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Citing significant concerns about long lines at airports and flight delays caused by the furlough of air-traffic controllers, Congress let the Federal Aviation Administration override strict sequestration rules and redirect funds within its budget. And they did so with lightning speed.
With their big fuss over aviation punctuality, lawmakers made it clear that they’re not feeling the pain felt by the majority of Americans. Their message: In the United States it’s fine to wait — and face a steep climb — for housing, health care, cancer treatment, a preschool slot, domestic violence intervention services, federal work study, or job retraining. But our planes? They better take off on time.
Thanks to sequestration’s across-the-board cuts that began two months ago, the FAA had to cut $637 million from its budget between March 1 and September 30, 2013. It planned to achieve one-third of this cost savings by furloughing 14,000 air-traffic controllers — making them take one unpaid day off for every ten days worked.
Congress is falling prey to what The New York Times calls the “special-interest demands for exceptions” — first meat inspectors, now air-traffic controllers.
Even though the majority of sequester-driven cuts fall on programs that serve families, workers, and low-income Americans, the gasp emerging from local communities is barely audible in the media or on Capitol Hill.
That’s because the majority of folks enduring the across-the-board cuts — program beneficiaries and the workers who serve them — are fighting to survive. They don’t have huge sums at their disposal to pay lobbyists or publicists.
Our lawmakers’ struggle to ease the pain of weary travelers is doing nothing to soften sequestration’s overall blow. More than a piecemeal approach is required.
Congress must cast off its confounding allegiance to zero-sum budgeting where one person’s win is another person’s loss. With all their constituents in mind, not just a powerful few, lawmakers must forge comprehensive legislation that tackles the way our nation makes our revenue and the way we set federal spending priorities.
Any member of Congress unwilling to engage in this task should locate the exit closest to them. There’s no room on this flight for useless baggage.
Jo Comerford is the executive director of the National Priorities Project. NPP is part of the Pentagon Budget Campaign, a broad national effort to rein in wasteful Pentagon spending. NationalPriorities.org. Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)
Much has been said over the past few weeks about the budget proposal in the House of Representatives, offered by Rep. Paul Ryan, and backed by Republican members, but not much has been said about how it will affect our veterans. As you know, the Paul Ryan plan will end Medicare, making it a voucher program, leaving seniors to buy their own insurance in the private system. It will therefore end one of the most popular and successful initiatives ever offered.
This plan will also punish veterans – harshly – and it’s important that you spread the word on how it will do so.
Here are the facts:
- Millions of veterans over 65 rely on Medicare, Medicaid or private insurance for their health care. In fact, according to the last survey of veterans by the Department of Veterans’ affairs, 39.3% of veterans use Medicare, compared with 14 percent of the general population.
- Many of these veterans are relying on Medicare as their sole health care provider. The Ryan plan would have an immediate impact on these veterans, forcing those falling into the “donut hole” with high-cost prescription drug costs to pay more for their medications in addition to paying more for preventative health services.
- Veterans who rely on Medicaid would not escape cuts either. The Republican plan could slash $1.4 trillion in health benefits over the next ten years. Forty-four states are already facing significant budget shortfall in Fiscal Year 2012,and the cuts could force the state to either ration health care benefits for veterans across the country, restrict eligibility rules and leave thousands uninsured, including veterans, or raise taxes to cover the shortfall.
- Finally, many veterans rely on private insurance, mostly through their employer. Because Republicans want to repeal the recent health insurance law, these veterans will no longer have guaranteed access to health insurance regardless of pre-existing conditions and may see annual or lifetime caps on coverage under the Republican budget.
In short, Republicans and Paul Ryan will strip away care for our veterans, in the name of budget cutting. These proposals are draconian, cruel, and unfair to those men and women who put their lives on the line for this country. But, unless we spread the word about how severely the Ryan/Republican plan will hurt veterans, most Americans won’t ever know.
