Nel's New Day

November 10, 2015

The Tragedy of Veterans Day

Tomorrow is Veterans’ Day, a designated time to honor U.S. veterans for their willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good. For many years, being a vet meant moving toward the middle class, a benefit for struggling citizens. Yet today’s United States is a very sad place for many veterans.

One serious problem is health care for veterans who were sexually assaulted while in the military, ten times the rate for women as for men. Reporting these assaults while in the military is frequently ignored which impacts the lack of care later on, especially when military officials warn television stations to not air these stories.

Col. (Ret.) Kathy Platoni, a U.S. Army psychologist for more than three decades, cited problems such as hostile physicians and violations of HIPAA privacy regulations in the VA. Susan Avila Smith, advocate for raped and sexual abused women in the military, told about a woman placed on a VA co-ed psych ward who was forced to watch a New Year’s Day football game with a group of male patients. They cheered their team, and she screamed in fear, remembering her rape by a serviceman. She was strapped to a gurney, legs spread, and left alone in a quiet room instead of receiving appropriate care and support. Only 55 percent of the 150 major VA hospitals have women’s clinics.

Female service members account for about 15 percent of the armed forces, but 46 percent of military sexual assault victims. Of the victims who reported attacks, 62 percent said they received retaliation both professionally and socially because of their reports. According to an estimation, fewer than three out of every 100 sexual assaults in 2012 were prosecuted.

Among the homeless, veterans represent 8.6 percent, down from five years earlier because of efforts to end veterans’ homelessness. Overrepresented are black veterans who comprise 39 percent of the homeless veteran population but only 11 percent of the total veteran population. Feeding America reports that “20 percent of families served by its food banks and pantries include someone who has served in the U.S. military.”

At least ten percent of people on death row today—over 300 inmates—are military veterans although only seven percent of the population has ever served in the military. Many more veterans have been executed, according to a report from the Death Penalty Information Center. Researcher Richard C. Dieter reports that this disturbing statistic may be related to the serious traumas that veterans have suffered, receiving poor treatment or none at all. One-third of homicide victims killed by veterans back from Iraq and Afghanistan were family members or girlfriends. Another 25 percent were fellow service members.

Jeffrey Toobin points out the difference between recent and past veterans:

“Earlier generations of veterans came home from war to ticker-tape parades, a generous G.I. Bill, and a growing economy that offered them a chance at upward mobility. Younger veterans returned to P.T.S.D., a relatively stagnant economy, especially in rural and semi-rural areas, and an epidemic of drug abuse. And they came home to a society where widening income inequality suggested the futility of their engagement with the contemporary world.”

Veterans also have a suicide rate 50 percent higher than those who didn’t serve in the military. Because the suicide rate is higher among veterans who didn’t deploy to Afghanistan or Iraq, the causes of suicide for the veteran population may not be limited to the trauma of war. Suicide among women veterans is much higher than men, almost six times the rate of other women. Suicide for women veterans ages 18 to 29 is 12 times the rate of nonveterans, and every other age group of women veterans is between four and eight times higher. In the general population, women tend to attempt suicide more often than men but use pills or methods other than guns. Female veterans, however, are more likely to have guns; 40% of female veterans use guns to commit suicide.

Veterans, like the elderly, disabled, and others on Social Security, won’t receive a cost of living this coming year, for the third time since 1975. In introducing the Seniors and Emergency (SAVE) Benefits Act—a one-time increase of 3.9 percent or about $581—Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) selected that percentage because it’s equal to the average annual increase in CEO pay at the top 350 U.S. companies. Taxpayers subsidize CEO pay packages because they are considered a business expense. Closing that loophole would pay for this increase veterans and Social Security payments while still leaving funding for the Social Security Trust Fund.

