Such Short Memories: The Worst President Since World War II? Uh, Guess Again!

Reblogged from mykeystrokes.com:

When George W. Bush was inaugurated president of the United States on January 20, 2001, the unemployment rate stood at 2.4 percent. By the time Dubya completed his second term in office on January 19, 2009, the unemployment rate at risen to 7 percent. When Dubya took office in 2001, he was left with a budget surplus of $127.3 billion. When he completed his second term, he left a budget deficit of $1.4 trillion.

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22 Congressmen Demand Keeping Sequestration Budget Cuts That Leave Kids Out Of Classrooms And The Elderly Out Of Food

by Bryce Covert

Fiscal Cliff

Three Republican Representatives, Mick Mulvaney (SC), Jim Jordan (OH), and Steve Scalise (LA), sent a letter on Thursday to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) advocating to keep spending in any agreement that results from the current budget conference at the sequestration level of $967 billion in 2014. Their letter has 19 other signatures so far and lawmakers can sign un until Monday.

Claiming that Democrats “want the diversion of another shutdown” to deflect from the troubles with Obamacare, they write, “[W]e encourage you to allow a vote as soon as practicable on a full-year ‘clean CR’ funding bill at the levels established in law by the Budget Control Act,” which set sequestration’s automatic cuts and “is the law of the land.” It also says, “Our Democrat colleagues are now threatening to shut the government down in order to change that. We should not permit that to happen.”

Other Republicans have been worried about sequestration’s cuts, particularly to defense spending. Reps. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) and  introduced a bill this week that aimed to cancel sequestration cuts to the Department of Defense for the next two years. And Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) negotiations with Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) look set to yield a higher spending level closer to $1 trillion for next year, which would cancel sequestration’s cuts to programs while keeping its deficit reduction through higher revenues from increased fees. “Most Republicans — conservatives and moderates alike — are hoping Ryan and Murray succeed, because they believe sequester level spending is unsustainable,” Jake Sherman writes in Politico.

But Mulvaney, Jordan, and Scalise aren’t the only Republicans who have come out in favor of keeping sequestration. While Republicans originally tried to pin the blame for the cuts on President Obama, at least eight others have said that they’re a good way to cut the budget and something they want to keep. House Republicans also released a budget plan in July with even deeper cuts, although when it came time to implement the specifics so many balked that it didn’t get a vote. Yet they again made sequestration a baseline leading up to the government shutdown by passing a continuing resolution at those levels in the House.

Sequestration’s damage had a wide-ranging effect this year, impacting the elderly, cancer patients, low-income renters, domestic violence survivors, the homeless, preschool and K-12 students, scientists, the long-term unemployed, and Department of Defense workers, among others. It also reduced economic growth and consumer spending. Yet things get even worse next year if the cuts stay in place, as many of the accounting gimmicks and emergency measures departments took to dampen the blow will no longer be available. The damage compounds the longer the cuts go on. On the other hand, the deficit would look better if the cuts were cancelled and the economy could add as many as 1.6 million jobs and 1.2 percent to GDP growth.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

An Endangered Species Up in Arms

The number of students taking humanities courses is plummeting, and financing for liberal arts education is being tea-partied to death.

— by Donald Kaul

Donald Kaul

As many of you already have intuited, I don’t know everything. Nobody does, I suppose. More importantly, I don’t know everything about anything.

I’m what used to be called “a generalist,” someone whose knowledge in any direction is a mile wide and a quarter-inch deep.

Sad to say, we generalists are an endangered species.

Everywhere, the pressure is on young people to specialize. They’re also being urged to concentrate on the so-called STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering, and math. Why? These are disciplines that can predictably get you a job upon graduating from college.

A Florida task force last year went so far as to suggest that college courses in the humanities — literature, history, the social sciences, the arts — be made more expensive than STEM courses just to steer students away from them.

Kaul-Humanities-tom.belteThis idea has the humanities people up in arms.

Duke University President Richard Brodhead headed a study group of educators, business leaders, artists, and politicians that recently delivered a report to Congress decrying the attitude that studying the humanities and social sciences is a waste of time.

“This facile negativism forgets that many of the country’s most successful and creative people had exactly this kind of education,” he said.

The report comes at a time not when hordes of students are crowding into “wasteful” humanities classes, but rather when attendance in them is plummeting and financing for liberal arts education is being tea-partied to death.

Our higher education system is forgetting what education is supposed to do in the first place.

I entered college as an engineering student — a mistake on the order of Napoleon’s decision to invade Russia. I was lucky though. I made a last-minute escape to the English department where I was not only allowed to read novels for fun but also find out about things I was actually interested in — history, psychology, architecture, and the arts.

I hasten to add that I had no idea what I was going to do with this information. Neither did my father, a tool and die maker who wanted me to join one of the more practical professions — preferably dentistry. He wanted me to make a living without being in danger of killing someone.

That didn’t appeal to me either. Like many students (particularly English majors) of the 1950s, I wasn’t going to school merely to learn a trade. I was out to become an educated person — well-read, witty, sophisticated — like someone in a Noel Coward play.

Unfortunately, Coward never tells you how his people earn a living. When I graduated with my English degree firmly in hand I had no answer for my father’s question: “What now, bigshot?”

Thus, I drifted into journalism. It wasn’t an unfamiliar story in the newspaper business of the time. Back then, it served as a refuge for failed novelists, playwrights, and other flotsam bearing a liberal education.

The thing is, it worked out fine for me. I led an interesting life, had a lot of fun, and earned enough to raise a family in modest comfort. Moreover, at one time or another, I pretty much put to use everything I had learned in college.

