Tag Archives: budget

Obama Gets Real

By PAUL KRUGMAN, New York Times, December 5, 2013

Much of the media commentary on President Obama’s big inequality speech was cynical. You know the drill: it’s yet another “reboot” that will go nowhere; none of it will have any effect on policy, and so on. But before we talk about the speech’s possible political impact or lack thereof, shouldn’t we look at the substance? Was what the president said true? Was it new? If the answer to these questions is yes — and it is — then what he said deserves a serious hearing.
Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

And once you realize that, you also realize that the speech may matter a lot more than the cynics imagine.

First, about those truths: Mr. Obama laid out a disturbing — and, unfortunately, all too accurate — vision of an America losing touch with its own ideals, an erstwhile land of opportunity becoming a class-ridden society. Not only do we have an ever-growing gap between a wealthy minority and the rest of the nation; we also, he declared, have declining mobility, as it becomes harder and harder for the poor and even the middle class to move up the economic ladder. And he linked rising inequality with falling mobility, asserting that Horatio Alger stories are becoming rare precisely because the rich and the rest are now so far apart.

This isn’t entirely new terrain for Mr. Obama. What struck me about this speech, however, was what he had to say about the sources of rising inequality. Much of our political and pundit class remains devoted to the notion that rising inequality, to the extent that it’s an issue at all, is all about workers lacking the right skills and education. But the president now seems to accept progressive arguments that education is at best one of a number of concerns, that America’s growing class inequality largely reflects political choices, like the failure to raise the minimum wage along with inflation and productivity.

And because the president was willing to assign much of the blame for rising inequality to bad policy, he was also more forthcoming than in the past about ways to change the nation’s trajectory, including a rise in the minimum wage, restoring labor’s bargaining power, and strengthening, not weakening, the safety net.

And there was this: “When it comes to our budget, we should not be stuck in a stale debate from two years ago or three years ago. A relentlessly growing deficit of opportunity is a bigger threat to our future than our rapidly shrinking fiscal deficit.” Finally! …

continue reading at New York Times

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Filed under Economy, Labor, Tax, US President

Department of Homeland Security: Bloated, Ill-defined Boondoggle

By Mattea Kramer, Chris Hellman at TomDispatch / AlterNet, February 28, 2013

After ten years, no one can define it or explain where all those billions of dollars went.

Imagine a labyrinthine government department so bloated that few have any clear idea of just what its countless pieces do. Imagine that tens of billions of tax dollars are disappearing into it annually, black hole-style, since it can’t pass a congressionally mandated audit.

Now, imagine that there are two such departments, both gigantic, and you’re beginning to grasp the new, twenty-first century American security paradigm.

For decades, the Department of Defense has met this definition to a T. Since 2003, however, it hasn’t been alone. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which celebrates its 10th birthday this March, has grown into a miniature Pentagon. It’s supposed to be the actual “defense” department — since the Pentagon is essentially a Department of Offense — and it’s rife with all the same issues and defects that critics of the military-industrial complex have decried for decades. In other words, “homeland security” has become another obese boondoggle.

But here’s the strange thing: unlike the Pentagon, this monstrosity draws no attention whatsoever — even though, by our calculations, this country has spent a jaw-dropping $791 billion on “homeland security” since 9/11. To give you a sense of just how big that is, Washington spent an inflation-adjusted $500 billion on the entire New Deal….

continue reading at AlterNet

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Filed under Economy, Labor, Tax, Peace, Security, Terrorism, War

Rein in wasteful Pentagon spending, don’t Cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid!

Text of petition by Keystone Progress:

As Congress gears up to make a deal on $1 trillion in automatic spending cuts, it is essential that programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are not cut to pay for more wasteful Pentagon spending.

With the Pentagon budget representing more than half of all discretionary spending, it is unconscionable that Congress would balance the budget on the backs of our most vulnerable, while Pentagon contractor CEOs make upwards of $26 million a year.

It’s time Congress listened to the American people they were elected to represent, not fat cat Pentagon contractors and their lobbyists. Do the right thing. Rein in wasteful Pentagon spending. Don’t cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits.

Sign at Keystone Progress

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