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America Speaks: Our Budget, Our Economy--June 26th

On June 26, 2010, thousands of Americans across the country will participate in an unprecedented National Town Meeting on our budget and economy--Portland Ballroom, Oregon Convention Center --8:30am to 3:30pm

In Olympia area: South Puget Sound Community College
Hawks Prairie Center
1401 Marvin Road
8:15 am--3:30pm
Register at:  link to org2.democracyinaction.org
I saw a prior post on Portland indymedia--and noticed that this is being run by AmericaSpeaks. I had seen them in action almost 15 years ago and was impressed. I emailed them to find out what their agenda was because it appeared that this Town Meeting might be a rightwing attempt to gut social security and social programs.
The director called me to explain that they are indeed neutral, that they have no agenda, and are committed to the idea that participatory democracy matters.

One criticism was that the money came from the Frank Peterson. She explained that Peterson served in the Reagan administration and did favor privatizing social security at that time. However, her organization refused to take funding just from Peterson's foundation alone. Instead, they were able to get funding from other foundations with different perspectives and pulled together a group that had mixed views. Their neutrality is essential--someone has to be able to facilitate these conversations and the only way that can be done is through a neutral process with a neutral policy agenda.

I asked if they would be considering revenue raising measures as well as spending cuts. She said yes. They are almost done with putting together a options paper that will be posted to their website and will be given to all participants.

I then asked what information would be available--and she said that they now had Budget 101 posted to their website, along with other information reflecting a range of views and will have the revenue options posted by Monday.

She said that they are facing a difficult time with disinformation but she assured me that this conversation about the federal budget is a sincere attempt to engage citizens in an important converstation. AmericaSpeaks has no vested interest in any particular policy position or policy outcome. They do have a vested interest in enabling people to have a voice and engage in a civil conversation around very complex policies that affect our future.

You can see their overview at:

 http://usabudgetdiscussion.org/learn/u-s-budget-the-economy-101-the-basics/

This is a good overview--although some of the beliefs about what the impacts of raising revenue or the projected impacts of the deficit on the economy are topics that are debated by economists. The challenge, in my opinion, is to try and simplify these issues so non-budget people can understand while presenting the complex views as well as the reality that there is no agreement about what the future will look like or what the impacts are likely to be actually be. However, their site does provide some resources that reflect different political perspectives about the budget, the deficit and the debt so an informed discussion at the town meeting can take place.

For those who are concerned about the federal budget and the possible actions that can be taken to reduce the debt, this is a way to engage in the conversation.

Other reading:
Common Dreams: Who Ate the Dessert,  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/06/14-3
Research blog: Sustainable deficit?  http://researchdemystified.org/2010/03/a-sustainable-deficit/

From AmericaSpeaks website:

On June 26, 2010, thousands of Americans across the country will participate in an unprecedented National Town Meeting on our budget and economy. The National Town Meeting will include thousands of people in different locations all across the country connected live via satellite video, webcast and interactive technologies. In up to 20 cities, thousands of participants reflecting the political, socio-economic, and ethnic diversity of the United States will attend AmericaSpeaks 21st Century Town Meetings.
Thousands more Americans will participate that same day in volunteer-organized Community Conversations.
Many more individuals will be able to tune-in from home to watch live video coverage online, participate in the discussion, and share their own priorities in an online forum.

Statement of Neutrality
AmericaSpeaks takes pride in its reputation as an honest and neutral advocate for public participation. We play a unique role in the policymaking process by serving as a non-partisan convener of forums that provide the public with an opportunity to make decisions about important issues without fear of manipulation or bias. Our ability to help citizens and elected officials come together around tough public issues is dependent on our commitment to maintaining this neutral role.
We have held dozens of town hall meetings that have been attended and supported by a range of Republican, Democrat and Independent office holders from Mayors and Governors to Congressional Representatives and Senators, to a U.S. President and many world leaders.

On our staff, Board of Directors and Board of Advisors, you will find individuals who have held elected office and those who have been appointed to government positions — representing both Republicans and Democrats and those with no strong party affiliations.

