Nel's New Day

December 22, 2020

DDT Creates More Chaos in Budget, Pardons

In the morning, news looks fairly calm. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) looks petulant or demanding while he hides in the White House, no events on his calendar, and the countdown to his departure continues—four weeks! By late afternoon, the bombshells drop.

One is the granting of 15 pardons and five commutations for a variety of killers and felons, some of whom can donate to his future campaigns. A sampling of “clemency” from the self-professed “law and order” leader:

The first two men convicted in Robert Mueller’s investigation between Russia and DDT’s campaign during his 2016 campaign: Serving 14 days in prison, DDT’s foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos had pled guilty to lying to the FBI about his communications with a London-based professor claiming Russia had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. Serving 30 days in prison, Dutch lawyer Alex van der Zwaan pled guilty to lying about his work with Paul Manafort, DDT’s former campaign chair, in efforts related to Ukraine.

Four lawmakers convicted of insider trading and other crimes: Former Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R-CA), using hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funds for vacations, theater tickets, etc., had faced 11 months in federal prison. Former Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), caught in an insider-trading scheme while he was at a White House event, was serving 26 months in prison. Former Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX), convicted of conspiring to take thousands of dollars in donations meant for charity and voter education, was two years into a ten-year sentence. Lawyer Sidney Powell, fired by DDT’s campaign, had sought clemency for Stockman. Utah state Rep. Phil Lyman was sentenced to ten days in jail for participating in a 2014 ATV demonstration protesting federal land management.

Four Blackwater private security contractors, former veterans, murdering and wounding civilians in an unprovoked  massacre: The killers worked for Erik Prince, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ brother, when they used sniper fire, machine guns, and grenade launchers on people in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square.

Two former Border Patrol agents convicted of killing a suspected drug smuggler: George W. Bush had already commuted their sentences.

Four men and women recommended by Alice Johnson, whose prison sentence for a drug conviction had been commuted: Johnson was a speaker at DDT’s summer GOP convention and soon received a full pardon.

A former healthcare mogul convicted of being central in one of the biggest Medicare fraud cases in the U.S. and paying bribes for favors: Philip Esformes was required to pay $44 million to the government after a 2019 trial in Miami sentenced him to 20 years in prison.

House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) summarized DDT’s pardons and commutations:

“If you lie to cover up for the President, you get a pardon. If you are a corrupt politician who endorsed Trump, you get a pardon. If you murder civilians while at war, you get a pardon.It goes to show, if you elect a corrupt man as President of the United States, you get corruption—and lots of it.”

Another bombshell was DDT’s threat to veto the stimulus relief bill. Following the bill’s passage, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, DDT’s negotiator who proposed the $600 relief checks for people, lauded the measure, but relief was short lived. DDT wants to make individual checks $2,000 instead of $600 and to strike provisions he dislikes:

“I’m also asking Congress to immediately get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items from this legislation and to send me a suitable bill, or else the next administration will have to deliver a Covid relief package. And maybe that administration will be me, and we will get it done.”

Confusing the stimulus bill with the budget, he trashed such items in the spending bill as approximately $2 billion for foreign aid, $1 billion for the Smithsonian, $154 million for the National Gallery of Art, and $40 million for the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. That last amount is equivalent to 13 of DDT’s trips to Mar-a-Lago.

The bill originally passed with a veto-proof vote, but Republicans may join House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) who said he won’t vote against DDT’s veto. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) took DDT’s threats in stride, saying the House would pass the increased amount for stimulus checks. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer tweeted Democrats would try to pass a separate bill on Thursday for $2,000 direct payments. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) stated that Democrats wanted the $2,000 payments only to face opposition by DDT’s own party members.The stimulus bill is part of the spending bill; vetoing the bill would drive the country into a shutdown next Monday without a Continuing Resolution—again.

In addition to items I gave yesterday for the $900 billion stimulus bill, $35 billion was provided for renewable energies and calls for cutting greenhouse gases. The money includes $4 billion for research and development of wind, solar, and geothermal; $1.7 billion expanding access to renewables to low-income Americans; and $2.6 billion for the Energy Department’s sustainable transportation project. The Energy Department is also required to prioritize funding for research in powering the U.S. with 100 percent “clean, renewable, or zero-emission energy sources. The EPA will begin phasing out hydrofluorocarbons, HFCs, in air conditioners by 85 percent before 2035.

Another $7 billion was assigned for high-speed internet and payment for monthly bills, almost half the money going to low-income families to help them stay online after losing their jobs. The funding also expands internet service in hard-to-read regions, upgrade infrastructure with security flaws, and map connectivity for future funding.

Another provision of the stimulus measure creates a small claims court where online content creators can take on infringers of the copyright law instead of the federal courts to receive damages. The measure streamlines court actions and saves creators money. Only one independent, Justin Amash (MI), and five Republicans voted against it:  Warren Davidson (OH), Greg Gianforte (MT), Trent Kelly (MS), Thomas Massie (KY), and Ralph Norman (SC). The Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act (CASE) uses “Copyright Claims Officers” to work with both parties to resolve lawsuit claims. Damages would be capped at $15,000 for each infringed work, topping out at $30,000. Infringements of creative work have been greatly simplified by the internet.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) successfully stopped the requirement for employers to pay sick leave to workers who get infected with COVID-19.

For conservatives, the spending bill provides $110 billion in tax breaks for special interest groups—liquor producers, motorsports entertainment, and electric motorcycle manufacturers. People receive about $1.5 billion in annual tax breaks, either part of the code or supposedly annual advantages renewed year after year because of lobbying. The Space Force also received $2.4 billion, and sexual-abstinence programs, proved to be useless, received $35 million. The Navy got $4 billion for weapons procurement, above the defense act giving the military $741 billion.

One positive provision granted a Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum and a National Museum of the American Latino. Earlier, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) had blocked this issue; he claims it the basis that it polarized people.

Instead of the ten percent increase in the medical expense deduction for 2021, the percentage was stayed at 7.5 percent permanently. Thus all medical expenses over 7.5 percent of the adjusted gross income can be deducted for everyone. Only seniors had benefited from the lower percentage since the Affordable Care Act was passed ten years ago until DDT’s “tax cuts” bill of 2017 brought the percentage for everyone back to 7.5 percent on an annual basis.

DDT is still meeting with people to orchestrate the overturn of President-elect Joe Biden’s win, the latest one with a dozen House GOP members. They spent over three hours planning strategy for January 6. DDT has been lobbying Sen.-elect Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), to be sworn in on January 3, to join the representatives for protest to electoral votes by populations of swing states. For success, the Democratic-controlled House would have to vote to take the legitimate election win from Democrats Joe Biden and VP-elect Kamala Harris. The process can still be messy, perhaps going into January 7. Republicans feasted on pigs in a blanket at the White House.

Deteriorating from his election loss, DDT has turned on more allies, starting with VP Mike Pence, who will run the January 6 joint congressional session to announce the electoral votes. He is also attacking Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, White House counsel Pat Cipollone, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and McConnell for not fighting for his overturning the election and won’t ask state legislatures to reverse the electoral votes for him instead of the people’s choice. DDT bases his paranoia on an anti-DDT Lincoln Project TV ad stating Pence will be responsible for certifying Biden’s victory and run against him for president. 

DDT also attacked Sen. John Thune (R-SD), declaring his “political career [is] over!” There was no explanation for DDT’s anger, but Thune disagreed with DDT fighting Biden’s win in the January 6 joint congressional session. Even televangelist Pat Robertson no longer supports DDT. He called on DDT to concede and said he lives in an “alternative reality.”

Officials have finally found a case of voter fraud so frantically sought for by DDT’s supporters. Bruce Bartman, 70, pretended to be his dead mother to vote in Delaware County (PA). The vote was for DDT. Bartman was charged with unlawful voting and perjury. A database has found 193 convicted cases of voter fraud between 1000 and 2020, when 250 million votes were cast.

November 30, 2020

Dems Back; GOP Reverses to Cry Austerity

Filed under: Budget — trp2011 @ 1:07 AM
Tags: , , , , , ,

During President Obama’s two terms, Republicans bitterly complained about the national debt, giving that as a reason to vote Republican. While bragging about his wonderful economy, Dictator Donald Trump brags about his “best ever” economy but pushes the U.S. into greater debt, especially with a massive tax cut for his wealthy friend and huge corporations before he completely mismanaged a pandemic and forcing expensive stimulus bills.

Today’s “letter” from Heather Cox Richardson explains the history of Republicans’ faulty policy of tax cuts driving the U.S. into a fiscal hole while in power and then moving to austerity the instant Democrats have any power:

 

“One story jumped out at me today. The Hill reported that as soon as a Democrat is back in the White House, Republicans intend to retrench and be careful about how the country spends money, although during Trump’s term, even before the pandemic, they spent huge sums without worrying about it.

This is a pattern. Since President Ronald Reagan’s presidency in the 1980s, Republicans have insisted that tax cuts will pay for themselves by stimulating economic growth, thus increasing tax revenues as everyone gets richer. At the same time, they have dramatically increased military spending without ever suggesting a way to pay for it. Then they complain about the debt and insist that the only way to get our finances back into whack is to cut domestic spending.

