he’s pissed off, mightily pissed off, says if he loses his small business because of political games people are playing in Washington he’s going to do something rash. The Tea Party “can kiss my nuts,” he said, which made me laugh because he said it with so much … passion. And then, of President Obama, he said: “I didn’t vote for the guy. But at least he’s trying to get people to come together on this, you know? At least he’s making an effort to protect the country. He’s probably being too bipartisan at this point.”

And then he stunned me with this astute observation: “What it all boils down to is they want the president to fail. They don’t want to fix the problem, they want the entire country to go down the drain so they can blame Obama. And you know why? Because he’s black. That’s what this is about.”

Yeah, that’s a conservative saying this. Not just any conservative, but a Wilson County, redneck, small-business blue collar guy. A guy who told me he voted for John McCain because he liked Sarah Palin. So, nice job Republicans. You’re not doing a very good job of selling your message to the American people here.

You really want to go through this again next year, too? Really?

[UPDATE]:

Bob Corker gets the message.

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Filed under Barack Obama, budget, John Boehner

What Have We Learned?

The markets are in a free-fall as Congress’ failure to come to an agreement on the debt ceiling begins to have real-life repercussions. Namely, that’s my retirement savings swirling the drain, and frankly I’m pissed off. On the positive side: who thinks putting Social Security in the stock market is a good idea now?

So what have we learned?

• It’s a brave new world, and most people are in complete denial. I can’t tell you how many people I speak to who assume the debt ceiling crisis will be resolved … any second now! Honest! They’ve been telling me this for weeks. Months, in fact. My financial adviser who oversees my ever-dwindling retirement account told me just last week that he was convinced a deal was already in place and we were just seeing some political face-saving. “The Tea Party only represents 19% of the population,” he told me. Yes, but unfortunately they’re more than 50% of the House of Representatives, and that’s all that matters.

• We’ve learned that anyone who thinks they can negotiate with Republicans as if they were reasonable, sane people is smoking something. These are not reasonable people. They are zealots. And we all know how zealots operate. They’d rather burn down the country than give an inch. This is insanity, but pretty much everyone to the left of President Obama saw it coming. Of course, no one listens to us.

• We’ve learned that you can never, ever trust the Republican Party near the U.S. economy again. Ever. As my neighbor said as I was walking the dog this morning: “The Republicans are trying to take down the president, and they don’t care if they take down the entire country to do it.” This is what Real America™ is saying, folks: no one buys Boehner’s “blank check” line, and yes, we blame Republicans.

• Old pieces of conventional wisdom — for example, that “divided government” is best — no longer apply. I already covered that earlier this month but when you’re dealing with zealots, what you get is gridlock and dysfunction. That might go unnoticed on most things — who really notices that there’s a backlog of federal judges awaiting confirmation unless you work in that world? — but when dealing with a housekeeping issue like the debt ceiling, we can all see it and feel it in our pocketbooks.

• Blue Dogs still don’t make any sense. Last week Rep. Jim Cooper, my congressman, was one of only five Democrats to vote for the “Cut, Cap & Balance” bill. Yet he responded to my e-mail about this issue by saying while we need to secure the nation’s fiscal future, he’s not for “crazy cuts.” He wrote:

I believe that Congress needs to tighten its belt, restore fiscal discipline, and develop a strategy that offers common-sense solutions to restore our long-term fiscal health. I’m for cuts, but not crazy cuts that indiscriminately slash services our students, veterans, and seniors rely on, as well as job-promoting programs that are helping Middle Tennesseans get back to work.

Well, “Cut, Cap & Balance” would have to be full of crazy cuts to make it work. Personally, I think Cooper is panicking, and can you blame him? He wants a deal — any deal, Christ almighty let’s get this over with, pass anything, we can fix it later. He does have one good idea: if the nation goes into default, he proposes stopping pay for all members of Congress, nor would they be allowed to recoup their lost pay later. This is all very well and good but I don’t know how many members of Congress are in it for the money. It’s a symbolic gesture, the kind of stuff Cooper usually eschews, but at least it’s something.