Take some time to read their propaganda and get to know what they’re trying to do. Be an informed voter, not someone who swallowed their propaganda, hook, line and anchor.
|GOP 2012 Platform||GOP Growth Opportunities||2009 Road to Recovery||2010-Better Solutions|
|2010-Pledge to America||P2P v1.0||P2P v2.0||P2P v3.0|
Read/compare a few to see what you think — and if you’d like you can compare the actual budget numbers between plans here.
It’s budget week in Congress! The House will most likely end up passing the budget proposed by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan.
In the House
- The Ryan Budget: Reduces the deficit by $5.7 trillion over ten years than the current baseline, and cuts individual and corporate taxes. It also repeals the 2010 healthcare law. -
Republicans in the House will most likely end up passing Ryan’s Path to Poverty version 3.0 budget. Before approving Ryan’s budget, however, the House is expected to vote on a few other budget alternatives. Republican Leadership in the House will determine which other budgets upon which they’ll allow debate early in the week. Typically, the majority party will allow votes on budgets from the minority party (in this case, the Democrats), the Progressive Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus and the Republican Study Committee.
- A resolution funding House committees. The House is expected to pass this resolution this week. -
In the Senate
- The Senate Budget for FY 2014: The Senate is hoping to start work on a Democratic budget that reduces the deficit by about $700 billion over ten years compared to the current baseline. It also increases revenues by nearly $1 trillion, which has drawn fierce opposition from Senate Republicans. –
- The Continuing Resolution: Before the Senate can start on the budget, however, it will first look to pass a continuing spending resolution for 2013. The Senate started work on its version of the resolution, which is based on the House-passed HR 933, but still needs to work out a deal on dozens of remaining amendments.
— by Dan Pfeiffer, Senior Advisor to the President
With less than three weeks before devastating, across the board cuts – the so-called “sequester” – are slated to hit, affecting our national security, job creation and economic growth, we must make sure we are having a debate over how to deal with these looming deadlines that is based on facts- not myths being spread by some Congressional Republicans who would rather see these cuts hit than ask the wealthiest and big corporations to pay a little bit more.
First, the notion that President Obama hasn’t put forward a solution to deal with these looming cuts is false. In the fall of 2011, the President put forward a proposal to the Supercommittee for the specific purpose of laying out his vision to resolve the sequester and reduce our deficit by over $4 trillion dollars in a balanced way- by cutting spending, finding savings in entitlement programs and asking the wealthiest to pay their fair share. That proposal would have completely turned off the sequester while further reducing our deficit and ensuring we could still invest in the things we need to grow our economy and create jobs. That same approach was presented to Congress in the President’s budget last year. And the President’s last offer to Speaker Boehner in December remains on the table- an offer that meets the Republicans halfway on spending and on revenues, and would permanently turn off the sequester and put us on a fiscally sustainable path.
We should have a debate over how to best reduce the deficit. But with only three weeks until these indiscriminate cuts hit, Congress should find a short term package to give themselves a little more time to find a solution to permanently turn off the sequester. That package should have balance and include spending cuts and revenues.
And over the long-term, we need to find a solution that does this in a balanced way. The President has already reduced the deficit by over $2.5 trillion, cutting spending by over $1.4 trillion. And he’s willing to do more. And we can’t just cut our way to prosperity. Even as we look for ways to reduce deficits over the long term, our core mission is to grow the economy in a way that strengthens the middle class and everyone willing to work hard to get into it.
But we are not willing to accept the “my way or the highway” approach backed by Congressional Republicans that asks the middle class and seniors to bear all the burden while the very wealthiest individuals, big corporations and oil and gas companies continue to enjoy big tax loopholes that are unavailable to middle class Americans and small businesses.
A month ago, Speaker Boehner openly told the Wall Street Journal that he planned to use threat of harm to the country posed by the sequester as “leverage” to push for a partisan, unbalanced plan:
Mr. Boehner says he has significant Republican support, including GOP defense hawks, on his side for letting the sequester do its work. “I got that in my back pocket,” the speaker says. He is counting on the president’s liberal base putting pressure on him when cherished domestic programs face the sequester’s sharp knife. Republican willingness to support the sequester, Mr. Boehner says, is “as much leverage as we’re going to get.”