AmericaSpeaks does not take positions on policy issues. AmericaSpeaks strives to ensure that only balanced and neutral facts are used to inform discussions on policy issues. We stand by these basic principles that protect the integrity of our process and the faith that participants and decision-makers place in our work.

homepage: homepage: http://usabudgetdiscussion.org/


I'm scared of this thing 15.Jun.2010 20:57

Disinformant

I guess you can call me one of the people spreading disinformation, but I think it's important for folks to know who is behind this, and what their agenda is. Check out what Dean Baker has to say:
 http://www.truth-out.org/derailing-wall-street-attack-social-security59340

Fear and paranoia kill honest civic engagement 16.Jun.2010 16:40

Julie Massa

Following the money is always necessary. I'm proud of Portlanders who take the time to follow the money. However, there is a line where critical thinking turns into the kind of paranoia and fear that leaves a person frozen and disengaged. The electorate is beyond disengaged. We've been asleep at the wheel for a long time. The cynicism and negativity fomenting in Portland toward anything new, different and not controlled exclusively by Portland is stunning. Thank you, Gail, for posting the details of your conversation with someone who actually knows what the event is about. Newsflash: The Peterson Foundation is not the only funder of Our Budget, Our Economy. Two very liberal funders -- the W.K. Kellog and John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundations -- are also funding the event in Portland. The spirit of the event is to make certain all voices have a seat at the table. It only makes sense that funding would come from all people interested in making that happen, be they liberal or conservative funders. Full disclosure: I'm an organizer for AmericaSpeaks in Portland. For several weeks, I have been working like crazy to make certain sharp, progressive, liberal people who very much care about entitlement programs (like me) attend the event to lend their voices and opinion to this discussion. If this was thing was a set-up, would they be paying me (a pretty good organizer) to unravel their 'corporate takeover'? If you want to sit home on June 26th and be cynical, do it. Don't ruin it for others who want to engage and make a difference.

Kellogg Supports Privatization of School 17.Jun.2010 14:51

disinformant

Julie--I hope you are right, and that this thing is all that you hope, but you are the one who seems defensive with your fairly ridiculous "not controlled by Portland" argument. I just don't happen to see what's so "new and different" about a bunch of elites trying to get their greedy paws on Social Security and school funding. I believe in people's ability to decipher this stuff, but I worry that the choices being offered, and the way the discussion is being set up is pretty biased (and yes, I have looked at your Economy 101 thing).

Peterson has always been about Social Security, and I'm sure always will be, but the "liberals" over at Kellogg have it in for our public schools, throwing their millions at the development of charter schools. Pardon me for being suspicious of your funders' intentions, but shouldn't those kind of questions be part of this experiment in democracy?

The one group on your central committee that I trust is the Economic Policy Institute, but I can find nothing on their website about the town hall. What's up with that?
 link to www.epi.org

The other thing that scares me about this is the local list of inviters, lots of right wingers, Tea Party losers, not so many progressive groups.
 http://usabudgetdiscussion.org/local_partners/
(Although it looks like you may have updated it to look less Tea Party-ish--weren't there three listed before?)

Some Useful Information 17.Jun.2010 23:45

Gail

I am not certain what the outcome will be. The budget is complicated. One danger is that it will become so simplified that not all the options will be considered. The other danger is that it will be dominated by a narrow special interest.
While the AmericaSpeaks website has a lot of information, I would have liked to have seen a few charts that shows where the money comes from and where it goes. Sort of like the Citizen's Guide to the Budget that was last produced by the White House in FY 2002. The data is old but it does provide some good basic information:
 http://www.gpoaccess.gov/usbudget/fy02/pdf/guide.pdf

For those who want to look at the revenue side, this might be interesting:
How 50 Years of Tax Cuts Benefited the Wealthiest Americans
By Chuck Collins, Alison Goldberg, and Sam Pizzigati
April 12, 2010
www.ips-dc.org/files/1675/ShiftingResponsibility.pdf

For folks like me, I would want to focus on tax expenditures--and a readable report can be found at:
 link to www.ctj.org

My Key Question: The federal budget increased dramatically at the end of 2008 and again in early 2009 due to the bailout. However, the budget does not go back down in 2010 and the out years to reflect that the nearly $1 trillion was a one-time expenditure. Why not?
I also have not been able to track it in the agencies--which agencies distributed this money?
Yeah--I used to work as a budgeteer a long time ago.