• The American people are absolutely powerless to do anything about this dire situation, save come up with some creative Twitter hashtags. Have you tried calling your Congress Critter? Good luck. The lines have been busy for two days. I’m glad I called last week — for all the good it will do.

So yes, #FuckYouWashington. I’ve never seen anything like this in my entire life, not during the Nixon years, not during Watergate, not during the Iran-Contra scandals and AbScam and the Iranian hostage crisis, no not even during the awful uncertainty around the 2000 election. Some people need to be fired, namely Republican assholes who refuse to listen to reason. And, you know, Harry Reid who thought he was dealing with the Republican Party of 2004. When what he’s dealing with is a GOP who wants, first and foremost, for Obama to fail: nothing more, and nothing less.

[UPDATE]:

Via Slate’s Dave Weigel, scenes from the Tea Party’s “Hold The Line” rally, which drew … dozens! Dozens I tell you! … of reporters. People? Not so much. That’s Louie Gohmert speaking to the cameras and pretty much no one else, guess everyone else left to hit the all-you-can-eat buffet at Applebee’s. As usual, click on the photo to enlarge.

I simply can’t believe our entire national economy has been taken hostage by this pathetic excuse for a “movement.”

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Filed under budget, deficit

Cut A Deal, Dammit

I'm Getting That Sinking Feeling Again

Hey, GOP: my retirement savings is too high a price to pay for your political aspirations. Just sayin’.

Seriously, my bank account hasn’t even recovered from the last time you assholes destroyed the economy in 2007, and now you want to burn it down again? Just so one of your nutters can win the White House in 2012? How crazy is that?

I’m sick of Republicans’ craven political aspirations destroying my standard of living. Hey, we’re not all like Eric Cantor, investing in an ETF that shorts U.S. Treasury bonds.

Frankly, I’m pissed off. I called Sen. Corker’s office and asked what he was doing to solve this problem. The Clueless Intern™ told me last week Corker made a speech urging his colleagues to come to the bargaining table. Ooooh, was it one of those speeches I see on C-SPAN to an empty Senate chamber? Excuse me for being underwhelmed.

I then called Sen. Alexander’s office and asked his Clueless Intern™ what he was doing about this issue because I’m tired of seeing my retirement savings flushed down the toilet of political ambition. She told me Sen. Alexander hadn’t made any public statements yet as he was waiting to see a final deal.

This isn’t entirely true. He’s said plenty about the need to tie the vote to debt reduction, and he’s happy to show up at debt ceiling photo ops with his fellow Republicans.

But Mama always said to judge a man but what he does, not what he says. And both Corker and Alexander voted to increase the debt ceiling when there was a Republican in the White House, not just once but multiple times. In fact, there really wasn’t much fuss made about it save the last time, when Alexander voted no, hardly a ballsy move on his part since the measure required a simple majority and it easily passed, 53-42. So just to recap:

• September 2007, Corker votes yea, Alexander no.
• March 2006, both Corker and Alexander vote yes.
• November 2004, Alexander and Sen. Bill Frist vote yes.
• May 2003 Alexander and Sen. Bill Frist vote yes.

Neither Alexander or Corker were in the Senate in June 2002, but Republicans Bill Frist and Fred Thompson voted yes. Republicans also voted for our unfunded wars and unfunded Medicare Part D benefit, which are two of the major reasons we have these debts to begin with. So they’re perfectly happy to run up a bill on the Chinese credit card but when the bill comes in the mail they won’t pay it. Instead they’d rather see people like me lose their retirement savings when the nation goes bankrupt to score a political point? And they think we won’t notice?

No. Cut a damn deal. Call your Senators and tell them to cut a damn deal. I’m sick of this crap. If the nation defaults over GOP refusal to negotiate and the economy tanks before it’s had a chance to recover from the last implosion, it will be devastating. And no, it will not be good news for Republicans.

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Filed under budget, Sen. Bob Corker, Sen. Lamar Alexander

America The Gated Community

There’s no shortage of news reports about homeowners’ associations acting like dicks. Here’s one in Texas that told a woman she had to get rid of her pet pot-bellied pig; here’s another one (also in Texas) which wouldn’t let a retired Marine fly his flag (Texas had to get the long arm of the eeeevil government to intercede in that case.)

