Nel's New Day

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
Tags: , ,

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
Tags:

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
Tags: , ,

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.

August 20, 2015

Pentagon Loses Taxpayer Money, Wants More

More money for defense and less money for taxpayers—that’s what Republicans want. Hillary Clinton’s emails a horrible and deliberate defense disaster—that’s what Republicans want to prove. The Pentagon missing $8.5 trillion? No mention and probably no problem. This expenditure is more than China’s economic output last year. The Defense Department’s budget was $567 billion, but no one knows how much of that money is spent as intended. The Pentagon is the only federal agency that has failed to comply with a two-decade-old law requiring audits of all government departments.

An extensive investigation by Scot Paltrow reveals the way that the U.S. military failed to submit to an audit, flouted federal law, and concealed the loss of billions of dollars through waste and fraud. Employees for the U.S. Department of Defense were told to put input fake data, called “plugs,” to reconcile military books with those of the U.S. Treasury. Now the records are filled with missing, unidentified, and wrong numbers. The same thing happened at the operational level.

The Pentagon consistently ignores warnings about its accounting practices from oversight agencies. It fails “to keep track of its money—how much it has, how much it pays out, and how much is wasted or stolen,” according to Paltrow. “Widespread pay errors inflict financial hardship on soldiers and sap morale, [but] pay errors are only a small part of the sums that annually disappear into the vast bureaucracy that manages more than half of all annual government outlays approved by Congress.” Accounting errors lead to loss of soldiers’ wages from unfounded accusations that soldiers have been overpaid. Without their salary, soldiers are forced to get food from charity pantries.

The Pentagon continues to spend money of supplies it doesn’t need and stores other items that it doesn’t need because it doesn’t keep track of weapons, ammunition, etc. It has a backlog of more than $500 billion in unaudited contracts with outside vendors, but it doesn’t know how much of that money has been paid for real goods and services. The Navy can’t account for ships, submarines, and other physical assets even after the $1 billion it spent to upgrade record-keeping.

Most of the Pentagon’s incompatible accounting and business-management systems—maybe 2,200 or 5,000, depending on who’s counting—were built in the 1970s and use obsolete computer languages on old mainframes. Even if someone could search for data, much of it is corrupted and just plain wrong. The tens of billions of dollars used to upgrade technology failed, adding to the waste. In the meantime, military knowingly signs off on entries that it knows to be false. Corporate managers certifying false financial reports suffer criminal penalties; the Pentagon’s officials have none.

Every year, the Pentagon buys more of what it already has in excess, defined as a three-year supply. In 2008, for example, it had 15,000 parts in stock for the “vehicular control arm” of the Humvees, equal to a 14-year supply. From 2010 through 2012, it bought another 7,437 of them at considerably higher prices as demand dropped by almost half. Nobody knows if these have been stored in the right bins, which makes inventory impossible. Nothing has been done to track employee theft. The Pentagon ordered the Defense Department to have a labeling system, a directive that the DOD ignored.

Obsolete supplies aren’t monitored although the Army is trying to detonate some C4 plastic explosives made in 1979. Nothing has been done with runway flares from the 1940s and warheads for Sparrow missiles not fielded since the 1990s. Rocket-launch systems retired in the 1980s take up space. “Keeping all those useless bullets, explosives, missiles, rifles, rocket launchers and other munitions costs tens of millions of dollars a year,” Paltrow reported.

Despite all these issues, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said that a cut of $52 billion in 2014 was “too deep, too steep, and too abrupt.” His claim that “this is an irresponsible way to govern” sounds like the way that the Pentagon manages its finances. Hagel had no idea how much money the Pentagon had. In one office (Columbus, Ohio), duplicate entries across multiple ledgers led to mistakes for the Air Force in 2009, totally $1.59 trillion which included $538 billion for plugs—roughly eight times what the Air Force was allotted for that year.

Efforts to fix the problem have consistently failed. Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England established the Business Transformation Agency in 2006 to upgrade business operations and prepare the department for auditing. By 2009, the department had spent over $10 billion a year, but it didn’t stop business as usual. Defense Secretary Gates shut down the project in 2011.

How much of the $3 trillion spent on contracts for goods and services during the past ten years has been wasted in overpayments or never spent is not known. Bills are easily padded because detailed invoices are not required. The tremendous backlog to audit fulfillment of contracts came to 24,722 contracts worth $573.3 billion by the end of 2011. The Army’s backlog was 450,000 contracts in 2012. The Navy and Air Force don’t know what their backlogs are. To take care of the problem, the value at which a contract is automatically audited rose from $15 million to $250 million.

GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina is campaigning on making the U.S. Department of Education a “whole lot smaller.” As president, she would make the department “justify every single dollar every single year.” Nobody says that about the military. Fiorina also said that she doesn’t know what the Department of Education does. She could easily find the department’s reports and charts about its goals, the sources of its expenditures, and comparisons to previous year. It’s right here.