There are two important metrics involved in figuring out our national expenses. One is the deficit, which is the difference between the money the government spends every year and the money it takes in. The other is the debt, which is the total amount the government owes.

Until the late twentieth century, the government took on large debt during the Civil War, WWI, WWII and during the Great Depression, when Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt initiated a new kind of government that regulated business, provided a basic social safety net, and promoted infrastructure. But leaders of both parties believed that deficits should reflect emergencies and that debt should be held at a low percentage of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, used to estimate the growth of the economy. It was to pay down the national debt that the Republican Party created national taxation, including the income tax, during the Civil War, and that Republican Dwight Eisenhower kept the top income tax bracket at 91% during his administration. Eisenhower was the last Republican president to balance a budget.

After the Great Depression, taxes and the social welfare programs they funded created what economists call the “great compression” when economic inequality in America shrank.

But the stagflation of the 1970s drove white families into higher tax brackets without giving them more buying power at the same time that politicians eager to end business regulation and social welfare programs told them that their tax dollars were going to the civil rights protesters that featured so prominently on the evening news. In 1980, they voted for a president who promised to cut the taxes that he insisted were going to “welfare queens” and to put money back in their pockets.

Ronald Reagan promised that cutting taxes would actually produce more revenue. As business leaders—the supply side—had more money, they would invest in businesses which would hire more workers, at better wages. Rather than focusing on the demand side of the equation—the workers—as governments had done since FDR fought the Depression with the New Deal, Reagan said he could jump-start the economy by putting money into the supply side. The man who would become his own vice president, George H.W. Bush, called this idea “voodoo economics,” but who would complain about a plan that enabled Americans to have the government programs they had come to depend on, without having to pay for them?

Unfortunately, it actually was voodoo economics. In 1981, Congress cut $35 billion from the next year’s budget and cut the top income tax rates from 70% to 50%, as well as cutting capital gains and estate taxes. At Reagan’s urging, it also added $17 billion in new defense spending. In the next five years, it would increase defense spending by 40%. As that money (and more, from the deregulation of savings and loan banks, and from lower interest rates) boosted the economy, it seemed that supply-side economics worked.

An up-and-coming Republican spokesman named Grover Norquist insisted that voters did not want to be taxed to pay down deficits, and it was clear they didn’t have to be. When Democrats called for higher taxes and defense cuts to balance the deficit, Republicans accused them of being anti-business and soft on communism.

But the booming economy was paid for by extensive borrowing. During Reagan’s years in office, the federal debt tripled from $994 billion to $2.8 trillion, and America went from being a creditor nation to a debtor nation. Republican leaders insisted that the Democrats were responsible for the rising debt because they would not make sufficient cuts in domestic spending, but in fact increased defense spending meant the administration itself never submitted a balanced budget.

When he took office, George H.W. Bush tried to take on the national debt, which was costing Americans $200 billion a year in interest payments. In 1990, facing a $171 billion deficit for the next year, Bush agreed to raise taxes if Democrats agreed to steep spending cuts. Republicans led by Georgia Representative Newt Gingrich signed onto the deal in private, but in public began to force those willing to raise taxes, people they called RINOs—Republicans in Name Only—out of their party. The belief that economic growth depended on cutting taxes had become the test of Republican purity.

In 1993, to deal with budget deficits, President Bill Clinton convinced Congress to raise tax rates on incomes over $250,000—affecting about 1% of Americans—to 39.6%, increase the highest corporate tax rate by 1%, and increase the gas tax. Not a single Republican voted for the measure, but under it, the economy boomed and the annual deficits began to shrink. In 1997, Clinton expanded domestic programs and cut the capital gains tax rate, but even still, in 1998, the government was producing a budget surplus.

Even before he took office, President George W. Bush prepared a $1.6 trillion tax cut to wipe that surplus out. Norquist explained to a reporter that so long as there was money to spend, it would go to social welfare legislation, and the Republicans were determined to starve the government, not feed it. Bush did not get the full cut he wanted, but in June 2001 Congress passed a bill cutting $1.3 trillion over ten years.

Immediately after 9-11, Congress appropriated $358 billion for security before Bush dramatically increased military spending—by $48 billion—while slashing domestic spending. When the administration launched more tax cuts the following year, Bush’s Treasury Secretary, Paul O’Neill, worried about a fiscal crisis. Vice President Dick Cheney disagreed: “Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter.” Bush took the country into war in Afghanistan and Iraq but, for the first time in U.S. history, did not raise taxes to pay for the military actions. Instead, Congress cut taxes again. By 2009, the Congressional Research Service estimated the cost of those wars at $1 trillion.  President Barack Obama took office in early 2009 with the Great Recession in full swing. Deficit spending to restart the economy put the deficit at more than $1.4 trillion that year. As the economy recovered, deficits dropped to $585 billion.

Under Trump, though, they rose dramatically again despite the fact he inherited a growing economy. In 2017, he pushed through a tax cut which increased the 2019 deficit to $984 billion. It was projected to be $1.02 trillion in 2020—a 74% increase in four years of a strong economy—when the coronavirus hit. This meant that interest payments on the federal debt—before coronavirus—were estimated to cost $382 billion, 8.2% of total government spending. [Comparison of deficits for Obama’s last three years with DDT’s first three years. DDT’s tax cuts aren’t paying for themselves.] 

The pandemic, of course, required a huge relief package. The CARES bill appropriated $2.2 trillion, making this year’s deficit projected to be at least $3.7 trillion.

Measured against GDP, our accumulated debt is now higher than at any time except in 1946, during World War II. In June 2020, it was $20.3 trillion.

Economists are of two minds (at least!) about the economic effects of deficits and the federal debt, but there is one very clear political meaning to them. This pattern of government spending and taxation since 1981 has moved wealth upward dramatically. In 1979, the top 1% of Americans held 20.5% of the nation’s wealth. In 1989 the top 1% held 35.7%.

By 2017, the top 1% owned 40% of the country’s wealth, more than the bottom 90% combined. The top 20% in 2017 owned 90% of the wealth, leaving just 10% for the remaining 80%. The bottom 20% of Americans have no wealth; they are in debt.

When Republicans today say they are going to turn their attention back to the deficits and the debt, what they are saying is that they intend to continue to cut taxes. Then they will blame the Democrats for being fiscally irresponsible when they call for the infrastructure and social welfare spending that used to keep the American economic playing field somewhat level.

[Note: As you can see, the U.S. is moving forward on the same circular pattern. Republicans make a horrible mess, and Democrats get elected. Democrats clean up the mess. The minute the country gets in better shape, the Republicans make another mess. And so on.

February 12, 2020

Budget Shows DDT’s Cruel Priorities

Last year, household debt topped $14 trillion.

The day before Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) Trump tweeted “BEST USA ECONOMY IN HISTORY!” he slashed a scheduled pay raise for federal workers from 2.5 percent to 1 percent because, according to DDT, he’s “keeping the nation on a fiscally sustainable course.” The White House said that a president can “implement alternative plans for pay adjustments” in “a national emergency or serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare.” This assertion came from the man who signed $1.5 trillion cuts for the rich and big business. The increase in cost of living for 2019 was 2.3 percent, the highest since 2011, which means that federal workers’ wages dropped 1.3 percent.

In January, the federal deficit climbed to $389, 25 percent more than the same period last year. The Treasury Department estimates a deficit of more than $1 trillion, even higher than the almost $1 trillion for each of the first two years after DDT was inaugurated. Revenue is down because of loss from individual corporate tax cuts of 40 percent.

Against this backdrop, DDT released his new budget with the redundant name “The Budget for America’s Future.” On the campaign trail, DDT said he would eliminate the federal debt, or at least halve it, during his presidency. Instead, his new budget adds $3.4 trillion by 2024 on top of the $3 trillion he already added—and that’s likely a very conservative guesstimate—with an “optimistic” projection of ballooning debt until 2035.

When he pushed the tax cuts, DDT promised to grow the economy by at least four percent and maybe 5 percent or 6 percent. Last year, the GDP grew at 2.3 percent, and he projects 2.8 percent for 2020, going up to 3 percent a year after that. He’s still saying that his tax plan will create business investment and economic growth. The Congressional Budget Office’s far more realistic estimate is GDP growth of 2.2 percent this year, 1.9 percent in 2021, and average 1.7 percent through 2030.

Saturday morning, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) tweeted that he “will not be touching your Social Security and Medicare in Fiscal 2021 Budget.” The next day, DDT’s newly released budget showed “steep reductions in social-safety-net programs” of $2 trillion, including $1.6 trillion cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, according to the conservative Wall Street Journal. Among the $920 billion cut for Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act are $135 billion for prescription drugs and $292 billion in safety-net cuts such as work requirements and food stamps. [Last year, drug prices increased by 5 percent] DDT’s budget cuts Medicare by $451 billion. Gone are $1.7 billion for low-income children’s school meals, $200 billion by requiring Social Security numbers for the child tax credit and earned income tax credit, and $170 billion for student loan programs. Social Security was cut by $70 billion eligibility for disability benefits, adding to a total of $4.4 trillion cuts for programs benefiting families and working people.

