Republican Budget For Billionaires

The new Republican budget (called the “Ryan Budget” by DC insiders) reflects current electoral reality: billionaires and corporations now finance candidates, and we get government of, by and for billionaires and corporations. The rest of us no longer matter, except as “the help” and, at least to the extent we haven’t been entirely fleeced, a flock to harvest. This budget starts with $10 trillion in tax cuts — mostly for the rich. After adding $10 trillion to the deficits Republicans then claim that severe cuts are necessary to “fight deficits.” Right. Details below.
Keep in mind where we are starting from: The way our economy and tax system is already structured, the top 1% received 93% of income gains from recovery. As Mitt Romney’s tax returns demonstrated, those at the very top — whose income comes as checks generated by the money they already have — already pay much lower tax rates than those of us who work for a living.
Shock Doctrine
“Nothing is more important in the face of a war than cutting taxes. — Republican Majority Leader Tom Delay, 2003″
After passing tax cut after tax cut, and military spending increase after military spending increase, and starting war after war, Republican borrowing has added up. So now Republicans terrify the public, telling them that budget deficits will lead to the destruction of the country — and soon. After a decade of screaming “9/11,” “9/11,” noun verb “9/11,” they now scream “deficit, deficit, deficit.” Then with the public suitably stirred up and terrified they offer “solutions” they say are necessary to cut the scary deficit (that they caused, for this purpose).
Behind a blizzard of fog and mirrors, the new Republican budget completes the ongoing shift of our government and our economy away from “we are in this together” democracy to a “you are on your own” system that is entirely for the benefit of a few at the top.
Cuts Taxes For The 1%
The smoke and mirrors: they claim this budget is necessary to reduce deficits, but it doesn’t even pretend to. Instead it starts by cutting taxes on the rich and their corporations by another $4.6 trillion while making permanent the Bush tax cuts, costing another $5.6 trillion. It gives a $187,000 tax cut To every millionaire!
Cuts Jobs
Ethan Pollack at the Economic Policy Institute describes how Ryan’s budget cuts would cost jobs — 4.1 million of them:

Paul Ryan’s latest budget doesn’t just fail to address job creation, itaggressively slows job growth. Against a current policy baseline, the budget cuts discretionary programs by about $120 billion over the next two years and mandatory programs by $284 billion, sucking demand out of the economy when it most needs it and leading to job loss. Using astandard macroeconomic model that is consistent with that used byprivate- and public-sector forecasters, the shock to aggregate demand from near-term spending cuts would result in roughly 1.3 million jobs lost in 2013 and 2.8 million jobs lost in 2014, or 4.1 million jobs through 2014.*

Cuts Everything Government Does For Regular People
This budget starts with $10 trillion in tax cuts for the wealthy! After handing billionaires and their corporations trillions, increasing deficits by an additional $10 trillion, the Republican budget then cuts the things government does for the rest of us: Medicare, Medicaid, food assistance and public investments (mostly infrastructure and education), and pretends it is necessary because of deficits. (It increases funding for military contractors.)
What is cut? The following is from an analysis by the Office of Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer:
A Choice of Two Futures: A Look at How the Republican Budget Ends Medicare, Destroys Jobs, Benefits the Wealthy
Ending the Medicare guarantee and raising health care costs for seniors:

  • Ends the guarantee of health security and shifts higher costs onto seniors and the disabled over time.
  • Increases seniors’ health care costs just like last year’s budget – which drove up costs by over $6,000 per year, according to CBO.
  • Reopens the prescription drug donut hole, increasing seniors’ drug costs by up to $44 billion through 2020, including $2.2 billion in 2012 alone, according to HHS.
  • Increases seniors’ out-of-pocket costs for preventative care and annual checkups by over $110 million in 2012 alone, according to HHS.
  • 54-year-olds would have to save more money just to cover health care costs – an analysis of last year’s budget showed they would have to save an additional $182,000, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans at the expense of working families:

  • Provides millionaires an average tax cut of $150,000.
  • Reduces revenue by $4.6 trillion on top of the $5.4 trillion cost of permanently extending all of the Bush tax cuts and other expiring provisions, according to the Tax Policy Center.
  • May force working families to pay higher effective tax rates to cover some of the cost of this $4.6 trillion tax cut for the wealthy by eliminating deductions.