The Department of Education provides grants, including Pell grant funding; makes sure that states spend federal money as they should; keeps schools from gender discrimination per Title IX; and collects national education data. Without federal oversight, states won’t spend the Title I money as intended to effect education equality. The Department also checks on the for-profit college industry, i.e., fining Corinthian Colleges because it misrepresented job placement data.

Fiorina decried “complicated accreditation” for these for-profit colleges that she found to be “expensive.” These colleges, however, have higher student loan debt and poor completion rates because their accreditation rules are already too loose. HuffPo reported that accrediting boards frequently have executives from for-profit colleges, perhaps the reason that none of the five major companies had the accreditation revoked in the past ten years and fraudulent job placement data was ignored.

The budget for the Department of Education for this year is $68.8 billion, and the agency knows where its money goes because it’s the law. The Department of Defense’s budget is $567 billion—about 12 percent of the budget for the Department of Education—and the DOD has no idea where it goes because it flouts the law. Below is what $8.5 trillion dollars looks like in $100 bills. That’s what the Pentagon has been allotted during the past 20 years with no accountability.

trillions of dollars

Food stamp fraud may account for about $500 million (less than one cent per each dollar of the $82 billion), but the Pentagon has lost $8.5 trillion. That amount has cost each household approximately $70,000. In 2013, about 45.3 million people, including 14.7 million children, lived in poverty in the United States—14.5 percent of the population and the largest number in the 54 years that statistics have been kept. Almost one in five children live in poverty.

Lack of government support has driven tuition for higher education sky-high. The student debt is now at $1.2 trillion in the United States, and the costs will cripple the future for both young people and the economy. People will have to pay down this debt instead of buying houses and cars, shoring up the GDP.

Conservatives caused this inequality, but they are determined to deny help to any of these people. Yet they are willing to distribute over one-half trillion dollars every year to an agency that has no idea how the taxpayer money is spent. For conservatives, a steak or shellfish or shredded cheese is outrageously out-of-bounds for food stamp recipients, but 22,437 extra Humvee front ends are just fine. Billions of taxpayer dollars for failed business systems or excessive purchases of supplies or unfulfilled government contracts or unpaid soldiers or lack of audits that break the law are acceptable. Conservatives need to look at their priorities.

July 6, 2015

GOP Wants U.S. to Have Problems of Greece

Filed under: Budget,Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 9:06 PM
Tags: , ,

Greece’s vote of 61 to 39 percent against austerity measures this past week leaves the country in limbo as its creditors are wondering what to do about the country. Greek banks are still closed, the economy is in chaos, and a new bailout agreement may cost them more. But evidence shows that the Greeks are right about austerity, and more of it will hurt their economy.

more_austerity_for_greece_chappatte

Five years ago, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) told Greece that the austerity measures would restore the market’s confidence in its debt, help the country’s economy rebound in the medium term, and have a negative, but survivable, impact on output and unemployment. It didn’t. Higher recession and exceptionally high unemployment in Greece have been accompanied by a lack of market confidence and the loss of 30 percent in banking deposits. The economy shrank by 17 percent instead of 5.5 percent, and the unemployment rose to 25 percent instead of 15 percent. In the past seven years, the economy shrank 25 percent, and a report stated that “productivity gains proved elusive.” At the same time, “public debt remained too high and eventually had to be restructured.”

The failed estimates to solve Greek’s problems came from a flawed paper by economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff who tried to prove that economic growth slows down when countries’ public debt reaches 90 percent of their GDP. The authors had excluded times where countries had both high debt and average growth, used debatable methods to weight countries, and made a coding error that excluded even more countries with high debt and steady growth. Fixing the errors showed that Reinhart and Rogoff were wrong, and a reanalysis revealed that the opposite result is true—that slow growth leads to high debt. When austerity measures hurt the economy, they damage, more than help, debt levels.

Greece’s high debt levels have historical precedent as does the concept that Greeks don’t have to immediately repay debts. Authority Thomas Piketty said, “Great Britain, Germany, and France were all once in the situation of today’s Greece, and in fact had been far more indebted.” When countries such as Great Britain used austerity to deal with debts, England took over 100 years to do so, costing the country 2 to 3 percent of its economy. Germany, the country leading the call for austerity in Greece, “has never repaid its external debt,” according to Piketty. Although German debt was over 200 percent of its GDP after World War II, it shrank to 20 percent ten years later because 60 percent of its foreign debts were cancelled in 1953 along with an internal debt restructuring.

Piketty recommends a combination of debt relief, inflation, and a tax on private wealth. He said, “Europe was founded on debt forgiveness and investment in the future. Not on the idea of endless penance.”