With Mick Mulvaney still making the $203,500 for salary from his past position as director of the Office of Management and Budget but now action chief of staff, acting OMB director Russell Vought, making only $179,000 to do Mulvaney’s dirty work, was left to justify DDT’s budget. According to Vought, the administration isn’t making these cuts at all: it will “remove” parts of the Medicare and then “moderate their growth” with reforms. He declined to give a total figure of all cuts (aka moderations of growth) to Medicare and Social Security.

Vought couldn’t answer the question about DDT’s introduction of the new budget that stated the government “abused its authority to go after business.” He said:

“Who? Who? Who’s saying that? Don’t have it in front of me.”

The White House put most of Vought’s briefing “off-camera.”

Asked about the $2 trillion in proposed cuts to “entitlement programs,” Vought answered that they weren’t cuts. He said, “We believe these are good-government reforms.” He also commented that “the coronavirus is not going to have a ripple effect.”

Under oath while testifying before the House Budget Committee, Vought refused to answer the question about whether President Obama’s administration had created any jobs.

Once again DDT panders to his base with his budget. His only increases are 12 percent to NASA for a trip to Mars (which DDT unfortunately won’t be taking), an increase in military spending to $740.5 billion, and 13.3 percent increase to the VA mostly for veterans’ health care, some of it for the after affects of DDT-caused head injuries from rocket attacks. And of course, the wall would get another $2 billion.

Other cuts:

  • 9 percent cut from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • 8 percent cut from the Education Department.
  • 21 percent cut from foreign aid.
  • 21 percent cut for the State Department and related international programs which includes the elimination of the Overseas Contingency Operations account.
  • 26.5 percent cut from the EPA.
  • 22 percent cut from the Army Corps of Engineers.
  • 37 percent cut from the Commerce Department.
  • 15 percent cut from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
  • 11 percent cut from the Labor Department.
  • 8 percent cut from the Energy Department.

The White House projects the economy will grow by an average of 3 percent a year if all of its proposals are adopted. The administration said real, or inflation-adjusted, gross domestic product would grow by 3.1 percent in 2021, up from its estimate of 2.8 percent this year. The administration forecast is considerably higher than the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate that GDP will grow by 2.2 percent this year, 1.9 percent in 2021 and average 1.7 percent through 2030. White House forecast is based in part on the expectation the 2017 tax cuts, which would be extended in the budget plan, will spur business investment and economic growth.

DDT’s budget proposal nullifies a two-year deal negotiated with Congress last summer that raised both defense and domestic spending.

Two years ago, James Hohmann wrote a piece for Washington Post about DDT’s budget. Everything he said then holds true in 2020:

“[DDT] campaigned like a populist, but the budget he proposed Monday underscores the degree to which he’s governing as a plutocrat….

“’This is a messaging document,’ budget director Mick Mulvaney told reporters at the White House.”

These are the messages:

DDT campaigned on never cutting Medicaid, Medicare, or Social Security, but his budget proposes these cuts with block grants.

DDT campaigned on bringing back manufacturing jobs, but he’s slashing budgets for training and support of job loss. Last year, the auto industry alone lost 50,000 jobs.

DDT campaigned on a balanced budget and created almost $3 trillion in deficits in his first three years.

DDT keeps campaigning on strong GDP growth while it becomes weaker.

DDT campaigning on helping the low-income workers but passed tax cuts for the rich and big business that helps only the “haves.” His budget promotes human suffering.  

DDT wants to kill the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, programs to prevent pollution, and eliminate any program that might stall climate change.

DDT campaigns on less government while increasing the part that he loves—military build-up. [In 2013, when former Defense Secretary was a Marine general leading Central Command, he told Congress, “If you don’t fully fund the State Department, then I need to buy more ammunition.” Now DDT buys more ammunition.]

DDT continues his plan of privatization to destroy public lands through mining, grazing, etc. and increase private school vouchers for Christian schools while slashing the Education Department budget.

About his budget, DDT said:

“We’re doing a lot of things that are good, including waste and fraud. Tremendous waste and tremendous fraud.”

Yes, he’s right. He’s doing “a lot of … waste and fraud. Tremendous waste and tremendous fraud.”

An overview of DDT’s budget. 

December 23, 2019

‘Sacred Cow’ Military Eats Up Budget

Congress has passed its budget with $738 billion for the military. But defense costs are far more than that sum, despite lawmakers declaiming that the Pentagon is sadly underfunded. Nation has itemized the money in ten areas dedicated to national security expenses of 2019. The upcoming year will be more because the Pentagon’s base budget was only $544.5 billion when the article was written last May. The costs could be less because the Pentagon’s Defense Business Board reported that cutting unnecessary overhead—a bloated bureaucracy and shadow workforce of private contractors costing more than government employees—could save $25 billion a year. Instead, Congress approved a vanity “space force” for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) that will duplicate existing services.

Excessive spending: over 600,000 private contractors – cutting 15 percent of them would save $20 billion a year.

Cost overruns on major weapons programs such as the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent.

Routine overpayments for minor spare parts: for example, $8,000 for a helicopter fear worth less than $500.

Overpriced weapons systems the military can’t afford to operate: a $13 billion aircraft carrier, the $564 million for each of 200 nuclear bombers, and the $1.4 trillion for the lifetime of the F-35 combat aircraft that may never perform appropriately. 

Base Budget Total: $554.1 billion

The Pentagon is able to spend far more than this sum because it has the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account meant to pay for the War on Terror in the Middle East and Africa but used for anything the Pentagon wishes and is exempt from caps. In 2016, then Rep. Mick Mulvaney, not DDT’s acting chief of staff, nicknamed the OCO the “slush fund.” The OCO budget was about $174 billion. [The total is actually $738 billion so each running tally will be $10 billion higher than noted.]

War Budget Total: $173.8 billion

Running tally: $727.9 billion

The budget for nuclear warheads and naval nuclear reactors is tucked away in the Department of Energy.

Nuclear Budget Total: $24.8 billion

Running tally: $752.7 billion

This category with $9 billion for defense-related activities goes to agencies outside the Pentagon, primarily the FBI for homeland-security-related activities.

Defense-Related Activities-Budget Total: $9 billion

Running tally: $761.7 billion

The above five categories should have been capped at $630 billion, but the $761.7 [actually $771.6] billion is just a start. The frequent U.S. wars have created a generation of veterans, including over 2.7 million military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, many needing help with physical and mental war wounds—PTSD, exposure to toxic burns, traumatic brain injuries, etc. The VA budget of $216 billion may not be sufficient for necessary services.

Veterans Affairs Budget: $216 billion

Running tally: $977.7 billion

Created after 9/11 attacks, the Department of Homeland Security absorbed 22 existing government organizations and employs almost 250,000 million employees. These agencies include the Coast Guard, FEMA, Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Secret Service, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, and the Office of Intelligence and Analysis. Unfortunately, ICE spends more time on causing suffering among innocent people and defeating criminals and terrorists. DHS also gives military-grade equipment to local law-enforcement agencies.

Homeland Security Budget Total: $69.2 billion

Running tally: $1.0469 trillion

The intention of the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development is to use diplomacy for security instead of the U.S. declaring preemptive wars, but this fiscal area has lost one-third of its budget. Remaining is the $5.4 billion Foreign Military Financing program, the bulk of it going to Israel and Egypt.

International Affairs Budget Total: $51 billion

Running tally: $1.0979 trillion

Sixteen intelligence agencies assembled under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence have a budget of over $80 billion that is concealed under obscure line items in the Pentagon budget.

Intelligence Budget Total: $80 billion

Running tally: $1.0979 trillion

Of the over $500 billion in interest that the U.S. annually pays, about $156 billion can be attributed to Pentagon spending.

Defense Share of National Debt Total: $156.3 billion

Final tally: $1.2542 trillion

Anticipated tax revenue for 2020 is $3.64 trillion. Thus defense expenditures will be more than one-third of revenue and approximately $3,787 tax per person.

Even this information may not be accurate. On October 4, 2018, the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board (FASAB) issued new guidance, SFFAS 56, permitting government agencies to “modify” public financial statements and move expenditures from one line item to another. These agencies are also prevented from telling taxpayers if and when public financial statements have been altered. The government can keep two sets of books—one connected to reality and the other for the public.

Last year, the government issued a 132-page advisory report on reorganization to cut back government expenses: the Defense Department with $700+ billion received only 14 mentions. Fifteen departments, agencies and administrations that submitted plans to internally cutback and reorganize don’t include the DoD which is the only department that has never completed an audit despite congressional orders to complete one in the past two decades. Examples of the 14 “reforms” includes moving the Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works from DoD to the Transportation and Interior departments and moving background investigations for security clearances and employment from OPM to DoD.