Tonight the GOP presidential candidates met to debate issues. Sen. Marco Rubio (FL) supports privatizing the VA health care system, removing government-connecting negotiating power for prices. He also “advocated for leniency in the U.S. Department of Education’s investigation of Corinthian Colleges and its job placement claims” although Corinthian Colleges illegally used official military seals “in its advertising in an effort to recruit recently discharged service men and women” before abruptly shutting down “under the weight of regulatory and legal pressure.” The company was also accused of advertising programs that it didn’t offer and misrepresenting job placement rates to students and investors.

While governor of Florida, Jeb Bush tried to privatize health care for veterans, but the private company providing nursing and food services—a company that donated to Bush’s campaign—went into bankruptcy two years later. The facilities using the private companies provided substandard care and were ranked in the bottom 20 percent of facilities in the county. Records showed that nine out of ten patients did not receive proper care.

Neurosurgeon Ben Carson wants to do away with the VA and put their care into facilities for the general population. Although not all VA-enrolled veterans seek health care during a given year, the U.S. had 9,111,955 VA-enrolled Veterans in 2014, a number equivalent to the combined populations of Nebraska, West Virginia, Idaho, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and both Dakotas.

Back in 1998, Sen.Lindsey Graham (SC) lied about seeing action while in the military when he claimed to be “an Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm veteran although he never got closer to the war than McEntire Air National Guard Base near Columbia where he was a military lawyer.” Later he said that he “didn’t mean to mislead people.” His job while in South Carolina was to make wills for soldiers sent to the Gulf War.

Sens. Rand Paul (KY), Ted Cruz (TX), and Rubio voted against spousal benefits for legally married same-gender spouses of veterans. The amendment would “establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund relating to ensuring all legally married same-sex spouses have equal access to the Social Security and veterans benefits they have earned and receive equal treatment under the law pursuant to the Constitution of the United States.” It passed without the votes from the GOP presidential candidates.

In opposing giving veterans access to affordable housing, Paul was also one of 11 senators who voted against considering a bill that would “provide $142 billion in fiscal 2012 for the Department of Veterans Affairs, military construction, military housing and related operations. The bill also includes $52.5 billion in advance fiscal 2013 appropriations for VA medical programs.”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill to set aside 3 percent of all state contracts for veteran-owned businesses. President Obama signed the Veterans Entrepreneurship Act this past summer, but Christie refused to hire them for state projects. During the debate, Christie said, “Hillary Clinton doesn’t respect [veterans] service.

Candidates in the debate were eager to create more crisis situations in the Middle East which would force more death and disaster for military members, but they did not go beyond empty words in helping them. Last spring, 41 Senate Republicans voted against a measure that would have expanded education and health care, including 27 new medical facilities, for veterans. The bill proposed the guarantee of in-state tuition rates at all public universities for post-9/11 veterans. Conservatives are ready to cause wars but reluctant to care for the “collateral damage” of their decisions.

In a recent poll, two-thirds of the surveyed veterans opposed privatization of VA health care. In addition, 57 percent of them said that this issue would determine the presidential candidate that they choose. The GOP presidential candidates might want to take notice.

May 15, 2015

House Gives DOD $612 with No Audit

When sequestration spending caps were passed in 2011 to avoid the debt ceiling crisis, over 200 congressional Republicans voted in favor of the law. Since then, the GOP has not changed the law, but today the House defied it by passing a $612 billion defense bill with all except eight Republicans  in favor of the budget. Ceilings on everything else–infrastructure, safety net, etc.–are just fine, according to these Republicans, but the war industry needs more money.

Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) moaned about Democrats ignoring all “the sacrifices [the troops] make,” calling the Dems opposition “indefensible.”  The word “indefensible” is appropriate for the GOP’s refusal to protect military personnel and their families from predatory lending. After Defense Department officials created new safeguards last fall to implement new protections in this area, House GOP members tried to add a provision to the defense bill that would delay the new rules for at least a year. When that failed, Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH) introduced legislation to again block the DOD from putting its rules into effect. Payday loan companies gave almost $70,000 to Stivers’ campaign.

