Tag Archives: budget deficit

Kansas City Under Occupation


That’s right, the Occupy Wall Street movement is making noise in the heartland. According to the Kansas City Star, a group of around 300 protesters are camped out at Penn Valley Park across from the Kansas City Federal Reserve building. They had various signs and people speaking and all of that. The question still looms over this entire movement though. What do they want?

The answer doesn’t seem to be even remotely clear. I’ve heard various reports on these protests from different places in the country. To me it seems that people are just mad. The groups seem to have some diversity in political ideology, though it’s hard to tell how much. They seem to not like the idea of “corporate personhood” or the large amount of corporate influence in our elections.

I’ve yet to decide what I think of all of this. The footage I’ve seen looks like young people who want real change. Think of the beginnings of the Tea Party. It was a bunch of people who got upset over government bailouts of corporations and a ballooning deficit. They talked about fiscal responsibility and people from different sides of the political spectrum were involved. Then the ultra-right hijacked the movement using vast sums of money and turned it away from balancing the budget. Suddenly, The Tea Party was about cutting government spending and lowering regulations and taxes. Those who were not staunch conservatives left, and we had a national movement spouting talking points for billionaires and corporations. It is still to be seen if this movement will suffer the same fate from the right or the left.

After reading the piece on the Star’s website I took a look at some of the comments. One guy tried to somehow make an argument using Abraham Lincoln. I’m not sure why. Anyway, I came across this comment by playon266:

“as they all celebrate by making calls, taking pictures, and sending texts on their smart phones (made by big corporations, on carriers that are big corporations)… and then while driving home in their car or truck or hybrid (all made by big corporations), they’ll stop at Wal-Mart (a HUGE corporation) and buy cheap food (from corporate food producers) and cheap imported products (from big FOREIGN corporations)… and they’ll think they made an impact. Interesting…”

He makes a point. Corporations exist because we support them. If no one  went to Wal-mart, we would not complain about the evils of Wal-Mart. Playon662 misses the point however. These protesters don’t want corporations to be eliminated, they want them to get the same treatment we do. They want them to pay taxes. They want them to have less influence in our political system. They want the everyday citizen to pay less in taxes than the corporation with a multi-billion dollar profit margin.

Two pieces were written at the Kansas Free Press, about the Occupy Wall Street protests. One, by Christina Stein, celebrates the activism and drive of the protesters. The other, by Ken Poland, questions whether these protesters have the knowledge and ability to exact change. You should read them both.

It is too early to know what these protests will accomplish, if anything. One thing seems sure; the protests are spreading. The coming days will show if Americans are truly angry, and if they are, will politicians listen?

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Be Subject To One Another


“Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.” -Ephesians 5:21, New Revised Standard Edition

In this day in age of 24 hour cable crap devoted to feeding the voyeuristic gluttony of an American public hooked on bad soap opera that passing itself off as important, don’t you think we could find some relevance in verse 21″ – President Josiah Bartlet on “The West Wing”

In this time of natural disaster when communities across the country are ravaged by tornado and flood, wouldn’t it help if we were concerned more with others than ourselves. Tornadoes ripped through the South recently killing hundreds. Just two days ago a huge tornado leveled much of Joplin, MO. In between those two events the Mississippi River overflowed causing damage to hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland. People all over this country have lost their livelihoods. Families have been destroyed. Communities of been splintered. Now, I am not the pinnacle of a devout Christian, but if ever there was a time for us to be subject to others, it is now.

That is why I firmly believe House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) should be run out of Washington. To be fair, I’ve never liked Mr. Cantor. I stand opposed to nearly everything he believes. That would be fine. Disagreements are good. A healthy debate is necessary in this country. Unfortunately, Mr. Cantor is not concerned with what is best for the people of this country. He seems more concerned with winning. Politico reported on Monday that Mr. Cantor said, “if there is support for a supplemental, it would be accompanied by support for having pay-fors to that supplemental.”

In other words if were going to help people whose lives have been destroyed, we have to cut spending in an equal amount. In February, Mr. Cantor voted no to an amendment that eliminated funding to build an extra engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The Defense Department didn’t want the engine, but Mr. Cantor thought the program was a good way to spend 435 million dollars a year. That money could buy a lot of bottled water for people in Joplin, Tuscaloosa and Vicksburg.

I can’t express how angry I am that Republicans are trying to tie everything that happens in this world to spending cuts. It would be one thing if they wanted to balance the budget, but they don’t. They want to reduce the size of the federal government so that they can slash taxes for the rich.