Publicity has cut back a few expenditures. The Air Force paid $10,000 for toilet seats until Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) asked them about the cost. The DoD dropped the cost to $300. Yet costs rise when lawmakers want to make money for manufacturing constituents, for example when 103 House members requested 24 more F-35s in the 2019 budget than DDT wanted. They argued that the additional ones would lower the overall costs and ensure air dominance. The Pentagon had stopped deliveries of the F-35s because of production errors. A year later, the F-35 is still not quite right, fully mission capable only 26 percent of the time, according to the Project on Government Oversight.

In the same budget, Congress, concerned about 42 service members dying the summer before, offered 19 percent more funding for the F-35s and aircraft that was obsolete in Pentagon plans. The operations and maintenance budget, responsible for readiness, would be increased by only one percent. A report shows that 17 sailors died in two different ship accidents because of poor leadership and officers’ mistakes, something that new ships won’t solve.

Under DDT, the U.S. drops a bomb someplace every 12 minutes. And no one seems to notice. George W. Bush dropped 70,000 bombs in five countries, but the world was horrified about the 57 strikes in Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen—countries where the U.S. had neither war nor conflicts at that time. President Obama increased the total number to 100,000 and 563 strikes targeting those countries. Two percent of the deaths were on the “kill list,” targeted for “death-by-drone.” 

DDT’s dropped 44,096 bombs, 121 per day, during his first year. That’s one every 12 minutes, 24 hours a day and seven days a week. No vacations. Again, killing 98 percent non-targets. Over 80 percent of the dead are never identified, and the U.S. doesn’t know who they have killed. That total is almost 18 months old, and now the government hides the number of bombs it drops. And the U.S. spends over one-third of its tax revenue on the military.

March 14, 2019

DDT’s Budget: Cruel

Filed under: Budget — trp2011 @ 8:42 PM
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Amid the continuing scandals this week, including purchasing college placements and Boeing’s aviation disaster, the month-late budget from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) lost its media traction after a day. It does, however, present his priorities of wall ($8.6 billion) and the military ($750 billion) with a $34 billion increase, priorities which translate into a white country and war. Every line item except the census, private VA care, and deportation/detention took hits—some of them huge. The budget even indicates expectations of ongoing annual deficits of at least $1 trillion while keeping tax cuts for the wealthy and big business. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow claimed that rapid growth needs these cuts, but the Congressional Budget Office projects 2019 GDP growth at 2.3 percent, down 25 percent from 2018. Last year’s unbalanced budget of $4.4 trillion relied on rose-colored economic projections that didn’t see fruition.

Some of DDT’s annual cuts:

  • No increase in opioid funding;
  • $5 billion cuts to NIH budget, including huge ones to HIV and cancer (forgets his State of the Union promise);
  • Repeal of Affordable Care Act with no alternative;
  • Insurer permission to discriminate against clients with preexisting conditions and greatly reduce insurance subsidies for low- and middle-income people;
  • $77 billion cut for Medicaid and ACA, converting Medicaid into block grants so that states can determine coverage guidelines, mandating work requirement and increasing co-pays;
  • $84.5 from Medicare;
  • $22 billion from food stamps;
  •  $20.7 billion from student aid for higher education;
  • $2.5 billion from Social Security’
  • Almost one-third loss to EPA and over two-thirds cuts for renewable energy research and innovation;
  • 31 percent cut for the Army Corps of Engineers;
  • 23 percent cut for the State Department;
  • 15 percent cut for the USDA (there goes any food safety);
  • 14 percent cut for Interior Department, including national parks;
  • And much more.

The ten-year budget projects a $1.1 trillion deficit in 2019, 2020, and 2021, and a $1 trillion deficit in 2022 with the national debt ballooning by 50 percent in the next decade by 2029.

DDT’s budget already cuts food help by almost 30 percent, but he has returned to wanting the scam of giving people a box of canned food instead of allowing them to determine what they can purchase with food stamps. Last year, Budget director Mick Mulvaney, now also acting chief of staff, tried to compare the “Harvest Box” that lacked any fresh ingredients to a luxury meal service, but he had no idea what the costs and logistics would be, especially with the promise of home delivery to each recipient. He still doesn’t have any ideas about these questions. Even the conservative Heritage Foundation opposes the idea which has been called “flawed and harmful.”

Over 51 million U.S. households—43 percent—cannot afford the basics of food, transportation, and healthcare. The food stamps for 19 million people are equivalent to the tax cuts for the top 1 percent, and they go directly to improve the nation’s economy, unlike tax cuts for the wealthy. The nine percent cut to non-defense programs hits Section 8 housing vouchers, public housing programs, Head Start, the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition program, and Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, among others.

DDT’s budget cuts the Community Development Block Grant that includes Meals on Wheels program that delivers meals to low-income seniors to help them eat and stay in their homes. The cut of 16.4 percent in HUD eliminates the public Housing Capital Fund and the HOME Investments Partnerships Program as well as the National Housing Trust Fund that helps low-income renters such as veterans, people with disabilities, seniors, and households experiencing homelessness. DDT’s federal work mandate for food stamps and Medicaid opposes even the GOP Congress. Despite his promise to help manufacturing workers, he eliminates the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, which helps small- and mid-size manufacturers compete.

The budget also funnels the funding for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) through Congress instead of the Federal Reserve. If Republicans regain control of the House, the CFPB can return consumers to the mercy of financial scammers, big banks, and Wall Street special interests. DDT’s biggest cuts are to agencies designed to protect people in the United States, including workers’ safety and rights.

This Monday, March 18, another shoe will drop in the series of financial disasters when DDT has to release the proposed detailed budget. Last year, he tried to cut Head Start by $1.3 billion a year, eliminating vital early education for hundreds of thousands of low-income children. He also tried to wipe out Legal Services Corporation, legal representation for almost 2 million low-income people, along with the Low Income Home Energy Assistance for 6.7 million low-income families, 90 percent of them with a senior, a child, or a person with a disability. If DDT meets his deadline, people will see the next hit list of poor people.

DDT’s budget feeds his ravening base: increases call for his wall and military, and decreases punish the poor, considered by his base as undeserving. He expects more money from additional fees, already dismissed by Congress, and a rosy high economic growth of over 3 percent, an idea negated by the Congressional Budget Office which predicts 1.6 and 1.8 percent over the next ten years. More optimistic, the Federal Reserve settled around 2 percent annual growth. The lowest growth rate in a half century, the 0.4 percent increase because of the tax cuts is 4 to 9 percent lower this year when considering inflation.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders began her defense of DDT’s budget with a lie, that it keeps his promises, and Russell Vought had to cover for her with more lies. (The White House calls Vought “director of Office of Budget and Management” although Mick Mulvaney, acting chief of staff, never resigned from being OBM Director.) Asked about DDT’s promise “eliminate the national debt in eight years,” Vought blamed President Obama—who had nothing to do with DDT’s massive tax cuts for the wealthy and big business, his inflated military funding, and his trade war with China. Vought also lied about what DDT said in saying that he would “attempt” to pay off the debt. In addition, DDT’s promise was to “balance” the budget, which means eliminating the annual deficit that went higher than $1 trillion last year.

Questioned about DDT’s breaking his promise for not reducing Medicare and Social Security, Vought said: “What we are doing is putting forward reforms that will lower drug prices and that, because Medicare pays a very large share of drug prices in this country, has the impact of finding savings. We’re also finding waste, fraud and abuse, but Medicare spending will go up every single year by healthy margins and there are no structural changes for Medicare beneficiaries.” DDT’s NAFTA proposal guarantees monopoly rights for big pharma so that they can avoid competition from generic drugs.

DDT is already contorting the existing congressional budget by removing $385 million from programs to cover health needs for lower-income preschool children, HIV and cancer patients, and Alzheimer’s sufferers to detain over 15,000 undocumented youth in DDT’s manufactured border crisis. HHS Secretary Alex Azar reallocated $446 million to detention centers from healthcare programs such as those for teen pregnancy prevention and research for flu vaccine and women’s cancer. Azar’s latest announcement came after the report that 4,500 children have been sexually abused in U.S. immigration centers since 2014, including 178 abused by HHS staffers or government contractors running the facilities.

People keep saying that they voted for DDT and still support him because he is a businessman and they want the United States to be run like a business. DDT business style is to use corruption and fraud to make money, declare bankruptcy and take money from investors, fail and get more money from his father, and move on to another company. When he applies the same system to the U.S., over 300 million people will be lost because there is no other country where we can go.

February 15, 2019

DDT’s ‘Art of the Deal,’ a National Emergency

Using executive action is “a very, very dangerous thing that should be overwritten easily by the Supreme Court” and an impeachable offence, according to Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). He tweeted:

“Repubs must not allow Pres Obama to subvert the Constitution of the US for his own benefit & because he is unable to negotiate w/ Congress.”

On C-Span, VP Mike Pence said that real leadership comes from hammering out a deal with Congress. He explained:

“When I talk about the consent of the governed, that is where the American people work their will. If the president were to go through with this [national emergency order], he is acting outside the consent of the governed and is not providing leadership to solve this issue facing our country in the way the American people would expect a leader to do.”

