Monday, April 11, 2011

Budgetary Buffoonery

Does anyone believe that this latest political impasse that came within an hour of  padlocking the government actually had anything to do with the budget? If so, I have some shares of National Public Radio that I'd like to sell you. I know, it's not a private company. Yet. Just give them time. It's typical for the Republicans to begin eviscerating social programs when they assume power, but this Tea Party uprising is starting to resemble The Lord of the Flies, when the bullies victimize the weak until the grown-ups arrive. How else to explain the willingness to hold our soldiers' paychecks hostage to the government funding of Planned Parenthood?

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.


Anonymous said...

First of all liberals are the bullies and conservatives are the grown ups and the federal government never closes. Obama couldn't lead a circle jerk but he will try to take credit for cutting spending. The real cuts are down the road and it remains to be seen if conservatives will flinch because of “possible government shut down” or if they have the guts to do what has to be done.
Let Planned Parenthood stick to screenings, testing and counseling. And by the way Sanger was a racist.
If you think Bush is a fool and a failure then Obama is too because he just double downed on the spending and military involvement. I actually agree with you on bringing our troops home. We need them to guard our borders. But I don't think we need to reduce the size of the military just make it smarter by cutting things not needed. On taxes we should abolish the income tax and have a national sales tax (even the illegal emigrants would have to pay up) or at least have a flat rate income tax that everyone pays.

Anonymous said...

Let's blow the thing up [ figuratively, not literally] and start all over. The maybe, just maybe, my great grandchildren will have functioning government and country to live in. Things are so f*&#@ed, I don't believe any of the current bunch have the smarts, balls, integrity, or true good of the country at heart, to right the ship.
Call me cynical if you will and my response will just two words.........rightfully so.
Peace, love, and a good 401k.

Pat Robertson said...

In the 1970s the highest earning 0.01% of income earners were paying in the 70% range in taxes, and the highest 1% were paying in the mid 40s. Those in the top 20% are actually paying a bit more today in income taxes than that period.

The income tax rates in the US today, thanks to Reagan and then Bush, are significantly lower for the highest earners. But, we all know that. So, what's so bad?

What's so bad is that the "country" and I use italics because there are lots of people who believe that just being born inside the borders of the "country" allows them to be "patriots" and maintain the sanctity of the "country" as their sacred duty. Ok. Great.

If the "patriots" who are part of the "country" see that the country is sinking into the sand and what is needed to save the "country" is to put some cash in the til then the "patriots" who call this big club "theirs" should finally stand up to the plate, recognize that most of them are just stuffing money in their own "patriotic" pockets and bail out their "country".

It is not all right to suck the medications or cancer screening or food or clean water or place to live in the winter from those of their "countrymen" who have not been so lucky to have so much money stuffed into their pockets while their "country" went bankrupt.

Taking money away from those in need is great when you're not in need. Joe Lieberman would not have voted against a public option if Hadassah had needed some cancer screening and he had lost his job 8 months before.

The Republican "budget" is based on numbers that even the Heritage Foundation has now backed away from. It's a ludicrous show from a group whose ideas are untenable in a "country" that promises "inalienable rights".

Who paid for the Revolution? Was it the people who had no money? Or was it people who had it and decided that the "country" was worth financing in order that it might be conceived. Give me a break. Raise taxes on the richest of us. I'll have to pay. So, will my sons. Who do the Republicans think they are kidding?....the people with IQs of less than 100? Yes, their constituency.

Makes me sick.

Anonymous said...

Pat Robertson, that's the trouble with you bastards. You confuse rights with responsibilities. And by the way it looks like rain. Better lower that nose so you don't drown.

Anonymous said...

Man the libs on the media are really pouring on the guilt now. It is not our duty to send more money to a corrupt government. PERIOD!

performs said...

Mankind has responsibilities to his/her fellow beings but not all experience that responsibility. One has the "right" to habitually ignore the inherent connection to others and the responsibilities that one feels when embracing that connection. It is very difficult to undue the addiction to exclusivity in its various forms.

Anonymous said...

Closing the more than $1 trillion deficit Obama’s spending would produce in 2020 by taxing only the rich would require a top income tax rate of 134 percent. Of course it is impossible to tax more than 100 percent of any taxpayer’s income. More importantly, any rate even approaching such a dangerous level would destroy the economy. Period. So even if it were mathematically possible to tax more income than the rich earn, there would be none of it left for the government to confiscate.
Based on data from White House Office of management and Budget.

performs said...

I realize I have to get out of the habit of referring to America as “my” or “our” country, or referring to the government in the same possessive manner. It really is not accurate. I am not happy about this turn of events, but maybe we can get our country and its government back to being of, for and by the PEOPLE--all not the few. The moneyed elite will put up a fight as they enjoy their controlling influence, the ability to rip us off in so many ways, protect their interests with what used be our police and military, and best of all their insidious way of getting so manner suckers to support their bloody heist.
What will it take to turn this around? Maybe the first step is recognizing what is really going on, and what are the lies continually programming us since the 80’s.