Basic Budget Concepts:


Revenue: Funds collected from the public that come about from government's exercise of its sovereign or governmental powers, including taxes, customs duties, fees, and fines. [Gail: revenues from taxes have fallen off, in part because of prior tax cuts and in part because of the declining economy. But marginal tax rates were much higher in the 1940s--1960s. It is not clear to me that the economy is better off now with the lowest tax rates than it was in the 1950s with very high tax rates.

And don't get sucked into the myth that taxes take money out of the economy. It does not. It still spends the money. Whether citizens spend $2 trillion or the government spends $2 trillion, the money still flows through the economy.

One last factoid: Not renewing the tax cuts passed since 2001 would result in $4 trillion more revenue dollars in the next 10 years, if all the budget assumptions used by the Congressional Budget Office hold true.]

Tax Expenditure: A revenue loss attributable to a provision of the federal tax laws that (1) allows a special exclusion, exemption, or deduction from gross income or (2) provides a special credit, preferential tax rate, or deferral of tax liability. Tax expenditures are subsidies provided through the tax system. Rather than transferring funds from the government to the private sector, the U.S. government forgoes some of the receipts that it would have collected, and the beneficiary taxpayers pay lower taxes than they would have had to pay. The Congressional Budget Act requires that a list of "tax expenditures" be included in the President's budget. Examples include tax expenditures for child care and the exclusion of fringe benefits, such as employer-provided health insurance, from taxation. Another tax expenditure is the taxes that are forgone due to interest deductions for mortgages--which means that $50 billion of revenue is forgone.

The Center for Tax Justice explains it this way: A simple example of a tax expenditure might be a break that Congress enacts in the corporate tax, giving a particular group of companies a benefit totaling $10 billion. The effect is the same as if Congress simply provided a subsidy through direct expenditures of $10 billion for those companies. Either way, the companies are $10 billion richer and there is $10 billion less to fund public services. In other words, other taxpayers who did not receive the special break have to pay for it through increased taxes or reduced public services.


Mandatory Spending (also known as direct spending): Spending that is authorized by permanent law - not through appropriations acts. Examples are entitlements, like Social Security, or interest payments on the national debt. If Congress wishes to change the level of spending in a mandatory program, it must change the underlying authorization act - for example, by changing the eligibility criteria for benefits.


Entitlement: A program that legally obligates the Federal Government to make payments to a person, business, or unit of government that meets the criteria set in law. The Congress generally controls entitlement programs by setting eligibility criteria and benefit or payment rules -- not by providing budget authority through an annual appropriation act. The best-known entitlements are the major benefit programs, such as Social Security and Medicare. Entitlements are funded through "mandatory" (not "discretionary") spending.
[Gail: this became a pejorative word-but basically it means that everyone who is eligble to receive benefits will receive them. For example, food stamps is an entitlement program and when more people applied because of the economic downturn, they all received benefits that they are entitled to under the law. The government can not say-sorry, we have no more money.

Discretionary Spending: The budget resources for programs that the President and Congress must decide to fund each fiscal year. Discretionary spending is funded through 13 annual appropriations bills. Examples include money for such activities as the FBI and the Coast Guard, housing and education, space exploration and highway construction, and defense and foreign aid.
[Gail: this is what the annual budget process focuses on. Remember, for every program there is a constituency that believes the program must be funded. And also remember that if our occupations (wars) were ended, it would save at least $100 billion every year--and probably more in related costs that do not show up in the Department of Defenses $600+ billion budget.]

Deficit: The difference produced when outlays exceed revenues in a fiscal year.

Debt: The accumulation of past deficits. The gross Federal debt is divided into two categories: debt held by the public and debt the Government owes itself. Another category is debt subject to legal limit.

Debt Held by the Public: The total of all Federal deficits, minus surpluses, over the years. This is the cumulative amount of money the Federal Government has borrowed from the public, through the sale of notes and bonds of varying sizes and time periods.


