It looks like we’ve moved to talking about possible scandals just in time, because according to the Congressional Budget Office, the debt disaster that has obsessed the political class for the last three years is pretty much solved, at least for the next 10 years or so.
The last time the CBO estimated our future deficits was February– just four short months ago. Back then, the CBO thought deficits were falling and health-care costs were slowing. Today, the CBO thinks deficits are falling even faster and health-care costs are slowing by even more.
National park supervisors are preparing to open roads later, close visitor centers, furlough park police and hire fewer seasonal workers to meet the 5% sequestration budget cuts mandated by Congress and President Obama.
National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis issued a memo Friday stating that about 1,000 fewer seasonal workers will be hired this year, down from 10,000 last year. In a memo to Park Service employees, he said furloughs should be expected among park police, and that a $12 billion backlog in park maintenance will worsen.
There were an estimated 279 million visitors to national parks in 2011, the last year figures were available. Visitors this year are already seeing sequestration-related cuts; at some sites, the 5% reduction will be less obvious right away:
– The National Capital Region, which oversees parks and Civil War battlefields in and around Washington, D.C., is contemplating everything from less lawn-mowing and garbage pickup in Rock Creek Park to limiting hours of, or closing altogether, the visitor center at Antietam National Battlefield in Maryland, according to Park Service spokeswoman Jennifer Mummart. She said the region may hire only half the 400-450 seasonal employees it normally does.
I keep reading that sequestration is greatly exaggerated and that the cuts coming from sequestration are really nothing to worry about. Who is doing all this prediction? Why Republicans of course. The White House is being accused of fear-mongering and creating hype and a sky is falling environment. Why would Republicans say that? Probably because they know what caused this impasse. It all goes back to the brinkmanship of the debt ceiling crisis in July 2011. The sequester was a compromise reached so budge the house Republicans who would not vote to raise the debt ceiling. The alternative was to default on our debts.
The defense cuts are just one side of the sequester. There are also looming cuts that will impact our daily lives.
A state by state report warns of the following if sequestration happens this Friday. According to the Washington Post:
In the Washington region, hub of the federal government, the upcoming automatic spending cuts the Obama administration detailed Sunday would strike a tough blow, with nearly 150,000 civilian Defense Department employees facing furloughs and an estimated average loss of $7,500 in pay. Read more…
That’s right, in 7 Legislative days the Sequestration will take place. The Sequestration calls for $500 Billion dollar cuts to Pentagon spending and $700 Billion dollar cuts to non-pentagon spending.
How did we get to such a point with something so dangerous? The truth of the matter is, everyone expected that no one would let it happen.
The road to Sequestration started in July, 2011, when tea party Republicans attempted to block raising the debt ceiling, something which is done under every presidency. That catalyst set a series of unfortunate events into motion. First off, S & P down-graded our credit rating. Not by much, but a little. The stock market took an adverse reaction and many of us lost tens of thousands of dollars.
Yesterday’s board meeting definitely ended up being a “Sh**-Storm.” There really is no other way to put it. To date, the open thread is the location where it has already been discussed.
I noticed my usual crew was not here. I know why. We don’t allow county employees to be beaten up here. That rule will continue. They cannot fight back. However, that does not mean we cannot discuss events that involve them. There is a difference in beating someone up and discussing an event. Politicians are fair game, up to a point. Politicians can fight back as we have seen. I more or less use fact as a standard.
“He will not. Could I be more clear?” Carney said. “He will not support an extension of the upper-income Bush tax cuts. He could not be more clear.”
Clinton suggested on Tuesday that the cuts on higher-income earners should be extended temporarily to allow the economy more time to heal. But Obama has repeatedly said he wants them to expire as scheduled at the end of this year.
“President Obama has been clear about his position and it has not changed: We should not extend and he will not extend the tax cuts — the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of the American people,” Carney said Wednesday. “It’s bad policy. It’s bad for the economy.”
I haven’t figured out why middle class republicans are protecting the upper 2% like it was their own money. Someone is selling you a bill of goods. Who is better able to take increase? You or them?