On the first day of the 114th Congress, Republicans made a rules change to cut 20 percent in Social Security disability benefits, hurting disabled veterans. The proposed GOP change in food stamps will deny 60,000 veterans this life-saving benefit. This year’s GOP funding bill is $1 billion short on providing care and services to veterans.

Last year the GOP failed to support bills that would help veterans have job security, retraining, counseling, and scholarships. Another failed bill because of the GOP would increase VA funding for home structural improvements for those veterans more than 50 percent disabled—for example, those who need a wheelchair ramp in order to live at home.

One of the 135 amendments that passed was a provision by Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) to stop the re-listing of the lesser prairie chicken on the endangered species list until 2021, unless the Interior Department determines that a conservation plan is not working. It passed 229-190. Someone might want to ask him how the lesser prairie chicken is related to defense.

A proposed amendment to consider undocumented immigrants with work permits through the DREAMERS program to serve in the military was voted down. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) said the rejection was a jobs issue because the military is downsizing.

Also voted down was an amendment “in the form of a limited and narrow authorization against ISIS” because “the defense bill was not the place to debate the war,” according  Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA).  As he added, “If not here, where?” President Obama’s airstrikes against ISIL began nine months ago, and he sent a proposal about this authorization three months ago. The GOP has avoided any discussion of this issue in Congress that has cost $2.1 billion with 3,700 airstrikes and about 3,000 military personal sent to Iraq. While the House GOP members are suing the president for his other actions, they oppose reining in his war authority. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) claims that the GOP can’t find 218 votes for any action.

As the GOP pushes the defense funding increase through the House, the Republicans ignore the history of DOD waste. The $400 billion Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter can’t pass even the most basic requirements necessary for flying in combat. At this time, it’s $170 billion over budget, and the only thing soaring about it is the cost. Auditors question whether it can serve its purpose as the Pentagon continues to throw more money at it. The jet is vulnerable to engine fires because of its design and the “precision-guided Small Diameter Bomb II doesn’t even fit on the Marine’s version of the jet,” according to Military.com. Software necessary to operate the bomb won’t be operational for another seven years–2022.

Recently appointed Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter, oversaw the development of the F-35 fighter jet, which will cost the United States an unprecedented $1.5 trillion. He also oversaw production of $50 billion worth of MRAP armored vehicles with thousands of them scrapped almost immediately at a loss of over $2 billion. The 27,000 MRAPs sent to Iraq and Afghanistan resulted in an over-supply and were then decommissioned to militarize U.S. police departments in places as small as Dundee (MI), population 3,900. To Carter, “nuclear weapons don’t actually cost that much.” This is the program that will cost up to $1 trillion in the next three decades.

Federal auditors found a loss of $43 billion in Afghanistan reconstruction. The Pentagon has no answer for the missing funds other than it may have gone to more direct war needs. John F. Sopko, special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, said, “It’s like you gave your credit card to your teenage daughter or son and then you just never looked at the bills.” Tracking the $100 billion allocated for relief and reconstruction has been almost impossible. “We don’t even have a list from (the Defense Department) of where they spent the money. We have no centralized list of where the taxpayer money went in Afghanistan,” Sopko said.

A never-used $600 million C-27 aircraft sits on runways in Kabul and Germany, and a massive $34 million command center in Helmand has never been used and will probably be leveled. The empty 64,000-square-foot command center with an expensive air-conditioning system can hold over 1,000 people. Its incinerators cost $11.5 million, but no one was hired to run the machines. The military burned its trash in an open-air pit.

The Pentagon spent $7.6 billion fighting a war on opium in Afghanistan where the poppy crop is bigger than ever. The U.S. Air Force bought half a billion dollars worth of transport planes and scrapped them for six cents a pound. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built thousands of buildings for the Afghan military where contractors used low-quality insulation that’s so flammable that international codes prohibit its use. When contractors promised to stop its use and replace the faulty insulation, Maj. Gen. Michael Eyre stopped them. He wrote in a 2014 memo:

 “The typical occupant populations for these facilities are young, fit Afghan soldiers and recruits who have the physical ability to make a hasty retreat during a developing situation.”