And then there’s this:

But that was Inlet House before the rats started chewing through the toilet seats in vacant units and sewage started seeping from the ceiling. Before condos that were worth $79,000 four years ago sold for as little as $3,000. And before the homeowners’ association levied $6,000 assessments on everyone — and then foreclosed on seniors who couldn’t pay the association bill, even if they didn’t owe the bank a dime.

Normally, it’s the bankers who go after delinquent homeowners. But in communities governed by the mighty homeowners’ association, as the sour economy leaves more people unable to pay their fees, it’s neighbor vs. neighbor.

HOA’s are constantly in the news for dickish behavior, but the economic downturn has raised this to a whole new level. I would hope I never have to subject myself to the whims of my busybody, power-hungry neighbor who got elected to the HOA board, but you know what they say: never say never. But the whole HOA issue strikes me as a microcosm of our national budget debate, too.

I find this really interesting:

In the meantime, the board, facing $172,000 in costs from non-payers, has had no choice but to raise dues by an extra $50 a month to an average of $375. Between the assessment and increased dues, some residents complain that they pay more than they would to rent a plush oceanfront spread down the street at the posh Fontainebleau condo complex. Association manager Janice Stinnett, who is also an Inlet House resident, says she isn’t to blame, the non-payers are.

“It’s unfair that everyone is paying extra to cover these deadbeats,” she says.

The board is continuing to make the plumbing repairs that made the assessments necessary to begin with. It will soon issue another special assessment to cover the costs.

To homeowners who opposed the repairs on the grounds that they were too expensive, the entire picture adds up to a crime. Says Silvestri, “What these associations are doing is illegal. It’s a fraud.”

So even with sewage leaking through the ceiling and rats infesting the condo development we’re hearing that they should just “cut expenses” and “live within their means”! People can see what’s falling apart, and some people want to fix it and others want to let it crumble, destroying the entire neighborhood in the process.

This is America in a nutshell. We have a bunch of deadbeats who won’t pay their dues for living and working in this country, and we have an entire political party rallying to their defense. Imagine if a group of people at Inlet House said “we can’t make these deadbeats pay their dues, they might move to another subdivision!” Let ’em! Go! Go be that other subdivision’s problem! What do you want to bet that other HOA will make them pay their dues?

Who seriously thinks that if we raised taxes on the millionaires and billionaires they’d all take their yachts and private jets and go live somewhere else? And so what if they did? John Boehner referred to these people as “job creators,” but they’ve been getting tax cuts courtesy of the last president and GOP congress since 2001. Where are the jobs?

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Filed under budget, economy

Budget Cuts Have Consequences

Once upon a time in America our sacred cows were things like public safety and education. Not any more! These days sacred cows are tax cuts for the rich and corporations. Can’t touch those! And if people die, well, so be it:

SAN FRANCISCO — Fire crews and police could only watch after a man waded into San Francisco Bay, stood up to his neck and waited. They wanted to do something, but a policy strictly forbade them from trying to save the 50-year-old, officials said.

A witness finally pulled the apparently suicidal man’s lifeless body from the 54-degree water.

According to reports, first responders and about 75 people watched the incident from the shore.

Interim Alameda Fire Chief Mike D’Orazi said Monday’s incident is troubling. He has directed staff to write a new policy that would allow water rescues in the city of about 75,000 people across the bay from San Francisco.

‘Deeply regrettable’

The previous policy was implemented after budget cuts forced the department to discontinue water rescue training and stop maintaining wetsuits and other rescue gear, D’Orazi said Tuesday.

“The incident yesterday was deeply regrettable,” he said. “But I can also see it from our firefighters’ perspective. They’re standing there wanting to do something, but they are handcuffed by policy at that point.”

[…]

The Coast Guard was called to the scene, but the water was too shallow for a boat, Alameda police Lt. Sean Lynch said. Police officers didn’t have the gear for the cold water and couldn’t risk being pulled under.

Hmm. I’m not sure that “deeply regrettable” is the phrase I’d use. Shameful, twisted, fucked up, immoral, negligent, and a few other choice words come to mind, though. And “handcuffed by policy”? Really? Did no one think, fuck the policy, I’m going to save a man’s life? I mean, maybe they didn’t have the equipment or whatever, I just find it truly tragic that close to 100 people watched a man die and no one could do anything.