Turning Medicaid into a block grant that jeopardizes access to affordable health and nursing home care for seniors and the disabled:

  • Cuts a total of $1.7 trillion from Medicaid over the next decade, and according to CBO, is on track to cut the program by 75% by 2050. According to the Urban Institute, block granting the Medicaid program could result in between 14 million and 27 million people losing coverage. An additional 17 million people, who gained Medicaid and CHIP coverage through health care reform according to the CBO, would also lose that coverage as a result of repealing the Affordable Care Act.

Making it harder for Americans to receive Social Security benefits:

  • Increases backlogs that delay people from getting benefits that they are due and could leave up to 90,000 people with disabilities waiting for a decision in 2013 and leave 300,000 more people with disabilities waiting for a decision each year over the next decade.

Weakening our ability to out-educate competitors and build a competitive workforce:

  • Reduces Pell Grants by more than $1,000 for 9.6 million students in 2014 and could eliminate Pell Grants for over one million students over the next decade.
  • Kicks 60,000 low-income children out of the Head Start program in 2013 and 200,000 low-income children out of the program each year over the next decade.
  • Cuts Title I funding, which could result in nearly 11,000 teachers and aides losing their jobs in 2013 and nearly 38,000 teachers and aides losing their jobs each year over the next decade.
  • Cuts funding for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which could result in 7,800 special education teachers, aides, and other staff serving children with disabilities losing their jobs in 2013, and 27,000 teachers, aides, and staff losing their jobs each year over the next decade.
  • Reduces work-study funding, meaning almost 37,000 students could lose access to college work-study opportunities in 2013, and more than 166,000 students could be affected each year over the next decade.

Slashing assistance to low-income families:

  • Cuts the WIC program (Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants, and Children), kicking 700,000 pregnant or postpartum women, infants, and children off the WIC program and leaving another 100,000 without access to critical foods necessary for healthy child development in 2013. Each year over the next decade, the cuts would kick 1.8 million women, infants, and children off the WIC program and leave another 100,000 without access to critical foods.
  • Converts SNAP into a block grant beginning in 2016, which could jeopardize access to food assistance for millions of Americans.
  • Cuts HUD’s rental assistance programs, resulting in over 116,000 fewer low-income families housed through the Housing Choice Voucher program in 2013 and 400,000 fewer low-income families housed through the program each year over the next decade.
  • Risks permanent loss of affordable units that serve 1.1 million Americans.

Repealing patient protections and putting insurance companies – not American families – in control of health care:

  • Allows insurers to once again be allowed to discriminate against up to 17 million children with pre-existing conditions.
  • Subjects 105 million Americans once more to arbitrary lifetime caps on their health insurance.
  • Increases 54 million Americans’ out-of-pocket costs for preventative care.
  • Puts up to 15 million Americans who are sick or injured at risk of being dropped from their private insurance because of a simple mistake on an application.
  • Eliminates tax credits for up to four million small businesses, which are already providing more affordable care to two million workers. [Figures provided by HHS and the Treasury Department]

Weakening national security:

  • Cuts COPS hiring grants, which could result in 75 fewer local police hires and 6,200 fewer bullet proof vests for state and local law enforcement personnel in 2013, and 285 fewer local police hires and 23,000 fewer vests each year over the next decade.
  • Cuts Department of Justice (DOJ) funding, resulting in 1,311 fewer federal agents to combat violent crime, pursue financial crimes, secure the border, and ensure national security in 2013, and 4,587 fewer agents each year over the next decade.
  • Cuts DOJ funding resulting in 948 fewer prison guards to maintain safe and secure federal prisons in 2013, and 3,319 fewer prison guards each year over the next decade.
  • Reduces Department of Homeland Security funding for preparedness efforts of state and local governments, which could mean 100 firefighters and 80 emergency managers not being hired or laid off in 2013, and 400 firefighters and 300 emergency managers not being hired or laid off each year over the next decade.

Undermining American competitiveness by cutting investments in science, medical research, space and technology:

  • Cuts funding for biomedical research by NIH, meaning 500 fewer grants NIH could award in a cutting-edge field in 2013 and 1,600 fewer grants each year for the next decade, limiting research that could lead to new cures for diseases.
  • Cuts funding for NSF, which could result in NSF making up to 1,100 fewer competitive research and education grants supporting over 13,000 researchers, students, and teachers in 2013 and 4,000 fewer grants supporting almost 48,000 researchers, students, and teachers each year over the next decade.
  • Cuts NASA funding and puts jobs at risk by forcing the agency to terminate major programs and potentially close major facilities.