Austerity means less spending. Less spending means less demand. Less demand means less money to hire workers, pay contractors, or to pay for pensions. Increased taxes for the poor and middle class has the same problem: higher taxes for consumers means less money to spend. Greece massively cut spending and raised taxes, but the country still has a budget deficit because unemployed people don’t pay taxes and businesses losing money don’t pay taxes. Germans and others in northern Europe complain about giving money to “lazy” Greeks and other southern Europeans, but the economic policies of the northern Europeans run deficits in southern Europe. If Germany and other wealthier countries boosted poor countries through a greater expansion of fiscal policy, the latter wouldn’t need handouts.

People in the United States need to note the Greek situation because the GOP is trying to do the same thing to the U.S. that the European Union did to Greece. After George W. Bush caused the trajectory toward a large deficit with his tax cuts for the wealthy, two wars, and ignorance regarding the housing bubble, the GOP decided that austerity was the only cure for the problem. A conservative, Gene Steuerle, set out to show how wrong the government has been to create programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid and proved the opposite. It’s the same situation as in Greece: the more money people have to spend, the greater the economy. Giving wealthy people tax cuts does no good because they shelter or spend it overseas, giving no support to the U.S. economy. For example, Walmart has 78 shell companies in 15 tax havens with $76 billion in just Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

What helps the economy is investing in the future through government spending that benefits large parts of the population. All the countries that reduced their deficit the most since 2010 have the worst employment performance.

Another GOP-caused problem is the cost for health care. The United States pays over twice as much per person in this area as the other wealthy countries but gets nothing extra in terms of outcomes. The U.S. doesn’t get better health care than Germany, Canada, or France; it just pays much more. The U.S. pays twice as much for doctors, drugs, medical equipment, etc. while throwing money at insurance companies.

A serious GOP problem is its obsession with the “free market,” the belief that all innovation and growth come from the private sector. Nations relying on private industry have become stagnant because private companies rehash old ideas and stash their money in foreign tax havens. The iPhone was revolutionary, but its touch screen, GPS, and processor were funded by some country’s government. The iPhone 5 just uses different materials than the iPhone 4 does. Most of this country’s R&D funding goes to refining existing technologies. Private companies care only for short-term immediate profits, but governments aren’t forced into this box. If the U.S. had invested in R&D instead of Sollyndra or other similar companies, technologies in improved solar could have been innovative. That’s the real competition from China that the U.S. fears.

Two years ago, a report showed that over 2 million people were unemployed in the country almost four years after the end of the 2008 recession because of austerity measures. During that time, federal, state, and local governments cut about 500,000 jobs compared to the average of 1.7 million people hired in every other recession since 1970. The GOP’s tight fiscal policy kept the economy from growing.

Paul Krugman wrote that “austerity policies serve the interests of wealthy creditors.” Since World War II, only three presidents before President Obama left office with a larger debt ratio than when they came in—Ronald Reagan and the two George Bushes, the three with hard-line conservative governments. Those are the ones “deprive the government of the revenue it needs to pay for popular programs.”

If the U.S. emulates Greece, the country can expect these outcomes. Austerity kills and injures:

  • Stillbirths rose by 21 percent between 2008 and 2011 because of scaled down prenatal health services for pregnant women while infant mortality surged by 43 percent between 2008 and 2010.
  • Deaths by suicide increased by 45 percent between 2007 and 2011 with the general deterioration of life due to austerity from unemployment, poverty, reduction of the minimum wage, and lack of disposable income.
  • New HIV infections among injecting drug users rose from 15 in 2009 to 484 in 2012 while tuberculosis more than doubled between 2012 and 2013 after lack or prevention and treatment care.
  • Malaria re-emerged for the first time in 40 years after significant cuts in municipal budgets reduced mosquito-spraying programs.
  • The use of mental health services increased by 120 percent although public funding for mental health dropped by 20 percent between 2010 and 2011 and by an extra 55 percent between 2011 and 2012.

Austerity leads to neo-facism. The greater the income inequality, the larger the response from right-wing, neo-facist parties. Just as Europeans failed to develop a shared political union, the 50 states in this country are splitting farther apart. The culture of austerity exacerbates social stresses and leads to populist challenges. If Social Security and Medicare were to disappear, as many far-right legislators in the United States hope, rivalries would grow and white supremacists would gain greater and greater power in the ensuing increase of poverty.

Conservatives in the United States use austerity for their own means. When they wanted war, they followed Vice-President Dick Cheney’s statement, “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.” Their purpose is to gain power and white entitlement by advancing big business through destroying worker control and exerting control over minorities through ridding themselves of the “welfare state.” Reducing spending on the government causes a greater percentage of blacks to lose their jobs than whites. Increasing unemployment puts a larger percentage of blacks without work than whites.

While the United States struggled with slow economy because of the GOP austerity measures, the austere policies in some GOP-controlled states, for example Kansas and Wisconsin, have destroyed the people. Louisiana State University is considering bankruptcy. Kansas’s austerity program drove the state so far into the ground that it shut down the website for the state economic development agency. That’s where the GOP wants the United States to go.

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