This is about helping people who have lost everything.  In this country when our fellow citizens are lying at rock-bottom we reach out and lift them up. We find the money. It doesn’t matter if  we have to borrow it from China or raise taxes on everything from business to income or property.  We look after our own.

Mr. Cantor should apologize to every American who has lost a family member, or friend in these disasters. It is offensive to suggest that we should be talking about how to make disaster relief deficit neutral less than twenty-four hours after the second deadliest tornado since 1950 is confirmed to have killed 125 people. 700 residents of Joplin are still missing. The death toll is likely to rise significantly, and Mr. Cantor wants to talk about spending cuts.

America is only a great nation if it takes care of its citizens at their greatest time of need. That means when disaster strikes FEMA sweeps in and does all it can do to help. It means we do whatever we need to do, and pay for it however we can. We don’t haggle over deficits, and spending cuts. We do the job of helping people rebuild their lives. That is the most important thing the government can do. Mr. Cantor could learn something about being subject to others. In 2012, I hope he remembers that he is certainly subject to the voters of Virginia’s 7th district. I hope they hold him accountable.

Stand Your Ground, Mr. President


After scanning the news one particular thing stuck out at me. We can’t borrow anymore money. That’s correct the U.S. has reached its debt limit. Apparently due to some fancy accounting we are still paying our bills, but only for a few months. The President has called for the debt limit to be raised. Treasury Secretary Geithner has warned of dire economic conditions if it is not. The general consensus among economists and most politicians is that this must happen. Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposal even said:

“The first sign that a debt crisis has arrived is that bond investors lose confidence in a government’s ability to pay its debts – and by that point, it is usually too late to avoid severe disruption and economic pain.” Rep. Ryan’s Budget Proposal Pg. 21

Defaulting on our debt will certainly cause investors to lose confidence. So why hasn’t an increase passed it? Republican’s want more spending cuts.

The debt ceiling debate is driving me crazy. Speaker John Boehner is out calling for spending cuts equal to the increase in the debt ceiling. That’s ridiculous and impossible. We can’t cut spending by the amount the debt ceiling will need to go up. If we did it wouldn’t be long before we completely defund the federal government. The possible implications of not raising the debt ceiling are huge. Everyone seems to agree that if the U.S. stops paying its bills the effect on the global economy would be catastrophic. The result in this country would be unimaginable. The worst part is that John Boehner isn’t against raising the debt ceiling. He’s just against it when a Democrat is President. Not that his hypocrisy doesn’t exist across the aisle. Democrats are eager to raise the debt limit now, but they were more that happy to complain about it just a few years ago. For his part, Mr. Boehner has voted to raise the debt ceiling multiple times in the past. A number of these votes are hard to find, because under House rules some legislation is passed without anyone’s vote being recorded. How’s that for open government? It is record that in 2002 and 2004 (when President Bush was in office) he voted to raise the debt limit. He voted that way because it was necessary and John Boehner isn’t a lunatic. At least I hope he still isn’t. I should note that President Obama is calling for a raise in the debt limit, but when President Bush sat in the Oval Office, then Sen. Obama, along with many Democrats, voted against the increase. He now says that was a mistake. It was.

When it comes to budget deficits, debt limits and other things involving money, the reality is that it’s all politics. This is a non-partisan issue being used for partisan gain. Do you want evidence? We’ve had a budget deficit for 10 years. Republican’s just got angry about it when a Democrat was in the White House. Congress has voted to raise the debt ceiling a number of times in the past decade. Republicans supported it all of them until President Obama took office. Democrats were against them at that same time. Then a magical thing happened. On Jan. 20th, 2009, President Obama was sworn in and everybody changed sides. It’s like everybody was suddenly persuaded by the other side’s point of view. If only one argument had been so compelling, we wouldn’t have this stalemate. Unfortunately, both sides were so convincing we just ended up right back where we were. Sentences like that make me wish there was a “sarcasm key” on your standard QWERTY keyboard.

This should not be an argument. We have to pay our bills, and bickering over some arbitrary limit imposed on the government nearly one hundred years ago is childish. I like that the debt ceiling brings public attention to our national debt. It’s important that we pay attention to what we are spending. Using that attention to promote a drastic partisan agenda, however, is irresponsible. John Boehner seems to think that spending isn’t getting enough national attention. We’ve been talking about spending for months. There are groups in both the House and the Senate working on budget compromises. Rep. Paul Ryan unveiled the Republican ideas for reducing the deficit weeks ago. President Obama released his proposal shortly thereafter. THIS ISN’T ABOUT THE BUDGET. This about whether or not we will live up to the commitments we have made. The budget should be a different debate, and it is a debate we are having.

