Selective math obscures the fact that upcoming cuts will hurt millions of Americans, possibly for years to come
“Skeptics have downplayed the likely impact of “sequestration” – the $85bn cut in federal funding that’s slated to begin Friday – noting that it equals just 2.4% of total federal spending this year and that spending will continue to grow despite the cut. But this math obscures the harm that sequestration will do, not just to Americans across the country but also to the economy as a whole.
First, let’s examine the 2.4% figure. While accurate, it’s meaningless because the cuts aren’t occurring across the entire federal budget. Some programs, notably social security, are exempt, and the cuts to Medicare are strictly limited. Instead, the cuts are concentrated in what’s known as “discretionary” programs, because Congress funds them on an annual basis (unlike “entitlement” programs, like social security, which have permanent funding). About half of discretionary spending is for defense; the other half is for a wide range of activities including education, medical and scientific research, law enforcement, environmental protection, international aid programs, and support for low-income individuals and families.
Discretionary spending accounts for about 35% of total spending, but it will bear roughly 80% of the cuts under sequestration. […]
Millions of Americans will feel the impact. To cite just a few examples, we at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimate that the WIC nutrition program for low-income pregnant women, infants, and young children will have to turn away 600,000 to 775,000 children and new mothers by the end of the fiscal year. We also estimate that more than 100,000 low-income families will likely lose housing assistance that helps them afford rent.”
“The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which represents the Pentagon’s largest weapons program, was supposed to be the arms program that broke the mold, proof that the Pentagon could build something affordable, dependable and without much drama. […]
The F-35 was conceived as the Pentagon’s silver bullet in the sky — a state-of-the art aircraft that could be adapted to three branches of the military, with advances that would easily overcome the defenses of most foes. The radar-evading jets would not only dodge sophisticated antiaircraft missiles, but they would also give pilots a better picture of enemy threats while enabling allies, who want the planes, too, to fight more closely with American forces.
But the ambitious aircraft instead illustrates how the Pentagon can let huge and complex programs veer out of control and then have a hard time reining them in. The program nearly doubled in cost as Lockheed and the military’s own bureaucracy failed to deliver on the most basic promise of a three-in-one jet that would save taxpayers money and be served up speedily.
Rather than being the Chevrolet of the skies, as it was once billed, the F-35 has become the most expensive weapons system in military history. But while Pentagon officials now say that the program is making progress, it begins its 12th year in development years behind schedule, troubled with technological flaws and facing concerns about its relatively short flight range as possible threats grow from Asia.
With a record price tag — potentially in the hundreds of billions of dollars — the jet is likely to become a target for budget cutters. Reining in military spending is on the table as President Obama and Republican leaders in Congress look for ways to avert a fiscal crisis. […]
This month, Powell will “retire” for one day. He’ll then be rehired to the exact same superintendent’s job with the exact same duties. The only difference is that instead of earning $290,000 per year in pay and benefits, as he has in the past, he’ll earn only $32,000 a year. Powell has signed on to this adjusted salary agreement through 2014, meaning he’ll be saving Fresno County Schools about $800,000 over the next three years.
First of all, let’s clarify what the NASA budget is. Do you realize that the $850 billion dollar bailout, that sum of money is greater than the entire 50-year running budget of NASA?
And so when someone says, “We don’t have enough money for this space probe,” I’m asking, no, it’s not that you don’t have enough money, it’s that the distribution of money that you’re spending is warped in some way that you are removing the only thing that gives people something to dream about tomorrow.
You remember the 60s and 70s. You didn’t have to go more than a week before there’s an article in Life magazine, “The Home of Tomorrow,” “The City of Tomorrow,” “Transportation of Tomorrow”. All of that ended in the 1970s. After we stopped going to the Moon, it all ended. We stopped dreaming.
And so I worry that the decision that Congress makes doesn’t factor in the consequences of those decisions on tomorrow. Tomorrow’s gone. They’re playing for the quarterly report, they’re playing for the next election cycle, and that is mortgaging the actual future of this nation, and the rest of the world is going to pass us by.
“As far as being overpaid and underworked…I grant you, I have a week’s vacation around Christmas. I have a week off for Spring Break. I have about 10 weeks off for summer. With sick days and personal days and national holidays and the like, I work about 8.5 months out of every year. So perhaps I am underworked. But before you take that as a given, a couple of points in my own defense.