On another note, while protecting the rich, it seems that the Republicans threw the American women under the bus:
President Obama railed against a Tuesday Senate vote where the chamber failed to approve the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill designed to Read more…
Governor McDonald has targetted 2 critical areas for huge cash infusions: VRS and higher education. The governor plans to pump over 2.2 Billion into the state pension plan. He also intends to spend over $200 million over the next two years in higher education. Both areas are quickly approaching critical mass of not being able to do what they are intended to do.
According to hamptonroads.com:
Gov. Bob McDonnell’s announcements this week that he intends to pour $2.2 billion into the state pension system and boost spending for higher education by $200 million over the next two years are remarkable in two respects.
First, each implicitly acknowledges what nearly everyone in Virginia has long known but pretended isn’t true: The state’s failure to keep up with its obligations has reached a tipping point.
That much has been clear on any number of issues, perhaps none more than on transportation, which McDonnell has begun addressing through debt and public-private partnerships that ensure costly tolls on primary routes in South Hampton Roads.
But a study released earlier this week by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission underscored the bleak future of the Virginia Retirement System and the thousands of state workers counting on it.
The report explained the pension system’s condition as a consequence of multiple factors: the state’s pattern of contributing less each year than recommended, the economic downturn, increasing numbers of retirees and fewer workers taking their place. Analysts have calculated VRS is underfunded by nearly $20 billion.
From the Richmond Times Dispatch:
Gov. Bob McDonnell on Monday unveiled a two-year, $84.9 billion spending plan that balances increases in transportation, higher education and the state’s pension system with $882 million in targeted reductions largely to Medicaid and public education funding. The proposed budget for July 1, 2012, through June 30, 2014, contains no tax increases but raises certain fees, including $10 million worth from the Department of Motor Vehicles.
If fees are increased at the DMV, doesn’t that really constitute a tax increase, by another name?
Additionally, if items like Medicaid and public education get shortchanged, doesn’t that simply make local governments more strapped for much needed cash? The real estate market has not rebounded all that much which is where the taxes come from in most localities. There is also a movement under way to do away with the BPOL tax.
Somehow politicians need to accept that we are not all that stupid. We know that neither PWC nor Virginia can print money. We know that a certain amount of money is needed for schools and for medicaid. If the buck stops here, we either do without cops and other public safety services or we have 40 kids in a classroom.
How do you cut back on Medicaid? Where do you start? Do you disqualify people? I don’t know the answers. It just seems that we are playing a shell game. The fed cuts what it gives to the states. The state cuts what it gives to the localities. The localities have things they must do like provide medicaid, education money and public safety. So we move it around.
This is like the song, Where have all the Flowers Gone. Gone to Flowers everyone. McDonnell is on Fox News bragging that he has a surplus. Not really. How about that money owed to VRS that has not yet been repaid? How about what is being shorted the localities? How about the increased fees? Just because we don’t call it a tax, is it still a tax? Yup.
I don’t really care. I noticed a huge hit since the last time I renewed my license. I expected it. But lets call it what it is. It’s a tax increase called a fee.
What is Congress doing? Is it so important to destroy a presidency that they are willing to sacrifice a country? Remember the words of Mitch O’Connell when he told us that that Republicans’ top priority during the next two years would be to defeat Obama.
There is no bipartisanship in the House nor in the Senate. Obama needs to recognize that the fist has been offered and he needs to act accordingly. The debt ceiling issue that led to the United States losing its AAA bond rating and the subsequent stock market free fall should have been fair warning. Many of us will not forget.
From The Washington Post:
“It’s not that 99 percent of Americans want a revolution,” Ezra Klein wrote Tuesday. “It’s that 99 percent of Americans sense that the fundamental bargain of our economy — work hard, play by the rules, get ahead — has been broken, and they want to see it restored.”
Almost 15 days later, the submissions are appearing at a more rapid pace. At the same time, thousands of people can now protest in their home cities, as Occupy Wall Street has spread nationwide.