If Republicans in Congress want spending cuts, there is a simple way to get them that will not imperil our economy, our national security, or vital programs that middle class families depend on: come to the table for a balanced plan that also closes loopholes for millionaires and billionaires. The unbalanced Republican approach does not reflect our values as a nation, and would not help our economy continue the important progress we are making. It’s time for Congress to act.
Recent research debunks some of the most common arguments against raising taxes on the richest Americans.
— by Sam Pizzigati
Why do so many lawmakers in Congress oppose raising taxes on America’s wealthy, even just a little? The answer: We’ll never really know for sure.
Lawmakers might oppose tax hikes on the wealthy, for instance, because their rich campaign contributors don’t want to pay higher taxes. Or they might oppose bigger tax bills for millionaires simply because they don’t want to pay Uncle Sam a cent more of their own high-dollar incomes.
Lawmakers under the influence of either of these motives would, of course, never openly admit to them. How could they — and still survive politically? Simple political reality demands that wealth-friendly lawmakers must solemnly proffer much more noble rationales for why they want to shield rich people’s income from higher taxes.
Raising taxes on high incomes, we’ve been assured since long before the current budget-balancing debate, will discourage small business “job creators.” Higher taxes on the rich, we’re also told, always backfire and never generate the revenue anticipated.
Do these claims match up with facts on the ground? Northwestern University’s Institute for Policy Research earlier this month hosted a congressional briefing that sought to sort out those facts.
The briefing — titled Taxing the Wealthy: What Does the Research Show? — brought top academic tax analysts to Capitol Hill. The analysts had a good many facts to share, to the distinct unease of the apologists for the affluent who stopped by.
What do the facts tell us about those small business “job creators” who’ll suffer so, as friends of the fortunate claim, if tax rates on high incomes rise? The facts don’t show much potential suffering.
Just under 70 percent of American taxpayers making over $1 million a year, U.S. Treasury Department figures show, do indeed report small business income on their tax returns. But these millionaires who do report small business income average only around 5 percent of their income from small business operations.
In other words, we’re talking investment bankers with hobby ranches in Montana. The vast majority of taxpayers making more than $1 million a year aren’t small business folks creating good jobs in their own local communities.
But won’t those investment bankers just flee to lower-tax pastures if Congress opts to hike the tax rates on their incomes? Won’t that exodus just negate the revenue boost that raising taxes on the rich is supposed to create?
Charles Varner, a fellow at Stanford University’s Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality, has been researching what typically happens when governments raise taxes on taxpayers of major means.
Varner and his colleagues looked closely at tax receipts in New Jersey and California after these two states enacted new “millionaire’s taxes” in 2004 and 2005. In California, the top tax rate rose from 9.3 to 10.3 percent. After the increase, out-migration of high-income Californians actually fell.
But California, skeptics might argue, occupies a great deal of territory. A deep pocket upset about a tax hike has to travel a good bit to leave California.
True enough, but deep pockets in New Jersey operate in a totally different environment. A New Jersey millionaire who works on Wall Street could easily have chosen to move into lower-tax New York State or Connecticut after New Jersey’s millionaire’s tax went into effect. A New Jersey millionaire working in Philadelphia could have chosen to relocate in lower-tax Pennsylvania.
But these New Jersey millionaires, in real life, opted overwhelmingly to stay put. Researchers, Stanford’s Varney explained at Northwestern University’s congressional briefing, have found similar patterns in Canada between provinces with different tax rates and in Switzerland between cantons.
None of this surprises Varney. Moving costs money, he notes. Relocating your stuff costs a lot, and few of us can pick up stakes and move without disrupting our networks of friends and clients.
