Showing posts with label Budget. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Budget. Show all posts

April 1, 2014

One Billion Increase in Nukes While Education and Food Stamps are Cuts

                                      

Move the Money from War to Education by Johnny Keane
We live in strange times, indeed. In the past few months, the U.S. Congress has failed to extend unemployment benefits for 1.3 million people and has passed legislation that will cut $8.6 billion in food stamps over the next 10 years, affecting 850,000 households in 1/3 of the states.

   At the same time, the 2015 budget shows a 7% increase in spending on nuclear weapons, from $18.6 billion to $19.4 billion -- almost $1 billion. While the overall amount allocated for nuclear weapons is greater than last year, the funds dedicated to nuclear nonproliferation programs — programs to reduce the numbers of available warheads or securing so-called "loose nukes" was cut, making more dollars available to either build new nuclear weapons hardware or spend billions to modernize old ones, such as the B-61 bomb.

If this budget is accepted it will show once again that our nation's priorities favor increased spending on weapons of mass destruction at the expense of programs that help people survive tough times and keep food on their tables. At a time when our economy continues to struggle and the gap between rich and poor widens, how is it that our elected officials opt to spend more money on nuclear weapons? It is the wrong time to promote additional spending on nuclear weapons when diplomacy is easing tensions between the international community and Iran, a country which once again has assured the world that it is not planning to build nuclear weapons or when another diplomatic agreement obliged Syria to destroy its chemical weapons. 



After spending $4 -- 6 trillion on war since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, the American public is war-weary and war-wise. The tremendous outpouring of opposition to a proposed military strike against Syria or war against Iran is due, in part, to an increasing number of Americans understanding the connection between these huge outlays of cash for war and a treasury drained of funds to help local communities.

 Winslow Wheeler's March 13th article titled " America's $1 Trillion National Security Budget" published by the Straus Military Reform's Project on Government Oversight, explains how the Pentagon's criticism of a proposed $495.6 billion military budget for 2015 as "austere and dangerously inadequate" is misleading. According to Wheeler, "Scarcity of money is not their problem. Pentagon costs, taken together with other known national security expenses for 2015, will exceed $1 Trillion." Included in Wheeler's analysis are:
a maximum of $79.4 billion to continue the war in Afghanistan,
$6.2 billion in "mandatory" spending for military retirement and other DOD-only programs;
the Pentagon's $26 billion dollar portion of the "Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative" characterized by some as a slush fund,  
$37.8 billion in additional money paid by the Treasury for military retirement and DOD healthcare,
$19.4 billion in nuclear weapons' costs borne by the Department of Energy,
$52.1 billion in non-DOD spending in the Department of Homeland Security,
 $161.2 billion for the human consequences of past and ongoing wars in the Department of Veterans Affairs,
 $39 billion for the activities of the Department of State and related agencies-for international security and the exercise of US power abroad; and
an equitable share of the interest on the national debt that is related to this spending.

These costs added together total $1.0095 trillion for 2015!
     Here are two ways to reduce this. Two nearly identical bills in the U.S. Congress today target nuclear weapons spending to save money. Senator Markey, D-Mass, introduced the "Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditures (SANE)" Act and Rep. Blumenauer, D-Ore, introduced the "Reduce Expenditures in Nuclear Infrastructure Now (REIN-IN)" Act. According toEric Tamerlani's article "Reining in Nuke Spending the Smart Way" in the March 12th Roll Call, these bills will save taxpayers $100 billion on nuclear weapons over 10 years. The bills would reduce the number of new nuclear submarines, cap tactical nuke modernization and scrap the F-35’s nuclear mission. 

     In late April, pro-disarmament activists from around the world will gather at the United Nations to prepare nuclear disarmament proposals to present at the 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference. Sharon Dolev, Director of the Israeli Disarmament Movement, will participate.  She will also speak on "Cooling the Hot Spot: A Nuclear Weapons Free Middle East" at NJPA's April 27th Annual Dinner at the Regency House in Pompton Plains. Her talk will address what a nuclear weapons free Middle East means for Israel, the region, and the world, as well as obstacles within Israel to attaining that important goal. For more information and to make reservations, visit www.njpeaceaction.org.

Cooling off tensions in the Middle East and preventing another war will release funds for programs that address community needs. This is not only timely, but essential, for genuine security in our nation and the world.

