A blog by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration about justice and peace issues

Archive for the ‘Budget Bill’ Category

Walker and Wisconsin

The story of what happened in Madison still reverberates around the blogosphere gaining new attention with the pending recall elections for Republicans on the horizon. Few of these blogs, however, are looking at the potential impact Walker and conservatives in the State House and Senate could have and are having on the immigrant community. Check out this great video from “The Real News” and learn more about the struggles of the Wisconsin immigrant community.

 

Getting to crazy: U.S. debt default

Getting to Crazy

By

There aren’t many positive aspects to the looming possibility of a U.S. debt default. But there has been, I have to admit, an element of comic relief — of the black-humor variety — in the spectacle of so many people who have been in denial suddenly waking up and smelling the crazy.

A number of commentators seem shocked at how unreasonable Republicans are being. “Has the G.O.P. gone insane?” they ask.

Why, yes, it has. But this isn’t something that just happened, it’s the culmination of a process that has been going on for decades. Anyone surprised by the extremism and irresponsibility now on display either hasn’t been paying attention, or has been deliberately turning a blind eye.

And may I say to those suddenly agonizing over the mental health of one of our two major parties: People like you bear some responsibility for that party’s current state.

Let’s talk for a minute about what Republican leaders are rejecting.

President Obama has made it clear that he’s willing to sign on to a deficit-reduction deal that consists overwhelmingly of spending cuts, and includes draconian cuts in key social programs, up to and including a rise in the age of Medicare eligibility. These are extraordinary concessions. As The Times’s Nate Silver points out, the president has offered deals that are far to the right of what the average American voter prefers — in fact, if anything, they’re a bit to the right of what the average Republican voter prefers!

Yet Republicans are saying no. Indeed, they’re threatening to force a U.S. default, and create an economic crisis, unless they get a completely one-sided deal. And this was entirely predictable.

First of all, the modern G.O.P. fundamentally does not accept the legitimacy of a Democratic presidency — any Democratic presidency. We saw that under Bill Clinton, and we saw it again as soon as Mr. Obama took office.

As a result, Republicans are automatically against anything the president wants, even if they have supported similar proposals in the past. Mitt Romney’s health care plan became a tyrannical assault on American freedom when put in place by that man in the White House. And the same logic applies to the proposed debt deals.

Put it this way: If a Republican president had managed to extract the kind of concessions on Medicare and Social Security that Mr. Obama is offering, it would have been considered a conservative triumph. But when those concessions come attached to minor increases in revenue, and more important, when they come from a Democratic president, the proposals become unacceptable plans to tax the life out of the U.S. economy.

Beyond that, voodoo economics has taken over the G.O.P.

Supply-side voodoo — which claims that tax cuts pay for themselves and/or that any rise in taxes would lead to economic collapse — has been a powerful force within the G.O.P. ever since Ronald Reagan embraced the concept of the Laffer curve. But the voodoo used to be contained. Reagan himself enacted significant tax increases, offsetting to a considerable extent his initial cuts.

And even the administration of former President George W. Bush refrained from making extravagant claims about tax-cut magic, at least in part for fear that making such claims would raise questions about the administration’s seriousness.

Recently, however, all restraint has vanished — indeed, it has been driven out of the party. Last year Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, asserted that the Bush tax cuts actually increased revenue — a claim completely at odds with the evidence — and also declared that this was “the view of virtually every Republican on that subject.” And it’s true: even Mr. Romney, widely regarded as the most sensible of the contenders for the 2012 presidential nomination, has endorsed the view that tax cuts can actually reduce the deficit.

Which brings me to the culpability of those who are only now facing up to the G.O.P.’s craziness.

Here’s the point: those within the G.O.P. who had misgivings about the embrace of tax-cut fanaticism might have made a stronger stand if there had been any indication that such fanaticism came with a price, if outsiders had been willing to condemn those who took irresponsible positions.

But there has been no such price. Mr. Bush squandered the surplus of the late Clinton years, yet prominent pundits pretend that the two parties share equal blame for our debt problems. Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, proposed a supposed deficit-reduction plan that included huge tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, then received an award for fiscal responsibility.  

So there has been no pressure on the G.O.P. to show any kind of responsibility, or even rationality — and sure enough, it has gone off the deep end. If you’re surprised, that means that you were part of the problem.