And that’s my point — a point these STEM people miss — there’s nothing wrong with learning for its own sake. Knowledge doesn’t go to waste. It comes in handy somewhere along the line, sometimes in the most unlikely places.

I realize that the world now is a very different place from the one I grew up in. Back then, you didn’t have to be a hedge fund manager to work your way through school for one thing. But another difference is that workers today change jobs, even professions, four, five, or six times during their working lives.

Specialists who know only one thing might be left out in the cold when circumstances change. Generalists have the intellectual tools to adapt.

Actually, we’d be better off if more of our politicians had read a few more good novels. Or if perhaps they’d written a poem or two.

Knowing something is always better than knowing nothing.


OtherWords columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. OtherWords.org  Photo credit to Tom Belte/Flickr

Where Would We Be Without Social Security?

Congress must ensure that the promise of Social Security and Medicare remains fully funded.

By Jo Comerford

Jo Comerford is the executive director of the National Priorities Project

Nearly every single American is intimately connected with the earned benefits of Social Security and Medicare — as either a contributor, a recipient, or both.

In fact, a recent national poll indicated nearly 90% of us favor taking strong measures to preserve the long-term stability of both programs. So a recent report released by the trustees of Social Security and Medicare may have caused you to take notice and provoked you to think about — or tell — your stories. Here are a few I’d like to share:

NPP-SocSecMedicare-DonkeyHotey

Melissa M. of Stinson Beach, California, talked about her father-in-law, 60 years old, working for low wages six or seven days each week for 40 years as a manager of a nearby cattle ranch. “The one thing that keeps him going is the letter he gets from the Social Security Administration,” she said. It “tells him how much he has earned in Social Security.”

Allen J. of Portland, Oregon, remarked that he was “a liver transplant survivor because of Medicare.” Martin L. of Cortland, New York, said he was born with a heart defect that required open-heart surgery to replace it. Without Medicare, Martin writes, he “would have no life and no future.”

Alton S. of Lakeland, Florida, was planting a citrus tree when he felt a pain in his lower abdomen. That night, an emergency room doctor told him he had a ruptured diverticulum. Alton remembers overhearing someone say, “We better get this guy to surgery or he’s dead meat.” A combination of his private insurance and Medicare paid for a series of successful surgeries. Looking back, Alton believes Medicare is one of the most “humane and caring arms of our government.”

With a 33-year career as a nurse, Janet P. of Cotati, California, noted that she worked to keep her “clients stable enough to stay out of the hospital.” Every time Medicare or Social Security policy changes, her clients’ lives are affected. Even as she hustles for others, Janet is aware that she needs to think about her own future.

“My savings was in my house, but I lost that,” she said. “I’m older now…getting back that nest egg gets harder and harder, and I’m not confident that either Social Security or Medicare will be there for me when I’m not able to work full-time.”

These are Melissa, Allen, Martin, Alton, and Janet’s stories. Like millions of their neighbors, Social Security and Medicare keep them going, offering them a humane and caring future.

Congress must take sound action to ensure that the promise of both these programs remains fully funded for coming generations. If our elected officials do nothing, after 2026, the government will be able to pay approximately 87% of projected Medicare costs and, after 2033, roughly 75 percent of anticipated Social Security benefits.

The trustees offer us a sobering reminder, not a crazed alarm as some fear. Luckily there are many smart actions Congress can take in response, starting with raising the payroll tax cap and fully implementing the Affordable Care Act. These actions are within our reach and would have a dramatic and positive impact on the well-being of both programs.

Our elected officials need to hear from all of us today. It’s our budget and our future. Let’s weigh in.


Jo Comerford is the executive director of the National Priorities Project. You can find these stories and more by visiting the NPP’s Faces of the Federal Budget website. NationalPriorities.org/us/   Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)  Photo credit to DonkeyHotey/Flickr

Two Critics Of Government Spending Are Forcing The Army To Build Tanks It Doesn’t Want

By Annie-Rose Strasser on Apr 29, 2013 at 11:45 am

Credit: U.S. Army

Congress is forcing the Army to spend nearly half a billion dollars building tanks that Army officials insist they don’t want, with money they say could be better spent elsewhere, according to a new report from the AP.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) are the two members of congress at the helm of the effort to spend $436 million on upgrading the Abrams tank, “a weapon the experts explicitly say is not needed.” The reason? Both represent Ohio, home to the nation’s only tank manufacturing plant, which would profit from the money.

The move is contradictory for the two politicians; both are also vocal advocates for fiscal austerity, and have made careers insisting that the government cut what they see as wasteful spending. It would seem that pushing for tank production against the will of the Army — as Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno put it, “If we had our choice, we would use that money in a different way” — is in direct contradiction to that aim.

Still, Rep. Jordan defended his push for the funding, saying, “The one area where we are supposed to spend taxpayer money is in defense of the country.” This is a common line among Republicans. The House GOP’s proposed budget also seeks to restore funding the military says it doesn’t need.

Indeed, Republicans have pushed to maintain defense spending while pushing for cuts to mental health programs, cancer treatment, food safety inspectors, and preschool programs. They have repeatedly ignored or dismissed the assertion from military generals that President Obama’s budget, which would have made targeted cuts to military programs, was an acceptable path to spending reduction.

A cut to one specific program would by no means be a drastic setback for the military; between 2001 and 2011, military spending nearly doubled. American voters, much like the military’s generals, also support scaling back the military’s spending.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.