The DOD wastes billions of dollars in just spare parts. For example, Boeing overcharges up to 177,000 percent; Hamilton Sundstrand is more reasonable at only 900 percent. A redacted version of a July 2014 report showed that the Pentagon overpaid Bell Helicopter 395 percent-$9 million–just on 33 of 35 sole-source commercial parts.

GOP legislators and presidential candidates are being lobbied by arms dealers to raise the defense budget and go to war. Former Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), ex-chair of the House Intelligence Committee, heads up the group called Americans for Peace, Prosperity and Security to front for the military-industrial complex. Known for claiming that Edward Snowden was a Russian double agent, Rogers pushed for unlimited surveillance through the CISPA bill and support of NSA.

Rogers’ wife, Kristi Rogers, serves as President and CEO of Aegis LLC, a defense contractor with a $10 billion contract to provide security and intelligence-gathering services to the State Department. The board of his lobbying group is a virtual who’s who of the defense industry and a prominent partner of the New Hampshire GOP.  The situation is reminiscent of former Vice President Dick Cheney’s $34 million pay-off oilfield services provider Halliburton before he instigated the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The Pentagon doesn’t even want some of the things that Congress is pushing on them. For example, this $8.76 billion:

  • $4.7 billion: refueling the USS George Washington.
  • $1.46 billion:  15 EA-18G Growler electronic warfare planes.
  • $1 billion: starting on an additional San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship.
  • $479 million: four F-35 fighter jets raising the total to 38).
  • $341 million: modernizing 12 Apache helicopters and nine Black Hawk helicopters.
  • $200 million:  another Joint High Speed Vessel ship.
  • $155 million: 12 more MQ-9 Reaper drones.
  • $154 million: another P-8A Poseidon Navy surveillance aircraft.
  • $120 million: M1 Abrams tank upgrades.
  • $150 million: medium and heavy tactical vehicles.

In the past 46 years, food stamps have cost taxpayers $1.035 trillion. That’s less than three times the annual defense budget that the House passed today. Wisconsin is trying to keep people on food stamps from buying shredded cheese while the $43 billion lost in Afghanistan is negligible. At the same time that Congress adds to the defense budget, it cuts security for embassies.

The following chart shows how the U.S. defense budget compares to those in the countries nearest the U.S. in expenditures:

military 2015

The House plans to throw at least $612 billion at the Pentagon without knowing where the taxpayer monies go. In 1990, Congress passed a law requiring all government agencies to achieve audit-readiness. Only the Pentagon has not achieved this within the ensuing two and a half decades. Since the first audit was due in 1997, Congress has extended the deadline several times, most recently until 2017. Boehner and the other House members who voted for the bloated defense budget must instinctively know that the Pentagon needs $612 billion. If Amtrak can survive on an 18-percent reduction, so can the Department of Defense.

March 14, 2014

Take My Gun, Please

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:14 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

jay kirell[The following by Jay Kirell was posted on The Sterling Road last September.]

Gunbuyback

By all measure, I’m the type of person who would not be questioned when purchasing a firearm in America.

I’m white.

I’m male.

I’m educated.

I’m an honorably discharged military veteran.

Anyone looking at me in my normal casual attire – Old Navy shirts and jeans – would assume I’m just like anyone else interested in firearms.  Maybe I want to own a gun to keep my shooting skills sharp.  Maybe I want something for home protection.  Maybe I just want to own a gun just to own a gun and don’t feel the need to provide a further explanation.

Nothing about my outward appearance would send up a red flag.  Likewise, nothing in my background would send a warning to anyone trying to sell me a firearm.

And that’s the problem.  Because I shouldn’t, by any reasonable measure, own a firearm.