Take Action With Credo

Whether you are Republican or Democrat the time has come to contact your Reps and Senators and tell them that cutting social programs is off the table – the vulnerable of our society did not create the debt problem and it will not be fixed by taking from them basic income and healthcare.  See below…

http://act.credoaction.com/campaign/senate_gop_crazies/?r_by=24414-2463086-KsKkvlx&rc=confemail

Join the budget talks

Huffington Post:Kate Maehr

If the economy is showing tepid signs of recovery, we’re seeing no indication at the hundreds of food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters we serve daily. Across the country and throughout Chicago and Cook County, record numbers of men, women and children are still in need of emergency food assistance — many for the first time.

A few weeks ago, David, a single father of two in his 30s, walked into a community center in South Suburban Harvey. He needed food to feed his young children because his work hours had recently been cut. He’d seen a flyer about an assistance program, but didn’t know what to expect. From a Greater Chicago Food Depository outreach worker at the center, David learned of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly the Food Stamp Program), and that he might be eligible for help. He also learned that there was a fresh source of wholesome food close to his home at a nearby stop of the Food Depository’s pantry on wheels, the Producemobile. For David, the social safety net worked beautifully, as it should.

David’s circumstances are all too common these days, as the need for emergency support remains achingly high. But, the support net that is essential to tens of millions of people is in danger of fraying badly, as Congress drives to cut the budget deficit. In the fiscal 2012 agriculture appropriations bill recently passed by the House of Representatives, deep cuts were made in SNAP, the nation’s frontline defense against hunger, which would convert the program to block grants and reduce the flexibility of states to respond to spikes in need. Nearly 50% of SNAP recipients are children under the age of 18. Also sharply cut are programs that provide nutritious food packages to low-income seniors. Cuts to the Women, Infants, and Children — or WIC — program mean that 300,000 fewer people will have access to supplemental nutritional food and educational assistance.

We understand the long-term importance of getting our nation’s financial house in order. But, we urge Congress to take a measured approach in the budget battle and avoid slashing vital services that are essential to the stability and wellbeing of those most in need, especially children and the elderly. A downward spiral is a real worry. Cuts at the federal and state level will place enormous burdens on scores of critical human services organizations — and, this at a time when 1.8 million people and 850,000 households in Illinois are currently receiving SNAP benefits, the highest number ever.

When critical services are cut, low-income families are forced to make difficult choices to balance basic needs — child care, housing, medicine, transportation and food. More people turn to their local food pantry, their community health center, or other temporary supports for help, contributing to record levels of demand. While the Food Depository distributes tens of millions of pounds of food each year, we cannot meet the need alone.

Our current safety net was forged in the 1960s with bipartisan support. Now, nutrition programs are becoming an unfortunate political chip.

What can be done? Members of Congress must be made aware of the grave consequences for millions of Americans if vital services are cut. Your voice must be heard. You can get involved by visiting the Advocacy Center on the Greater Chicago Food Depository’s website (chicagosfoodbank.org/advocacy) or by visiting Feeding America’s website (feedingamerica.org).

The most vulnerable in our communities — children, the elderly, the working poor — should be our priority. It is true that the sheer numbers can be overwhelming. And, that’s why it’s so important to remember David and his two young daughters and the challenges they face.

ACTION: Urge Congress to Protect Struggling Americans
Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights – Schools, health care, human services and public-safety efforts all face a minefield of serious threats this summer – and Congress needs to hear your advice on protecting struggling Americans from harm. During federal deficit-reduction talks taking place in Washington right now, some members of Congress are proposing two things: (a) deep budget cuts in fundamental supports for people in need and (b) radical changes in the structure of important programs and even the budget process itself – changes that would force further drastic cuts, year after year. Click here to learn more and take action.

“It is time to stand with the millions who have lost….” Sen. Bernie Sanders

Senator Bernie Sanders took to the floor and gave a 10,000 word historic speech about the absolute necessity of not solving the budget crisis on the backs of the poor and vulnerable. Below is a snippet from the speech & the video.  If you are interested in reading his speech, click the Truthout link pasted below.

On the heels of Governor Walker’s “austerity” budget stripping funds from BadgerCare, public schools, and Medicaid –  Senator Sanders’ speech serves as a great antidote or for Harry Potter fans…it is the chocolate after a Dementor attack….read, watch and feel inspired!

Senator Bernie Sanders

“At a time when the richest people and the largest corporations in our country are doing phenomenally well, and, in many cases, have never had it so good, while the middle class is disappearing and poverty is increasing, it is absolutely imperative that a deficit reduction package not include the disastrous cuts in programs for working families, the elderly, the sick, the children and the poor that the Republicans in Congress, dominated by the extreme right-wing, are demanding…”

Read his speech: http://www.truth-out.org/sen-bernie-sanders-we-will-not-balance-budget-backs-working-families/1309280399

The Budget: A moral crisis not a fiscal one

Holy Week seems an apt time to stop and take a simple action to impact the national budget for 2012. Below is a good summary of what passed the House from Huffington Post and an action from NETWORK.

