Tuesday, February 15, 2011

US Budget Priorities Reflect Power of MIlitary Industrial Complex

Editor's NOTE:

Given that the Obama Administration budget calls for $3.7 trillion in spending and the projected tax revenue is only about $2.1 trillion, the projected 2012 budget deficit is at least $1.6 trillion.  Of note is that the combined US war and intelligence budgets (including the so-called "Black" budgetary items) exceed over $1.0 trillion annually. This represents 2/3's of the projected budget deficit for 2012. The obvious problem is that we are attempting to maintain an empire through armed force when as a nation we are close to being financially bankrupt. The power of the US military currently prevents our collapse. At what price however?  We are caught in a vicious cycle in which ever larger military outlays are required in order to maintain the American empire the cost of which simultaneously drives us deeper into debt. It is totally unsustainable!

As the articles below indicate, at least $500 billion of that $1.0 trillion war/intelligence/security budget could be eliminated without damage to US National Security. The reductions recommended by Secretary Gates and accepted by President Obama are totally inadequate and indicate that there is currently no desire to significantly reduce US military/intelligence/security spending. Instead, President Obama and the Republicans in Congress intend to reduce the budget deficit by punishing those Americans least capable of enduring it that is, the poor, unemployed, underemployed, middle class, union workers, sick, elderly etc. That approach is not only economically unsound, it is patently immoral.

The fact that the elite media cooperate in labeling President Obama a socialist is evidence that it has abandoned rationality for rank sophistry in its loyal service to the "Regime."  Given his actions to date, Barack Obama is behaving like a Republican by preferencing/benefiting the rich and powerful while abandoning the poor and middle class Americans who are largely responsible for his Presidency. This represents an unconscionable betrayal and must be recognized for what it is; a "sell-out" to the not so shadow government forces who now control our Regime.

The only way to save the United States is to radically reduce the size and cost of the ever expanding military/intelligence/security complex aka the "War Department" and its supportive infrastructure which presently consumes over half of all discretionary spending.

--Dr. J. P. Hubert

Obama budget projects record $1.6 trillion deficit

By Lori Montgomery
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 14, 2011; 4:26 PM

President Obama rolled out a $3.7 trillion budget blueprint Monday that would trim or terminate more than 200 federal programs next year and make key investments in education, transportation and research. The plan is aimed at boosting the nation's economy while reducing record budget deficits.


The Defense Department won the future, or at least the budget

By Ezra Klein
The Washington Post
February 14, 2011; 1:26 PM ET

One of the big lessons of this budget is that if you work in the federal government, you want Defense Secretary Robert Gates on your side when the budget cuts come around.

The military made out quite nicely in the 2012 budget proposal.
The administration is cutting $78 billion from the Defense Department's budget -- known as "security discretionary spending" -- over the next 10 years. That's a bit of a blow, but compare it to the $400 billion they're cutting from domestic discretionary spending -- that's education, income security, food safety, environmental protection, etc. -- over the next 10 years. And keep in mind that the domestic discretionary budget is only half as large as the military's budget. So if there were equal cuts, the military would be losing $800 billion. And you could argue that the politics of that make some sense: Military spending is one of the least popular categories of federal spending.

That's what the Fiscal Commission had wanted to do. "One of the Commission’s guiding principles is that everything must be on the table" they wrote. For that reason, they recommended "equal percentage cuts from both sides."
Nor were they the only ones who thought such cuts possible. The Sustainable Defense Task Force, formed by Barney Frank and Ron Paul (among others) and staffed by a who's who of military policy experts from both sides of the aisle, produced a report (pdf) recommending up to $960 billion in cuts over the next 10 years. These were cuts, the experts said, "that would not compromise the essential security of the United States." Others disagree with that judgment, of course. One of them was Gates, who warned that major cuts in his department would be "catastrophic."

He won. The $78 billion in cuts are the exact $78 billion in cuts Gates recommended. I bet there are more than a few Cabinet secretaries who wish they had that kind of power over the president's recommendations.

It's interesting to think about this in terms of the president's focus on "winning the future." He's been very careful to speak of our challenge as primarily one of bettering ourselves and our country, not fighting our competitors. To win the future, we need to educate our people, rebuild our roads, expand broadband Internet, invest in research and development. And some of those categories are, to be sure, getting a boost in this budget. But only a small one. The R & D budget, for instance, goes up by one percentage point. And many important programs -- like Pell Grants -- are getting shaved down.