Debt the Government Owes Itself: The total of all trust fund surpluses over the years, like the Social Security surplus, that the law says must be invested in Federal securities. (Currently, the Social Security trust fund is running a surplus, i.e., more taxes are being collected than are needed to pay current claims.)

Three Budget Games: One is to cut something that everyone loves--like, we are going to close the Washington Monument. It is usually used to justify a tax increase.
The second one is to argue that "my program" should maintain its "fair share" of spending. If my program has received 15 percent of the budget in the past, then my program should continue to receive 15 percent. This is the "fair share" ploy, which has nothing to do with the merits or the actual needs of the program, and even less with the actual performance of the agency. This is often used to fend off cuts to the Department of Defense--even though it has purchased shoddy weapons, has paid way too much money to Haliburton, and cannot account for all of its money.
The third strategy is to "study it"--if something becomes too controversial, send it to a committee. It look like action but this has long been used to defuse an issue and hope that citizen interest will dissapte. It does not always work, however, but it is still a strategy.

Hope this helps.

Digging a little deeper always helps 18.Jun.2010 08:05

Julie Massa

One of the most liberal, anti-poverty, pro-entitlement program policy organizations, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities  http://www.cbpp.org/, is one of the advisors to AmericaSpeaks. I've worked with them for several years on protecting TANF, Social Security Disability and Food Stamps. I learned everything I know about the Federal Budget, from their experts.

Their founder, Bob Greenstein, attended the AmericaSpeaks Congressional budget briefing on the June 26th with Carolyn Lukensmeyer to urge Congressional Members to mobilize all of their constituents to attend. Here is Bob Greenstein's bio:  http://www.cbpp.org/experts/index.cfm?fa=vi:ew&id=21 CBPP's Oregon counterpart, Oregon Center for Public Policy just sent out an email yesterday, urging their supporters to attend:

"OCPP views the AmericaSpeaks event as an opportunity to influence how our elected leaders balance the need to address our country's fiscal challenges with imperatives to strengthen our economy and protect the most vulnerable among us."

Trust me, none of these groups would be involved if this was a sham!

Both Tea Party and MoveOn involvement 18.Jun.2010 08:39

Julie Massa

I didn't address Disinformant's question about Tea Party involvement. Yes, their are Tea Party members attending the conversation.
And we learned yesterday that MoveOn is mobilizing their base to attend the discussion (albeit very, very, very late). Where have you been MoveOn?! Apparently MoveOn is only interested in preaching to their choir -- I used to be a paying member of that choir.

I've organized progressives for 10 years, and I would never have guessed that there'd be such reluctance to sit down and have an honest conversation with people who have opposing views. What a toxic political environment. We're at a point that the only way Congress will listen to us is if we actually engage in these conversations with all viewpoints represented. I've been a paid lobbyist, and I'm glad to finally be involved in a grassroots effort designed to elevate the conversation beyond partisan rancor.

Re: MoveOn 18.Jun.2010 12:15

Disinformant

MoveOn is not exactly on board with the program--did you not see their email: "The [June 26 Town Hall] meetings are organized by AmericaSpeaks, an outside group funded by an anti-Social Security crusader, and they've reserved the right to turn away whoever they choose from the meetings."

Look, I'm just questioning some of the process, the framing, the choices, the funders, and you have accused me and other critics of fear mongering, paranoia, fomenting negativity and cynicism, etc. So much for an open, democratic discussion.

It does not surprise me to hear that you were a paid lobbyist, you seem to be pretty invested in a system that I think is fundamentally broken.

Last comment 19.Jun.2010 07:40

Julie Massa

FYI -- I was a paid lobbyist for low-income people. There aren't many of those alive and well today. Again, do your research like maybe Googling my name.

I love it when people question any process. I'm impressed when people show up at an event, speak out at the event (for it or against it) and, ultimately, show some courage. People who sit at a computer screen, who fail to do research and who lob criticism before they've given something a try are spineless.

I was a member of MoveOn up until 2 days ago. They've lost my support with they hyper-partisan drivel. Their critique sounds as if they're sore for not being selected as a group to carry the message.