I have post-traumatic stress disorder.  It was diagnosed from the VA a few months ago and it was caused by the things I experienced in Afghanistan.  Horrible things.  Visions of death, violence, pain, agony.

Visions that I can’t stop from entering my head when I don’t want them to.  Memories of events long over that your brain hasn’t figured out aren’t still happening.

The reasons I have these visions aren’t my fault.  I didn’t ask for them to occur and certainly didn’t ask them to linger.  But even though the damaged state of my brain is not of my doing, I am responsible for how I prevent it from becoming someone else’s problem.

And step one is to recognize that my right to own a gun is outweighed by the public’s right to have as few people as possible with mental problems walking around with hand-held death machines.

I shouldn’t have been able to walk into any of the dozens of gun shops near Fort Campbell, Kentucky (where I was stationed) and hand over a copy of my orders and $500 and within minutes, walk out with my choice of handgun, shotgun or long rifle.

I shouldn’t be able to hide my PTSD evaluation from a background check because of HIPA laws.

For the last two years I was walking past gun store after gun store with undiagnosed PTSD and nothing preventing me from taking all the steps necessary to follow in the footsteps of recent mass shooters other than my own disposition against guns and violence.

Now, keep in mind, a disposition against guns isn’t exactly the default setting in most active duty service-members and veterans with combat-related PTSD.  I served with 20 or so people in my platoon in Afghanistan, 15 of whom are out of the army now and have diagnosed PTSD.  Of those 15, I am the only one who doesn’t own a gun.

And while I’m sure there aren’t many, if any, congressman in Washington with the balls enough to go up to a combat veteran and ask them to hand over their guns  – I’ll do it for them.

Hand them over now, before something happens and you (and everyone else) regret not handing them over later.

I have no gun to give up myself, but I’m more than willing to give up the right to purchase one in the future.  That’s my sacrifice.  That’s how I’m willing to protect America here at home now that I can no longer do it on the battlefield.

This nation owes us a debt for all we sacrificed in the wars we’ve fought in.  Unfortunately, the sacrifice we made in our mental health causes us to make yet another sacrifice, [this time for one of our basic freedoms] for the greater good of society.

If anyone should stand up and lead the way in this effort against gun violence, as well as the effort to understand and treat mental illness, it’s our veterans and the people we’ve entrusted to keep us safe since our nation’s founding.

We answered the call once.  Time to stand up and answer it again.

[At the same time, Kirell wrote another thoughtful essay addressing the “intersection of guns and mental health.”]

Take out the NRA, take out the gun-grabbing left.  Imagine we lived in an alternate universe where Democrats and Republicans sat down and seriously tried to tackle this issue….

 

  1. What can we agree marks a mental health disqualifier when purchasing/owning firearms?
  2. How much of our mental health records are we willing to allow private entities access to for full background checks when purchasing firearms?
  3. How much access are we willing to grant people with a history of reported mental health issues in purchasing and/owning firearms?
  4. Finally, and most controversial, are we willing to deny access to firearms to certain normally-supported groups of individuals who suffer through mental health issues?

 

[Since these writings, Kirell has stopped writing because he suffers from severe depression, even attempting suicide. I hope that he returns; he has much to offer us.]

November 11, 2013

Help Veterans, Cut Defense

Most people know today is Veterans Day because the post office doesn’t deliver mail, and the television is inundated with war movies. There are also a few ceremonies and newspaper articles about old men who survived World War II. Most people have forgotten that the day was originally called Armistice Day with the intent to celebrate peace—not war. It commemorated the ceasefire of World War I at 11:00 am on 11/11/18.

Since the draft ended over four decades ago, people in the United States have become more and more detached from the people who fight the frivolous wars declared largely on the need for oil. Without the draft, most decision-makers have no military experience, and the diplomatic process is losing to declaration of war on a whim. The military is also becoming more and more divided by social classes: those who can afford to attend college and can get jobs largely avoid enlisting. When the U.S. had a draft, almost all young men face the possibility of military involvement, possibly during a conflict.

