Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Deficit Doves By Amy Goodman

U.S. Air Force / Master Sgt. Jeremy Lock


Deficit Doves

Posted on Jul 20, 2010

By Amy Goodman

Getting out of the red is the new black. Deficit hawks have swooped down on the U.S. budget. This week, they attacked unemployment benefits.

Ultimately, they are going after Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid, the venerable programs once considered untouchable “third rails” of U.S. politics. These have been replaced by a new third rail, the defense budget. To really deal with annual deficits and a surging national debt, we are going to need to cut military spending.

We need some deficit doves.

First, let’s call it what it is: the war budget. The government formed the Department of War in 1789, and only in 1949 renamed it the Department of Defense. The war budget President Barack Obama recently sent to Congress, for fiscal year 2011, is $548.9 billion, with an additional $33 billion, which is the 2010 supplemental that is currently being debated in Congress, and $159.3 billion more “to support ongoing overseas contingency operations, including funds to execute the President’s new strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.” Recall, “overseas contingency operations” is how the Obama administration rebranded the “global war on terror.”

This is just the publicly available war budget. There is also a “black budget,” kept secret, for clandestine operations that former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair revealed was about $75 billion. As The Washington Post exposed this week, the post-9/11 security state has grown into a massive, unmanageable and largely privatized “enterprise.”

Over 2,000 for-profit firms and over 850,000 people with top-secret clearance are engaged in military and intelligence activities, ostensibly for the U.S. government, with seemingly little or no oversight.

Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., has submitted a bill, H.R. 5353, called “The War Is Making You Poor Act.” Grayson, with a few Republicans and a number of progressive Democratic co-sponsors, wants to force Commander in Chief Obama to run his two wars with “only” the $548.9 billion base budget. The $159.3 billion saved would be turned into a tax break, making the first $35,000 of income tax-free, and anything left over would be directed to paying down the national debt. The bill is in committee now and may generate genuine bipartisan support. Grayson, when introducing the bill, highlighted a fact worth repeating: The U.S. war budget is greater than the military spending of every other nation on Earth, combined.

Meanwhile, at the National Peace Conference to be held in Albany, N.Y., this weekend, people are targeting the military budget. Students are organizing around the connection between war expenditures and education budgets that are being slashed, sparking protests at campuses nationwide. Another effort, called “Bring Our War Dollars Home,” promotes action at the city council and statehouse level, along with grass-roots campaigns to pressure members of Congress to stop funding war.

The cost of the Iraq war was estimated by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, with his colleague Linda Bilmes, at $3 trillion, calculating not only hard, current costs, but also the cost to society of caring for wounded veterans, and the long-term costs of having so many families disrupted by caring for their injured loved ones, or having a breadwinner killed in action. And that’s just Iraq. As of May, the monthly cost of the war in Afghanistan surpassed, for the first time, the cost of war in Iraq.

Stiglitz was one of the many economists who said the economic stimulus package (at $787 billion) was too small. He argues that deficit spending, when done wisely, creates long-term returns for an economy.

Conversely, he wrote recently, “Deficits to finance wars or give-aways to the financial sector ... impos[e] a burden on future generations.”

Economist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research says President Obama’s Deficit Commission, formally the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, is a major cause for concern. The co-chairs are former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson and Democrat Erskine Bowles, who is on the board of Morgan Stanley, one of the bailed-out Wall Street firms. Baker told me: “Both are on record saying they want to cut Social Security. This should have people very, very worried. That isn’t a balanced commission.”

Cutting Social Security isn’t the answer. Cutting war spending, and bringing the troops home, is. This is the job for the deficit doves.

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 800 stations in North America. She is the author of “Breaking the Sound Barrier,” recently released in paperback and now a New York Times best-seller.

© 2010 Amy Goodman

Distributed by King Features Syndicate

U.S. Air Force / Master Sgt. Jeremy Lock
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  1. War $ back in House could lose - no procedural BS, no pretty amendments, just our demand for NO VOTESSubmitted by davidswanson on Mon, 2010-07-19 19:57* Afghanistan* CongressLatest from CQ is that the Senate will not pass the House version with the teacher funding. If, as it ought, this sends the war $ sans teacher $ and other lipstick back to the House, then we will have another vote there, this one without pretty amendments to confuse it, and this one either not a "procedural vote" or at least one we understand as meaningful. NOW WE DEMAND NO VOTES so go to the House again and call your Rep as well as others who are possibilities in your state.

    Plz go to the following for more info and send these to your peace lists!

  2. This just came from Americans for Limited Government (a group with whom I share much but not all in common):

    ALG Statement on Obama Signing Financial Takeover Bill

    July 21st, 2010, Fairfax, VA—Americans for Limited Government President Bill Wilson today issued the following statement in response to the signing of the Dodd-Frank financial takeover bill into law:

    "Today, Barack Obama claimed that 'the American people will never again be asked to foot the bill for Wall Street's mistakes,' and yet that is exactly what the Dodd-Frank financial takeover will do — it contains a hidden tax to finance a perpetual bailout fund.

    "This is taxation without representation. The Dodd-Frank bill authorizes the FDIC to levy without any vote in Congress an unlimited bank tax on bank holding and insurance companies with $50 billion or greater in consolidated assets, the costs of which will be passed on to consumers of financial products, savers, and investors, with more fees, higher premiums, and other hidden costs.

    "The bank taxes, which the American people pay for, will finance a so-called 'orderly liquidation fund', which will be used to bail out politically-favored firms and seize disfavored ones, redistributing their assets to privileged constituencies, as GM and Chrysler were redistributed to labor unions.

    "Since Obama is saying that bailouts and government takeovers will 'never again' occur, he bears responsibility for signing a bill into law that institutionalizes 'too big to fail' and ensures that the next time there is a crisis the American people will be on the hook, paying hidden taxes to fund more government interventions to prop up failing institutions, all without any vote in Congress."