Cognitive Dissonance

"Democracy! Bah! When I hear that I reach for my feather boa!" - Allen Ginsberg

Posts tagged budget cuts

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Texas cut fire department funding by 75 percent this year

Under Gov. Rick Perry (R) this year, Texas slashed state funding for the volunteer fire departments that protect most of the state from wildfires like the ones that have recently destroyed more than 700 homes.

Volunteer departments that were already facing financial strain were slated to have their funding cut from $30 million to $7 million, according to KVUE.

The majority of Texas is protected by volunteer fire departments. There are 879 volunteer fire departments in Texas and only 114 paid fire departments. Another 187 departments are a combination of volunteer and paid.

For that reason, aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) could be more important than ever to the state where wildfires have recently been raging.

At a press conference Monday, Perry promised to seek federal disaster relief and said that FEMA would be in the state by Wednesday.

While the Texas governor has been highly critical of FEMA in the past, he told CBS’ Erica Hill Tuesday that now was not the time to worry about reforming the agency.

"The issue is taking care of these people right now," Perry insisted. "We can work our way through any conversations about how to make agencies more efficient, how to make Department of Defense equipment, for instance, more available. There are a lot of issues we can talk about, but the fact of the matter is now is not the time to be trying to work out the details of how to make these agencies more efficient. Let’s get people out of harm’s way."

Hypocrisy and anti-government rhetoric has consequences when the legislature takes it to heart. I feel terrible for the people of Texas, but I feel no pity for their governor, who was the ultimate signing authority on spending cuts. Ever heard of the Boy Scouts and their whole ‘always be prepared’ thing? I’ve seen people defending Perry by saying, “There’s no way he could have known this would happen!”


Filed under FEMA Rick Perry Texas Wildfire Wildfires fire always be prepared conservative conservatives budget cuts politics

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Republican leaders in the House of Representatives want to rein in the programme’s runaway growth. In their budget outline for next year they proposed cutting the amount of money to be spent on food stamps by roughly a fifth. Moreover, instead of being a federal entitlement, available to all Americans who meet the eligibility criteria, the programme would become a “block grant” to the states, which would receive a fixed amount to spend each year, irrespective of demand. The House has also voted to cut a separate health-and-nutrition scheme for poor pregnant women, infants and children, known as WIC, by 11%…

When Moody’s Analytics assessed different forms of stimulus, it found that food stamps were the most effective, increasing economic activity by $1.73 for every dollar spent. Unemployment insurance came in second, at $1.62, whereas most tax cuts yielded a dollar or less. All the talk in Washington these days, however, is of cutbacks—even for the hungry.
The Economist, “The Struggle to Eat,” published July 14, 2011. 


Filed under poverty politics economy budget budget cuts WIC Food Stamps poor conservative conservatives GOP Let them eat cake

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US debt ceiling: how big is it and how has it changed?

The debt ceiling was raised 25 times under (St.) Ronald Raygun. By this point in his first term, he’d raised it over 10 times. It’s been raised once under Obama - in March 2010. Congress has acted 78 times since 1960 to permanently raise, temporarily extend, or revise the definition of the debt limit – 49 times under Republican presidents and 29 times under Democratic presidents.

But it’s Obama’s fault, right?

Filed under debt debt ceiling budget budget cuts politics Obama ronald reagan ronald raygun fuckery

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Sen. Bernie Sanders kicks serious ass on the floor. Elections have consequences. Here’s a transcript:

We are at a pivotal moment in American history, and many Americans watching the deficit talks in Washington are confused, perplexed, angry and frustrated.

This country, which has paid its debts from Day 1, must pay its debts. Anyone who says it is not a big deal for this country to default clearly does not understand what he or she is talking about. This is a nation whose faith and credit has been the gold standard of countries throughout the world. Some people simply say we’re not going to pay our debt, that there’s nothing to really worry about. Those are people who are wishing our economy harm for political reasons, and those are people whose attitudes will have terrible consequences for virtually every working family in this country in terms of higher interest rates, in terms of significant job loss, in terms of making a very unstable global economy even more unstable.

Our right-wing friends in the House of Representatives have given us an option. What they have said is end Medicare as we know it and force elderly people, many of whom don’t have the money, to pay substantially more for their health care. So when you’re 70 under their plan and you get sick and you don’t have a whole lot of income, we don’t know what happens to you. They forget to tell us that if their plan was passed you’re going to have to pay a heck of a lot more for the prescription drugs you’re getting today. They we’re going to throw millions of kids off health insurance. If your mom or dad is in a nursing home and that nursing home bill is paid significantly by Medicaid and Medicaid isn’t paying anymore, they forgot to tell us what happens to your mom or dad in that nursing home. What happens?

And what happens today if you are unemployed and you’re not able to get unemployment extension? What happens if you are a middle-class family desperately trying to send their kids to college and you make savage cuts to Pell grants and you can’t go to college? What does it mean for the nation if we are not bringing forth young people that have the education that they need? They forgot to tell us that. And if you are one of the growing number of senior citizens in this country who are going hungry, they want to cut nutrition programs. And on and on it goes. Every program that has any significance to working families, the sick, the elderly, the children, the poor, they are going to cut in the midst of a recession when real unemployment is already at 15 percent and the middle class is disappearing and poverty is increasing. That’s their idea.