That was five years ago, and now the man sitting in the Oval Office has created a fictitious national emergency “for virtual invasion purposes” to get money for “wall” because he failed to negotiate with Congress. DDT may get $600 million from a Treasury Department drug forfeiture fund—money taken from people who may not have been charged with crimes—and $2.5 billion from a Defense Department anti-drug program. Another $3.6 billion could come from military construction funds.

Under the National Emergencies Act (1976), House disapproval of DDT’s executive order would require Senate consideration that could pass with a simple majority. Several GOP senators have voiced opposition to DDT’s emergency declaration, and two-thirds of the people oppose building a wall, including more than one-fourth of DDT’s party. Even the conservative U.S. Chamber of Commerce criticized DDT for his “emergency” order. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that the action could allow a future president with different views to declare a climate emergency or gun emergency. After telling people over 200 times that Mexico would pay for “wall,” DDT is demanding that U.S. taxpayers provide the funds.

During his odd speech this morning, DDT said he “didn’t need to” declare a national emergency but wanted to “do it much faster.” He may have followed Sean Hannity’s directive on Fox that he could accept DDT’s signing a bill without “wall” if he immediately signed the national emergency order for funding. Ann Coulter disagreed when she called DDT’s national emergency declaration a way to “scam the stupidest people in his base.” She said, “The only national emergency is that our president is an idiot.” Right meets left?

A Pew Research poll found that 58 percent of the people oppose building the wall.

More of DDT’s odd statements this morning:

  • The courts, except for the Supreme Court, won’t accept his executive order—perhaps because he said he “didn’t need to” sign it.
  • The North Korea communist dictatorship has great potential to be an economic hub.
  • Women taken across the border were tied up with tape on their mouths—ala the movie Sicario. https://nelsnewday.wordpress.com/2019/02/11/how-long-will-gop-radicalize-conservatives/
  • He likes that China doesn’t have trouble with drug addiction because its government kills drug dealers—said in a fake Asian accent.
  • The wall hasn’t been built because of GOP legislators’ failure.
  • Right-wing talk show hosts support him, and Rush Limbaugh can talk for three hours.

In discussing her new book, Fascism: A Warning, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said that using a national emergency to address border crossings is an example of fascist behavior and the act of “a bully with an army.” She noted a “long history” of undemocratic leaders seizing control and subverting lawmaking bodies through so-called emergencies and described DDT as showing “undemocratic” tendencies through “his approach to the free press, to democratic institutions, to the independent judiciary,… and his general disdain for the rule of law is genuinely alarming.” William Rempel describes the parallels between DDT and Philippines’ democratic president-turned-dictator Ferdinand Marcos during the 1970s.

DDT signed the veto-proof bill approving the budget until September 30. The Senate accepted the budget with 83-16 vote; four Democratic candidates voted no. The House voted 300-128 in favor; 109 Republicans and 19 Democrats voted no, and 87 Republicans voted yes. Before the vote, a large complement of Capitol Police physically shoved reporters, even a pregnant woman, away from senators willing to talk with the media. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) was forced to stop an interview because of the police behavior.

DDT hopes to use an executive order to make up for getting less money for a barrier than he was offered before the 35-day shutdown of the government. Even worse, the new law blocks use of its $1.375 billion for a “concrete wall” and “only authorizes funds for ‘existing technologies,’ like the current fencing along the southern border.” DDT opposed additional immigration judges, but now he’s trying to use the additional 50 judges as a win for himself. He also got an increase in customs agents and border patrol personnel, but ICE can’t fill existing vacancies. DDT, famous for stiffing people who work for him, succeeded in doing the same for shutdown victims. He refused to pay the 580,000 federal contractors who went without pay for 35 days although they were furloughed or forced to work. That form of slavery saved him almost $200 million.

Democrats achieved more alternatives to immigration detention, more help (legal, medical, etc.) for detained immigrant families, and censure for some of the CBP’s worst practices. Immigration detention facilities must have adequate temperatures instead of freezing rooms and eliminate “chain-link type enclosures” (aka cages). Local communities will also have veto power over construction. To prevent separation of some families, DHS cannot remove or detain anyone who is a “sponsor, potential sponsor, or member of a household of a sponsor or potential sponsor of an unaccompanied alien child.”

DDT has a big problem with building the wall along the southern border: his land grabs. Yesterday, Democrats introduced bills to protect property from DDT’s eminent domain actions. One would remove DHS security to unilaterally waive “all legal requirements” for building “wall,” including the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act. A second would require a $20 million fund to provide legal service for low-income landowners to protect their land. The third would guarantee full compensation for seized land.

David French, once a DDT supporter, wrote in the conservative National Review about why DDT lacks the power to circumvent Congress in his attempt to seize funding and land for his wall. The former JAG officer claims that this issue was already settled over 60 years ago during the Korean War when courts stopped President Truman from seizing steel mills to prevent a strike. The emergencies act doesn’t give DDT permission for his wall because he would have to prove he needed to use the military against an ally for a function of the civilian DHS.  The statute also specifics “use,” not funding, for essential projects to national defense. DDT also has no “credible evidence” of terrorists headed to the U.S. from Mexico.

Passing the budget—despite doing it almost five months late—may make some people breathe a sign of relief, but the deadline for raising the debt ceiling arrives in less than two weeks on March 1, 2019. Failure to do so forces Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to use “extraordinary measures” to not go over the ceiling. Usually the influx of income taxes paid by April 15 helps pay the government’s bills, but the GOP passed a massive tax cut last year for the wealthy and big businesses which means much less revenue this year. Theoretically, the day when the federal government hits a crisis in its inability to pay bills hits in mid-summer which means another possibility of a shutdown if either the far-right conservatives or DDT decides they don’t want to pay the bills that they have run up with their budgets.

Perhaps everyone will agree to take responsibility for the bills that Congress incurred, but if not, it’s crisis time again. Congress has a tendency to put off its obligatory decisions until after the deadline. DDT’s officials like Mnuchin and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney say that the deficit—which causes the national debt—doesn’t matter; congressional decisions about raising the debt ceiling will determine whether they agree with the GOP administration.

Foreign investors have grown so concerned about lending money to the U.S. that their share of the debt has gone from 49 percent to 39 percent of the entire debt. Thirty percent of the government debt is to itself, including to the Social Security Trust Fund and federal employee retirement funds. Ronald Reagan started “borrowing” from the Social Security surplus, and George W. Bush ran his loan of almost $1 trillion to the top of almost $3 trillion to pay for his tax cuts, war, and recession.

DDT announced that the United States has a national emergency at the border and then headed to sunny Florida for a stay at Mar-a-Lago and a few rounds of golf. And hundreds of thousands of government workers still aren’t getting paid while the deficit skyrockets.

March 23, 2018

What’s in the Omnibus Spending Bill?

Filed under: Budget,Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 9:49 PM
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Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) cried crocodile tears about the poor Dreamers and blasted Congress for passing the 2,233-page spending bill that they hadn’t read as if he didn’t cause the DACA disaster and ever read any of the bills he signed. DDT ended DACA nearly 7 months ago and continually sabotaged solutions by rejecting multiple popular bipartisan solutions. He’s demanding line-item veto power for spending bills that SCOTUS ruled unconstitutional 20 years ago and the end to the Senate filibuster rule, but he kept the United States from the shutdown that he earlier said he wanted. DDT also bragged about the $1.6 billion for his “wall”—although he had demanded $25 billion—but that money doesn’t build his “big beautiful wall.” Funding goes to levees, existing fencing repair, and double fencing for existing barriers. Not one additional foot of the wall because the law prevents DDT from making any of the wall prototypes he has admired.

DDT had said he would sign the bill but then threatened to change his mind after watching Pete Hegseth denouncing it on Fox & Friends. (Hegseth may have even more control over DDT if he becomes Veterans Affairs Secretary.)  Several congressional members have already left town for their two-week vacation as the drama unrolled. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) was already back in Wisconsin when he made the call to DDT about signing the bill.

The House passed the bill 256-167, with 145 Republicans and 111 Democrats voting yes, and 90 Republicans and 77 Democrats voting no.  The Senate passed the 2,232-page spending bill 65-32 with 23 Republicans, eight Democrats, and one Independent voting against the bill. The $1.3 trillion spending law puts $700 billion into the military, a ten percent increase from last year, and $591 to the people in the U.S. in another ten percent raise. Republicans don’t expect to pass any other major legislation before the midterm elections, but this law expires in six months.

On the GOP side, conservative are furious about the deficit despite promoting it with their tax cut for the wealthy and corporations, hawks are pleased with the biggest increase in defense in 15 years, and moderates are accepting. Democrat leaders are happy about the domestic funding, moderates believe in compromise, and all of the Dems are disappointment about missing major movement in guns and immigration issues.

Losers:  

Lack of Affordable Care Act market stabilization: The GOP refusal to compromise on their anti-choice positions will bring large increases in health premiums.