All across the country communities are shuttering fire stations and cutting back on police and fire protection. Just this weekend in New York there were huge rallies to protest Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to shutter 20 FDNY engine companies to trim $55 million off a budget of over $67 billion.

That we cut our police and fire protection to save money is surely the most galling evidence of an empire in decline I can imagine. It just shows how messed up our priorities are — and by “our” I don’t mean the average citizen who will be affected by such things. I mean the Ruling Class which decides if a few plebes have to die or lose their homes so they can continue to pretend they didn’t ruin the global economy three years ago, well, sacrifices must be made!

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Filed under budget, economy

Americans Live Within Their Means & Other Wingnut Fantasies

Of all the tired, old bromides which have worked their way into our discourse, the old “American families have to live within a budget, and so should the federal government” meme is one of the most annoying. It’s annoying because it’s so easily debunked; the very people spouting this bullshit are the ones riding mountains of credit card debt, for crying out loud!

I’ve written about this before but my first response is always: No! No we don’t! Since when? American consumer debt, which doesn’t include mortgages, is $2.43 trillion as of March 2011. Total U.S. revolving debt, which is almost entirely credit card debt, was $796.1 billion, as of March 2011. In fact, in March U.S. credit card debt increased for the second time since 2008, which the Wall Street Journal presented as a good thing:

U.S. consumers in March increased their credit-card debt for the second time since the financial crisis flared, giving a sign of hope that consumer spending could boost an economic recovery that has lost some steam.

In its monthly report Friday on borrowing, the Federal Reserve also said overall consumer credit outstanding rose, up $6.02 billion to $2.426 trillion. The increase, the sixth in a row, was bigger than expected. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast a $4.8-billion rise in consumer debt during March.

I’m not going to say whether this is bad or good, I’m just saying it completely debunks the ol’ “American families have to live within their means and so should the government” meme. No, we don’t! We never have! We have always been a country of consumers who satisfy their every need and whim with the swipe of plastic. We have well over a million people who declare bankruptcy every year. And our economy depends on this debt! Imagine if Americans did live within their means, paying cash as they go, never borrowing. Our entire economy would implode!

It just annoys me that no one ever calls the pundits and politicians on this shit when it’s so obviously wrong. So thank goodness Jared Bernstein writes about it on his new blog. Bernstein was Chief Economist and Economic Adviser to Vice President Joe Biden and a member of President Obama’s economic team before leaving the White House to become a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

He writes:

But there’s another fundamental way in which this family budget analogy gets misused.  Families borrow to make investments and to get over rough patches.  They run deficits too.  I went into pretty deep debt to finance college and grad school and I’m glad I did.

The whole credit system is based on the fact that if we had to pay cash-as-we-go for everything, we’d seriously underinvest.  And that’s true for families and governments—and yes, you can overdo the borrowing thing.  But to flip too far the other way is equally dangerous.

So, while it sounds good and has some merit, I’d use the “gov’t budget=family budget” argument with care and I’d discount those who want to use it as a hammer to insist on instant cuts.

American families borrow money to buy houses and cars and invest in their businesses. They run up credit card debt and take out loans to pay for college. Families default on their loans all the time. We don’t live within our means any more than anyone else does. So can we please retire this stupid analogy once and for all? I mean it’s ridiculous, I hear people repeating it whom I know to have declared personal bankruptcy or have had their cars repo’d. It’s like people don’t even engage their brains before opening their mouths to repeat these tired old pieces of supposed conventional wisdom. Have they all been brainwashed?

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Filed under budget, deficit

I’ll Take Things It Shouldn’t Take 30 Years To Do, Alex

Waaaaay back in 1990 a law was passed that required the Dept. of Defense to get its books in order so we can do a full financial audit, and yet even though their deadline isn’t until 2017 it seems they won’t be making that deadline. That would be 27 years to do a financial audit of the Pentagon.

And they can’t do it.