March 8, 2014

The Pentagon Phony Arguments that Needs Money for Wars

Pentagon
An aerial view of the Pentagon building in Washington, DC. (Reuters/Jason Reed)
This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com.
Washington is pushing the panic button, claiming austerity is hollowing out our armed forces and our national security is at risk. That was the message Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel delivered last week when he announced that the Army would shrink to levels not seen since before World War II. Headlinesabout this crisis followed in papers like The New York Timesand members of Congress issued statements swearing that they would never allow our security to be held hostage to the budget-cutting process.
Yet a careful look at budget figures for the US military—a bureaucratic juggernaut accounting for 57 percent of the federal discretionary budget and nearly 40 percent of all military spending on this planet—shows that such claims have been largely fictional. Despite cries ofdoom since the across-the-board cuts known as sequestration surfaced in Washington in 2011, the Pentagon has seen few actual reductions, and there is no indication that will change any time soon.
This piece of potentially explosive news has, however, gone missing in action—and the “news” that replaced it could prove to be one of the great bait-and-switch stories of our time.
The Pentagon Cries Wolf: Round One
As sequestration first approached, the Pentagon issued deafening cries of despair. Looming cuts would “inflict lasting damage on our national defense and hurt the very men and women who protect this country,” said Secretary Hagel in December 2012.
Sequestration went into effect in March 2013 and was slated to slice $54.6 billion from the Pentagon’s $550 billion larger-than-the-economy-of-Sweden budget. But Congress didn’t have the stomach for it, so lawmakers knocked the cuts down to $37 billion. (Domestic programs like Head Start and cancer research received no such special dispensation.)
By law, the cuts were to be applied across the board. But that, too, didn’t go as planned. The Pentagon was able to do something hardly recognizable as a cut at all. Having the luxury ofunspent funds from previous budgets—known obscurely as “prior year unobligated balances”—officials reallocated some of the cuts to those funds instead.
In the end, the Pentagon shaved about 5.7 percent, or $31 billion, from its 2013 budget. And just how painful did that turn out to be? Frank Kendall, who serves as the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, has acknowledged that the Pentagon “cried wolf.” Those cuts caused no substantial damage, he admitted.
And that’s not where the story ends—it’s where it begins.
Sequestration and the Phony Budget War: Round Two
A $54.6 billion slice was supposed to come out of the Pentagon budget in 2014. If that had actually happened, it would have amounted to around 10 percent of its budget. But after the hubbub over the supposedly devastating cuts of 2013, lawmakers set about softening the blow.
And this time they did a much better job.
In December 2013, a budget deal was brokered by Republican Congressman Paul Ryan and Democratic Senator Patty Murray. In it they agreed to reduce sequestration. Cuts for the Pentagon soon shrank to $34 billion for 2014.
And that was just a start.
All the cuts discussed so far pertain to what’s called the Pentagon’s “base” budget—its regular peacetime budget. That, however, doesn’t represent all of its funding. It gets a whole different budget for making war, and for the thirteenth year, the US is making war inAfghanistan. For that part of the budget, which falls into the Washington category of “Overseas Contingency Operations” (OCO), the Pentagon is getting an additional $85 billionin 2014.
And this is where something funny happens.
That war funding isn’t subject to caps or cuts or any restrictions at all. So imagine for a moment that you’re an official at the Pentagon—or the White House—and you’re committed to sparing the military from downsizing. Your budget has two parts: one that’s subject to caps and cuts, and one that isn’t. What do you do? When you hit a ceiling in the former, you stuff extra cash into the latter.
It takes a fine-toothed comb to discover how this is done. Todd Harrison, senior fellow for defense studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, found that the Pentagon was stashing an estimated extra $20 billion worth of non-war funding in the “operation and maintenance” accounts of its proposed 2014 war budget. And since all federal agencies work in concert with the White House to craft their budget proposals, it’s safe to say that the Obama administration was in on the game.
Add the December budget deal to this $20 billion switcheroo and the sequester cuts for 2014 were now down to $14 billion, hardly a devastating sum given the roughly $550 billion in previously projected funding.
And the story’s still not over.
When it was time to write the Pentagon budget into law, appropriators in Congress wanted in on the fun. As Winslow Wheeler of the Project on Government Oversight discovered, lawmakers added a $10.8 billion slush fund to the war budget.
All told, that leaves $3.4 billion—a cut of less than 1 percent from Pentagon funding this year. It’s hard to imagine that anyone in the sprawling bureaucracy of the Defense Department will even notice. Nonetheless, last week Secretary Hagel insisted that “[s]equestration requires cuts so deep, so abrupt, so quickly that...the only way to implement [them] is to sharply reduce spending on our readiness and modernization, which would almost certainly result in a hollow force.”