Shouldn’t the wealthiest Americans and the most profitable corporations contribute to deficit reduction rather than just the elderly and the sick and working families? They say no. They’re going to defend the richest people in this country - millionaires and billionaires - and make sure they don’t pay a nickel more in taxes. We’re going to make sure there is no tax reform so we can continue to lose $100 billion every single year because wealthy people and corporations stash their money in tax havens in the Cayman Islands or Bermuda, and that’s just fine. We’ll protect those tax breaks while we savage programs for working families.

Those are the choices that our right-wing Republican friends are giving us. Default with horrendous economic consequences for working families in this country and for the entire global economy or massive cuts to programs that working families desperately need.

Neither of those options is acceptable to me. Neither are those options acceptable to the vast majority of the people in this country. Every single poll that I have seen says that the American people want shared sacrifice. They don’t want or believe that deficit reduction can simply come down on the backs of the weak and the vulnerable, the elderly, the children, and the poor. They believe that the wealthy and large corporations also have to participate.

In all honesty, I also must tell you that I have been disappointed by President Obama’s role in these discussions. He has brought forth and idea which I categorically reject, that we should make significant cuts in Social Security, that when someone when someone reaches the age of 85, they would lose $1,000 as opposed to what they would have otherwise gotten. This senator is not going to balance our budget on the backs of an 85-year-old person who’s earning $14,000 a year. And this senator does not agree with the president that we should raise eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 67, because I don’t know what happens to millions of people who have worked their whole lives, finally reach 65 anticipating Medicare but it’s not going to be there for them.

One of the most important lessons in all of this is that elections have consequences. Many people now are beginning to catch on to that. It is no secret that our right-wing Republican colleagues did very well in November 2010. They captured the House of Representatives.

If you believe that we have to start investing in America and creating the millions of jobs that this country desperately needs, elections have consequences. If you believe that we have to address the deficit crisis in a way that is responsible, in a way that asks the wealthy and large corporations also to play a role, in a way that calls for cuts in defense spending and bringing our troops home as soon as possible from Afghanistan and Iraq, you have got to be involved in the political process.

In my view a group of people in the House whose views represent a small minority of the American people are holding this Congress hostage. It is time for the American people to stand up and say, enough is enough; the function of the United States Congress is to represent all of our people and not just the wealthy and powerful.

Filed under Bernie Sanders Uncle Bernie Sanders 2012 politics debt ceiling champion Shared sacrifice BAMF fuck yes inequality economy budget budget cuts working class hero

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Congressman Ryan: The Rich Man's Robin Hood

Ryan’s “Roadmap for America’s Future” cuts government aid that he says creates a culture of dependency. The plan snips the threads of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid that Americans contribute to during their working years and count on for retirement or disability.

His plan also slashes Pell grants, which help students from low-income families go to college, and unemployed workers return to school to sharpen their skills or train for new careers.

"By continually increasing Pell funding, we are feeding education inflation," said Ryan.

Ryan also proposes a 20 percent cut to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), pointing to reports that the food stamp program is “rife with fraud.”

Ryan’s budget proposal, called the “Path to Prosperity” – and which some Democrats refer to as the “Road to Ruin” – spotlights the deep fiscal-policy rift between the two parties.

Rob from the poor to give to the rich? That’s what 30 years plus of neoliberalism will do for you.

Filed under Paul Ryan Republican republicans politics budget budget cuts Medicare Pell grants SNAP food stamps

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Boehner: Big deficit deal won't work

House Speaker John Boehner said Saturday that he has told President Barack Obama that he wants to pursue a smaller $2 trillion deficit reduction deal, not the larger effort sought by the White House.

Obama, Boehner and other congressional leaders are due to meet at the White House on Sunday at 6 p.m. EDT, with staffers working through the weekend to lay out options.

There could be some hard bargaining in the session but it is not likely to produce a final deal, White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

Boehner also tamped down expectations that Democrats and Republicans could reach agreement over the weekend. He said on Friday that the two sides must overcome serious disagreements on taxes and spending cuts.

"It’s not like there’s some imminent deal about to happen," Boehner told a news conference. "This is a Rubik’s Cube that we haven’t quite worked out yet."

Looks like Boehner may have blinked in this asinine game of debt-ceiling chicken with the US economy. I really hope this doesn’t mean they’re going for cuts to Medicare and Social Security.

Filed under John Boehner politics debt ceiling Obama politics budget budget cuts government government spending default deficit blink

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I hear how they’re so caring for the poor and so forth. The poor need jobs! And they also need to share some of the responsibility. The top 1 percent of the so-called wealthy pay 38 percent of all income tax. The top 10 percent are paying 70 percent of all income tax. The top 50 percent pay somewhere near 98 percent of all income taxes. 51 percent don’t pay anything. Democrats say they [the 51 percent] pay payroll taxes. Well, everybody does that because that’s Social Security. They pay about one-third of what they’re going to take out over the years in social security.

