If You’re Going to Rant About the Federal Budget—Tell the Truth

Before you start believing the drivel Republicans are spreading about rising deficits, maybe you need to understand the difference between two terms that are frequently used in error: overall National Debt and the Federal Budget Deficit.  Republicans are counting on 93% of the population apparently not understanding that there’s a difference between the two.

Let me start by explaining both terms from a family budget perspective.  If you have a monthly income of $1000.oo, but you have bills and expenses of $1,200.00, you have a $200.00 “budget deficit” that most folks will have to carry on a credit card, hoping to pay it off during the upcoming month.  If on the other hand, you continue having $200.00 deficits for months on end, the deficit remains at $200, but your household debt begins to rise on that credit card by $200.00 (plus interest) each month. So, in 12 months, the budget deficit is $200, but the household debt is $2400 (plus interest).

Well, the Federal Budget Deficit and the National Debt work the same way, but the Federal Budget Deficit is NOT rising as the Republicans would have you believe.  It’s dropping dramatically.  Yes, the National Debt is still rising because we still have a budgetary deficit, but the Federal Budget Deficits have dropped dramatically since the end of the 2009 fiscal year:

Now that you better understand the difference between the two terms, the next time your crazy wingnut friend tries to echo the Republican mantra that deficits are rising, please take the time to educate them.  If all else fails, please tell them they deserve a lengthy time-out in some dank corner.

Even House Republicans Can’t Stomach Spending $17,000 on a Helicopter Drip Pan.

— By Miriam Pemberton and Gabriel I. Rossman

Miriam PembertonGabriel I. Rossman

Here’s a milestone of sorts. In July, for the first time since 1998, the House of Representatives voted to maintain the current military budget rather than increase Pentagon spending. It’s the first step toward bringing the budget down.

Within the bill, which included more than $600 billion for the military, the House embedded a few gestures toward fiscal sanity. Most important was the decision of 89 Republicans to join most Democrats in shaving a billion bucks off the budget that House Republican leaders had proposed. That’s mostly a symbolic move in a budget of this size, but worth celebrating nevertheless.

Less publicized was a much smaller gesture. Congress voted to block Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), the chair of the House committee in charge of spending, from steering a contract to his district in Kentucky to buy $17,000 drip pans for Black Hawk helicopters.

$17,000 whats? You know, pans that catch leaking transmission fluid. As The New York Times reported in May, other Army helicopters do fine with a $2,500 model. Congress ruled that the chair of the spending committee couldn’t reward a frequent campaign contributor with a contract that somebody else could fulfill at 1/8th the cost to the taxpayer.

Rogers’ drip pans deal would have cost about $5 million over three years — chump change in the budget Congress was voting on. So why did they axe this particular sweet deal? Maybe they were a little worried that it would become the next $800 toilet seat.

Back in the 1980s, this fixture on a Navy plane — we’re not talking the price of a toilet mind you, just the seat — epitomized military waste. As a symbol the public could really visualize, its discovery expedited contracting reform. Other egregious examples emerged: a $436 claw hammer that looked like the kind you could pick up at the hardware store for $15, and a $7,622 coffee maker before espresso bars became commonplace, to name a few.

A pan that catches transmission fluid might not trigger the same outrage as that pricey toilet seat. But with the nation careening toward the edge of a fiscal cliff, the timing is right. As conservative lawmakers make speeches in the coming months about their belief that Pentagon spending must be preserved at the expense of everything else, the $17,000 drip pan offers a handy rebuttal.

So Congress tried to head this particular program off before it got too much publicity. Of course, at the same time it rejected other modest, sane, cost-cutting gestures, such as nixing the Pentagon’s $72 million advertising budget for NASCAR races.

We won’t get too carried away with this glimmer of hope that a sane approach to military spending is around the corner. Still, 89 Republicans and most Democrats did say no to Rep. Rogers, the “Prince of Pork.” And for the first time since before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Congress voted to trim its leaders’ aspirations for the overall military budget. It’s a start.

Miriam Pemberton is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. Gabriel Rossman is a student at Wesleyan University. Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)

Under the Reading Lamp — 5/15/2012

Colonized by Corporations

Chris Hedges, Truthdig Op-Ed: “We have been, like nations on the periphery of empire, colonized. We are controlled by tiny corporate entities that have no loyalty to the nation and indeed in the language of traditional patriotism are traitors. They strip us of our resources, keep us politically passive and enrich themselves at our expense. The mechanisms of control are familiar to those whom the Martinique-born French psychiatrist and writer Frantz Fanon called ‘the wretched of the earth,’ including African-Americans.”