With people’s detachment from veterans has come the country’s ignoring the needs of veterans:

 Housing: 13 percent of the homeless population in this country is composed of veterans, and more than half of them have a disability. Despite some veteran housing programs, more than 60,000 veterans become homeless each year, and another 120,000 are in danger of losing their housing. Veterans aren’t even exempt from home foreclosures. 

Jobs: The unemployment rate for veterans since 9/11 is 10 percent, almost 50 percent higher than the 7.2 percent rate for everyone else. Much of this unemployment is long-term: 34 percent have been unemployed for a year, and 17 percent have not had a job for more than 2 years.

Reliable Health Care: Nearly 250,000 veterans wait for longer than a year to even have claims processed, and the situation got much worse after the Department of Veterans Affairs had to shut down for over two weeks because of the GOP blackmail in October. Soldiers with mental health issues are also ignored, and PTSD is on the rise.

Suicide Prevention: The suicide rate for veterans is increasing at twice the rate as the rate for the general population, and almost 20 percent of suicides nationwide is among veterans although they comprise only 10 percent of the population.

Drug Counseling: Veterans are at greater risk after stresses in the military and subsequent return to civilian life. According to one study, 39 percent of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan had “probably alcohol abuse.” One in eight troops are referred to counseling for alcohol problems when they leave the military. At the same time, the military ignores excessive drug and alcohol use during active duty.

Incarceration: Almost ten percent of prison inmates are veterans. That’s one million of the ten million people incarcerated in the United States.

Food Stamps: 900,000 veterans rely on food stamps to feed their families. These are the people who will be taken off if the House of Representatives gets its way to move this money over to wealthy farmers. Last week, benefits were cut by an average of almost 8 percent to $133 per person per month. These are the people who Repubilcans describe as “lazy moochers” who need to learn independence.

Social Security: The government plan to establish a “chained CIP” would decrease the disability benefits for almost 4 million veterans as well as pension payments to another 500,000 low-income veterans and surviving families . Currently the Consumer Price Index measures changes in retail prices; chained CPI would use changes in consumer behavior by using the quantity of goods purchased as well as the retail prices. Some people think that those who spend less, for example going without meat, should receive less benefits because they don’t spend as much as when they had more money. The chained CPI method would decrease a raise of 1.7 percent in disability and pension payments by over 17 percent.

In 1944, Congress passed the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, nicknamed the G.I. Bill. It gave benefits to the 16 million World War II veterans including low-cost mortgages, low-interest loans to start businesses, tuition and living expenses for education, and one year of unemployment compensation. Every veteran on active duty during the war years for at least 90 days and not dishonorably discharged got these benefits. By 1956, about 2.2 million veterans benefited from the G.I. Bill to go to college, and another 6.6 million participated in training programs. Even more Vietnam veterans used education benefits.

As time went on, the G.I. Bill got watered down. For example, Korean War veterans didn’t get unemployment compensation. After 1985, members of the military had to contribute $100 monthly for their first year in order to have education benefits. If they didn’t use any benefits, they still didn’t get the money back. Now, veterans can get health care—although they may sometimes have to wait a few years for it—and burial benefits. Gone, however, are the days when they got other help.

Ten percent of veterans are in prison, ten percent are unemployed, 13 percent are homeless, and almost one million need food stamps. These veterans don’t have anything to celebrate today.

The GOP says that there’s not enough money to help them. If corporations that provide oil and useless defense equipment didn’t get welfare, there might be enough money to help veterans. And if the government controlled its defense funding, veterans could have the services that they need, and the deficit could be cut. For example, the following could be left out of the budget with no problem for the country’s defense.