Threatening our clean energy future:

  • Cuts investments in the Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and its applied research program, known as ARPA-E, that was established specifically to conduct energy research that industry by itself cannot support but where success would provide dramatic benefits for the nation.
  • Eliminates jobs by setting back efforts to put a million electric vehicles on the road, retrofit residential homes, and make commercial buildings more efficient.
  • Fails to boost all energy sources by eliminating tax support for renewable energy generation and the domestic jobs created by those energy projects.
  • Unless otherwise noted, all figures from OMB.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Republican Hostage-Taking Threat Again! Guess Who Benefits?

Once again, Republicans are holding government hostage, trying to force through unpopular cuts to the things We, the People — “the 99%” — do for each other and our economy, while giving handouts to the 1% who pay for their campaign ads and smears. Once again they are threatening to just shut down the whole government if they don’t get their way This time the hostage is unemployment benefits for 2 million people and the payroll tax cut that is the only stimulus left to keep the economy going. Here’s the thing, they say they want “cuts” but what they are really doing is shifting costs from the 1% on to the rest of us.
The current 112th Congress is the first Congress elected under the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgates of corporate money in elections. Remember the flood of ads accusing Democrats of “half a trillion in cuts from Medicare” that got them elected — paid for with corporate money? Those ads swung the electorate toward Republican candidates, and now we are seeing the results — including cuts in Medicare and even plans to privatize it entirely.
How Many Times?
To get their way Republicans have already nearly shut down our government or just shut down parts of it several times. Shutdown. Hostage. Shutdown. Hostage. Shutdown. Shutdown and hostage. Shutdown. Shutdown. Shutdown. Hostage. Shutdown. Shutdown. Hostage. Hostage. And on and on…
This Time
Here are just some of the Republican demands this time if we want the hostage released:

  • Approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline project.
  • Block rules reducing air pollution from industrial burners.
  • Drug tests for people receiving unemployment benefits.
  • Reduce the duration of jobless aid from 99 to 59 weeks.
  • Allow states to cut benefits even more.

Even Worse Than That
The National Women’s Law Center writes, in, House Bill Cuts Unemployment and Health Benefits, Domestic Programs, Child Tax Credit and More that there are many other reasons to be concerned:

  • Slashes federal emergency unemployment benefits for long-term jobless workers by more than half—and hits the states with the highest unemployment rates the hardest.
  • Makes permanent, mean-spirited changes to the basic unemployment program, such as requiring claimants to have a high school diploma or GED and making unemployed workers pay for re-employment services offered by the government.
  • Reduces health benefits by reducing financial protections for low- and moderate-income families purchasing health insurance, cutting funds to providers serving low-income populations, and slashing prevention and public health funds.
  • Denies the refundable Child Tax Credit to low-income immigrant families by requiring a Social Security number to claim the credit.
  • Cuts funding for non-security discretionary programs by over $26 billion—on top of the cuts already imposed by the Budget Control Act.

The European Lesson
Republicans claim that cutting back government is good for the economy and creates jobs. (Note — they always claim that anything for the 1% is good for the economy and creates jobs, whether or not it really is good for the economy and creates jobs or not.)
But is it really good for the economy to cut back on the things government does for the people and the economy? Let’s look to Europe, where they have been cutting back on government in a grand experiment to see if that helps the economy. (Hint: it has really, really, really hurt the economy.) Reuters: Analysis: Europe’s austerity zeal risks killing the patient,

Europe’s “no pain no gain” attitude to solving its sovereign crisis risks exacerbating the bloc’s problems, choking off the very growth needed to raise the money to pay down the debt.
… The austerity zeal risks tipping the continent back into recession and a downward spiral of austerity as pitiful growth prospects undermine budgetary targets and ramp up debt burdens, meaning further austerity is required.
“The expansionary fiscal contraction story says that you cut, you show you are serious about cutting and then the confidence fairy will come along and she will start pulling in private investment,” said Stephen Kinsella, professor of economics at the University of Limerick.
“The expansionary fiscal contraction story is a lie. You don’t cut your way to growth.”