The National Security State Wins (Again)

William Astore, Op-Ed: The president and his campaign staff are no fools. Since any sign of “weakness” vis-à-vis Iran and similar enemies du jour or any expression of less than boundless admiration for our military will be exploited ruthlessly by Romney et al., Obama will continue to tack rightwards on military issues and national defense. As a result, once elected he, too, will be a prisoner of the Complex. In this process, the only surefire winner and all-time champ: once again, the national security state.

Jamie Dimon’s JPMorgan Chase: Why It’s the Scandal of Our Time

Richard (RJ) Eskow, Op-Ed: “The JPMorgan Chase story is the story behind the financial crisis that has thrown millions of people out of work. It’s the story behind our ever-growing wealth inequity. It’s the story behind Washington’s inability to prosecute criminal bankers, regulate reckless ones, and propose the economic solutions the rest of us urgently need. Depending on the day and the measurement used, JPMorgan Chase is now the largest or second-largest bank in the world.”

JPM Chase Chairman, Jamie Dimon, the Whale Man, and Glass-Steagall

Nomi Prins, Op-Ed: Financial history has a sense of irony. JPM Chase was the post-Glass-Steagall repeal marriage, 66 years in the making, of Morgan Bank and Chase. Today, it is the largest bank in America, possessing greater control of the nation’s cash than any other bank. It also has the largest derivatives exposure ($70 trillion) including nearly $6 trillion worth of credit derivatives. It is the size of a bank holding company’s deposits that dictates the extent of the risk it takes, risk ‘models’ not withstanding: the more deposits, the more risk, the more potential loss.

America’s G-Zero Moment

Ian Bremmer, Op-Ed: “U.S. foreign policy may be as active as ever, but it is downsizing and becoming more exacting about its priorities and as a result, many global challenges – climate change, trade, resource scarcity, international security, cyber-warfare, and nuclear proliferation, to name a few – are bound to loom larger. Welcome to the G-Zero world, a more turbulent, uncertain environment in which coordination on global policy issues falls by the wayside.”

America as a Shining Drone Upon a Hill

Tom Engelhardt, Op-Ed: “In the service of this war, in the midst of a perpetual state of war and of wartime, every act committed by these leaders is, it turns out, absolutely, totally, and completely legal. We have their say-so for that, and they have the documents to prove it, largely because the best and most elevated legal minds among them have produced that documentation in secret. (Of course, they dare not show it to the rest of us, lest lives be endangered.)”

Palin’s Rhetoric Torpedoed Medicare Savings

Wendell Potter, News Analysis: The Congressional Budget Office projects that the average annual growth in Medicare spending will be 5.8 percent between 2012 and 2020. It would have been one percentage point higher than that, according to the CBO, if not for the cost-constraining provisions of the Affordable Care Act, most notably the one that will gradually eliminate the bonuses the government pays private insurers to participate in the Medicare Advantage program.

Tar sands pipelines don’t just leak oil

Lorne Stockman: When Enbridge’s Line 6B burst open near Marshall, Michigan in July 2010 spewing over a million gallons of tar sands sludge into the Kalamazoo river watershed, funds were quickly released from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund to mobilize Environmental Protection Agency staff and other federal employees to assist and monitor clean up. But the tar sands companies that produced the oil that is still polluting Talmadge Creek nearly two years later have never paid a penny into the fund. Why? Because when payments into the fund were reinstated by the 2005 Energy Policy Act following a hiatus, someone convinced the IRS that tar sands crude was not crude oil, and therefore did not need to pay.

Five Facts That Put America to Shame

Paul Buchheit , Op-Ed: Privatization simply hasn’t worked for health care, mortgage banking, higher education, or prison management. There is little incentive for profit-motivated firms to invest in disadvantaged or underemployed Americans. That’s why taxes are necessary — to provide for the common good, and to return some of the gains from 60 years of productivity to the great majority of Americans who contributed to our growth.

Our Guns and Butter Economy

David Sirota, Op-Ed: The result is that America has become the true "Lord of War," as the arms dealer motto goes. We are the leading arms supplier to the developing world and we are responsible for the majority of all weapons sales across the globe. Yes, we are so committed to selling instruments of death to the rest of the planet that military industries have almost tripled their share of the U.S. economy in just a decade.

GMOs and Whole Foods Market in St. Louis

Barbara Chicherio , Daniel Romano and Don Fitz, News Report: “Many say that GMOs should be banned from food because we do not know the true health and environmental consequences. A second response is that food-containing GMOs should be clearly labeled so that consumers can make an informed choice of whether they want to purchase it. As the world’s largest advocate for GMOs, St. Louis-based Monsanto is the company with the greatest interest in the debate. But an often-unnoticed player is WFM.”

EPA Grossly Misrepresents the Toxicity of Corexit Used in Gulf Of Mexico

Susan Aarde, News Report: What is the buying public to make of such conflicting data? Those who have medical conditions which require complete avoidance of toxic seafood need to know with certainty what they are eating. Likewise, the fishermen in the Gulf need to know the true condition of their catch. Swimmers and beachgoers need to know the state of the water, as well as the beaches. Boaters ought to be informed of the relevant risk factors when out in the areas of recently sprayed waters, whether surface or deep sea.

Climate Change Threatens Crucial Marine Algae

Stephen Leahy, News Report: The good news is this has slowed the rate of global warming. The bad news is oceans are now more acidic and it will get worse as more CO2 is emitted. This is basic, well-understood ocean chemistry. Gao and his team made several trips into the South China Sea taking samples from surface waters where phytoplankton are found. While still on the research vessel, those samples were made as acidic as the oceans are likely to be in 2100 without major emissions reductions (800-1000 parts per million compared to current 392 ppm).

CEOs of Tax Dodging Corporations Want to Cut Their Own Taxes Too

Pat Garofalo, News Report: “It’s bad enough that these corporations are contributing so much to the fact that corporate taxes are. But to then turn around and advocate for preserving the low rate on capitals gains — which is a leading contributor to income inequality — really adds insult to injury. Remember, it was conservative icon Ronald Reagan who completely equalized the treatment of wage income and capital gains income, rejecting the conservative argument that a lower rate on investment income is necessary.”

Boehner Threatens To Take The Debt Limit Hostage Again

Pat Garofalo | ThinkProgress: In a speech Tuesday, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) plans to address the issue of national debt, which will once again be nearing its legal limit in January, just as the tax hikes and spending cuts are due to hit.  According to advance remarks provided to The Post, Boehner will insist that any increase in the debt limit be accompanied by spending “cuts and reforms greater than the debt limit increase” — the same demand that pushed the Treasury to the brink of default during last summer’s debt-limit standoff.

Excuse Me? Where Were You Mr. Heller?

At the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing yesterday, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) spoke about the No Budget, No Pay Act.

“President Obama’s most recent State of the Union address marked one thousand days since the U.S. Senate passed a binding budget resolution.  Since Congress last passed a budget, the federal government has spent $9.4 trillion, adding $4.1 trillion in debt. 

“…Members of Congress are willfully refusing to put our nation on a path to long-term fiscal responsibility.  As long as this is the case, Americans will continue to be frustrated and angry with Washington’s inability to produce real results. 

“…This legislation requires that the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives pass a budget and all appropriations bills by the beginning of each fiscal year.  Failure to do so would result in the loss of pay until Congress takes its job seriously.  If Congress does not complete its constitutional duties, then its Members should not be paid

“…My hope is that No Budget, No Pay will be adopted as part of a broader effort to change the way Congress does business and restore the confidence of the American people in their government…”

Is that right?  I have a question, Mr. Heller.  Where the heck were you throughout the Bush years?  Then President Bush took a vibrant economy, a budget surplus that was gradually consuming lesser percentages of GDP and a national debt of only $5,662,216,013,697 … and drove that economy to just short of a full-blown depression and a national debt of $10,699,804,864,612, an increase of 89%.  In case you’re not all that good at math (as evidenced by the recent GOP caucuses and their inabilities to count the votes) … that means the GOP administration of George W. Bush spent $5,037,588,850,915, borrowing from anyone willing to loan the USA money.  Essentially, your team increased the debt per capita from $20,067/person to $35,153.  You sir were a member of George Bush’s Congress.  You voted for the repeal of financial regulations, for repeals of taxes (revenue needed to pay the bills as they come due) and for spending increases that ultimately drove our economy over the cliff.

Yes, the Obama administration has had to spend money to prevent the nation from completely falling into the abyss of no return.  Beginning with a debt of $10,699,804,864,612, debt rose to $12,311,349,677,512 by 12/31/2009 (15%).  By12/31/2010 it had risen to $14,025,215,218,709 (14%) and by 12/31/2011 to $15,125,898,976,397 (8%),  That’s an overall 41% increase in our nation’s debt, and that rate of increase is declining.  The amount of accumulated debt would have begun to decline had the GOP been able to actively work toward a grand bargain with the President and Democratic members in Congress, but the GOP were too fearful of bullies such as Rush Limbaugh, Grover Norquist, and Karl Rove.  Instead of doing your jobs, you and other GOP members cowered in fear that one of the bullies would speak badly of you or that you might be primaried and lose your job.  Instead of fighting for millions of Americans that the GOP’s policies and spending habits put out on the street and out of any hope of a job, you toed the Republican Party line.

How dare you now play the puffer?  You sir are a considerable part of the problem and your solutions would now be to balance the budget on the backs of the elderly, the infirm, and women, all while stroking the feathers of your war-hawk as you contemplate voting for entry into yet another unwarranted foreign war with Iran.  You sir, are disgraceful.