Whew. Okie dokie, well thank goodness we have a bipartisan group of Senators who have a little problem with that :

“Based on the findings of today’s FIAR Plan, it appears unlikely that the Department of Defense will be able to meet that 2017 requirement,” they said in the statement, obtained by POLITICO.

“Today’s report by the DOD’s comptroller shows that while a few small agencies within the department have reached the required financial audit level, the vast majority of the department had not,” the statement said.

“Further, while the report shows that DOD has a fairly complete road-map of how the Army, Navy, Air Force and other defense agencies will each reach the auditability requirement by 2017, implementation of these goals faces major challenges.”

Past GAO reports have found a high risk for waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement at the Pentagon. The senators want their new GAO report in time for a hearing on the subject in July.

Okay I get that the Pentagon is huge and might need a little more time to get itself audit-ready than, say, your typical ice cream stand. But 27 years? Areyoukiddingme?

But don’t worry!

In the progress report submitted Monday, Defense Department comptroller Robert F. Hale said audit readiness has been a goal for many years but has been difficult to achieve because of the department’s size and complexity.

Hale said American taxpayers should understand that “although the department does not yet meet commercial audit standards, their tax dollars are being managed responsibly.”

Ha ha ha! Nothing to see here, move along! Don’t worry, be happy! Government should operate like a business! Blargeddy blargh!

For example, by all means do not investigate Darpa:

The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) asked for the inquiry after news reports that Darpa handed out $1.75 million in contracts to a company owned in part by agency director Regina Dugan and her relatives. What’s more, Dugan is owed $250,000 by her family firm, RedXDefense. POGO wants to verify that Dugan had nothing to do with the contracts, and to determine if “any Darpa employee” dealing with the company knew of its connections to the woman at the top.

In a letter to the Pentagon inspector general written on Monday, Danielle Brian, POGO’s executive director, calls for an investigation that goes beyond Dugan, who recused herself from any dealings with RedXDefense upon becoming director.

Brian cites recent comments from Kaigham “Ken” Gabriel, Dugan’s deputy, calling financial conflicts “prevalent” at the agency, since Darpa’s highly technical work requires it to recruit talent from many of the firms and researchers who bid on its contracts.

“We urge the DoD IG to immediately pursue an audit to ensure that Darpa selects and awards grants and contracts with integrity,” Brian writes in the letter to Inspector General Gordon S. Heddell. Perhaps “more  stringent measures” are needed to prevent potential conflicts of interest.

POGO also questions just how closely the Pentagon oversees Darpa. The Pentagon inspector general’s office hasn’t audited the agency’s contracting methods since 1997.

I realize $1.75 million is small potatoes but it’s also the tip of the iceberg. The point is: fraud and waste are endemic throughout the Pentagon, not just in things like $700 toilet seats and building fighter jet engines the Pentagon doesn’t even want but some Senator needs the factory to stay open or they’ll face a tough reelection campaign.

No, this is the kind of shit that goes on under our noses while everyone has hissy fits over the “Muslim Brotherhood” donating to NPR. I wonder if any Breitbart acolytes have considered dressing up as pimped-out Raytheon execs seeking research money to finish work on their invisibility cloak and time travel machine? Of course not! Because in right-wing land, every penny spent on the Pentagon is honorable. There’s never any such thing as “government waste” when the Dept. of Defense does it.

With that in mind, this bit from the Politico article amused me:

Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress are divided between those who want to include deep defense cuts in any debt reduction plan and those concerned about the impact of such cuts on national security.

That’s hilarious. Yeah, you know, when your country spends at least five times more on defense than any other nation in the world, I’d say you’ve got nothing to worry about.

I really find it hard to believe that any Republican doesn’t think there’s waste and corruption at the Dept. of Defense. There’s a vast river of tax money flowing through the Pentagon, and you can bet your sweet bippy there are greedy, corrupt assholes trying to get their hands on it. But since the Pentagon still isn’t audit-ready after 27 years, I guess we’ll never know.

Instead, let’s talk about how the budget deficit is forcing us to kill Medicare and Social Security.

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Filed under budget, Pentagon

>A Funny Definition Of Victory, Part 2

>The last time the government shut down, the time Newt Gingrich did it, I actually worked for the federal government at a national recreation area. That was interesting, to say the least.