Yet this less than 1 percent cut comes from a budget that, at last count, was the size of the next ten largest military budgets on the planet combined. If you can find a threat to our national security in this story, your sleuthing powers are greater than mine. Meanwhile, in the non-military part of the budget, sequestration has brought cuts that actually matter to everything from public education to the justice system.
Cashing in on the “Cuts:” Round Three and Beyond
After two years of uproar over mostly phantom cuts, 2015 isn’t likely to bring austerity to the Pentagon either. Last December’s budget deal already reduced the cuts projected for 2015, and President Obama is now asking for something he’s calling the “Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative.” It would deliver an extra $26 billion to the Pentagon next year. And that still leaves the war budget for officials to use as a cash cow.
And the president is proposing significant growth in military spending further down the road. In his 2015 budget plan, he’s asking Congress to approve an additional $115 billion in extra Pentagon funds for the years 2016-2019.
My guess is he’ll claim that our national security requires it after the years of austerity.
                                                                            

April 30, 2013

Why Does The GOP Fiscal Hawks Want to Give The Army Expensive Tanks THEY Don’t WANT??

 Why are These Hawks willing to cut almost anything as long as it doesn’t inconvenience them. SS, Medicare , Food Stamps, Libraries closing, Hospitals..No end..and no budget. But since they know more than the army about what they know, they want to shove it down their throats. I ask why but is rhetorical. I know why. These companies that make this equipment, the weapons complex production machine (sits on private hands) they already paid these misfits Senators and few Representatives already. They have been lunched, massaged, entertain, sexed and put to bed How many times? Their houses already nicely built with what money and if any loans? No interest. They need to come up with their side of the bargain and Produce.  That’s what you do when you have been bribed. No for the country, yes for the Pentagon weapons complex. So the Army…well they are paid to fight and die not to think. This is for the senators in those committes’  to do their pocket duty senators. Which senators? Google it or Bing it….names is no prob.why, are, gop, deficit, hawks, telling, the, army, to, buy, tank, upgrades, they, dont, want?,

Why Are GOP Deficit Hawks Telling the Army to Buy Tank Upgrades
 They Dont Want 


 There is a $436 million dollar program that senior Army officials have repeatedly said they do not want to proceed and would make an excellent measure for cuts or payments for other services. The problem? Congress refuses to listen and is insisting they spend this money that they do not want.
As talks of how to cut spending and government waste have become the normal modus operandi of debate on Capitol Hill, a curious little show is playing out within the halls of power in Washington that provides a demonstration of the difference between rhetoric and the reality of attempts to cut spending.
The program in question is an upgrade to the M1 Abrams main battle tank. General Raymond Odierno, a 37-year Army veteran, told the Associated Press, "If we had our choice, we would use that money in a different way." Nearly two-thirds of the Abrams tank fleet has already been upgraded and the Army has signaled that future upgrades to the fleet are not needed. The current plan is to allow the current tank fleet to suffice until a new tank is developed and production starts around 2017.
"The Army is on record saying we do not require any additional M1A2s," said Davis Welch, deputy director of the Army Budget Office.
Yet two of Congress's biggest deficit hawks, Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Representative Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), are champions of the measure. They claim that they have a better view on defense issues then the Department of Defense and that stopping the project would result in difficulty restarting the supply line. Jordan said if "it was not in the best interests of the national defense for the United States of America, then you would not see me supporting it like we do."
Portman claimed, "That supply chain is going to be much more costly and much more inefficient to create if you mothball the plant." 
Does the Depart of Defense know best with regards of identifying wasteful defense spending, or are they being too hasty, as many in Congress think?
Let us know on Twitter at @policymic or in the comments below.

April 28, 2013

A Playbook for Undoing the Sequester

 When Congress voted this week to give the FAA more flexibility with its cuts, it set off a race among other special interests to push for exemptions.


