Deficit Cutters – Here’s Your First Trillion

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
Today the country is looking for ways to cut spending and borrowing. Yet military spending, the biggest spending item in the budget, is barely part of the discussion — obviously because of the amount of campaign and lobbying dollars it generates.
The corrupting influence of lobbying money is clear: the fact that the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 has not yet penetrated the bubble around the country’s capital. In fact, military spending has soared in recent years:
(Source Includes DOD, Veterans, Foreign military aid, Foreign economic aid. Does not include military share of debt interest.)
Because of this application of lobbying dollars our military spending vastly surpasses the amount spent by the rest of the world, and dominates our country’s budget:
(This is discretionary budget. Source
Now a bipartisan commission is willing to take this on. Commission outlines ways to cut defense spending by $1T over the next decade,

The Sustainable Defense Task Force, a commission of scholars from a broad ideological spectrum appointed by Frank, the House Financial Services Committee chairman, laid out options the government could take that could save as much as $960 billion between 2011 and 2020.

Task force sees Pentagon cuts key to US budget fix,

U.S. lawmakers and watchdog groups on Friday called for a dramatic revamp of the defense budget to reverse widening U.S. deficits, including termination of the $382 billion Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) F-35 fighter.

This should be a litmus test to determine the seriousness and honesty of any deficit cutters. Do they take on the big lobbying interests, or do they take it out on the poor and elderly. We’ll see. The record so far is not good.
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Teacher Layoffs Loom Nationwide, DC Restaurants Humming

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.
Some say that “government can’t create jobs.” Others respond “unemployed people can’t create votes.” Meanwhile, conservatives, whose policies put so many people out of work, now say unemployed people are lazy and should not be collecting unemployment benefits.
Washington, DC is the center of a strange Information Deficit Disorder. The restaurants in DC are humming, the median income is really high, the Pentagon contracts are flowing. Seriously, pick a DC-area zip code, say 22314, and go to this site: “Dollar Amount of Defense Contracts Awarded to Contractors in this Zip Code from 2000 to 2009: $7,086,397,848.” Even better, scroll down the page and look at some of the contracts and amounts awarded. So-and-so Consulting, $54,024, 204. So-and-so Associates, $1,698,274. Even better, see how many have the same address. This is just one zip code. There are pages and pages and pages like this for DC-area zip code after zip code. Clearly it is really, really good to be part of the military industry.
So from DC’s viewpoint things are doing mighty fine. One Representative from Pennsylvania actually said the other day, “businesses back home complain that they want to start hiring but are getting few applicants because Congress has repeatedly extended unemployment benefits.” Her district has 10% unemployment. There appear to be 14,900 people unemployed just in the city of Erie, which is in her district. Here are ALL 99 jobs advertised in the local paper.
Maybe this strange DC Information Deficit Disorder explains why hundreds of thousands of teachers are about to be laid off around the country because Congress isn’t interested in acting. Republicans, who want schools privatized, call it a “bailout.” Fox News, Teachers Seek $23b- Lifeline or Bailout?,

Education analyst Lindsey Burke of the Heritage Foundation … questions the wisdom of funneling federal taxpayer funds, in any amount, to the public school system as it is presently structured. [. . .] they dont need another bailout from Washington for public education.

Sen. Harkin’s $23 Billion Teacher Bailout Stalls

Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin’s $23 billion amendment to bailout 300,000 teachers who will otherwise lose their jobs has stalled. “I have no Republicans who want to vote for it,” he told Capitol News Connection. Meanwhile, in the House today, the Secretary of Education and top Democrats in the House struggle to drum up support for the same measure.

It isn’t so good to be part of the teaching profession right now. Or a parent, for that matter. In fact, these days it isn’t so good to be part of almost any profession except military or Wall Street.
I have been attaching the following paragraph to several posts about the jobs emergency:
President Obama has talked about a bold, large scale vision for a new direction for the country. But Congress and the President are getting trapped in austerity budget thinking that won’t allow them to go in the direction of stimulus and helping regular people. If there is to be no money because of an austerity budget then American competitiveness, the economy and the mood of the public can only get worse. Do the DC elites actually believe the public is going to reward this with votes?
NOTE: Part of the America’s Future Now conference in Washington D.C. from June 7-9 will be devoted to strategy on how the progressive movement can fight the deficit cutters. Speakers such as Van Jones, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Howard Dean, AFL CIO President Richard Trumka, Arianna Huffington will offer a build vision for how the progressive movement can rebuild America’s economy and put people back to work. Click here to attend.

Save Social Security – 10 Questions for the Deficit Commission

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
It is possible that there is going to be a “deficit commission” to look for ways to reduce our country’s budget deficits. I have some questions for them to ask to help get things started in the right direction:
1) President Reagan increased Social Security taxes, but used that money to cut the very top tax rates that only the wealthiest pay. Now that the money borrowed from Social Security is coming due, which income group is better positioned to pay it back, wealthy people or the elderly to whom this money is owed?
2) President Clinton left office with a huge budget surplus. Then, President Bush gave tax cuts to the wealthy, and his last budget had a $1.4 trillion deficit. How much of this change was because of those tax cuts for the rich?
3) How large was the country’s yearly budget deficit and total debt in the “Eisenhower/Truman” decades when the top tax rate was 90%?
4) Today we have an “infrastructure deficit” – the amount needed to repair our country’s roads, bridges, sewers, etc. – of somewhere upwards of $1.6 trillion. Was our infrastructure kept in good repair before the top tax rates were cut?
5) Concentration of wealth is long recognized as a threat to democracy, and now we are seeing a low-wage, everything-to-the-top economy with the greatest ever concentration of wealth going to a few at the top. Was the problem of wealth concentration increasing or decreasing before the top tax rates were cut?
6) When top rates were high people couldn’t take home vast fortunes in a single year. When it took several years to make a fortune did corporations depend on long-term or short-term thinking? Did the executives of corporations care if the infrastructure and communities their companies depended on were in good shape? Did large corporations fleece customers and exploit employees for quarterly returns as they do now?
7) The military budget is the largest item in our country’s budget. Was the military budget larger or smaller when we faced the cold war threat from the Soviet Empire?
8) Just how big is our military budget, if you add in veterans programs, nukes, intelligence and the military budget’s share of accumulated debt interest? How large is it in relation to all of the rest of the countries in the world, combined?
9) Speaking of debt interest, how much debt interest do we pay on the debt that has added up since we cut tax rates at the top? Who gets all that interest?
10) Some will say that proposals to bring back the tax rates of the Eisenhower administration are “socialist.” What was the name of the organization that accused President Eisenhower of being a Communist?
11) Does the following chart stimulate any ideas about how we might solve the debt problem?

Gays In Military – From the Right

The Daou Report is linking to this fascinating post and discussion of gays in the military at a usually right-wing site, BLACKFIVE: Lively discussion on gays in the military. It started with Blackfive’s post Why can’t gays serve proudly? saying “the ban on gays serving openly in the military is wrong.”

“If I am lying by the road bleeding, I don’t care if the medic coming to save me is gay. I just hope he is one of those buff gay guys who are always in the gym so he can throw me over his shoulder and get me out of there.”
That sentiment fits not only gay troops, but any other group that experienced discrimination. The military has been the leader in leveling the playing field for women and minorities for a long time, and it is well past due that we terminate the farce of “Don’t ask, don’t tell”.

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