Archive for Budget

He Has Them Right Where He Wants Them

That’s okay, Barack, you’ll get ‘em next time:

Another day, another congressional shutout of O’s latest unserious gimmick. That makes three in the past year. The Senate torpedoed his last budget 97-0 in May 2011, then the House dropped a goose egg on him in March with a robust 414-0 tally. Now this.

610-0:

Republicans forced the vote by offering the president’s plan on the Senate floor.

Democrats disputed that it was actually the president’s plan, arguing that the slim amendment didn’t actually match Mr. Obama’s budget document, which ran thousands of pages. But Republicans said they used all of the president’s numbers in the proposal, so it faithfully represented his plan.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican, even challenged Democrats to point out any errors in the numbers and he would correct them — a challenge no Democrats took up…

The White House has held its proposal out as a “balanced approach” to beginning to rein in deficits. It calls for tax increases to begin to offset higher spending, and would begin to level off debt as a percentage of the economy by 2022. It would produce $6.4 trillion in new deficits over that time.

Said Mitch McConnell of Reid’s refusal to offer his own budget, “They’re so unserious they won’t even vote for a budget that was written by a president of their own party. It doesn’t get more irresponsible than that.”

I didn’t know what to do with this story as a stand-alone—but it fits here:

Democratic leaders have defiantly refused to lay out their own vision for how to deal with federal debt and spending, arguing that last summer’s debt-ceiling deal essentially serves as an actual budget. While a budget resolution is non-binding, they say, the Budget Control Act was signed into law.

But a few centrists in the 53-member Democratic conference expressed frustration with their party’s budget inaction.

“Anything we can do to force the Senate to deal with the debt is important to do, and the sooner the better,” Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who caucuses with Democrats, told POLITICO. “I don’t think [Democrats] will offer their own budget and I’m disappointed in that.”

Freshman Sen. Joe Manchin has often said he would have been “impeached” if he failed to produce a budget as West Virginia governor, though he conceded there are differences between the state and Senate budget processes.

“Sure I have a problem with [failing to offer a budget]. As a former governor, my responsibility was to put a budget forward and balance it, so anyone who comes from the executive mindset has a problem with that. I don’t care if you’re Democrat or Republican,” Manchin said in an interview.

I don’t know if two Democrats (one technically an Independent) qualifies as “a few”, but I take the point. While the Blue Dog Democrat may be extinct, there might still be a few in the remotest parts of the country that are genetically distinct.

As a former Democrat (for over 25 years), I can’t even imagine what I ever saw in these people.

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0 – 414

The Great Uniter brings Left and Right together:

President Obama’s budget was defeated 414-0 in the House late Wednesday, in a vote Republicans arranged to try to embarrass him and shelve his plan for the rest of the year.

The vote came as the House worked its way through its own fiscal year 2013 budget proposal, written by Budget Committee Chairman Paul D. Ryan. Republicans wrote an amendment that contained Mr. Obama’s budget and offered it on the floor, daring Democrats to back the plan, which calls for major tax increases and yet still adds trillions of dollars to the deficit over the next decade.

“It’s not a charade. It’s not a gimmick — unless what the president sent us is the same,” said Rep. Mick Mulvaney, a freshman Republican from South Carolina who sponsored Mr. Obama’s proposal for purposes of the debate. “I would encourage the Democrats to embrace this landmark Democrat document and support it. Personally, I will be voting against it.”

But no Democrats accepted the challenge.

Senate Democrats have said they will not bring a budget to the floor this year, though Republicans in the chamber have talked about trying to at least force a vote on Mr. Obama’s plan there as well.

Last year, when they forced a vote on his 2012 budget, it was defeated 97-0.

You know why people (and businesses and institutions and nations) have budgets? To allocate finite resources. But why live within a budget if you don’t have to worry about where your next buck is coming from? That’s why Republicans vote for budgets and Democrats vote against them. Heck, Dems don’t even bother writing them.