Immigration: Nothing about DACA because the GOP won’t compromise.

Sen. James E. Risch (R-ID): He held up the bill for hours because he didn’t want a federal wilderness area named after a dead political rival, Cecil Andrus, a Democratic governor of Idaho and Secretary of the Interior under President Jimmy Carter.

DDT: No money for his wall and no attention to his personal budget while Congress increased spending for items that he had slashed, including seed cash for a New York-New Jersey tunnel project that he tried to kill.

Winners:

Immigration: The GOP didn’t get 1,000 more beds for immigrant deportees and an additional 500 ICE agents to 1,000 and border agents to an additional 500. They lost detention beds and got only 328 more border agents. And ICE can’t fill the current quota of border agents even with a $10,000 hiring bonus. So-called “sanctuary” cities and states didn’t lose funding.

Low-income housing: The Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) Program doubles the number of public housing units. Despite HUD Ben Carson’s inability to track financing for public housing repairs in 1.1 million units and enforce tenants’ rights, the law lifts the cap from 225,000 to 455,000.  Expansion of the tax credit to build more affordable housing came in exchange for fixing the “grain glitch” in the GOP tax cuts that gave more tax deductions to farm coops such as Ocean Spray Cranberries instead of privately-owned farms.

IRS: An extra $196 million to help with the new tax law.

Education: Education Secretary Betsy Devos didn’t get her $1 billion moved from public to private religious schools. The law also allocates an additional $8.5 million to the Office of Civil Rights, keeps before and after school programs, retains the grant program for school-based mental health services, and boosts education funding by $3.9 billion. Congress also kept the grant program for low-income students to attend college, slightly raised the ceiling for Pell Grant awards, and boosted the federal work-study program. DeVos’ hoped-of budget cuts turned into increases.

Government Data: The Census Bureau gets an additional $1.34 billion for its nationwide survey. It also requires the Congressional Research Service to post all its reports online. 

Gun Background Checks: The law increases enforcement of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), expands requirements for updating records, gives incentives for NICS reports, and penalizes agencies that don’t add records to NICS.

The National Institutes of Health: A $3 billion funding increase.

The Community Development Block Grant: The program nearly doubled from $2.8 billion to $5.2 billion after DDT tried to eliminate it to help fund projects such as Meals on Wheels.

TIGER: The grant program for transportation projects is tripled to $1.5 billion.

The STOP School Violence Act of 2018: Increased grants for security training, metal detectors, stronger locks, emergency notifications, and other efforts meant to improve school safety.

Gun Violence Research: The law lifts funding bans for research about firearms imposed with the 1996 Dickey Amendment. The sponsor of this law has since regretted his action.

Tipped Workers: Workers won’t have to give up their tips to their employers, as DDT wanted although employers can require them to share with other workers if they are paid the full minimum wage, $2.13 for tipped workers who would have lost $5.8 billion a year if DDT had succeeded. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) called Risch’s delaying tantrum “the most like a Saturday Night Live skit” she’s ever witnessed in her 12 years in the Senate.

Government Workers: The military gets a 2.4 percent pay raise, and civilian personnel get a 1.9 percent bump.

Funding for the EPA/Energy: The law kept the EPA’s $8.1 billion budget despite DDT’s desire to cut it by one-third. The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, eliminated in DDT’s budget, got a $47 million increase to $353 million, and the DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy office, on DDT’s chopping block, increased 15 percent to $2.3 billion. There were a few losses regarding energy: the declares biomass as a carbon-neutral energy source, still debated by scientists, and livestock are now unfettered because they are exempted from the EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations.

Election Security Grants to States: Funded by $380 million.

Opioid Treatment/prevention: An increase of $3 billion.

Libraries: Restoration and increases of almost $400 million with another $700 million for Title IV education which could help school libraries.

Social Security Administrative Budget: A $480 increase for general operations.

Funding for public broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Art.

Mammograms: Women can continue this procedure with no insurance copay.

Title X: The federal family planning program that helps provide contraception, breast and cervical cancer screenings and STI and HIV testing to a diverse, low-income population continues, but DDT’s abstinence-only Title X chief, Valerie Huber, is in charge of the funds. The law does not end all federal funding for Planned Parenthood or ban life-saving research on fetal tissue donated from abortions and does not expand discriminatory abortion restrictions into the private insurance market.

Republicans complained about the process, but they were in charge. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) accused them of accelerating the process to leave town before the March for Our Lives about gun control in Washington tomorrow.

Buried deep in the 2,232 pages are stiff new sanctions against Russia, barring a number of federal agencies from dealing with Russia and sanctioning Russia for a large number of grievances. The law punishes Russia for its 2014 annexation of Crimea by barring funds from supporting all countries that back the annexation and directing Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to push Americans on certain financial boards to disallow funds from flowing to programs supportive of Russia’s annexation. It also blocks federal funds from “enter[ing] into new contracts with, or new agreements for Federal assistance to, the Russian Federation” and allocates $250 million to the Countering Russian Influence Fund—a 150 percent increase from last year. Nobody knows who put these sanctions into the bill, but they have wide bipartisan support.

Something else may crawl out of the law’s 2,232 pages, but right now I’m with the moderates. It could have been worse.

May 24, 2017

Worst Budget Ever

While Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) left the country, his top officials delivered the proposed 2018 budget to Congress with $1.4 trillion cuts against everyone except the wealthy and large corporations. The winner is the military and increased defense for waging war throughout the world.

Budget Director Mick Mulvaney tried to defend the document in a press conference. These are his talking points:

Instead of a budget, the document is tax cuts. Mulvaney said that the title should be “A Taxpayer-First Budget” instead of “The New Foundation for American Greatness.”

The plan is based on “compassion.” The “compassion” is only for people paying taxes.

DDT-economics demands a three percent growth. (Actually, it requires a 4.5 percent growth.)

The money goes for police, military, and border walls. That’s $54 billion that needs to be taken from helping people.

Only people in uniform deserve safety nets. All people other than veterans—disabled, students, etc.—are freeloaders.

Corporate privateers aren’t freeloaders. That’s the reason that education money is transferred to for-profit corporations running charter schools.

Spending freezes don’t apply to cuts.  “We are not spending less money one year than we spent before. What we are doing is growing Medicaid more slowly over the 10-year budget window than the Congressional Budget Office says that we should or says that we will under current law.”

Medicaid should be privatized or rationed block grants. States can provide it much cheaper than the federal government. (Cynical comment: That’s because they don’t provide services but put those grants into their general fund for something else.) The $800 billion cut for Medicaid of 47 percent will lead to “a better way.” (Cynical comment: That’s because it takes 23 million people off insurance.) Mulvaney said that breaking DDT’s promise about not reducing Medicaid isn’t important because it wasn’t that important.

The government could collect $500 billion in uncollected taxes. But Mulvaney thinks it’s not a good idea to collect that money because taxes are too complicated for people to know what to pay.

The EPA cuts are anti-climate science, but that’s not anti-science.  The new plan spends less on the environment (31 percent!) to reduce a focus on climate science. “Does it mean that we are anti-science? Absolutely not!” (Cynical comment: I can’t think of anything to say.)

There will still be a border wall. That was a DDT promise.

People on SSDI—disability—aren’t really on Social Security, and they aren’t really disabled. “It is a welfare program for the long-term disabled…. There are people who are getting SSDI who should not be getting it.”

People pretend to be hungry. People shouldn’t have food stamps because economic statistics show that the 2008 recession is over. (At least one Republican thinks that the economy is better—just for the wrong reason.

DDT’s budget reflects the values of Robert Mercer, the man who bought the presidency for him. The billionaire hedge-fund manager believes that “human beings have no inherent value other than how much money they make,” “if someone is on welfare they have negative value,” and the government violates nature’s sacred hierarchy when it “helps the weak people get strong, and makes the strong people weak by taking their money away.” It’s Ayn Rand’s fiction controlling what used to be the greatest nation in the world.

Hard to believe, but there’s a bigger problem with Mulvaney’s budget: he counted $2 trillion twice, once anticipating a three-percent economic growth and the other one neglecting projected tax cuts. In one example of the problem, DDT promised to eliminate estate taxes of over $300 billion, but the budget lists this as revenue. To achieve the budget, the economic growth would have to be 4.5 percent—2.5 times the projected growth from the Congressional Budget Office. President Clinton achieved over 4 percent during his second term with tax increases, but George W. Bush’s tax cuts and two wars took the rate down to a minus .3 percent. The first quarter of 2017 grew at a .7 percent annual rate, the lowest in three years.

Mulvaney isn’t concerned about a $2 trillion budgeting mistake. In fact, he thinks it doesn’t exist. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said that it’s a “preliminary document.” So no problem. (Mnuchin is the same person who made a $100 million mistake on his financial disclosures to the Senate before his confirmation.) The Treasury Secretary also claims that the abolition of the estate tax and reductions to rates on capital gains and income will provide “no absolute tax cut for the upper class,” maybe the most unrealistic perspective connected to the budget. The CBO estimates that these tax cuts would decrease revenue between $3 and $7 trillion during the next decade.

