This supposed attempt at reducing the federal deficit was a congressional comedy from beginning to end, starring John Boehner as the substitute teacher in a juvenile corrections facility. The stated intent was to create jobs and strengthen the economy, but the Tea Party novices muscled away the wheel of the bus and turned the discussion into all abortion, all the time. The insane crusade against Planned Parenthood in the midst of a budget crisis revealed the Tea Party Republicans as the zealots for their social and moral agenda that they are. Civically challenged Indiana Rep. Mike Pence took to the House floor to declare that Republicans were willing to shut down the government if the Democrats didn't "respect our values," while outside, Tea Party activists chanted, "Cut it or shut it." Arizona Sen. John Kyl addressed the rally saying, "If you want an abortion, you go to Planned Parenthood, and that's well over 90% of what (they) do." In truth, 96% of the organizations' activities consist of cancer screenings, STD or STI testing, contraception, counselling, pregnancy testing and pre-natal care. Abortions are referred to medical professionals since the Hyde Amendment already forbids public funds for that purpose. Republicans lied, Democrats enabled them, and Margaret Sanger just rolled over in her grave.
It's difficult to imagine that a scant 11 years ago, the U.S. had a balanced budget and a federal surplus of $230 billion. "But 9/11 changed everything," the argument goes. It certainly did. 19 homicidal men, armed with nothing more than sharp objects and an audacious plan, attacked landmarks of finance and government with hi-jacked domestic airliners, and caused this nation to go berserk. The Pentagon budget soared, our military invaded and occupied two countries, and our president told the nation to go shopping while Wall Street looted the treasury. That's why we run a $12 trillion deficit for which China is holding the marker. I'm no economist, but it seems the logical thing to do is extract ourselves from the entire, misguided fiscal and military morass we find ourselves in and disassemble the failed Bush policies that put us there. And that first means ending the two shooting wars we are currently fighting and bringing home our troops, not just from Afghanistan and Iraq, but from Germany, Japan, and Korea as well. The U.S. spends as much on defense as the rest of the world combined. The Bipartisan Poling Center recommends the reduction of our armed forces by 275,000 troops, and a Barney Frank/Ron Paul led congressional committee found that reducing our military presence in Europe and Asia by 1/3, would save $347 billion. Currently, we spend seven times as much as China, which is in second place.
The budget battle was like a bantamweight preliminary to the main event; the next budget. Both parties are sniping over earmarks and government funding, while their proposed reductions to the deficit is the equivalent of removing two M&Ms from the deluxe-size bag. I would like to recommend some large cuts that no one has yet addressed, beginning with restoring the tax code to Clinton era levels when nobody was complaining. This includes closing the loopholes for American corporations who make their profits here and park their money in overseas tax havens like the Cayman Islands. Conglomerates like General Electric would no longer be able to pay zero taxes whatsoever, which just happened. And a company like Transocean, responsible for the BP Oil disaster, would pay more in taxes and less in bonuses to executives for the year's "outstanding safety performance." A non-partisan study estimated $1 trillion in annual revenue if the government taxed corporate earnings channelled overseas. So, what cuts do they want to make to balance out the absence of corporate funds; the Environmental Protection Agency, HUD, financing for high-speed rail, heating subsidies for the elderly, and school lunches for poor children. Why not dismantle the whole Bush-era, Germanic sounding, Department of Homeland Security, instead?
As for Medicare, anyone who watches TV sees fraud roll by everyday, especially in the ads for electric scooters for the elderly. Alongside the Hoveround and the Scooter Store, there are numerous companies offering their guarantees of mobility "at little or no cost to you." This means with the right doctor's note, you too could be doing wheelies on the lip of the Grand Canyon. I might enjoy a free scooter too, but I don't think the country can afford to give one to everybody. Maybe a wheelchair, but you would still have to push. It's a Medicare scam, pure and simple, and the doctors get a little taste too. Same with the automatic stairs, and specialty home medical equipment, and the excessive testing of well insured patients in clinics and hospitals. All you need to end it is honest oversight of the agency. And wouldn't it be an altruistic gesture if billionaires donated their Social Security checks to the truly needy? Before horse-whipping the poor, these blinkered budget hawks should remember that our Afghan adventure is costing us $10 billion a month, and the military budget is greater than federal spending on education, Medicare, or interest on the debt, combined. Without the expense of empire and a remade military for the 21st century, this nation can find the way to escape from this dark economic period in the same way we have time and again; prosper out of it.