Chronically-failing anti-missile rockets keep getting more funding. In exchange for millions of dollars in campaign funds, GOP politicians consistently give welfare funds to contractors such as Lockheed, Martin, Boeing, TRW, and Raytheon. Independent analysts like MIT Professor of Science, Technology and International Security Theodore Postol maintain that “ballistic missile defense” (BMD) can’t work, that interceptor missiles can never distinguish real incoming weapons from swarms of decoys, and should be cancelled. In March 2000, Postol wrote President Clinton, charging that the program’s officers were “most likely attempting to illegally use the security and classification system to hide waste, fraud and abuse” through faked test results. The GOP has paid $200 billion during the past three decades for the faked tests.

The GOP provides welfare to corporations for weapons programs that the Pentagon doesn’t want. Military leaders assert that the new Joint-Strike fighter jet bomber (or F-35) and additional upgrades to the M1 Abrams tank are unnecessary because the 6,000 completed M1 upgrades are enough.  Dumping the Abrams rehab program would save $3.5 billion. Pentagon chiefs have proposed savings of at least $487 billion over a decade including the following cancellations:

  • The Global Hawk drone, whose purpose is served by the U2: savings, $2.5 billion by 2017;
  • The C-27J Spartan transport aircraft: savings, $400 million by 2017;
  • 5,000 jobs in the Air National Guard: savings, $300 million a year;
  • Plans for an East Coast missile defense battery that Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called unnecessary: savings, $3.6 billion by 2017.

The U.S. approved $645.7 billion in defense funding for 2012, the most recent year with available complete data. That’s 41 percent of total global military spending.

US military spending global

The U.S. budgets six times more than China, eleven times more than Russia, 27 times more than Iran, and 33 times more than Israel.

Military spending five countries

Military spending in this country is double that of all Asian countries. The U.S. is in the top highest spending countries as a percentage of GDP.

Veterans deserve to be saved from homelessness, hunger, prison, mental and physical illness, and joblessness. Changing the United States’ priorities from declaring war to helping veterans could accomplish this task.

July 27, 2012

Romney’s Vision for America

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

Mitt Romney has been definite about only one thing on the campaign trail—that he would never, under any circumstances, release more than two years of his tax returns. Most of his other positions have been vague because, as he has frequently said, people might use these ideas against him during the campaign. He’ll just wait until he’s elected to let the people in the country find out who they get screwed over.

He has let a few fiscal snippets slip, however. One recent one comes from his spending plan. Swirling in the ether is the myth that “federal compensation exceeds private sector levels by as much as 30 to 40 percent when benefits are taken into account.” Romney pledges to “align federal employee compensation with the private sector,” and it cites studies showing that “federal compensation exceeds private sector levels by as much as 30 to 40 percent when benefits are taken into account. This must be corrected.” That means that everyone working for the government, including the military and veterans, will take a 30 to 40 percent hit from Romney’s magic plan. Border patrol, firefighters, food inspectors, researchers—everybody takes a 30 to 40 percent hit in their bank account. The military, however, will be hurt the hardest because 63 percent of federal works are employed by the Department of Defense.

Romney aides and supporters are trying to wade their way out of this mess, as usual disagreeing with Romney. They claim that they don’t actually mean a 30 to 40 percent pay cut; they’ll just take away health coverage, retirement, etc. Somehow those people running Romney’s campaign do not equate taking away these benefits with a reduction in pay.

As always, Romney believes in cutting taxes for the wealthy, maybe because he belongs to that class. He wants to take money from people in the bottom  90+ percent of the population and give it to the top two percent. While he cuts the salaries of people in the bottom 98 percent of the nation, here are some of the bonuses that he wants to retain for the wealthy, including himself:

The “Carried Interest” Handout to Hedge Fund and Private Equity Managers. Cost: $15 BILLION (Fiscal Years 2012-2012) – Carried Interest is a share in a fund; wealthy investors can declare these as capital gains instead of wages at a much lower tax rate.

Offshore Tax Havens. Cost: $100 BILLION Annually – Only wealthy privileged people can afford this tax dodge.