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You Can Pay Me Now, or Pay Me Later

And you seriously expect me to believe that Obama’s not beatable?

Less than a year ago, the House of Representatives passed a budget that took on our generation’s greatest domestic challenge: reforming and modernizing government to prevent an explosion of debt from crippling our nation and robbing our children of their future.

Absent reform, government programs designed in the middle of the 20th century cannot fulfill their promises in the 21st century. It is a mathematical and demographic impossibility. And we said so.

We assumed there would be some who would distort for political gain our efforts to preserve programs like Medicare. Having been featured in an attack ad literally throwing an elderly woman off a cliff, I can confirm that those assumptions were on the mark.

But one year later, we can say with some confidence that the attacks have failed. Courageous Democrats have joined our efforts. And bipartisan opposition to the path of broken promises is growing.

And so Tuesday, House Republicans are introducing a new Path to Prosperity budget that builds on what we’ve achieved.

When you compare the Republican leadership figures like Paul Ryan with Democrat leadership figures like Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, it’s like comparing Mt. Rushmore to a landfill. Both may be rises in the topography, but one is chiseled with the faces of American leadership and the other is built on a lot of garbage.

It is rare in American politics to arrive at a moment in which the debate revolves around the fundamental nature of American democracy and the social contract. But that is where we are. And no two documents illustrate this choice of two futures better than the president’s budget and the one put forward by House Republicans.

The president’s budget gives more power to unelected bureaucrats, takes more from hard-working taxpayers to fuel the expansion of government, and commits our nation to a future of debt and decline.

The contrast with our budget couldn’t be clearer: We put our trust in citizens, not government. Our budget returns power to individuals, families and communities. It draws inspiration from the Founders’ belief that all people are born with an unalienable right to the pursuit of happiness. Protecting this right means trusting citizens, not nameless government officials, to decide what is in their best interests and make the right choice about our nation’s future.

But do citizens trust themselves? That’s the real question, and the answer isn’t clear.

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Uh. Oh. California Going Broke. Again.

What can be done?

The state controller has estimated that the state will run out of money sometime this month. California will need to find $3 billion in cuts or revenues to keep the state in the black through the rest of this fiscal year.

And next year looks even worse. California’s Legislative Analyst Office projects that, even with billions in one-time revenues from Facebook’s impending IPO, Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget will run a $6.5 billion deficit.

Democrats in state government are desperate for cash. And they are beginning to cannibalize their local government brethren for revenues to make up the difference. The state’s more than 400 redevelopment agencies have become one of the first targets.

Created in the 1940s, RDAs empower a city or county to identify almost any parcel of land as a “redevelopment area.” When that is done, state property tax revenues from that area are frozen and any subsequent increase in property tax revenue beyond the frozen level goes directly to the RDAs.

What a nifty trick! So, the state can take the taxes from Your Town, CA, intended for the roads and schools, and instead waste them on a new Volt plant?

Intended for “economic development,” RDAs quickly became the bread-and-butter of almost every pay-to-play construction project in the state. Developers would give money to local politicians, and those politicians would use the RDAs, and their powers of eminent domain, to obtain land for their campaign contributors on the cheap.

Developers then made millions building upscale shopping malls like Victoria Gardens in Rancho Cucamonga. Everybody won … except the free market and taxpayers.

In 2010, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger tried to close his multi-billion dollar budget gap by raiding the RDA. Developers didn’t like that. They fought back with Proposition 22, which passed in November 2010. The measure forbids the state from siphoning off RDA money.

Fast forward to 2011, when Brown hatched a new plan to get that $5 billion. Being a Democrat, he had no philosophical problem with governments picking winners and losers through crony capitalism. But he did want, to steal a phrase from the Godfather, to wet his beak a little.

So Brown passed two laws. The first outlawed the RDAs entirely. That was the stick. The second allowed the RDAs to exist, but only if they gave a certain percentage of revenues to the state every year. That was the carrot.