Many blessings on this week and on Easter as we move as a Christian community through our shared collective stories toward celebration and rebirth.

Huffington Post

Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan  proposed, and last week the Republican House approved, a budget bill that will transfer tens of trillions  of dollars from ordinary working people to the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry and generic rich people from any industry. This money will come in the form of higher payments by seniors in their old age for health insurance and another round of tax breaks for the country’s richest people.

The Medicare story is the bigger transfer here. Representative Ryan wants to replace the current Medicare system with a voucher system. The size of the voucher in Ryan’s plan is held even with the overall rate of inflation. This means that it will not rise at anywhere near the rate of projected health care cost growth. As a result, a greater portion of the cost of health care will be shifted from the government to retirees.

However, this is the less important part of the story. The main reason that retiree health care costs will increase is that the private sector is less efficient at delivering care than the existing Medicare program. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that, under the Ryan plan, the increase in the cost of buying Medicare equivalent policies would be more than $30 trillion over Medicare’s planning horizon.

This additional waste comes to almost $100,000 for every man, woman, and child in the country. It is approximately equal to six times the size of the projected Social Security shortfall. This waste is a direct transfer from retirees to the insurance industry and the health care industry.

This is not the only way that Representative Ryan and the Republicans dip into the pockets of ordinary workers for the benefit of the obscenely rich. He also wants to give an additional $2.9 trillion in tax breaks to the wealthy over the next decade. These tax breaks would be paid for with cuts to Medicaid, Food Stamps and other programs that middle-income and poor people depend upon.

The tax breaks would be real money for the people who get them. For example, Representative Ryan’s tax breaks could give Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, another $3 million a year based on his $20 million annual paycheck. That’s the equivalent of more than 2,600 monthly Social Security checks.

Representative Ryan and the Republicans in Congress are likely to justify their budget by saying that they believe that their health care plan will hold down costs and their tax cuts will spur economic growth. While we can never know what politicians believe, we do know that these are not plausible stories.

We have already tested expanding the role of private insurers in the Medicare system. We did this in the 90s when the Gingrich Congress pushed through their Medicare Plus Choice plan. We did it again more recently with the Medicare Advantage program that was promoted by President Bush. These plans did not lower costs; they raised them. That is the basis for the non-partisan CBO’s projections that the Ryan plan will raise costs.

Similarly, Representative Ryan and the Republicans claim that tax cuts for the wealthy will spur growth. We have also twice tested this one. The first time was when President Reagan gave us big tax breaks beginning in 1981. The 80s were the worst decade of growth since the Great Depression, prior to the 00s, when President Bush tested his tax cuts for the wealthy. Certainly the economy’s bad performance during these decades cannot be blamed solely on the tax breaks for the wealthy, but it is a bit hard to maintain tax cuts to the wealthy gave a big boost to growth in these years.

While Representative Ryan and the Republicans may actually believe that giving private insurers more control over health care lowers costs and that cutting taxes for the rich increases growth, who cares? These people may believe that the moon is made of green cheese, but this does not make the green cheese theory true or even plausible.

We have extensively tested both parts of the Ryan transfer program to the wealthy, and they don’t work as he claims. They redistribute money to the rich: end of story. Thanks to Representative Ryan we have the Republican Party on record as supporting these massive transfers to the wealthy. We just have to hope that the Democratic Party takes a different position.

NETWORK: Budget issues return after recess

The budget battles continue, as President Obama denounced the House budget resolution for FY2012, which is also known as the “Ryan Budget” after Rep. Paul Ryan, the chair of the House Budget Committee. This budget cuts Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs that support low and moderate income families, while handing out more tax breaks to millionaires and corporations. NETWORK agrees with President Obama, that this is not the vision Americans have for our country.
It is very important that all members of Congress hear from constituents who believe that our budget decisions should prioritize people who are struggling, and ask those who are already wealthy to pay their fair share in taxes.
Please try to contact your members of Congress during this Congressional recess. Call their office and find out when and where you can meet them, or talk to their staff people. You can find contact information for local offices through our web site at:
See “How to Talk about the Budget” at www.networklobby.org/blog/2011-4-18/blog-about-federal-budget for suggestions on talking about the budget with your friends, family, and members of Congress. And let us know how the conversations went!
More on NETWORK’s response to the FY2012 budget resolution is here:

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