That’s why I believe the President should stand his ground and not give in. For what might be the first time in his Presidency, he’s in a game of political “chicken” and he doesn’t need to flinch. Everybody knows that this has to happen. Yes, some of the new Tea Party supported members of Congress may be clamoring for spending cuts. I think that why Boehner is out causing a ruckus. In the end, the establishment of the Republican party will make sure our economy doesn’t collapse, and will continue the spending debate as they prepare the next budget.

The vote over the debt ceiling shouldn’t even be big news. It would be to the political advantage of both parties to quietly pass it instead of engaging in such obvious hypocrisy. If they don’t get what they want enough of them will still vote for it that the increase passes. Republicans just want the best political advantage they can get going into the next election. They will look at swing districts where a Republican is the incumbent, and a no vote will be popular and those members will vote no. They will look at districts where a Democrat is the incumbent, and a no vote would be popular and special interests will make huge ad buys in the 2012 election.

We have to raise the debt limit and we all know it. So, John Boehner can raise a ruckus about spending. Democrats and Republicans can hope that the public ignores how hypocritical they have been on this issue. Republicans will jump on any notion of conciliation from the White House. If the White House doesn’t give them the chance, they will still pass the debt limit increase.

Stand your ground, Mr. President. This is one fight you’re going to win.

Today I Praise Republicans. Well, Three Republicans.


A couple of Republican Senators caught me by surprise on Sunday. Both Sen. Tom Coburn, and Sen. Saxby Chambliss said that raising government revenue should be considered in the attempt to balance the budget. This goes against not only the Republican budget proposal in the House, but also the Republican talking point that the governments problem is spending not revenue.

Coburn and Chambliss are both part of the “Gang of Six” who are Senators looking for a budget compromise in the Senate. Coburn has come under fire from conservative activist Grover Norquist who says he is going back on his word. Specifically, Sen. Coburn signed an oath with Americans for Tax Reform that said he would not vote to raise taxes. Coburn’s repsonse was very direct. He said:

“Well, I think which pledge is most important, David , is the pledge to, to uphold your oath to the Constitution of the United States or a pledge from a special interest group who, who claims to speak for all of American conservatives when, when in fact they really don’t.”

For a Republican to fire back at a conservative special interest group like that caught me way off guard. Sen. Chambliss was far less fiery when talking about revenue. On CNN, he said:

” Now, if we don’t want to pay the debt back, then we could just not worry about the revenues. But the fact is we’ve got a $14 trillion debt staring us in the face, and revenues has to be on the table if we’re serious about attacking that debt.”

Both quotes come from this NPR story.  It’s important that two Republican senators have put raising revenue on the table. Democrats have already acknowledged that spending needs to be cut. Now, we at least have a group working at both sides of the problem, revenue and spending.

Coburn’s idea for raising revenue is certainly going to be a hard sell to Republicans. He wants to eliminate tax deductions, and credits in the tax code. This will cause businesses and individuals to pay more in taxes. Republicans have often called this a “tax increase.”  As the Boston Globe reported  last July, House Republicans opposed the act to give healthcare to 9\11 first responders because it included a “corporate tax increase.” The bill would have prevented foreign corporations from not paying taxes on profit earned in the US.

I don’t see that as a tax increase. Our tax code says you should pay this much. It then says if you do certain things the government will give some of that money back (a tax credit) or not tax you on that income (a tax deduction.) This is the government’s way of influencing our behavior. It is a version of positive reinforcment. For those of you not schooled in psychology, positive reinforcement is when you provide a reward for a certain behavior with the intention of increasing the probability that the same behavior will reoccur. So, when the government offers a tax credit to first time homebuyers they are trying to increase home ownership by giving a financial incentive. Taking away that tax credit is not really raising taxes it’s just not providing that incentive.

I like to use the metaphor of a retail business, perhaps a grocery store. When you walk into a grocery store everything has a price. It’s usually listed right on the shelf below the item. From time to time the store wants to encourage you to buy particular items. Maybe they have a large supply of something and they want to move some product. For a time that item costs less. As people buy enough of a particular item, the store will end the sale. Did the store raise prices? Not really. The price of that item did technically go up, but it just went to the normal rate. In the same way, when the government says a particular tax credit or deduction is expiring, they aren’t raising taxes. They are really just saying we need to start paying full price again.

Perhaps thats not important right now, but I wanted to make a point. In the end I applaud Sen. Coburn, Sen. Chambliss as well as Sens. Conrad, Durbin, Warner, and Crapo for trying to do real work for the people of this country. I hope they are successful in finding a good compromise.