Well, go to the link for the rest. I’ve seen too much sausage being made for a beautiful Monday morning.

- Aggie

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Not a Bug, a Feature

Seriously, folks, this is by design:

The Jewish Federation of North America is opposed to the Obama administration’s fiscal 2013 budget that would limit the value of tax deductions for charitable contribution, saying that it would threaten charitable giving. The Orthodox Union said proposed changes could reduce charitable donations by $4 billion annually.

William Daroff, vice president for public policy and director of the Washington office of The Jewish Federations of North America said in a statement Monday, “Despite the fact that the White House had recently indicated that its tax reform proposals would not ‘disincentivize’ large charitable gifts, today’s Budget release is disappointing for America’s charities and the millions we support, particularly during this time of economic distress.

“The Administration has once again proposed limiting the value of charitable contributions. Such a change in the I.S. tax code will result in America’s charities losing billions of dollars a year in private support that our country desperately needs. As in past year, we will work with members of Congress to defeat this misguided proposal.”

Obama doesn’t want charitable donations; he wants government to decide where money goes. No one really disputes that. It’s his job to “spread the wealth”, not the wealthy’s.

A few years ago, Thomas Frank wrote a book called What’s the Matter With Kansas? The gist of it was that people adopted conservative beliefs that were at odds with their self-interests. As he saw things.

I couldn’t imagine a more elitist premise if I tried. Conservatives—people in general—are quite able to adopt politics that agree with their world view without any help from liberal intellectuals, thank you very much.

Which is why I think Obama has to be defeatable. His policies are so at odds with American mainstream thinking that I have to believe we’ll overcome our fear of un-electing him (with the inevitable racial overtones) and vote for the Other Guy, whoever he or she may be (as long as s/he’s remotely credible). I believe… I think…

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United Addicts of America

Our first step is to admit we are powerless over our addiction:

Despite endless talk of spending cuts and fiscal restraint in Washington over the past year, lawmakers continued to act as though the government doesn’t spend nearly enough.

They introduced 874 bills in the House and Senate that would have boosted annual federal spending by more than $1 trillion if they’d all been signed into law, according to an analysis done for IBD by the National Taxpayers Union Foundation.

In contrast, lawmakers offered up just 215 bills to cut spending last year that would have reduced federal outlays by about half a trillion had they all been signed into law.

The analysis also found that for every dollar in cuts, lawmakers in the House proposed nearly $3 in spending hikes, and in the Senate $1.40 in hikes.

“Even at a time of massive deficits, Congress is still mostly occupied with pushing ideas to expand government spending,” said Demian Brady, senior policy analyst at the NTUF, which has been tracking spending bills for more than 20 years through its BillTally project.

The NTUF analysis found that congressional Democrats are by far the biggest spenders. Last year, 692 spending-hike bills had either all or majority Democratic sponsorship. Republicans, in contrast, sponsored just 126 such bills.

At the other end of the spectrum, GOP lawmakers introduced 172 bills that would have cut federal spending, compared with just 33 such bills offered up by Democrats.

Even if few of these bills were likely to make it all the way to the president’s desk, they are a sign of the ongoing pressure in Congress to boost spending, budget experts say, since there is far more time and energy spent on proposals to expand government than to shrink it.

Maybe my analogy is wrong. Maybe we’re not like addicts so much as like ocean freighters. It takes a very long time to turn one around, and the captain has swing the wheel in one direction or the other and hold it there.

Cap’n Obama is steaming directly toward the iceberg, steady as she goes. But then, Kenya is a landlocked country!

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As California Goes…

So goes Greece:

Gov. Jerry Brown said Tuesday that California needs to make about $1 billion in midyear cuts to schools and social services, as the state’s revenues fell about $2.2 billion below the rosy assumptions included in the budget he signed last summer.