Shifting Not Cutting
Do cuts in government spending actually cut spending? Consider what happens when you cut health care spending. The need for the health care certainly doesn’t go away, but the cost of it is shifted away from government and on to individuals. Since iIndividuals do not have the economy-of-scale bargaining power and ability to protect themselves from scams and schemes that government does, their own individual cost is often much higher. So when these costs are shifted from government the cost to the larger economy is actually increased dramatically.
The things government does are done because they need to be done. So if government doesn’t pay for them, does the need go away? No, when you cut government the need is still there. The costs are still there. But the power to bargain and to protect is gone. By cutting the 99%’s ability to protect themselves from scams and schemes, the 1% are better able to prey on them.
So, no, cutting government does not cut the costs of the things government does, it just shifts those costs from government onto the larger economy — the 99% — and even increases them, to the benefit of the 1%.
Who They Are Protecting And Who They Are Hurting
Why else do the 1% push so hard for government budget cuts, even though they really just shift the same costs onto the larger economy? Because this cost-shifting takes the tax pressure off of the 1%. Government collects taxes to cover the things regular people need, the cost of maintaining and modernizing infrastructure, etc. Of course, these are all good for the economy, the country, and the people. But since the 1% make most of the money and hold almost all of the wealth these prime beneficiaries of the economy are the obvious people to collect taxes from. So by cutting back on government they cut back on government’s need for taxes — from them.
And they get the added benefit of cutting back on government interference in their schemes and control.
In the long game of cuts and consequences, a society cannot win. In the 1980s we cut taxes and started cutting government. As a result we now have crumbling infrastructure, bad schools, unaffordable universities, etc. This is because government cuts do not cut the need out of the larger economy, they shift the costs of needed things away from causing tax pressure on the wealthy.
They don’t care if the larger economy suffers as a result, they’re already the 1%.
What To Do
Tell Republican leaders to stop sabotaging the economy. Renew the payroll tax cut and long-term aid for the jobless.
Sign the petition.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Teachers Fired To Pay For Huge Corporate Tax Cut — Why?

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
I’ve been asking around and it seems that most Californians don’t know that the budget deal that fires so many teachers also has a huge tax cut just for big, multi-state and multi-national corporations.
But it’s true. Last month’s budget deal that fires teachers, cuts essential government services, and guts the investments that bring future economic benefits also has a huge tax cut for the largest of corporations. While this part of the deal has been kept pretty quiet, the LA Times had a story, Business the big winner in California budget plan. From the story,

The average Californian’s taxes would shoot up five different ways in the state budget blueprint that lawmakers hope to vote on this weekend. But the bipartisan plan for wiping out the state’s giant deficit isn’t so bad for large corporations, many of which would receive a permanent windfall.
About $1 billion in corporate tax breaks — directed mostly at multi-state and multinational companies — is tucked into the proposal.

But wait, won’t a big corporate tax cut cause companies to come to California, creating jobs? No, they are already here and it will drive them away, because it is paid for by firing teachers.

A study by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California, released in 2005, found that most companies decide where to locate based not on tax breaks but on factors such as the availability of a highly educated workforce. California’s proposed plan would cut spending on higher education by hundreds of millions of dollars.

So how did this happen? This was part of the deal to get a few Republican votes. And why did the Republicans want this so bad? Because they understood who really elected them.
If you look at the independent expenditure reports for the 2008 California election you’ll see a massive amount of last-minute money. For example, in the 19th Senate District, a political action committee (PAC) named “Californians for Jobs and Education” put almost $1 million into just one race: $570,653 into defeating Democrat Hannah-Beth Jackson, and another $373,778 to help elect her opponent, Republican Tony Strickland. When you look this group up on ElectionTrack you learn that this money came from corporations like Arkansas’ Wal-Mart, Blue Cross of Ohio (Ohio?), Reliant Energy, major real estate companies, and from other PACs.
Now it gets interesting. Many of the contributions to that PAC came from other PACs, especially one called Jobs Pac. When you track down Jobs PAC you find that it is a conduit for huge, huge amounts of money coming from large corporations like Philip Morris, ATT, Chevron, Safeway, Sempra Energy, Verizon, big insurance companies, big pharmaceutical companies, big real estate companies … and other conduits like the Chamber of Commerce.
Why did these huge corporations put so much money into California state elections? Because we let them, and because of the return on investment they receive from tax cuts like the one that is forcing us to fire so many of our teachers.
There is a key lesson to learn from this. When it comes time to choose, that is when you can really see who is for or against something — where their priorities really are. And in this case, when push came to shove, in the end who did the conservatives come through for? The large corporations. They danced with the ones that brung them.
Click through to Speak Out California