Voicing opposition to everything from corporate greed and bank foreclosures to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and unemployment, the Web site Occupy Together estimates there are now “Occupy” movements in 291 cities.
As the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations move across America, I am becoming more and more convinced that this is a unique movement and isn’t just your usual professional demonstrator and anarchists. Yes, some of them are there. They have to be somewhere. However, more and more people in that sea of folks seem to be Americans who are just frustrated by foreclosures, joblessness, political rhetoric that misses the point, and general malaise concerning their fate in their America.
It is in the interest of the tea parties, the GOP and some Democrats to dismiss these people as kooks, commies, pinkos, anarchists, and professional agitators (that’s what they used to call them back in the day). Why? Because Occupy Wall Street (OWS) could end up being a huge groundswell of EveryAmerican who lacks the face of any political party and who just wants to put a stop to the absurdities and obstructionism going on in this country. Obviously the tea parties want to be the new kid on the block, but they aren’t really. They are just another branch of very conservative Republicanism, despite protests to the contrary. Read more…
Rep. Frank Wolf ripped into lobbyist Grover Norquist on the floor of the House today, stating that his no-taxes pledge has “paralyzed” Congress from doing what is necessary to tackle the deficit.
According to Politico.com:
“Simply put, I believe Mr. Norquist is connected with, or has profited from, a number of unsavory people and groups out of the mainstream,” Wolf said.
In an interview, Norquist dismissed Wolf’s remarks as a “hissy fit.”
“He gets in these silly attacks on me that are plagiarized from racist websites,” Norquist told POLITICO. “He’s got to know that this is garbage.”
Wolf, a 16-term congressman who sits on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, also accused Norquist of using his no-taxes pledge – signed by virtually every congressional Republican — as leverage to push causes that the lawmaker said “many Americans would find inappropriate.
Wolf, who has a long conservative voting record, has not signed Norquist’s pledge.
Wolf emphasized that he himself did not support tax increases – essentially the mission of Norquist’s organization, Americans for Tax Reform. But the no-taxes pledge, Wolf argued, was hamstringing Congress from being able to “realistically” pursue tax reform – which Wolf said was a critical component in taming the nation’s debt.
“Have we really reached a point where one person’s demand for ideological purity is paralyzing Congress to the point that even a discussion of tax reform is viewed as breaking a no-tax pledge?” Wolf asked.
“He gets in these silly attacks on me that are plagiarized from racist websites,” Norquist told POLITICO. “He’s got to know that this is garbage.”
Good for Frank Wolf. He understands the meaning of compromise. Its about time someone sent Norquist packing.
Nationaljournal.com had the following to say:
Norquist was dismissive of Wolf’s attack in an interview with National Journal. “He either doesn’t understand what the pledge is or he is not accurate in how he portrays it,” Norquist said. “He had a melt-down and a hissy fit and I hope he’ll sober up and get back to the issue of holding spending down, not raising taxes.”
No one is quite sure what set Rep. Wolf off and no other congressmen or women jumped in to back him up.
From the Huffington Post:
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is expected to seek a new base tax rate for the wealthy to ensure that millionaires pay at least at the same percentage as middle income taxpayers.
A White House official said the proposal would be included in the president’s proposal for long term deficit reduction that he will announce Monday. The official spoke anonymously because the plan has not been officially announced.
Obama is going to call it the “Buffett Rule” for Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor who has complained that rich people like him pay a smaller share of their income in federal taxes than middle-class taxpayers.
Buffett wrote in a New York Times op-ed piece last month that he and his rich friends “have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress.”
The measure would be in addition to $447 billion in new tax revenue that Obama is seeking to pay for his short-term spending and tax cutting plan to jump start the economy.
House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday he would oppose tax increasesto reduce the deficit. Boehner has urged Congress’ deficit “supercommittee” to lay the groundwork for a broad overhaul of the U.S. tax code.
The panel has almost unlimited authority to recommend changes in federal spending and taxes and is working against a deadline of Nov. 23.
