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Saturday, April 9, 2011

NO SHUTDOWN - BUT THERE IS A SELLOUT

Well, gangers, the FedGov didn’t shut down. Planned Parenthood didn’t lose its funding. Whoopie.

I know, that’s cynical of me, but this didn’t accomplish much of anything for us, the people that voted this particular gang of rascals into office. I include myself in this crowd because I voted for the current President, who has, basically, turned into a Neville Chamberlin-style appeaser of as sickening and corrupt a gang of ReThugs as I’ve ever seen. I’ve been proud to be a liberal because liberals care about things that most of the rest of the world doesn’t have: clean water, clean air, abundant, clean food, good roads, good infrastructure for delivery of all of this plus electrical power, good education for all – everything that makes this nation great. We’ve cared for the poorest and the most powerless with Medicaid, food stamps and CHIP. We’ve cared for the elderly with Social Security and Medicare, with cheap, good meds and cheap, good medical care. We’ve cared for women’s health issues and the right of reproductive choice.

On Friday, April 8th, all of this basically came to an end. President Obama, basically, sold us all out – all of us, be we liberals, conservatives or loonie-tunes. I can understand why he did it, but I don’t like it, and I don’t believe that it was necessary. Who won the standoff isn’t really relevant; more important is who lost it. We did. We all did.

A Senate Appropriations Committee review says that most of the $2 billion in cuts contained in the one-week bill come from a $1.5 billion slashing of the Federal Railroad Administration's High Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail program. More cuts are achieved by hacking $220 million from the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Community Development Fund, and research into making air travel safer and more efficient took cuts as well. Next on the agenda? Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP. Take a good look at Paul Ryan’s budget proposals.

Specifically, the Ryan proposal trumpets the results of an economic projection from the Heritage Foundation, which claims that the plan's tax cuts would set off a gigantic boom. The Heritage Foundation projection has large tax cuts actually increasing revenue by almost $600 billion over the next 10 years. Folks, cutting taxes on the wealthiest Americans and raising taxes on the poorest does NOT result in increasing revenue. What it does do is make sure that nobody BUT the wealthiest Americans get anything at all out of the deal. A more sober assessment from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office tells a different story. It finds that a large part of the supposed savings from spending cuts would go, not to reduce the deficit, but to pay for tax cuts. In fact, the budget office finds that over the next decade the plan would lead to bigger deficits and more debt than current law.

But NOT for the wealthiest. Oh, no. They’ll wind up paying no taxes at all.

Leave health care on one side for a moment and focus on the rest of the proposal. It turns out that Ryan and his colleagues are assuming drastic cuts in nonhealth spending without explaining how that is supposed to happen. According to the budget office, which analyzed the plan using assumptions dictated by House Republicans, the proposal calls for spending on items other than Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — but including defense — to fall from 12 percent of GDP last year to 6 percent of GDP in 2022, and just 3.5 percent of GDP in the long run. David Brooks has an excellent opinion piece about this nonsense: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/opinion/2014724305_brooks10.html?syndication=rss I hope that you all read it. While I don’t agree with some of what he says, I do agree that we need to have a sane, reasonable, NON-emotional discussion about how to lower costs without penalizing those who are already overwhelmed with the decision to either eat or get meds, or to pay the light bill or go to the hospital. WonderWife has been extraordinarily lucky in that she found a job after two years of being unemployed that offered health benefits for us both at a very low cost. Our copays are low, our out-of-pocket expenses are pretty much nominal, and there’s no lifetime cap on expenses. Most people these days aren’t that lucky.

I agree with Representative Ryan that we need to cut spending. I even agree with some of what he is proposing – BUT I don’t agree with cutting Social Security or Medicare. I also don’t agree with his idea of block grants to states to fund Medicaid and CHIP programs. I wish that he’d propose instead to cut the Pentagon budget for toys that don’t work by 2/3rds. Cut at least 600 billion out of whatever they call the new equipment program, and we’d be in some TALL cotton as far as having monies to put back into the programs that actually work. Both myself and my wife spent time in the military, and I don’t think that cutting the salaries of the volunteers is a good idea. I do think that redirecting some of the money – hell, a LOT of the money - that the Pentagon wastes on non-competitive bid goods and services to the VA, specifically the hospitals, would be a good thing to do.

The $5.8 trillion in spending cuts - such as changing federal payments to Medicaid programs to a block grant to the states and shifting Medicare to the private sector – that Mr. Ryan’s budget proposal would make over the next decade would be "gradual" but cannot be avoided, Representative Ryan told Democratic critics. Other areas targeted for cuts or revamps include education grants, environmental projects, food stamps, transportation spending, government salaries, and corporate and personal taxes. Great idea, eh? Cut Pell grants, gut the EPA, and make sure that infrastructure spending goes to the corporations that bought and paid for him, and others in both the House and the Senate.

And this, gangers, is where I say that President Obama has sold us all out. He didn’t blink, but he did flinch. This could have been pushed through during the lame-duck session of Congress before Christmas. He should have gotten this done THEN. Personally, I believe that, had he proposed his health-care initiative as opening up Medicare for everybody (as Representative Kuchinich wanted him to do), that we wouldn’t be having this stupid conversation at all. The President might be a great chess player, but this is not chess. Neither is it a “nyah, nyah, BEAT’cha” competition between the Tea Party and the rest of the elected representatives.

Buckle up, kids – it’s going to be a very bumpy ride from here on in.

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