To anyone else reading these comments 19.Jun.2010 07:56

Julie Massa

MoveOn's message wrongly inferred that AmericaSpeaks would be turning away people at the event. Here's the straight scoop:

The goal of the day is about balance. There are age, political, income, race targets to make certain the conversation is representative of the overall population -- and that there is balance. The point is to make certain no part of the representation is lop-sided. If 500 Republicans show, and only 200 Democrats show, there will be an attempt to compensate for the lack of balance which is why I, and others, have done our best to counter the negativity fomenting in the progressive community in Portland. There is danger that people will give up and we'll have 500 Republicans and 2 Democrats.

People will not be turned away completely, they will still be engaged in a conversation and possibly transported to another location where a conversation has a more balanced composition.

So, really, it is important to attend if this sounds interesting to you.

Balance 19.Jun.2010 14:14

Disinformant

I'm glad you are trying to balance Democrats and Republicans, sounds like you have the whole political spectrum well covered. (Sarcasm intended)

But don't mind me, I'm just a spineless armchair critic, who never does anything else. (Sarcasm again intended)

Is it not true that America Speaks is funded by an anti-Social Security crusader? You didn't address that part of MoveOn's email. For the record, I've never been a huge fan of MoveOn, there are usually far too centrist, pro-Democratic party for me, but I find their concerns about this event, and about Obama's Deficit Commission to be pretty on target.

Picking and Choosing Participants and Relocating Them? 21.Jun.2010 14:49

No Extraordinary Rendition for me, thank you

We are currently registered for the America Speaks convention this Saturday. We consider ourselves progressive. We found a lot of the questions that were a prerequisite to registration quite intrusive.

We are showing up just to take a progressive stance. We do not have much faith in the system or the process. We have little to no faith in what paid organizers tell us because they are performing the work they are paid for and in thrall to those who are paying them. We suspect this town hall is just paying lipservice to the so-called democratic process and the powers-that-be are trying to dupe us into thinking that we have a voice when we don't. As we have seen in the last ten years or so, the people's "mandates" count for nothing.

We are showing up in good faith because there are going to be a lot of right-wingers there and there needs to be a balance. We don't want the powers-that-be to use the excuse that since the progressives and liberals refused to show up, that shows that they do not care and the right-wingers will have the only voice. The system is broken; no amount of town halls will change that.

Thanks very much to Disinformant for the background information on who is funding the America Speaks event. Thanks also for the information about people possibly being turned away and being relocated.

We are signed up to attend the 8:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. America Speaks forum at the Oregon Convention Center on Saturday, June 26. We have a confirmation e-mail to that effect. We will be staying together. If we are going to be transported to another location, we will be leaving the event.

Being transported to another location at the last-minute is too close to extraordinary rendition for us. Should we be bringing our own black bag as well???!!!

Beware the “Balance the Budget” Hype 22.Jun.2010 14:33

Jobs With Justice

You will likely be hearing about a nation-wide Town Hall on June 26th that will be held in 20 cities simultaneously, Portland included. We (the JwJ Economic Crisis Committee) were suspicious when in the invitation to the America Speaks Town Hall we were told that we'd have to make "tough choices" to balance the budget. We immediately thought that it was going to be tough on us and thought, "They are probably going to try to tamper with Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid."

The JwJ Economic Crisis committee believes that people going to the Town Hall should go with eyes open. But even more, we are concerned that the Town Hall is one tactic in creating a new narrative that the corporate and governmental elites are writing in this time of economic crisis. This offensive creates the fear of soaring future debt and sets the overwhelming economic priority of balancing the budget.

By one stroke, they get three goodies: They plant in people's minds the idea that the critical cause of economic problems is the growing deficit, not what we have already experienced: three to four decades of intensified corporate domination with privatization, corporate trade, export of jobs, squeezing of the working class on wages, union busting, speed up and layoffs, increased racism, financialization of the economy and more. Secondly, deficit fear is being used to squelch even minor jobs programs in Congress, let alone a massive public jobs program. A number of Congress people are even crying "deficit" when it comes to extending unemployment benefits! This excuse to not create jobs will continue to cause suffering and will further erode workers' power.