Last summer: aka three months ago.

The budget passed by Democrats and signed by Brown included automatic midyear spending reductions — known as “trigger cuts” — if revenue projections don’t pan out. Brown has said the move was necessary to prevent the state’s credit rating from deteriorating further.

The cuts include up to $100 million each to the University of California, California State University, developmental services and in-home support for seniors and the disabled. Community college fees would increase $10 per unit, and reductions would be made for child care assistance, library grants and prisons, among other programs.

School advocates warned that an estimated 1 million students — many of them with special needs or from low-income and rural areas — will be affected by the loss of $248 million in home-to-school transportation funding. In addition, school districts will lose another $79.6 million under the trigger cuts.

I know these decisions sound harsh, but don’t people realize the money isn’t there? They’re not really cuts, because you can’t cut what doesn’t exist.

I love seniors and disabled kids and libraries and cons—but they were sold a bill of goods. California can’t pay for you, nobody can. Greece can’t—or I should say Germany. Certainly don’t look at me.

And this fraudulent budget was passed without Republican support, which tells you two things, one good, one bad. The bad is that that state is so lopsided with Democrats that they don’t need to involve the other party. The good is that the other party might offer a credible alternative to this jive.

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Claire as Mud

And this story starts so promisingly!

Sen. Claire McCaskill is charging House Republicans with pushing through 113 earmarks worth $841 million in a defense authorization bill that has yet to get to a vote, but a House GOP aide says the Missouri Democrat is late on the facts and late on the story.

With widespread release of a report by McCaskill, who has made fighting earmarks a cause celebre, McCaskill on Monday accused Republican Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon of engineering an “elaborate scheme” to deviate around the GOP pledge to not allow costly pet projects that are widely reviled by the voting public.

“This has to be a record turnaround for members of the House who claimed to be giving up their addiction to earmarks,” McCaskill said in a statement. “These representatives can insist all they want that they don’t do earmarking anymore, but if it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.”

But if it smells like BS, Madame Senator?

But a House Republican aide said McCaskill’s report is wrong on several counts, not least of which is that the legislation — approved by the committee in May — no longer exists in its earlier form. It has been reduced twice — once by the House Appropriations Committee and once by the Budget Control Act in August, the debt ceiling deal which required billions in cuts to defense spending over 10 years.

“Senator McCaskill’s report makes for a fun read, but it’s completely irrelevant — the provisions she complains about never made it to the bill,” House Armed Services Committee spokesman John Noonan told FoxNews.com.

“It’s deeply embarrassing that Senator McCaskill wasted untold staff time and resources that could have been better spent serving her constituents building a meaningless report that attacks provisions that don’t exist. And it’s bad form to invent your own definition of earmark, then conveniently apply it to the committee where your Senate opponent happens to sit,” Noonan said.

I would expect her to be embarrassed by getting caught in her little stunt, but I don’t think she’s smart enough.

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Just Words?

Words are so easy to toss around.

President Obama’s wild rhetorical gyrations have become familiar. Earlier this year, for example, he called budget cuts proposed by House Republicans “extreme,” suggesting they hurt “our most vulnerable citizens.” Yet after agreeing to many of them last Friday, he praised them as “worthwhile,” “common sense,” and evidence America is “beginning to live within our means.”

He’ll say whatever it takes to get elected. And we’ll buy it again, I fear.

The Heritage Foundation’s Brian Riedl points out Mr. Obama’s fiscal 2012 budget conjured up $700 billion in defense savings “by comparing the long-planned drawdown of Iraq and Afghanistan spending against a baseline that implausibly assumes those [war] costs would continue forever.” He also notes that the budget proposes $315 billion in savings from eliminating “certain tax expenditures,” but does not list which ones.