Taxing Capital Gains at a Lower Rate Than Ordinary Income. Cost: $256 BILLION (Fiscal Years 2012-2016) – For the wealthy, capital gains from investments are taxed at 15 percent instead of 35 percent. The wealthiest 0.1 percent of people in the United States make half of all capital gains. Cutting capital gains tax would have zero benefit for the 73.9 percent of the middle class who have no capital gains.

Mortgage Interest Deduction on Second Homes and Yachts. Cost: $10 BILLION (Fiscal Years 2012-21) – The mortgage interest tax deduction is meant to encourage home ownership, not enable the wealthiest Americans like Romney to lower their tax burden because they can buy several multi-million-dollar homes.

Failing to Limit “Upside-Down” Itemized Deductions That Favor the Wealthiest Americans. Cost: $114 BILLION (Fiscal Years 2012-2016) – Tax deductions are meant to provide financial incentives for people in such activities as buying a home or saving for retirement. When only the wealthy can afford these activities, it’s called “upside-down” deductions.

Romney’s obsession with secrecy will also cost the country a bit of money. Before the end of his governor’s term in Massachusetts, Romney spent spending $205,000 for a three-year lease on new computers for the governor’s office and broke an earlier unexpired lease that cost the state half as much, according to official documents and state officials. He also spent state money replacing computers, buying up hard drives, and deleting emails in an attempt to hide records. Included in the purge were also 150 boxes of paper records. Romney feels that he has a lot to hide.

Although Senate Republicans  let a measure supporting reinstatement of pre-Bush taxes for the top 2 percent (those who net over $250,000) go to a vote this week, they knew the House would never agree. Part of the measure protected the rest of the population from having tax hikes that would average $2,200. The Senate vote to keep tax cuts for everyone except the wealthy passed 51-48. Democrat Sens. Mark Pryor (AR) and Jim Webb (VA) voted against the measure as did Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT). The Republicans pushing the total over 50 were Sens. Scott Brown (MA) and Susan Collins (ME) voted with Democrats.  The Republicans will be more careful to invoke the ever-present filibuster next time.

The upcoming fight over taxes may be worse than the one over raising the debt ceiling a year ago. Last August’s debacle when Republicans wanted to default on the nation’s financial obligations ended up costing the taxpayers $1.3 billion, according to the report by the Government Accountability Office. The New York Times reported that this is just the beginning; that loss of $1.3 billion could increase. The Corporation of Public Broadcasting, the Smithsonian, the National Endowment of the Arts, and the federal budget allocated to the Post Office—all enrichments to our lives that conservatives want to destroy–could easily be funded by this money that they lost.

These are just the fiscally selfish pieces of Romney’s approach toward controlling the people of the United States; he has many more plans in the social realm to ensure that women have no control over their own bodies and health as well as to guarantee that there will be no marriage equality. Romney wants to remove regulations so that people will no longer receive an education or have clean food, air, and water. Then there’s the rapidly disappearing freedom of religion. The list goes on and on!

© blogfactory

Genuine news

Civil Rights Advocacy

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. -- Margaret Mead

AGR Daily 60 Second News

Transformational News; What Works For Seven Future Generations Without Causing Harm?

JONATHAN TURLEY

Res ipsa loquitur - The thing itself speaks

Jennifer Hofmann

Inspiration for soul-divers, seekers, and activists.

Occupy Democrats

Progressive political commentary/book reviews for youth and adults

V e t P o l i t i c s

politics from a liberal veteran's perspective

Margaret and Helen

Best Friends for Sixty Years and Counting...

Rainbow round table news

Official News Outlet for the Rainbow Round Table of the American Library Association

The Extinction Protocol

Geologic and Earthchange News events

Central Oregon Coast NOW

The Central Oregon Coast Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW)

Social Justice For All

Working towards global equity and equality

Over the Rainbow Books

A Book List from Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table of the American Library Association

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

%d bloggers like this: