Nel's New Day

January 16, 2014

U.S. Has Budget – Unemployed, Nothing

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:44 PM
Tags: , ,

I used to think that a three-month extension of any bill was ridiculously short, worthy of the “kick the can down the road” epithet. Earlier this week, the House passed a three-day continuing resolution to extend the budget so that the government doesn’t close—again–barely a “touch the can.”

Congress, however, somewhat redeemed itself by passing the real 1,582-page omnibus $1.1 trillion budget bill with a 359-67 vote in the House and a 72-26 vote in the Senate. Once President Obama signs the bill, the government can keep paying its bills until the end of September 2014—unless the GOP shuts down the government over raising the debt ceiling.

Some GOP Congressional members are preening at how they’re holding the line and controlling the Democrats by delaying new energy efficiency standards on light bulbs, limiting government travel and conferences, and prohibiting the IRS from targeting people based on their political beliefs. Someone failed to tell Republicans that the IRS cannot legally target people, and the GOP ignored the fact that progressive political organizations were also audited.

The eight-percent cut for the IRS during the past two years for the IRS may be an attempt to protect the wealthy from being audited. In reality, the cut reduces service to people who need it. Although questions for the IRS have dropped 86 percent within the past decade, the agency can answer only 61 percent of the calls looking for help. During the same time, the telephone wait time has gone from 2.6 minutes to 17.6 minutes. There’s much more work now, however; in ten years the number of returns has grown by 11 percent to 146 million.

The military gets more than half of the budget–$573 billion for defense spending and $525 billion for non-defense discretionary spending. At 48 percent of the world’s military spending, the U.S. military budget is equal to the next ten countries’ military budgets combined.


defense spending ten countries

Some defense spending was allocated to curb sexual assault the military, Head Start education programs are restored, and $1.5 billion in aid goes to Egypt despite the global concern about the crackdown there on activists and journalists. The $600 million for disabled veterans mistakenly cut in the last spending bill was replaced. The U.S. Post Office will keep delivering mail on Saturday, unfortunately with no provision for dealing with the requirement that USPS fund the retirement account for at least 75 years, a major financial difficulty.

The plan developed by House Appropriations Chair Hal Rogers (R-KY) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) parallels in many ways George W. Bush’s 2007 budget—without allowance for inflation. For example, the National Institutes of Health is allocated just $.7 billion more than six years ago, shrinking its budget by almost $3.3 billion. Other science funding was also cut.

The bill makes the United States cheapskates in the world’s eyes: the $315 million pledged in 2010 to the International Monetary Fund is still not funded. That’s only two F-35s, the planes that the defense department is building despite that fact that they don’t work.

Kentucky is happy because the bill doesn’t fund the Army Corps of Engineers to change the regulatory definition of “fill material,” a change that the coal-mining industry opposed. Of course, a Kentucky representative heads the committee that prepares the bill.

Wall Street can breathe easier after the GOP cut back the funding by 30 percent for regulators important to the Dodd-Frank financial reforms. Of course, the GOP hit the Affordable Care Act, refusing any additional appropriations for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and taking $1 billion out of another fund so that the president cannot use it for the health care act.

Hidden in the 1,582 pages are some peculiar pieces. The ban on funding for ACORN is not the first time that Congress defunded ACORN since it disbanded four years ago. The bill also prevents any spending to hold Guantánamo Bay prisoners in the United States. The move of the Vatican Embassy has been halted, a move started by George W. Bush to a place closer than the current one and a move that would save the country $1 million.

More strange bits are sure to pop up in the media because Congressional members didn’t read the entire bill before passing it. The GOP will no longer have the right to ridicule Democrats for passing the Affordable Care Act without reading it.

The “Monsanto Protection Act,” slipped secretly into an earlier spending bill by former Monsanto lawyer Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), didn’t make the break this time. An outcry from the public stopped a repeat of the law that would kept Monsanto safe from any judicial action despite its wrongdoings.

Although Congress passed a budget, they failed to extend emergency unemployment benefits to 1.4 million people. It’s been almost three weeks since these benefits expired, and the GOP Senate “deal” to exchange the benefits for continuing the sequestration across-the-board spending cuts for an additional year—into 2024—fell through.

Republicans, however, are running scared because of negative reactions to the abrupt cutoff of unemployment benefits. For example, people in El Paso County (CO), where the conservative religious group Focus on the Family is located along with the military facilities Air Force Academy, NORAD, and Fort Carson. The area’s aerospace and defense industry was hit hard by the sequestration, and the Colorado county has the largest number in people in the state who lost their benefits three days after Christmas.

 Lita Ness, 58, lost her job as a civilian contractor at Peterson Air Force Base in August 2012 and just got her last unemployment check. Taking a break from a computer training class at Pikes Peak Workforce Center, Ness said: 

“I’m registered as a Republican, but if they continue to use this not extending our (aid) I’m probably changing to Democrat. People in our district who vote ‘No’ on this, I’m not going to support them.”

Ness’ representative is Republican Doug Lamborn, who said about unemployment benefits, “It’s $6 billion, doesn’t do anything to create jobs.” The man obviously has no understanding of economic theory.  Taking away these benefits is estimated to destroy 310,000 private sector jobs.

An examination of data from 20 states by Democratic staff on the House Ways and Means Committee shows that benefits-opponents Reps. John Fleming (R-LA) and Michele Bachmann (R-MN) represent districts with disproportionately high percentages of people needing these emergency benefits. Economists report that the longer-term unemployed are more likely to be older, a demographic important to GOP elections. The GOP should be scared. Depicting people from the middle-class background as lazy moves more voters away from the Republican party.

The Republicans are in a difficult position. Throwing people out of their homes and forcing them to go without food makes them look heartless. But the extremist right-wing people are out for blood in this year’s primaries. Heritage Action, for example, said it will include the vote on continuing unemployment benefits on its “legislative scorecard.”

As for the quid pro quo of replacing the $6.4 billion from other areas, the Emergency Unemployment Compensation system is a contingency measure, not an ongoing spending program. This is the first time that the measure hasn’t received support from both parties. The current version was signed into law by George W. Bush in July 2008. At that time, the unemployment rate was 5.6 per cent, compared to the current rate of 7 percent, and the average duration of unemployment was 17.1 weeks, compared to today’s duration of over 35 weeks. At no time in history has Congress stopped special extended benefits with the unemployment as high as it is right now.

The GOP’s elimination of these benefits flies against precedent and economic logic. Almost the entire $6.4 billion reverts to the economy, generating additional spending, hiring, and tax revenues. The program is only temporary; with a growing economy and downward trend in unemployment rates, the benefits can be postponed until the GOP drives the country into another recession.

The benefits keep people looking for work, because that’s a provision of receiving them. Without these benefits, people may simply drop out of the work force and require far more public assistance.

The United States has a budget for the next eight months, but the GOP has now lost the support of two more of their potential constituents—the Tea Party and the unemployed.

1 Comment »

  1. Russia and China build and deploy new weapons for literally 10 times cheaper than western countries. Spending comparisons that fail to take such critical factors into account are 100 percent meaningless. A more effective comparison would look at the reality on the ground. China has by far the largest military in terms of active personnel. Since 2014, Russia has the largest and newest nuclear arsenal on Earth.


    Comment by Ryan — September 20, 2017 @ 2:48 PM | Reply

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