Varney’s basic point: “Economies of place,” as he explains, remain “significant even for people at the top of the income distribution.”
OtherWords columnist Sam Pizzigati is an Institute for Policy Studies associate fellow. His latest book is The Rich Don’t Always Win: The Forgotten Triumph over Plutocracy that Created the American Middle Class. OtherWords.org
Soon it will be too late and we’ll have neither.
— by Lee Ballinger
I know what it’s like to depend upon coal to feed a family.
Many years ago, I worked at an Ohio steel mill. My job was at the coke plant where West Virginia coal was turned into coking coal for the blast furnace. The top of the coke ovens was an area the size of a football field where monstrous machines funneled coal into the ovens.
It was my job to put the heavy oven lids back on nice and tight. It was literally as hot as hell up there. It felt like walking barefoot on hot coals. The air we breathed was truly foul but to us it was the sweet smell of something like success.
We called it the smell of money because it paid the bills.
As soon as I got a chance to escape the coke ovens, I took it. I got a job on a crew at the blast furnace. But I couldn’t escape the coal. Like the devil or a bad check, coal will find you. It followed me to the blast furnace.
Big railroad cars full of coking coal arrived at the blast furnace every two or three hours. In the winter it would get as cold as twenty below zero and the coal would freeze solid into one huge mass. The company said that under no circumstances were we to climb into the open-top railroad cars to break up the coal. But the company also made it clear we better hurry up and get that coal offloaded.
So in we went, carrying big torches to heat the coal and pry bars to break it up. We prayed that it wouldn’t loosen all at once, given the danger that we might go down the chute with it. Many times on a cold winter night I had to gaze at my sleeping babies to motivate myself to leave for work on a midnight shift.
There was a small group of environmentalists in town who were hollering about the pollution from the steel mills. I got their point. But since they didn’t even give lip service to our need to feed our families, I dismissed them. In fact, I hated them and feared the changes they might be able to bring about. Jobs or the environment? That’s an easy choice. Jobs are more important.
Eventually, I was permanently downsized from the mill. The loss of my job caused severe dislocation for my family. It also made me see things in a new light. Facts and events that had once gone in one ear and out the other suddenly registered. Global warming. Poisoned rivers and oceans. Black lung disease. Hurricane Katrina. Oil spills. Coal-fired power plants spewing acid and deadly metals into our air.
Slowly and not always surely, I began to realize that the environmentalists I had once rejected as extremists were correct when they said that fossil fuels are destroying the earth. Coal and oil aren’t just causing some problems we can learn to live with in pursuit of economic survival. They are going to make it impossible for humans to live on this planet.
Jobs or the environment? Posing the question that way eliminates any chance of coming up with answers. It ignores the people who live at ground zero of the debate. I know first-hand what goes through the minds of coal miners as they sit at the kitchen table facing a pile of bills. “Yes, I know what some people say. They may even be right. But just give me one more month on this job so I can pay the rent, along with the electric and the credit card bills.”
Jobs or the environment? Soon it will be too late and we’ll have neither. Unless we come together under the banner of both.
The pending budget deal must include long-overdue military spending cuts.
Here we are on brink of a major historical moment. We’re beginning to wind down the longest period of war in our history. And we’re about to turn around a 13-year-long surge in Pentagon spending.
It’s not just longtime advocates for such changes like me who think so. William Lynn, a former Deputy Secretary of Defense who has lobbied for the military contractor Raytheon, likens this moment to the years right after World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War. In a recent speech at the U.S. Naval Institute, he suggested that big cuts to the military budget are in the cards.
But this isn’t the precipice that’s consuming Washington right now. Instead, the so-called “fiscal cliff,” the package of tax increases and spending cuts that will begin in January unless Congress agrees on a way to stop them, is the big buzzword.
