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The Fake Budget Debate in DC

By definition, a "debate" requires two opposing sides holding mutually exclusive opinions. In the U.S. Congress, however, real debate has all but vanished. Instead, we are subjected to endless blather that if you listen closely is a simple discussion over splitting hairs.

There can be no U.S. budget debate when both sides have already agreed that massive cuts to social programs including Medicare and Social Security will be the foundation of any plan.
With this fundamental agreement already in place, Democrats and Republicans are pathetically trying to create a division where none exists. The right wing looks especially foolish, since Obama has been furiously sprinting to the political right throughout the budget "debate," having already overtaken the right-wing deficit hawks; in response, the hawks have gotten more hawkish and restarted their rightward dash in a desperate attempt to appear in "opposition" to the right-wing President.

For example, the Republicans originally demanded that an astonishing $4 trillion be cut from the U.S. budget, mainly through cuts to social programs. Not to be outdone, Obama presented a plan that would cut $4 trillion, mainly through cuts to social programs. The furthest right are the so-called Tea Party Republicans, who want to cut $10 trillion by essentially privatizing the entire U.S. Government.

But, back to the hair splitting. Obama calls the $4 trillion Republican plan "radical," and he's right; the plan seeks to privatize Medicare, destroy Medicaid, gut other social programs, lower corporate tax rates, etc.

But Obama is a radical budget cutter too; he seeks to gut Medicare/Medicaid by $480 billion(!), slash spending for many crucial programs for the poor, and privatize public education through his corporate-sponsored Race to the Top program.

Obama is trying to make his plan seem progressive by talking about "taxing the rich," but this is a lie. Finally allowing the Bush-era tax cuts to expire is not "taxing the rich" (Bush himself planned for the cuts to have expired already, but Obama agreed to extend them.)

Obama's recent tough speech against the Republicans was the first sign of life for the President, just in time for him to begin his presidential run for 2012, which will surely be full of promises that will never see the light of day.

As the President wages a "battle" over secondary budget issues, such as how best to make $4 trillion in cuts, the main issues are already agreed upon. Economist Richard Reich helps explain:

"...the Democratic leadership in Congress refuse to refute the Republicans' big lie that spending cuts will lead to more jobs. In fact, spending cuts now will lead to fewer jobs. They'll slow down an already-anemic recovery. That will cause immense and unnecessary suffering for millions of Americans"

"The president continues to legitimize the Republican claim that too much government spending caused the economy to tank, and that by cutting back spending we'll get the economy going again." (April 10, 2011).

This two-party big lie is not an accident, but an expression of a deeper held belief: that the U.S. government must be directed to meet the needs of the super wealthy who own U.S. corporations. Holding this belief requires that you gut social programs (since corporations hate paying taxes) and privatize everything publicly owned (so corporations can own them for profit).

As long as both Democrats and Republicans agree to these deeper beliefs, the country will shift continually to the right, with social programs and living standards evaporating. However, the stronger that labor and community groups unite and fight to save these social programs, the harder will it be to cut them; out of such a struggle will emerge practical solutions to solving the deficit problems of the country, such as dramatically increasing the taxes on the rich and corporations so that jobs can be created and social programs saved.

homepage: homepage: http://www.workerscompass.org


The Fake Military Spending Debate in DC 23.Apr.2011 23:42

Gareth Porter

 link to my.firedoglake.com


The Obama-Gates Maneuver on Military Spending

By: Gareth Porter Thursday April 21, 2011 1:17 am

Last week Barack Obama announced that he wants to cut $400 billion in military spending and said he would work Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and the Joint Chiefs on a "fundamental review" of U.S. "military missions, capabilities and our role in a changing world" before making a decision.


Spokesman Geoff Morrell responded by hinting that Gates was displeased with having to cut that much from his spending plan. Gates "has been clear that further significant defense cuts cannot be accomplished without future cuts in force structure and military capability," said Morrell, who volunteered that the Secretary not been informed about the Obama decision until the day before.


But it is difficult to believe that open display of tension between Obama and Gates was not scripted. In the background of those moves is a larger political maneuver on which the two of them have been collaborating since last year in which they gave the Pentagon a huge increase in funding for the next decade and then started to take credit for small or nonexistent reductions from that increase.