Thirdly, the corporate and governmental elites are pushing for cuts to Social Security and other entitlements to "balance the budget." In the Town Hall materials, there are a number of options for cutting Social Security - even though the Social Security system is totally solvent. It is good that one option listed would make Social Security solvent for many more years, and that is raising the limit on taxable earnings. (See reference below for information on how Social Security is solvent. ) However, why is Social Security even a topic at a town hall on balancing the federal budget? Social Security uses NO money from the federal budget. It is a stand alone system.

We need to build stronger coalitions to re-write this narrative!

Although the America Speaks Town Hall promises an open, democratic, diverse conversation about problems that affect all of us, the set-up seems to be quite different. The America Speaks Town Hall is not a broad national conversation about the economic crisis and about how to deal with an economy that is seriously not working for the majority of us. It is not an open conversation about what should be national budget priorities. It is a pointed discussion that fans the flames of fear about soaring debt and the need to balance the budget.

Participants will be asked to decide if and how to make the cuts. From the Town Hall workbook: "Your challenge (in this Town Hall) is to focus on the year 2025 when the annual deficit of 9% of GNP will be $2.46 trillion and choose spending or revenue options or both to reduce it by $1.2 trillion." The "data" from this national discussion will go to President Obama's Commission on the Deficit. The whole idea that balancing the budget is a pressing, critical problem certainly seems to be hype.

What we need now is just the opposite of crying "deficit." We need government spending on jobs creation. Fifteen million unemployed people and nine million underemployed people need jobs and their spending and taxes will lower the deficit! Dean Baker, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Public Policy Research, says, "In spite of the deficit hawks' whining, history and financial markets tell us that the deficit and debt levels that we are currently seeing are not a serious problem. The current projections show that even ten years out on our current course the ratio of debt to GDP will be just over 90 percent. The ratio of debt to GDP was over 110 percent after World War II. Instead of impoverishing the children of that era, the three decades following World War II saw the most rapid increase in living standards in the country's history"

These are links to good articles by Dean Baker showing how the "Deficit Crisis" is being hyped.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dean-baker/the-budget-deficit-crisis_b_453872.html
 link to www.cepr.net

We believe that for most of us far more pressing are the needs for a massive jobs program, a truly tight safety net, and steps to stop and reverse climate change. Let's have a national conversation about this! But who gets to frame the conversation? It looks like the framing and assumptions have been front loaded into a Town Hall program that will in large part determine how participants will "vote". If that's the case, it would not truly be a transparent, democratic process.

Given the framing, assumptions and options in the workbook guiding the Town Hall discussion, it will be an uphill battle to bring up the budget priorities common people need. We would like to see huge reduction in military and war spending; we'd like to stop ballooning health care costs by winning Medicare for All, or single payer; we'd like to see a massive federal jobs program and the building of an economy that reverses and stops climate change. Even though some of these are presented as options, the Town Hall materials make assumptions that make it highly unlikely that these ideas will come up and be counted.

Some examples of assumptions and framing in the options workbook:

On Medicare and Medicaid: The workbook assumes that we will simply not get fundamental health care reform (e.g. single payer or other big reforms) that will force significant cuts in health care costs. So, the workbook goes on to say that the options Town Hall participants will vote on are for "achieving savings through changes within the system ".

These include cuts and/or privatization of Medicare (for people over 65) and Medicaid (for poor people.) They are building into the assumptions that we will NOT get single payer. So, most people at the Town Hall won't vote for single payer, even though many would if they had it as an option. Thus, we are fed the assumption that health care costs will just keep going up and up and all we can do is cut government spending for health care.

The military budget The Town Hall materials present the military budget as a necessary feature of our life without which we wouldn't have peace. The framing on P. 28 of the Town Hall workbook starts out like this, "The United States is by far the world's predominant military power. It plays the lead role in maintaining global peace, ensuring commerce on the world's waterways, protecting our allies, and confronting our adversaries when necessary. It leads an international alliance system of some 70 countries. It also will likely face a host of challenges in the coming years, which include possible conflicts in several parts of the world." With assumptions such as these and without facts and perspectives that challenge these common rose colored views of defense spending, many people at town halls around the country on June 26th will be less likely to "vote" to cut defense to balance the budget.