If this is a fiscally responsible budget, then cutting $500 billion -- forget $800 billion -- from the Defense Department would've opened room for much more domestic investment. It also could've gone to pay down the debt. As it is, we're pumping that money into sustaining a fighting force that's orders of magnitude larger than anything retained by any other country. The theory implicit in that decision suggests that the fight to win the future might be rather different than the Obama administration is letting on.


The Breakdown: In an Age of Austerity, Can't the US Cut the Military Budget?

Christopher Hayes
The Nation
February 11, 2011

The US maintains the most expansive and expensive military on the planet. More than half of the annual budget goes towards "defense." But in the ongoing debates about the appropriate austerity measures to take, cuts to military spending have been insufficiently prioritized. On this week's edition of The Breakdown, D.C. Editor Chris Hayes and Institute for Policy Studies Research Fellow Miriam Pemberton discuss just how much the US could afford to cut Pentagon spending while maintaining its status as the dominant military force in the world.


Miriam Pemberton on the misleading nature of military spending "cuts" (article to follow below)

Center for American Progress article on reducing military spending  (highly recommended)

Robert Dreyfuss discussing the "civil war" in the GOP over demilitarization

Barney Frank on cutting NATO spending: "It Serves No Strategic Purpose"

The Independent's Robert Fisk discusses the costs of war in the Middle East


Military Spending Cuts: Depends on what the Meaning of 'On the Table' Is

By Miriam Pemberton
Institute for Policy Studies

February 10, 2011

Let's define budget cuts as spending less next year than this year. Nothing else should qualify.

Deficit pressure has put "everything on the table" for cuts, including the Pentagon. Everyone from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor to President Barack Obama agrees on this. But what they mean by this is all over the map.

The budget Obama will present to Congress next week will likely begin what the Pentagon is billing as $78 billion in cuts to its budget over five years. In fact these are cuts to their plans for expansion, i.e., slowing a proposed increase is being defined as a cut.

While both Obama and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan pay lip service to the "defense is on the table" mantra, both also exempt the defense budget from their budgetary restraining actions: a five-year discretionary freeze, in Obama's case, and $100 billion in cuts, in Ryan's.

The president’s debt reduction commission proposed real cuts, but these would leave the military budget only 5 percent below where President Reagan jacked it up to militarily defeat the Soviet Union — shortly before its collapse.

Defense Secretary Gates describes even those modest potential cuts as "catastrophic."
Let's define budget cuts as spending less next year than this year. Nothing else should qualify.

Savings aren't just needed because of the nation's massive debt. We also need to address our security deficit. The civilian and uniformed military leadership agrees on a key point: U.S. foreign policy needs to be less dominated by the military. Achieving that goal would entail decreasing the proportion of resources devoted to offense (the military) relative to defense (homeland security) and prevention (non-military foreign engagement). IPS will score this proposed budget's mix of security expenditures, and report the results after Obama releases it.


“Budgets,” Jim Wallis reminds us, “are always moral documents.”

John Nichols
The Nation

Barely a month after demanding that the Constitution be read into the Congressional Record, House Republicans voted against a motion to that would have protected against Patriot Act abuses of privacy rights. Then they voted to extend the act's surveillance authorities. The first test of that morality, explains the theologian who chairs the Global Agenda Council on Faith for the World Economic Forum, is how those with the least power, the fewest political connections and the greatest economic challenges fare. “Our budget should not be balanced on the backs of the poor,” says Wallis. “Cuts should not come from the services and programs that people rely on now more than ever. The reality is that we have a lot of wasteful spending in our federal budget, but most of it does not come from things that help the most vulnerable people in our society.”

So how does President Obama’s $3.73 billion budget proposal, which has as its takeaway line a promise to reduce deficits by $1.1 trillion over the next decade, fare on the moral test?

The president’s approach is far less draconian than was proposed last fall by the co-chairs of his deficit commission, who would have had the president consider processes of privatizing Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Obama is not proposing to raise the retirement age or to cut the benefits available to those who reach it. At the same time, he proposes new education spending and some needed investments in high-speed rail ($53 billion over the next six years), building a nationwide wireless network ($15.7 billion) and establishing a national infrastructure bank ($50 billion) that would encourage investment in needed projects to create jobs.