Pentagon cuts are actually part of the “cliff” plan. You’d hardly know it — most of the talk is about “reforming” taxes (including tax cuts for the rich and corporations) and “reforming entitlements” (a euphemism for weakening the safety net). But without a new deal, we’ll be spending about $50 billion less on the military each year.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has referred to these cuts as “doomsday.” Really? Over 10 years these cuts, adjusted for inflation, would take our Pentagon budget back to where it was in 2006. As high, in other words, as it was at any time since World War II.
The military cuts that would occur without a new budget-balancing deal are admittedly a bad way to run a government. For one thing, they come tied to equivalent cuts in nearly every other federal program — food safety inspections, job training, air traffic control, health care research, the whole gamut.
And for another, this “fiscal cliff” business is all about narrowing the deficit. But a majority of citizens made clear in that election we just had that they think creating jobs is more important right now than the budget deficit.
Cuts alone aren’t going to create those jobs. We must also redirect our tax dollars from things we don’t need — like Pentagon waste — into things we do — like clean energy and transportation.
And we can afford to do that because, we’re not broke. Our budget priorities just need fixing. In a recent report, my Institute for Policy Studies colleagues and I propose a framework for doing so. Our proposal includes $198 billion in yearly military cuts — from spending on things like wars we shouldn’t fight and weapon systems and overseas bases we don’t need.
These steps would get us that 30 percent contraction, which would bring this new century’s defense downsizing in line with the ones of the previous century. It’s an essential step toward building the sustainable jobs base we need.
Miriam Pemberton, a research fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, is a contributor to the new Institute for Policy Studies report We’re Not Broke: A commonsense guide to avoiding the fiscal swindle while making the United States more equitable, green, and secure. IPS-dc.org.
Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)
More than 31 million seniors and persons with disabilities participate in the Medicare Prescription Drug Program (Part D). 90% of those seniors are satisfied with this program, even though 100% of the Republican members of Congress would apparently love to can it along with the rest of Medicare, in favor of a voucher-care program. In spite of public polling on this subject, GOP members of Congress believe Seniors should have a plan that shifts the burden of finding even remotely affordable health care solutions onto the backs of Seniors and they have no plans that to rein in out of control healthcare costs.
As an example, this morning, during an appearance on Meet the Press, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) reiterated his call for restructuring Medicare to avert the fiscal cliff. Corker has a 242-page plan that lays out a Paul Ryan-like proposal that would turn Medicare (a plan we’ve all paid into throughout our working careers in anticipation of coverage beginning at age 65) into a voucher plan for beneficiaries.
Meet the Press Host David Gregory clearly showed his bias by appearing to agree with Corker’s characterization. And after showing that agreement, he then pressed Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) to accept reforms that will shift health care costs to seniors in order to show that Democrats are “serious” about entitlements. Excuse me? What was it the folks on the right failed to learn from their losses in the 2012 election?
For Republicans, time apparently is standing still and they’re clearly intent on dismissing President Obama’s opening offer of $600B in reforms and savings to health care and other government programs. They think they’re just not “painful” or “serious” enough to lower spending. Again … excuse me? Not painful enough? What planet do these guys hail from?
The President’s proposal identifies specific inefficiencies and waste from providers and drug manufacturers (which is a heck of lot more specific than anything that’s come across the table from those on the right (or should I say “wrong”). The President’s proposal also asks wealthier seniors to pay more toward their health care. Republicans, and their media cohorts, believe that unless some extreme cuts are offered up that directly reduce benefits or substantially increase out of pocket spending by seniors and poor Americans (via Medicaid), the offer isn’t something they should consider. More specifically, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he “burst out laughing” after seeing President Obama’s proposal and insisted that he should detail specific cuts to entitlements. Well, apparently Sen. McConnell can’t read — or once again — his only goal in life is to prevent President Obama from implementing his agenda.
The GOP wants to take a Plan that is working to make Seniors healthier and scrap it. We can’t let that happen. Learn more about why the program works and how you can sign up for, or change your existing Part D plan during the 2013 Open Enrollment period (Oct. 12 – Dec. 7).