History proves that tax cuts for the wealthy don’t increase economic growth. The cuts also never fulfill the promises that they cause massive investment to help all. Corporations and the wealthy already possess a great deal of assets which they don’t invest in new enterprises and increase costs of real estate—like DDT does.

Red states that voted for DDT are hurt the worst by his budget. This source shows the way individual states are hit with his draconian cuts in food stamps, help for children and disabled, Medicaid—even farm insurance. Last August, DDT tried to woo black voters by say that they would be so impressed by what he does for them that he would get 95 percent of their votes in 2020. This month’s poll gives him a 12-percent approval rating among black people, one that will probably go down after his budget cut eviscerate their safety net.

The budget is so huge that it’s impossible to list all the horrible pieces of it. In the next decade, working families will lose $3.6 trillion in benefits and services while tax cuts of $6.2 trillion will go primarily to wealthy corporations and individuals. The deficit will grow by $7 trillion. Specific details are available here. The budget would totally eliminate these 66 programs. that the budget would totally eliminate. Axios also has an excellent overview of the disaster.

It’s not as if DDT’s budget has a good chance of passing. Republican lawmakers have responded negatively: “dead on arrival” (Sen. John Cornyn, R-TX); “anti-Nevada” (Sen. Dean Heller, R-NV); “terrible” (Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-SC); “I have some concern” (ultra-conservative Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue); and “went too far” (House Freedom Caucus Mark Meadows, R-NC about cutting Meals on Wheels). But a White House budget shows a president’s policies—or at least those who are writing DDT’s policies.

One success DDT may have is selling off the nation’s assets so he will look as if he’s doing a good job. In addition to privatizing many governmental activities such as airport security, DDT is trying to put public lands and power transmission assets such as those administered by Bonneville Power Administration. As of October 2014, Bonneville paid the government $24.8 billion provided by ratepayers and receives no money from the federal government. The annual payment is now approximately $1 billion a year, thus Bonneville costs the federal government nothing and earns them about $1 billion annually. Rep. Greg Walden, Oregon’s only GOP congressional member, did not comment, but his office stated that the idea “demonstrates President Trump’s commitment to balancing the budget and responsibly prioritizing taxpayer dollars.” Private companies would likely raise costs Bonneville’s 12 million customers.

Luckily, DDT has no idea how to get legislation passed. History shows that his only MO is bullying. Typically the introduction of a budget begins with a president’s State of the Union speech revealing major policy proposals followed by leaks of details and trial balloons before high economic officials sell the plan to the public. After the budget is sent to Congress, the president holds a press conference to brag about his proposals, and federal departments and agencies hold briefings the same day for reporters. Cabinet members appear at congressional hearings on their budgets. The weekend talk shows then use the budget as the principal topic. None of this has happened.

As a business man, DDT relied on his public image of wealth and glamour to negotiate scams. If one deal fell through, he always found other marks. In his current position, he has 535 partners—no one else if he loses them. If he wins, people in the U.S. will get only a wall—which he promised would be supplied by Mexico—and never-ending wars around the planet.

March 16, 2017

DDT’s ‘Skinny’ Budget: America Last

Filed under: Budget — trp2011 @ 9:18 PM
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The top-line draft of fiscal proposals for 2018 from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has been released with deep cleaver cuts (except for the military), most of them general items, letting Cabinet members decide specifics. The ones that were specific in the $1.1 trillion budget were mostly small, typically under $500 million. For example, he eliminates the National Endowment of the Arts to save $148 million (29 DDT trips to Mar-a-Lago), the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting ($445 million), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. “About 25 percent of NEA block-grant funds go to rural communities and 54 percent to low-income areas,” according to The Washington Post. Devastated local TV and radio stations could no longer show the reality DDT show. These are some of the 19 eliminated independent agencies, those outside federal departments controlled by Cabinet members, to be defunded—including the Appalachian Regional Commission which covers a region of Trumpers that he promised to economically revive.

Congressional members have said that the budget is “dead on arrival,” setting up the scene for an internecine fight.

The general cuts, including many that hurt DDT supporters who believed that he would make their lives better:

Environmental Protection Agency: $300 million under earlier estimates which was 31 percent less than 2016 and which fires 3,200 employees. With over 50 EPA programs would be completely eradicated, DDT “discontinues funding for the Clean Power Plan, international climate change programs, climate change research and partnership programs, and related efforts.” Secretary of EPA, Scott Pruitt, removed a request to determine the extent to which methane oil and gas producers are leaking because he doesn’t believe that CO2 causes climate change. Industry requests caused him to consider the removal of a rule to prevent explosions and accidents at refineries and other industrial sites.

Department of Energy: The 5.6 percent cut is accompanied by the move of $1.4 billion, another five percent, to other programs to boost “nuclear capabilities.” Eliminated programs include the Weatherization Assistance Program, the State Energy Program, and the Energy Star program which sets energy standards and saves taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars. Co-sponsored by the Department of Defense, the Energy Star program cut equals two trips to Mar-a-Lago. Also gone is the DOE loan program for “limited, early-stage applied energy research and development activities” because “the private sector is better positioned to finance disruptive energy research.” Tesla was developed from one of these loans.

Department of Justice: The four-percent cut combines with increases in other DOJ programs such as incarceration and deportation.

Department of Labor: The $2.5 billion in cuts, a 21 percent drop, will significantly reduce funding for job training programs for seniors and disadvantaged youth. Gone will be the Senior Community Service Employment Program ($434 million) that helps low-income job seekers age 55 and older find work by pairing them with nonprofit organizations and public agencies. DDT said that only half the participants find unsubsidized jobs.  Job Corps, a program providing workplace training for disadvantaged youth, will be forced to close centers.

State Department and UAAID: The cut of 28 percent from last year eliminates U.S. funding to UN climate change programs including the Green Climate Fund. The $500 million committed for 2017 supports low-carbon and resilience project in developing nations. DDT will withdraw the $2 billion funding for the Paris climate program.

NASA: This agency, which studies climate and space, reports directly to the White House which has cut $102 million, four “Earth science missions.”

Department of the Interior: The agency that includes the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management which are vital to oil, gas, coal, wind, and solar energy development has lost 12 percent of its budget.

Department of Agriculture: The 20-percent cut in this budget eliminates the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program; the Community Services Block Grant; and NeighborWorks America, which supports neighborhood organizations that develop and maintain affordable housing. The agency’s water and wastewater loan and grant program, costing $498 million, has been cut.

The lucky ones—sort of:

Department of Defense: The only department with more money, DDT has allotted this one an additional $52 billion, an almost ten-percent increase.

Department of Commerce: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will keep its satellite program but lose “over $250 million in targeted National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grants and programs supporting coastal and marine management, research, and education including Sea Grant,” although the department got a ten-percent budget increase.

Only defense, homeland security against immigration, and commerce survived the giant whacks to the budget. Many voters, including those for DDT, decried the trillions of dollars sent to fight in the Middle East. Now DDT wants to siphon money to drastically pour into the military and immigration. Today, DDT asked Congress for $3 billion dollars for his mass deportation agenda that causes fear and chaos across the nation. Half the money would start building “the wall.” He wants to use the money for “the wall,” that even GOP congressional members don’t want and the private prison industry. As usual, DDT lives in a fantasy land because DDT had estimated the cost at $10 billion during his campaign and DHS had put it at $21.6 billion. Investment research firm Bertstein Research assumed higher, at $25 billion. Other speculations are even higher than that. Despite DDT’s promise that the money would come from Mexico, Mulvaney said about the $1.5 billion, “It’s coming out of the Treasury.”

What $3 billion could do to “make America great”: 45,000 new middle-class jobs in infrastructure; 184 new elementary schools; over 55,000 new kindergarten and elementary school teachers; tuition for almost 311,000 people at a four-year college per year; $10,000 in child care subsidies for 300,000 working class families; almost 337,000 Head Start slots for children; preservation and protection of 12,000 at-risk wildlife and plant species in the U.S. every year for the next 2.3 years; solar energy for almost 2.1 million households with solar energy; weatherization of 460,000 homes to save each household $283 each year; over 153,000 new AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers; 10 million life-saving HIV/AIDS treatments under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief; or one new Curiosity-type Mars rover with money left over.

Ways that DDT’s budget hurts rural U.S. (aka DDT supporters):

Fewer Job Prospects: The budget slashes $2.6 billion in infrastructure mostly in small communities, cuts subsidies for wind energy that has provided 102,000 jobs primarily in rural communities and pays rural landowners, and scaremongers immigration delivering essential roles in rural communities and tax bases.