The original Obama-Gates base military spending plan - spending excluding the costs of the current wars - for FY 2011 through 2020, called for spending $5.8 trillion, or $580 billion annually, as former Pentagon official Lawrence Korb noted last January. That would have represented a 25 percent real increase over the average annual level of military spending, excluding war costs, by the George W. Bush administration.


Even more dramatic, the Obama-Gates plan was 45 percent higher than the annual average of military spending level in the 1992-2001 decade, as reflected in official DOD data (pdf).


The Obama FY 2012 budget submission reduced the total increase only slightly - by $162 billion over the four years from 2017 to 2020, according to the careful research of the Project on Defense Alternatives (PDA). That left an annual average base military spending level of $564 billion - 23 percent higher than Bush's annual average and 40 percent above the level of the 1990s.


Central to last week's chapter in the larger game was Obama's assertion that Gates had already saved $400 billion in his administration. "Over the last two years," he said, "Secretary Gates has courageously taken on wasteful spending, saving $400 billion in current and future spending. I believe we can do that again."


The $400 billion figure is based primarily on the $330 billion Gates claimed he had saved by stopping, reducing or otherwise changing plans for 31 weapons programs. But contrary to the impression left by Obama, that figure does not reflect any cut in projected DOD spending. All of it was used to increase spending on operations and investment in the military budget.


The figure was concocted, moreover, by using tricky accounting methods verging on chicanery. It was based on arbitrary assumptions about how much all 31 programs would have cost over their entire lifetimes stretching decades into the future, assuming they would all reach completion. That methodology offered endless possibilities for inflated claims of savings.


The PDA points out that yet another $100 billion that Gates announced in January as cost-cutting by the military services was also used to increase spending on operations and new weapons program that the services wanted. That leaves another $78 billion in cuts over five years also announced by Gates in January, but most of that may have been added to the military budget for "overseas contingency operations" rather than contributed to deficit reduction, according to the PDA.


Even if the $400 billion in ostensible cuts that Obama is seeking were genuine, the Pentagon would be still be sitting on total projected increase of 14 percent above the profligate level of military spending of the Bush administration. Last week's White House fact sheet on deficit reduction acknowledged that Obama has the "goal of holding the growth in base security spending below inflation."


The "fundamental review" that Obama says will be carried out with the Pentagon and military bureaucracies will be yet another chapter in this larger maneuver. It's safe bet that, in the end, Gates will reach into his bag of accounting tricks again for most of the desired total.


Despite the inherently deceptive character of Obama's call for the review, it has a positive side: it gives critics of the national security state an opportunity to point out that such a review should be carried out by a panel of independent military budget analysts who have no financial stake in the outcome - unlike the officials of the national security state.


Such an independent panel could come up with a list of all the military missions and capabilities that don't make the American people more secure or even make them less secure, as well as those for which funding should be reduced substantially because of technological and other changes. It could also estimate how much overall projected military spending should be reduced, without regard to what would be acceptable to the Pentagon or a majority in Congress.


The panel would not require White House or Congressional approval. It could be convened by a private organization or, better yet, by a group of concerned Members of Congress. They could use its data and conclusions as the basis for creating a legislative alternative to existing U.S. national security policy, perhaps in the form of a joint resolution. That would give millions of Americans who now feel that nothing can be done about endless U.S. wars and the national security state's grip on budgetary resources something to rally behind.


Three convergent political forces are contributing to the eventual weakening of the national security state: the growing popular opposition to a failed war, public support for shifting spending priorities from the national security sector to the domestic economy and pressure for deficit and debt reduction. But in the absence of concerted citizen action, it could take several years to see decisive results. Seizing the opportunity for an independent review of military missions and spending would certainly speed up that process.

inflation is the tax increase we will all be paying. 25.Apr.2011 08:46

justsomedude

With over $150 Trillion dollars in unfunded liabilities to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc over the next 40 years, only one solution will be offered.
Inflation is the time honored solution to financial ruin from governments throughout history when those governments promise too much to too many for too little.