Cutting Taxes To Fix The Budget? Really?


The Republican congressman who chairs the House Budget Committee, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan,  unveiled the Republican budget proposal for the next fiscal year. I thought it was a little confusing. In the last election the Tea Party had a big influence. Supposedly this was based on the idea that we needed fiscal responsibility. The deficit is too large, the debt is out of control and we have to do something about it. The Republican party seized this message and said they were the ones to fix it. They won many elections and gained control of the House. They now have the opportunity to prove to their base that they are serious about fiscal matters. So I was a little confused about the fact that the proposal won’t balance the budget.  It calls for trillions of dollars in spending cuts over the next decade, but still doesn’t get us back to even, How is that possible? That’s a good question. The answer is that Congressman Ryan’s proposal would also lower the highest tax rate to 25%. That’s %10 less than now.

Why aren’t we seriously concerned with balancing the budget? Republicans have taken Tea Party enthusiasm and used it to propose a radical government limiting agenda without attempting to solve the issue the Tea Party is supposed to be all about. Cutting government spending may have some merit. Balancing the budget and reducing the national debt makes sense. To accomplish that goal with a one-sided approach that assumes government programs are just to expensive isn’t the answer. Why don’t we examine the fact that tax revenues are down. As soon as President Bush cut income taxes in 2001 we went from surplus to deficit. That trend has continued. All the while Republicans have opposed tax increases on anyone, and measures to enforce tax collection on corporations. They proposed cutting the IRS budget for tax enforcement by $600 million, which could lower tax revenues $4-6 billion, and now they want to lower the top tax rate 10%.

Congressman Ryan’s proposal put forth ideas about changing Medicare and Medicaid. While I don’t necessarily agree with them, at least this can start a debate, and a debate is a good thing.d I’ve said we need to look at 4 things: Medicare and Medicaid, Social Security, Defense spending, and tax rates. Working with those things is how we are going to balance the budget. So far Republicans want to cut non-defense discretionary spending by at least $33 billion, probably more. That won’t do any good. Democrats have refused to join the debate over entitlement programs. A lack of involvement won’t do any good. Republicans have refused to discuss defense spending, and now they are proposing lowering tax rates by a huge margin. This isn’t the Bush tax cuts. This proposal cuts over $4 trillion of government spending in the next decade and won’t balance the budget?

We need to address the budget issue, but we can’t do that by intentionally cutting government revenue. The wealthiest Americans might benefit from this proposal but the majority of Americans will suffer.

My Spending Fight Continues. . .


I will post a more in-depth look at this issue tomorrow. Unfortunately, I didn’t get started early enough today to finish it. Just as a preview, the House voted to eliminate all federal funding for public broadcasting. Like American children since 1969 I was raised on Sesame Street. This is one of those things in the budget that really gives back to society and to cut funding for informative, educational programming is disgusting. Without getting off on a rant, I believe we should all write our Congressmen and Senators; write the President if you want and say keep funding public broadcasting. It’s the right thing to do.

An Interesting Vote


NPR had a very interesting report this evening.  The House of Representatives voted to stop a 465 million dollar a year program that builds an engine for the f-35 Joint Strike Fighter. This is not the primary engine, which is made by Pratt & Whitney. This is an alternative engine built by GE. Defense Secretary Robert Gates called it “the extra engine” in a Senate hearing. The Bush Administration wanted to kill the program. The Obama administration would also. The Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps agree. Most importantly the Defense Department says it’s unnecessary and the money could be used elsewhere. The House just did what they all recommended. Why is this an interesting story then? It seems pretty cut and dry.

The interesting part is the vote. It was 233 to 198. The majority of Republicans voted to sustain funding. They voted to keep a program that costs hundreds of millions of dollars a year when the people who benefit from that program want to get rid of it.  This is the party that is currently talking about the need for drastic budget cuts. This is the party claiming to be all about fiscal restraint. House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan proposed cutting billions of dollars from programs like HeadStart, and the funding for Pell Grants. Now his party votes to maintain funding for an “extra engine” for a fighter jet we probably don’t even need. Just last year after building 187 F-22 fighters the Defense Department decided they didn’t need them. They would rather put more time and money into the F-35. So now the question is will we need the F-35? Or after billions of dollars spent will they say we need to move on to the next generation? Defense spending has to be brought under control.

That is just a quick thought. I will talk a lot more about defense spending this weekend when I write my opinion on the upcoming budget battle. We will soon see if anyone in Congress is willing to tackle the deficit issue. Likely, we’ll see a bunch of people saying what they think is important to getting elected. Campaign season never really stops these days.