All that’s got House Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, sputtering about how the president “is abdicating leadership on that point.”

The president counters: “I’ve called for a freeze on annual domestic spending over the next five years. This freeze would cut the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade, bringing this kind of spending—domestic discretionary spending— to its lowest share of our economy since Dwight Eisenhower was President.”

But the way to a moral budget is not to try to strike some sort of balance between the Ayn Rand–derived fantasies of Paul Ryan and the reality that millions of American families rely on programs paid for by that “domestic discretionary spending” to survive.
The way to a moral budget is to assure that the most vulnerable Americans are protected. At the very least, it should place more serious demands of the wealthy and Pentagon contractors than on low-income and working-class households. The Progressive Chance Campaign Committee gets to the heart of the matter when it suggests: “Every proposed cut to necessary programs like Pell Grants and heating for low-income seniors needs to be judged in the context of the unnecessary tax cuts for Wall Street millionaires that passed at the end of last year.”

By that measure, the Obama budget—with its emphasis on domestic spending cuts that would would trim or terminate more than 200 federal programs in the coming year—fails some serious moral tests.

Among other things, the president’s proposed budget would:

• Cut $2.5 billion in heating assistance for low-income people.
• Cut $350 million from Community Development Block Grants.
• Save $100 billion over ten years by eliminating Pell Grants for needy students who want to take summer classes in order to finish their degrees sooner while allowing interest on graduate school loans to begin building up while students are still in school, meaning that the costs of getting an education will rise dramatically.
• Undermine an essential environmental initiative by cutting a quarter of the funding for the multi-state Great Lakes clean-up project. This project is especially important to so-called “rust-belt” cities where unaddressed pollution problems invariably poses the most serious health and safety threats to low-income and working-class neighborhoods.

The proposed cuts, coming just weeks after the president worked with Republican Congressional leaders to maintain Bush-era tax cuts for billionaires and to expand estate-tax exemptions for millionaires, drew a rebuke from Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, who chairs the Senate Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over labor, health and education programs.

Referring to proposed cuts that harm low-income Americans, Harkin said, “There can be pain, but I want to make sure it’s not just on them. I want to make sure there’s Wall Street pain, there’s Pentagon pain, that there’s wealthy pain.”

There will be specific opposition to the $2.5 billion hit Obama proposes for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP. Massachusetts Congressman Ed Markey, a top House Democrat, says the cut would “have a devastating effect on millions of American families.” Vermont Senators Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy and Congressman Peter Welch declared that: “the last thing we should be doing is making it harder for the most vulnerable people in this country to stay warm in the winter.”

But it is perhaps even more unsettling to see a move to slash the far-reaching antipoverty programming that is maintained with the help of Community Development Block Grant funding. “The question is why? Why pick on this program?” asks David Bradley, director of the National Community Action Foundation, who warns: “Once the Obama administration throws a poverty program in the water, it starts a feeding frenzy.”

By doing that, Ohio Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, the second-ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said the Obama administration is letting Republicans like Ryan set far too much of the agenda.

“His people aren’t giving us a very wise set of choices. They’re cotton-balling rather than hard-balling,” explained Kaptur, who said of Obama: “He keeps waiting for Congress to save him. He ought to save himself.”

So what is available in the way of wise choices for balancing the budget?

Even conservatives such as Kentucky Senator Rand Paul say that it makes sense to look at the military budget. The Obama budget includes recommendations for a set of Department of Defense spending reductions that could reach $78 billion reduction by 2015. That sounds good. But the actual 2012 budget request for the Pentagon is for more than $550 billion—a 5 percent increase over what the Department of Defense spent last year.

As Lawrence Korb, the former assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration who now serves as a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, notes (writing with CAP’s Laura Conley): “In inflation-adjusted dollars, this figure is higher than at any time during the Bush years or during the Cold War.”

Instead of the spike in Pentagon spending, Jim Wallis argues that, to meet the moral test of budgeting, it’s “time to cut needless military spending. The Pentagon currently takes up more than half of our country’s discretionary spending. This does not include the billions spent on other military related expenditures or most of our spending on homeland security…. Reps. Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) and Ron Paul (R-Texas) came up with a plan that they say would leave our country just as safe but save us $960 billion by 2020! Even with these cuts, we would still be by far the world’s most dominant military. When you list the countries in the world by order of their military expenditures, the United States tops the list and spends more than the next 13 countries combined.”

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