Health Damage: Doctor shortages and hospital closures will increase in rural areas through DDT’s proposed Trumpcare as well as cuts in programs for rural primary care providers and anti-immigration programs. Affordable Care Act repeal will also worsen the opioid epidemic with only $500 million in his budget to tackle this addiction. DDT is also draining resources from this issue by eliminating the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Cuts to Basic Living Standards Such As Education, Affordable Housing, and Nutrition: The $1.4 billion increase in school vouchers will send students to failing private schools while his 15 percent cuts to successful programs such as teacher training, federal work-study, and after-school and summer-school programs for low-income students will damage public education. The $6 billion cut for affordable housing, including the elimination of the Community Development Block Grant, removes opportunities for repairing crumbling housing stock; helping seniors, veterans, and struggling individuals and families stay in their homes; and maintaining critical infrastructure systems that preserve residents’ access to clean water and protect them from toxic waste. Even a ten-percent cut in USDA rental assistance (see Department of Agriculture above) could make 27,000 families homeless, and two-thirds of NeghborWorks America serves rural United States.

More Hunger for Rural Children and Seniors: A high percentage of the three million people Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in 2015 for food live in rural communities. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price advocates slashing this program. DDT’s budget severely cuts Meals on Wheels; eliminates $200 million from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); and threatens other nutrition initiatives with a 21 percent cut to the USDA.

Reduction to Access to Justice and Jeopardy to Safety: DDT may eliminate grants to support intimate partner violence; survivors in rural areas have special difficulties from isolation and lack of transportation. The elimination of legal aid services would particularly impact rural communities and small towns. For example, the three principal legal aid service providers in Texas serve almost 140,000 low-income people, including almost 62,000 children, to protect them against wrongful eviction and denial of public assistance and services.

Other damaging cuts:

  • $3.9 billion from the Pell grant program proving tuition assistance for low-income college-bound students.
  • $2.4 billion that funds over 40,000 teacher positions.
  • $6 billion—a 20-percent cut—from cancer research.

Obviously, DDT lacks the competence and work ethic to prepare such a budget. It likely came from OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, who said that climate change research is “a waste of your money” and  “we can’t spend money on programs just because they sound good” about Meals on Wheels that feeds seniors. Mulvaney, worth $6.8 million in 2009, didn’t  pay over $15,000 in payroll taxes for a nanny because she just “helped my wife with the kids,” wants to eliminate Social Security and Medicare, claims that President Obama “manipulated” jobs data, and thinks that not raising the debt ceiling will have no “negative consequences.” He said that it wasn’t fair for coal miners or single mothers to pay the $1.38 a year for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. I guess he thinks that they don’t watch public broadcasting or listen to public radio.

There is far more news about the budget such as these 80 programs that lose funding.

 

December 6, 2016

U.S. Military Waste

Filed under: Budget — trp2011 @ 10:32 PM
Tags: ,

The government is wasting its money on education and “entitlements,” cry the conservatives while they wring their hands about the failure of Social Security and Medicare to pay for itself. At the same time, Congress just passed a $619 billion budget for “defense,” up from $602 billion last year. That’s over one-third of the government’s “discretionary” funds. Their excuse is that the United States has to protect itself—maybe more valid now that President-elect Donald Trump (DT) is “shaking up” relationships with foreign countries such as China (aka alienating them).

An internal study obtained by the Washington Post shows $125 billion within five years in waste within the military. The annual $25 billion waste is more than this year’s budget increase. The $125 billion savings could come from early retirement and modernization of systems. The Pentagon spends almost one-fourth of its budget on overhead and core business operations such as accounting, human resources, logistics and property management. The back-office staff of 1,014,000 contractors, civilians, and uniformed personnel supports 1.3 million.

Last spring, William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project of the Center for International Policy, wrote about the “military waste machine.” He described how the Army pays $8,000 for helicopter gears worth $500, $2.7 billion for “an air surveillance balloon that doesn’t work,” and “billions of dollars’ worth of weapons components that will never be used.” Private companies like Dick Cheney’s Halliburton built such projects in Afghanistan as “a multimillion-dollar `highway to nowhere,’  a $43 million gas station in nowhere, a $25 million ‘state of the art’ headquarters for the U.S. military in Helmand Province . . . that no one ever used, and the payment of actual salaries to countless thousands of no ones aptly labeled ‘ghost soldiers.’ ” Last year, Pro Publica created an interactive graphic revealing $17 billion in wasteful U.S. spending uncovered by the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction.

People get outraged by $640 toilet seats but overlook the unbelievable cost of the F-35 jet, originally priced at $233 million despite its unusability. Even pilot’s helmets cost $400,000. With a projected 2,000 purchased, the expenditure will be astronomical. Just three months ago, the Air Force grounded ten of its first F-35 fighters. The policy is that the military will continue to throw more good money after bad because it’s already spent too much to quit. This site details many of the F-35 problems.

Above the defense budget is the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) budget, started by George W. Bush in 2001 to exceed the general military budget and now used as a war slush fund because anything can be purchased with it. Last spring, the House Armed Services Committee chair, Texas GOP Mac Thornberry, suggested providing $18 billion from this extra budget for an additional 11—useless—F-35 combat aircraft and 14 F-18 fighter-bombers that the Pentagon didn’t request. Right now the OCO is at $60 billion but could go up to $100 billion or higher.

Other money from the military comes from other programs worth about $10 billion each year, for example training and arming programs in 180 countries paid for by the State Department’s budget. More money is spent through the over $70 million in secret spending for everything from spying to high-tech weaponry.

Another “secret” is the funding for the B-21, the Air Force’s new nuclear bomber, that officials claim must be kept secret because there is “a strong correlation between the cost of an air vehicle and its total weight.” The excuse is used to avoid bad publicity from program costs that could go above $100 billion as part of a three-decade splurge of $1 trillion, a guess at expenditures before the typical of Pentagon overruns of sometimes four times.

To avoid trouble with its expenditures, the Pentagon developed the “National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund,” aka the Navy’s submarine slush fund. The idea is to separate costs for the new ballistic missile submarine program, slated to pay $139 billion for 12 subs, from the new surface ships that the Navy wants. The Air Force wants its own “strategic deterrence fund” for a planned bomber and a long-range nuclear-armed ballistic missile.

Despite a congressional mandate 25 years ago, the Pentagon fails to hold an audit. The Pentagon doesn’t know how much equipment it has, how much it’s being overcharged, and how many contractors it employs. Yet Congress keeps increasing the military budget because it’s a huge employer in their states—making equipment that the nation doesn’t need. Congressional members do this because they will keep getting elected—and now they have another excuse. DT wants everyone to look tough.

An attempted audit from the Defense Department of the Army showed trillions of dollars in accounting mistakes, fudging, and missing receipts or invoices to support its budget figures. Over 16,000 files had disappeared from the computer system of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) because of a computing software flaw. And they’ve spent $6 billion thus far on the botched audit.

With at least 900 bases outside its borders, the U.S. has troops stationed in 175 foreign nations and wages or threatens war in other nations that don’t have U.S. troops  such as Syria and Iran. In many cases, these bases are resented and hated, causing attacks against the U.S.—and the cost is over $100 billion a year.

Congressional members don’t mind wasting taxpayer money as long as these funds bring jobs to their state. Closing bases no longer needed would save $2 billion a year—a pittance when considering the bloated military budget—but a start. Congress responded to President Obama’s request to close these facilities by banning any studies of unneeded bases. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) got $640 million to build a National Security Cutter that the Coast Guard said it doesn’t need.  Thanks to Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Maine got an extra $1 billion for a Navy destroyer to be built at the Bath Iron Works, again not requested by the Defense Department.

No one wants the “Littoral Combat Ship” (LCS) program for a ship that sails close to shore because the LCSs broke down at sea. Yet Austal USA, located in Alabama, got $3.5 billion for the contract. And Guantanamo costs the nation $454 million annually at a cost of $2.7 million per inmate. Congress insists on keeping the prison open.

A tremendous amount of money is lost to privatization. Oversight is almost impossible because the Pentagon has 1.7 million contracts open plus its system of “cost-plus” contracting. The more a private company charges, the higher the bonus—usually ten percent—no matter how bad the work is. Defense companies lobbying government officials and legislators to fight defense spending cuts and push for their contracts has made the military industry the eighth-largest sector in the nation. Their $100 million in lobbying fees brings in billions of dollars.

The worship of the military has led to a serious case of “affluenza” as the Pentagon eats up two-thirds of the federal government’s discretionary funds. By comparison, the departments of education, interior, and transportation cost taxpayers $95 billion, far less that the $750 billion spent on everything from golf courses around the world to a vastly increased number of three- and four-star generals and admirals. Chris Christie’s suggestion to solve the national debt was to take the $500 million from Planned Parenthood, equivalent to two F-35 jet fighters.

Any criticism of the military since 9/11 is taken as a betrayal of our nation’s ideals; the GOP campaigns on the falsehood that the military is being “gutted.” The GOP has convinced almost half the people in the United States that more money needs to poured into the military. DT’s slogan of “Make America Great Again” is translated as vastly increasing the military and having bigger and better killing toys.

This waste is nothing new: I wrote about it a year ago. And the year before that. And I’m sure I’ll be writing about it next year, especially because DT, the hawks he nominated for his cabinet, and the GOP-controlled Congress that will take money from the people of the United States to throw it at the Pentagon.

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