The average full-time worker puts in 40 hours per week, 50 weeks per year, with two weeks’ vacation time. That makes for a grand total of 2000 hours per year. Part of the teachers’ arguments regarding their time is that no one sees how many hours they work at home to grade papers, or create lesson plans, or things of that nature. I am in a rare state, in that I am not one of those teachers. I work an hour from where I live, and I like to keep my work at work. I, therefore, do not bring work home with me, but rather stay at school, or come in early, so that I can grade papers or create lesson plans while at school. So I am more prepared than most to explain the hours it takes to do my job. I also supervise an extra-curricular activity (as many teachers do), in that I serve as the Drama Coach for my school. The school year, so far, has lasted for 24 weeks. I have, in that time, averaged 78 hours per week either going to school, being at school, or coming home from school. If you remove my commute, of course, I still average 68 hours per week, thus far. That means I have put in 1,632 hours of work time this year, which works out to over 80% of what your average full time worker does in a calendar year. If you include my commute, I’m over 90%. If I keep going at my current pace, I will work 2,720 hours this school year (or 3,120 hours if you include my commute). That means I work 136% to 156% as much as your average hourly worker.
As to underpaid — I’m not sure I am underpaid in general, though I do believe I am underpaid in terms of the educational level expected to do my job. I have two Bachelor’s Degrees, and will be beginning work toward my Master’s this summer. By comparison, sir, you never completed college, and yet, as previously stated, you outearn me by almost $100,000 per year. Perhaps that is an argument that I made the wrong career choice.
But it is perhaps an argument that we need to discuss whether you and others like you are overpaid, and not whether teachers are.”
“Law enforcement working at the Capitol has been impressed with how peaceful and courteous everyone has been. As has been reported in the media, the protesters are cleaning up after themselves and have not caused any problems. The fact of that matter is that Wisconsin’s law enforcement community opposes Governor Walker’s effort to eliminate collective bargaining in this state, and we implore him to not do anything to increase the risk to officers or the public. Security cannot come at the cost of conflict.”
Wisconsin Professional Police Association Executive Director Jim Palmer in a statement released by AFL-CIO today.
From inside the Wisconsin State Capitol, RAN ally Ryan Harvey:
“Hundreds of cops have just marched into the Wisconsin state capitol building to protest the anti-Union bill, to massive applause. They now join up to 600 people who are inside.”
From his Facebook page earlier today:
“Police have just announced to the crowds inside the occupied State Capitol of Wisconsin: ‘We have been ordered by the legislature to kick you all out at 4:00 today. But we know what’s right from wrong. We will not be kicking anyone out, in fact, we will be sleeping here with you!’ Unreal.”
In recent weeks, Madison has been the scene of large demonstrations against the governor’s budget bill, which would deny collective-bargaining rights to public-sector workers. Gov. Scott Walker claims that he needs to pass his bill to deal with the state’s fiscal problems. But his attack on unions has nothing to do with the budget. In fact, those unions have already indicated their willingness to make substantial financial concessions — an offer the governor has rejected.
What’s happening in Wisconsin is, instead, a power grab — an attempt to exploit the fiscal crisis to destroy the last major counterweight to the political power of corporations and the wealthy. And the power grab goes beyond union-busting. The bill in question is 144 pages long, and there are some extraordinary things hidden deep inside.
For example, the bill includes language that would allow officials appointed by the governor to make sweeping cuts in health coverage for low-income families without having to go through the normal legislative process.
And then there’s this: […] The state of Wisconsin owns a number of plants supplying heating, cooling, and electricity to state-run facilities (like the University of Wisconsin). The language in the budget bill would, in effect, let the governor privatize any or all of these facilities at whim. Not only that, he could sell them, without taking bids, to anyone he chooses. And note that any such sale would, by definition, be “considered to be in the public interest.”
If this sounds to you like a perfect setup for cronyism and profiteering — remember those missing billions in Iraq? — you’re not alone. Indeed, there are enough suspicious minds out there that Koch Industries, owned by the billionaire brothers who are playing such a large role in Mr. Walker’s anti-union push, felt compelled to issue a denial that it’s interested in purchasing any of those power plants. Are you reassured? […]
Union-busting and privatization remain G.O.P. priorities, and the party will continue its efforts to smuggle those priorities through in the name of balanced budgets.