Obamacare - a family of four earning over $80,000 a year - gets subsidies. Think about that. That’s what we call the poor? Now, we don’t want the really poor people who are in poverty to have to pay income taxes. But 51% of all households. And that’s going up, by the way, because of our friend down in the White House and his allies.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, claiming the wealthy are already doing too much, even as the nation’s effective tax rates are at their lowest rates in over 50 years, and suggesting the middle class and poor should be picking up the slack.

Hatch insinuated payroll taxes that the poor and middle classes pay towards Social Security gives them some kind of advantage in regards to future benefit. Not so. The first $106,800 in yearly income is taxed. After that, no social security taxes are paid. The Medicare tax has no cap. It’s been suggested that lifting the cap on social security would help. Well, it would. Observe:

Explanation: Currently, wages over a certain yearly total ($106,800 this year) are exempted from Social Security payroll taxes. Medicare’s payroll tax has no such cap. This has raised the question of how raising the cap could extend Social Security’s solvency. [T]he Congressional Research Service looked at this question in 2008 by evaluating three different proposals. The first would raise the cap so that 90 percent of wages are taxed and pay higher benefits to those affected; the second would eliminate the cap and pay higher benefits; and the third would eliminate the cap for taxes but would not increase benefits. [This is] how much of the Social Security shortfall is eliminated by each proposal. Completely eliminating the cap without increasing benefits actually creates a long-term surplus, and eliminating the cap while increasing benefits comes close.

The benefits aren’t lavish. I calculated the benefit for an person of retirement age who earned the average income for an individual every year since age 18. Monthly benefit? A whopping $1519.00 monthly, which is $18,228 a year. Incidentally, that’s just a little less than the average individual income in 1987.

As for a family of four receiving subsidies at $80,000 a year?

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the cost of coverage for a family of four has climbed 131 percent from 1999 to 2010. The average annual premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance in 2010 was $5,049 for single coverage and $13,770 for family coverage.

For a family of four making $80,000/year, that’s over 17% of their yearly income on insurance alone. Most families are carrying a deductible of $2,000, meaning they have to hit that before receiving full benefits. So we’ll assume that’s their only out-of-pocket health care expense. So yearly expenses are now $15,770 - nearly 20% of their yearly income.

That’s also assuming insurance pays everything. Average out of pocket spending for an individual is now almost $7,000/year. So we’ll assume little Billy broke his leg playing ball, coach freaked out, called an ambulance (was’t pre-approved), and that ambulance took Billy to an out of network provider where the doctor ordered x-rays and set his leg. So now we’ve added that $7,000 for a total of $22,770 - that’s now nearly 29% of their yearly income.

The median family income in the United States is $49,777. Once those health care expenses are lopped off, the $80K family is suddenly down to roughly $56,800, just $7,023 above the median. Keep in mind, the median family and below are dealing with these same numbers.

How about a CEO making the typical pay package ($9 million) for the head of a company in the S&P’s 500? How much of an impact would those health care costs be, just for funsies? $22,770/$9,000,000 = .253% of their yearly income. Sorry, but my pity well is dry.

Oh, and Hatch’s net worth was between $1,656,067 and $4,471,000, according to Hatch’s mandated financial disclosure statements. Whose interests do you think he’s protecting?

In summary, Orrin Hatch can suck it.


Filed under Orrin Hatch GOP politics poverty inequality Health Care taxes Senate Asshat asshattery conservative conservatives compassionate conservatism class war budget budget cuts

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The Big (Military) Taboo

We face wrenching budget cutting in the years ahead, but there’s one huge area of government spending that Democrats and Republicans alike have so far treated as sacrosanct.

It’s the military/security world, and it’s time to bust that taboo. A few facts:

• The United States spends nearly as much on military power as every other country in the world combined, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. It says that we spend more than six times as much as the country with the next highest budget, China.

• The United States maintains troops at more than 560 bases and other sites abroad, many of them a legacy of a world war that ended 65 years ago. Do we fear that if we pull our bases from Germany, Russia might invade?

• The intelligence community is so vast that more people have “top secret” clearance than live in Washington, D.C.

• The U.S. will spend more on the war in Afghanistan this year, adjusting for inflation, than we spent on the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War and the Spanish-American War combined.

The sacred cow doesn’t seem so sacred anymore, eh? Read the editorial for a very persuasive argument on why we should scale back.

Filed under Military Military-Industrial Complex spending economy United States Sacred Cow War Iraq Afghanistan Democrats Republicans Budget budget cuts deficit

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Budget Puzzle: You Fix the Budget || The New York Times

Today, you’re in charge of the nation’s finances. Some of your options have more short-term savings and some have more long-term savings. When you have closed the budget gaps for both 2015 and 2030, you are done. Make your own plan, then share it online.

See if you can do better than the U.S. Congress! 

Filed under New York Times Budget All my republican friends better try this Savings Budget cuts we're all fucked U.S. Budget America Economy deficit cash money