Government shutdowns suck on a lot of levels, though one thing they do accomplish is make people aware of all the things our government does, things which should be obvious but which people are ridiculously oblivious to nonetheless. I’m thinking of the lady I saw on the news who was shocked to discover that the national Civil War battlefield she planned to visit today would be closed if a deal couldn’t be reached.

I mean, duh. But that attitude is extremely common. I remember way back when telling my dad I was off work and he’s like “Why?” And I’m like, “The government shut down, you know …” and he kept saying, “you’re affected by that? Really? YOU? I had no idea!”

Le sigh. So, government shutdowns can be a teachable moment for a lot of mainstream Americans who take government for granted.

That said, I was not like Mike Pence leading the Teanutties in a chant of “Shut it down!” No, as I said, government shutdowns suck on a lot of levels, trust me, I know. They are a failure of our politics and a failure of democracy. If our government is forced to shut down over something like a budget impasse, it does not speak very highly of our system or our leaders.

So I’m glad we have a reprieve. But for crying out loud, please let’s not call this last-minute deal a victory. This is a tragedy, and it should be stated as such. Because I’m sorry, I just don’t see these things as wins:

1) $17 BILLION IN CHIMPS — WE SPREAD OUT THE CUTS ACROSS OTHER PARTS OF THE BUDGET. We insisted that meeting in the middle on cuts would require looking beyond domestic discretionary spending—and we prevailed. More than half—or $17 billion—of the final round of spending cuts came from changes in mandatory programs, or CHIMPs. The emphasis on this part of the budget staved off severe cuts to key domestic programs like education, clean energy, and medical research.

2.) $3B IN PENTAGON SAVINGS — WE PROVED DoD WASTE SHOULD NOT BE SPARED. We won the argument that waste at the Pentagon should not be immune from spending cuts. The final agreement eliminates nearly $3 billion in unnecessary Pentagon spending that was contained in H.R. 1. These reductions are supported by Secretary Gates.

3) TITLE X PRESERVED — WE FOUGHT OFF ATTACKS ON WOMEN’S HEALTH. We fended off their highest priority among the riders by nixing their proposal to gut Title X funds that provide cancer screenings and other preventative health services for women. The Republicans’ overreach on this rider in the final days dramatically weakened their hand.

Yes, well, my uterus thanks you. But I’m sorry … $3 billion in Pentagon waste while cutting $17 billion in Social Security and Medicare spending? That’s, what, basically that one redundant fighter jet engine that was already axed? I mean, really? That’s all the waste you can find at the Pentagon? Are they still giving $50 million to NASCAR? Just wondering.

I bring this up because last week David Sirota noted that the one-week continuing resolution would set our bloated Pentagon budget for the year, while leaving the rest of the budget open to negotiation. This means the burden of all that deficit-reducing everyone is yammering about will be borne by social programs. Or, as Sirota wrote:

….an even larger and more disproportionate amount of budget cuts will be focused almost exclusively on the relatively small portion of the discretionary budget that funds social programs.

Because there’s always money for war.

This is how Democrats cut deals with Republicans, and even worse they are trying to sell this to us as a win. And don’t give me that crap about fighting for women’s health when the deal that was struck banned locally-funded abortions in D.C. I guess some uteruses are more equal than others.

No, nothing pisses me off more than when Democrats try to sell me a shit sandwich. This happened last summer when the FMAP extension was passed by cutting food stamp benefits.

This shit happens all the time. The Claims Resolution Act of 2010 — the settlement to 75,000 black farmers discriminated again in the case known as Pigford II — was paid for in part with cuts to WIC funding.

Democrats need to realize that robbing Peter to pay Paul is not a “win” for liberals. And some of us actually are paying attention to this stuff.

So am I glad the government has not shut down (yet)? Hell yeah. But am I pissed the Pentagon budget got trimmed by a measley $3 billion and is now off-limits? You betcha.

When polls show Americans a) vastly underestimate how much we spend on defense, and b) support cutting the defense budget anyway, one has to wonder what the hell the Democrats in Washington are thinking. Maybe they’re too scared of looking “weak on defense” and like “cheese eating surrender monkeys” and like they “don’t support the troops” and all the other mean stuff the right will say about them. But guess what: they say that shit anyway!