(AP Photo/Mel Evans)

Who would have guessed that the air-traffic controllers and meat inspectors would be the first ones lucky enough to avoid the across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration?
So it went on Friday, when Congress passed legislation to give the Federal Aviation Administration special flexibility in implementing its sequester cuts. The bill exempted air-traffic controllers from furloughs, which had caused flight delays at major airport hubs throughout the Northeast for the past five days. Meat inspectors also received a carve-out in late March following a powerful lobbying push and under the guise of ensuring food safety.
Now, with two sequester tweaks on the books, other special-interest groups, unions, and lobbyists are planning to rev up their efforts to undo the cuts bit by bit or, in this case, by a few billion dollars here or there. The actions of the FAA over the past week, alongside airline groups and unions, offer a playbook for others to use as they too seek exemptions.
“What you’re seeing now is an unraveling of the sequester. This is predictable as the sun rising in the east, and it will happen piece by piece over the next 60 to 90 days,” says Steve Bell, senior director of economic policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center and a former staff director for the Senate Budget Committee.
Already, interest groups are plotting new ways to cast their particular sequester cuts as dire or unfair or safety hazards since they see an opening to escape the full force of the legislation. Remember the hollering a few weeks ago about cancer patients being turned away from treatment or clinical trials? Well, the American Cancer Society Action Network plans to ramp up its pressure on lawmakers following the FAA legislation. The group has an energized grassroots organization; a lobbying team in Washington; and lots of face time with lawmakers. After all, if air-traffic controllers can get a pass, then the cancer advocacy group thinks patients should too.
“We’re no longer just talking about why we need this additional funding. We’re talking about people who are dying because of what politicians are unable to do,” says Christopher Hansen, president of the American Cancer Society Action Network, the advocacy arm of the American Cancer Society. The message, he adds, “is going to get more edgy.”
It took a mere six days for the FAA to push Congress to change its language on the agency’s sequester cuts. The furloughs of air-traffic controllers began April 21. Each ensuing day, the agency released a press release and tweeted about the number of flights delayed due to sequestration and the resulting reduced staffing at airports.
On Wednesday alone, 863 flights were delayed at major hubs in New York, Washington, Cleveland, Dallas, and Jacksonville, Fla. On average, New Yorkers’ flights were delayed by one hour, while delays at the Los Angeles airport spanned into two hours, says Mark Duell, vice president of operations at FlightAware.com, an industry tracking group. The airlines also threatened to undo their rule to not keep passengers waiting on the tarmac for more than three hours.
Forget that an additional 2,132 flights were delayed on Wednesday, due to weather or other typical airline mishaps. This week, for instance, New York suffered from high winds, and Florida experienced thunderstorms, Duell says.
When the flights were delayed, the message from the airlines was clear: This is all the fault of the sequester. Pilots and flight attendants in their announcements attributed problems to the government cuts, says airline industry analysts. This riled up consumers and made them aware of the sequester cuts in a way they may not have experienced them before. (In mid-March, a majority of Americans had yet to see evidence of the sequester in their lives, says Gallup pollsters).
Then came the lobbying muscle to fight the FAA cuts. That’s the thing about the airline industry—it has lots of manpower. The airline pilots have a union, as do the air-traffic controllers. Major airlines have an industry group alongside the regional airlines. Even companies involved in shipping, transportation, air express, and postal delivery got involved.
It was all-out blitz, from the cable-news shots of angry passengers delayed at major airports and missing connecting flights to websites set up by the industry to decry the issue. “Don’t Ground America” was the slogan of one industry advocacy site. “The FAA’s unnecessary and reckless action will disrupt air travel for millions of Americans, cost jobs, and threatens to ground the U.S. economy to halt,” says the site.
This combination of angry consumers and a powerful industry—combined with a lack of opposition—forced Congress to vote to give the FAA more room to maneuver with its sequester cuts. In the weeks to come, the question is: Will this prove as a successful template for other industries or a one-off lucky break for the FAA on the sequester?
The Internal Revenue Service recently announced its plans to furlough its employees. The group representing them, the National Treasury Employees Union, wants those furloughs scaled back. “Congress just voted to make it more likely that their flights home for another vacation today will not be delayed, but they should be staying here to find a way to stop the sequester and prevent the loss of services the American people rely on,” said NTEU President Colleen Kelley in a statement. 
In the coming weeks, the cuts least likely to receive much attention are those that affect the poor or the unemployed. Already, workers who’ve been out of job for six months or more have seen  federal unemployment checks cut by about 11 percent cuts due to the sequester.
“It pains and saddens me that there is no outcry to undo the sequester cuts for them,” says Judy Conti, a federal advocacy coordinator with the National Employment Law Project. “The political reality is that members of the House are not willing to do that.”
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