The Town Hall materials also seriously minimize the amount of the federal budget that goes to defense spending. The Town Hall guide says, " Over the last half-century, defense spending has fallen as a share of the budget more or less gradually from nearly 50% to today's 19%.."

To get defense spending down to 19% of the federal budget, you have to be pretty tricky. For one, you have to include Social Security in the federal budget! But it is NOT part of the budget. It is not part of income tax collection. It is a separate system of withholding in which one generation of workers provides for the previous generation. All the government does here is hold onto the funds and transfers the funds. Lyndon Johnson began including Social Security in the federal budget to hide the true costs of the Vietnam War. When you take Social Security out of the budget as it should be, the percentage of the budget devoted to the military goes up. The War Resister's League says that the 19.2% should be 36% and they have another category for past military spending that includes veteran's benefits and interest on the debt having to do with military spending that comes to 18% of the budget. There is a lot to look at here.

Nothing was presented in the Town Hall workbook about the astronomical increase in military spending in most of the period since World War II. This seems to be a huge omission. We've included below some links to information about the military budget from Marty Hart-Landsberg's blog on economics. He is a Lewis and Clark Economics professor and is on the Workers' Rights Board. This information essentially says that the non-military part of the budget has stayed roughly the same percentage of GNP for 40 years. What has changed is the hugely increased military budget. Marty points out that even if you remove the current war spending, the 2010 military budget is higher than in Reagan years or in the years of the Vietnam War. Why aren't these perspectives part of a nation-wide town hall?

What foundations are funding this Town Hall and what are their priorities?

- The Peter G. Peterson Foundation, the Kellogg Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. GOP conservative and Wall St. billionaire Peter G. Peterson has demonized Social Security for decades and has, according to the Nation magazine, "spread some $12 million among economists and think tanks to sell his case." Dean Baker reports that Peterson has created curricula for high schools creating fear that Social Security is using up its money. Peter G. Peterson, former Secretary of Commerce under Richard Nixon, has been going around the county having town hall meetings with Warren Buffett, Alan Greenspan, Paul Volker and Robert Rubin. The Peter G. Peterson Foundation is clearly a right wing foundation.


We haven't done tons of research on the Kellogg Foundation. Although they may fund some good things, we're very suspicious of them because they financially and politically support "Excellent Schools Detroit", a powerful move to create new charter schools in place of most of Detroit's public schools.  link to www.macsb.org


 http://www.democracynow.org/2010/4/2/mass_closures_of_detroit_schools_promotion

- The Kellogg Foundation is also one of the three major philanthropic organizations working with the Mayor of Detroit that is pouring money into both home demolition efforts and shifts to industrialized farming.  link to www.democracynow.org

- The MacArthur foundation: On their web page, this is the first sentence: "The massive government economic stimulus package approved in February 2009 added to the mountain of debt that threatens America's future. Aimed at relieving the financial crisis and recession, the plan more than tripled the deficit from what it was just two years earlier. But the aging of the baby boomers, increasing entitlement costs, and an arcane federal budget process were already jeopardizing the nation's fiscal well-being. Increased life expectancy will result in a growing number of retirees relative to the number of workers to support them. And the costs of entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will consume a larger share of the federal budget. Yet the American public scarcely understands the tax and spending measures in the federal budget at a time when the deficit is expected to exceed $1 trillion annually for at least the next several years."

This sounds like the premise of the Town Hall and appears to focus on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid as being the main "deficit culprits." For more info,  link to www.macfound.org

Again, we suggest that folks who go to the Town Hall go with their eyes open. Additionally, we should all work on changing the narrative of fear of deficits into a narrative that looks squarely at the 30 plus years of corporate domination and focuses on the need to win more resources and power for working people!

For more information on Social Security's solvency, see Reports from the Economic Front, March 31, 2010

For more information on military spending, see Reports from the Economic Front, March 16, 2010 and December 5, 2009.

Reports from the Economic Front:
 http://media.lclark.edu/content/hart-landsberg/

Why the left should trust people in the US (Dr. Archon Fung) 02.Jul.2010 08:30

Julie Massa

 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/archon-fung/public-deliberation-the-l_b_627983.html

Someday you'll recognize that your fear is killing our democracy.