The $131 billion in losses taxpayers have suffered so far in bailing out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are miraculously reduced by almost half over the next decade, and the net savings are added to the budget—without any explanation how this can be accomplished. And $328 billion is created from what the administration’s budget calls “bipartisan financing for Transportation Trust Fund.” The White House denies it’s a gas tax increase, but refuses to say what it is.

Is there an encyclopedia of ways in which politicians lie? Or maybe an encyclopedia that catalogs the ways that Barack Obama lies? Let me count the ways… That would be a truly worthwhile project. I’d like to be able to quickly look at a phrase from a speech or interview and say.. “oh, that’s a common variety of robin’s egg, but that it the much rarer Goshawk egg, we rarely see it around these parts! I think all the entries should be named after birds, because his words are so fleeting… and their eggs just sort of appeal because his voters have egg all over their faces.

- Aggie

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Healthy Women of the World Unite!

You have nothing to lose but your babies!

Thank goodness Congress finally saw sense and came to an understanding that would keep Yellowstone, Yosemite, and women’s legs open.

I’m sorry, that was a cheap, coarse, vulgar joke entirely consistent with the tenor of this blog.

Democrats and Republicans narrowly averted a partial shutdown of the federal government Friday night, agreeing on a budget deal and a short-term funding extension little more than an hour before the clock struck midnight and time ran out.

The new funding extension, which cuts spending by $2 billion, will last through next Friday, April 15.

Wait, didn’t President Obama just two days ago dismiss a temporary fix offered by Boehner as a “distraction”, and didn’t Reid call it “dead on arrival”? Sure they did.

So, at the very least this is a humiliating climb-down by the Democrats, a face-loosing, ball-shrinking confession of defeat. And the media will portray it as such, right?

Right:

“The government will be open for business,” Obama said.

“Both parties reached an agreement that will allow our small businesses to get the loans they need, our families to get the mortgages they applied for, and hundreds of thousands of Americans to show up at work and take home their paychecks on time.”

Obama praised the agreement, calling the cuts “painful” but necessary to secure the country’s economic future.

This “is what the American people expect us to do,” the president said at the White House. “That’s why they sent us here.”

He also praised the deal as a model of bipartisan cooperation.

“Like any worthwhile compromise, both sides had to make tough decisions and give ground on issues that were important to them,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, called the deal “difficult but important for the country.”

If forcing the Democrats to eat [bleep] is “a model of bipartisan cooperation”, I’m all for bipartisan cooperation, but I can’t tell if that’s what happened. They’ve agreed on “a framework” of $38.5 billion in cuts, on top of $10 billion previously cut—about 80% of the $61 billion Republicans originally proposed. Pennies on the many dollars of national debt, but a symbolic victory nevertheless.

And remember, this is a mess the Republicans “inherited” from Nancy Pelosi (Speaker) and Charlie Rangel (Chairman of Ways and Means), who defected from their jobs of actually writing a budget when it was due last year. (To be fair, Rangel had other tax-related issues on his mind.) Small delays are common: such a complete abdication of responsibility is unique.

What does this have to do with abortion? The ship of state almost foundered on that issue and that issue alone (only it was euphemistically called “women’s health”). I’m all for calcium supplements and vitamin D pills, but I do wonder at the morality of federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Let’s be clear: no one has a problem with breast cancer screenings or pap smears. It’s about abortion.

If you go back through my cancelled checks in the 1980s, you will find annual contributions to Planned Parenthood—and precisely because of their stance on abortion. But regardless of my private view (legal, but with limitations, a rightward move from 25 years ago), abortion is not a right to be paid for by tax dollars from people who find it “abhorrent” (to borrow a word from my favorite liberal, Taffy).

If PP wants to counsel 13 million black women to abort their babies, Margaret Sanger would be proud—that’s just what she had in mind when she founded it.

But then can’t we get the Klan or Aryan Nation to pay for it? Surely, the genocide of black babies has to be worth something to the white supremacists among the Democratic Party.

In any case, enjoy you’re government. It’s not going anywhere.

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