So I guess we’ll just keep on being asked to accept winning these small battles while losing war after war, over and over again, until the end of time. I guess we’re supposed to be happy with that.

I dunno, doesn’t sound like a win to me.

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Filed under budget, Pentagon

>Religious Leaders Fast In Protest Of Congress’ Immoral Budget

>The irony of American religious leaders protesting a Republican budget with a hunger strike is tremendous. I mean gosh, our national news media keeps telling us that all Christians are conservative, small-government, free-market Republicans! This certainly puts a kink in that CW, does it not?

Earlier this morning, religious leaders and anti-poverty advocates announced that they will begin fasting to protest budget cuts that they argue “balance the budget on the backs of poor people.” Progressive evangelical leader Jim Wallis and David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, joined former Democratic congressman Tony Hall in calling on others to join them in the fast and on Congress to restore funding for hunger programs and other anti-poverty initiatives.

[…]

Religious organizations from the National Association of Evangelicals to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have criticized proposed federal budgets to means-tested programs as immoral and unjust. And Wallis, Beckmann, and Hall are attracting support for their fast from an array of partners, including the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Islamic Relief USA, and Meals on Wheels. They haven’t yet decided how long they’ll continue the fast, but Wallis issued an additional challenge to members of Congress who support cuts in anti-poverty programs: be honest. “I want to hear just one of them say out loud that every line item of military spending is more important to the well-being of the country than child nutrition, than child health and vaccinations. They’ve crossed a line, but they want to keep pretending this is all about fiscal responsibility.”

Good for them. You can read Tony Hall’s powerful message “Why I Am Fasting (Again)” here.

I hate to be so cynical but I don’t look for the national news media to carry this story any further than a blog post. Jim Wallis and other social justice Christians have protested, been arrested over the Iraq War, and arrested over the 2006 budget, which raised nary an eyebrow from the national media. Who remembers this:

115 religious leaders were arrested in front of the Cannon House Office Building while kneeling in prayer to protest the immoral budget and tax agenda which slashes spending on the poor to finance tax breaks for the rich. Led by Jim Wallis of Call to Renewal, national faith leaders, clergy and faith-based providers of services to the poor held a press conference.

We never hear about this stuff, but some redneck with 10 followers in Bumfug, Tennessee wants to burn a Koran and it’s all the media can talk about.

Anyway, I’m posting this information for a couple of reasons. 1) Not all Christians are right-wing, intolerant assholes and 2) Budgets are moral documents which tell the world your priorities. Where your treasure is, so is your heart. And if your treasure is devoted to war, and torture, and bombs, instead of feeding poor children and funding schools and the rest, then you’re in deep trouble as a nation. You’re failing your people. And when no one in power stands up and says “enough, this will not stand,” then you no longer have the moral authority to tell anyone else in the world how to behave.

Bob Herbert penned his final column for the New York Times on Saturday, and it brought tears to my eyes. He wrote:

The U.S. has not just misplaced its priorities. When the most powerful country ever to inhabit the earth finds it so easy to plunge into the horror of warfare but almost impossible to find adequate work for its people or to properly educate its young, it has lost its way entirely.

Nearly 14 million Americans are jobless and the outlook for many of them is grim. Since there is just one job available for every five individuals looking for work, four of the five are out of luck. Instead of a land of opportunity, the U.S. is increasingly becoming a place of limited expectations. A college professor in Washington told me this week that graduates from his program were finding jobs, but they were not making very much money, certainly not enough to think about raising a family.

There is plenty of economic activity in the U.S., and plenty of wealth. But like greedy children, the folks at the top are seizing virtually all the marbles. Income and wealth inequality in the U.S. have reached stages that would make the third world blush. As the Economic Policy Institute has reported, the richest 10 percent of Americans received an unconscionable 100 percent of the average income growth in the years 2000 to 2007, the most recent extended period of economic expansion.

Yes that was the “Bush boom,” which was a big, fat bust for most people. This is Republican America, where the haves feel they’re entitled to their looted wealth, and the rest of us are told to stop whining.

It’s enough to make some folks lose their appetite.

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