Boehner said the panel has “only one option, spending cuts and entitlement reforms,” a reference to government benefit programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
It’s about time. Most of us are tired of hearing how everything is going to come off the packs of those receiving Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in order to protect the rich. If the rich are job producers? Where are the jobs? Oh, no one will create them because the economy is “skittish?” I repeat, where are the jobs? I suppose the ” job producers” aren’t really job producers. They are just people who want to keep their part of the pie and let the middle class shoulder the cost.
Any middle class person who falls for this like of bull puckey deserves to be taxed. However, leave me out out of it. And while we are on the subject of pet peeves, how about those entitlements? You know–the Social Security and Medicare that you and your employer have paid in to for decades. Entitlements my a$$! Touch my “entitlements,” lost your job! Is this where I say pry my SS check out of my cold dead hands? You get the picture. Fear the Boomers!
Warren Buffett’s op-ed click here.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP/The Huffington Post) — House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says he never suggested that disaster funds for victims of Hurricane Irene should be held up by budget concerns.
The Virginia Republican told reporters after meeting constituents on Wednesday in Richmond that the House has already found sufficient savings to provide billions in dollars in disaster relief for victims of Irene, the hurricane that pummeled the East Coast this past weekend.
Cantor says it is the Democratic-led Senate that is holding up legislation that would authorize funds for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
He adds: “There are no strings attached. We found the money.”
Cantor forgets that we all heard what we heard on video. How strange that after he gets guff from all sides about making insensitive remarks in the event of a major US natural disaster, he finds the money? This is a fast job of back-pedaling and it is very obvious that Cantor was just trying to score some points with his conservative base.
There are some things that just aren’t subject to the ‘cut the spending’ mantra of Cantor’s tea party politics. Meanwhile, where is Katia? Hopefully Katia is blowing out to see. Many areas in the Northeast still haven’t seen the last of the ravages of Irene.
Was Cantor trying to tell us that Harry Reid made him make those stupid remarks? Yea, that’s the ticket. Harry Reid made him do it.
The United States National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is part of the United States Department of Energy. It works to improve national security through the military application of nuclear energy. The NNSA also maintains and improves the safety, reliability, and performance of the United States nuclear weapons stockpile, including the ability to design, produce, and test, in order to meet national security requirements.
Basically these are the guys that go in to countries and obtain the most dangerous material in the world. The Peace SEALS, as it were.
The National Nuclear Security Administrations was created by Congressional action in 1999, in the wake of the Wen Ho Lee spy scandal and other allegations that lax administration by the Department of Energy had resulted in the loss of U.S. nuclear secrets to China. Originally proposed to be an independent agency, NNSA gained the reluctant support of the Clinton Administration only after it was instead chartered as a sub-agency within the Department of Energy, to be headed by an Administrator reporting to the Secretary of Energy. The first NNSA Administrator appointed was Air Force General (and CIA Deputy Directory) John A. Gordon.
NNSA has four missions with regard to National Security:
- To manage the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.
- To reduce global danger from weapons of mass destruction and to promote international nuclear safety and nonproliferation.
- To provide the United States Navy with safe, militarily effective nuclear propulsion plants and to ensure the safe and reliable operation of those plants.
- To support United States leadership in science and technology
On the Senate side, Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) will serve on the commission, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced. Reps. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) will represent House Republicans, said Speaker John Boehner.
All six Republicans have signed a pledge to Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform that they will not vote to raise taxes.
Well, why bother to even meet. These people have sworn allegiance to Grover Norquist, whoever the hell he is. Any tax code change, and additonal federal fees is raising taxes. Increasing the Social Security ceiling is a form of ‘raising taxes.’ Making someone who currently doesn’t pay federal taxes start paying them is ‘raising taxes.’
I think that kind of ‘pledge’ should disqualify each and every one of those Republicans. You cannot come in to negotiate something with that kind of caveat. It won’t work. They either have to commit to serving the United States or Grover Norquist.
Senator Reid appointed Democratic Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) to serve on the committee. If any of these Democrats have pre-existing pledges under their belt, they should be disqualified also.