Yesterday Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum drew some disheartening conclusions from the budget deal worked out between Congressman Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray – the much-lauded compromise that is headed for passage, barring some last-minute Tea Party putsch in the House. Sure, Drum allowed, the budget’s entitlement cuts were almost too tiny to notice, and along the way some sequester reductions were restored. But that wasn’t the point.
“Two years ago,” Drum wrote, “Ryan’s budget was basically at the outer limit of mainstream conservative wish lists. Today it looks tame . . . Republicans have massively changed the spending conversation since 2010. Austerity has won.”
The fact remains that many in the political media are applauding the new budget as a triumph of realpolitik simply because it defuses the threat of a determined minority taking down the world economic order – a threat that has become the new baseline in budget negotiations.
But they’re winning the big one: How the nation understands our biggest domestic problem.
They say the biggest problem is the size of government and the budget deficit.
In fact our biggest problem is the decline of the middle class and increasing ranks of the poor, while almost all the economic gains go to the top.
The Labor Department reported Tuesday that only 148,000 jobs were created in September — way down from the average of 207,000 new jobs a month in the first quarter of the year.
Many Americans have stopped looking for work. The official unemployment rate of 7.2 percent reflects only those who are still looking. If the same percentage of Americans were in the workforce today as when Barack Obama took office,
Weeks after a political stalemate set in motion $85 billion in federal spending cuts for fiscal year 2013, sequestration has shifted from a political debate in the halls of Congress to a looming reality in neighborhood streets – especially in some of the poorest areas of the country.
In Georgia, the drop in federal dollars is taking an 11 percent bite out of extended unemployment benefits that more than 61,000 Georgians depend on for food, utilities and housing, according to the Rome News-Tribune.
In Mississippi, 2,300 children under the age of three will likely lose the care and early education they receive in federally-supported Early Head Start programs.
And in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley, sequester will mean cuts in legal aid services and housing vouchers for low-income families and reductions in job-search services for the unemployed.
Many community organizations that serve low-income families are already feeling the money pinch.
A friend of mine emailed me last fall incredibly worried about the impact of potential sequestration cuts on schools and students across the country. He was a long-time Washington D.C.-based public education advocate, so I was simultaneously unshaken and unnerved by his concern. Sequestration seemed like a D.C.-based fear, so unlikely to actually happen given the blowback that would surely come from such imprecise cuts. But my friend’s many years of fighting for resources for children’s education meant that I couldn’t really ignore his concerns, and so his words remained a low-level worry until March 1, when I had to concede that he’d been right all along.
Funding for shared needs like education is always at risk and the past few weeks have highlighted just how great that risk is.
Shoddy political theater distracts people with vague demons called debt ceiling, fiscal cliff and now, sequester. Party leaders posture for major donors, media boosters and the faithful. They claim to save us from the demons. Meanwhile, backstage they all agree on austerity as the “necessary” response to “our major problem,” namely federal budget “imbalance.” “We” are spending “beyond our means,” accumulating “government debts.” So “we” must raise taxes and cut spending – impose austerity – to regain balance.
On January 1, payroll taxes rose (from 4.2 to 6.2 percent) for 150 million Americans. Their checks shrank as that regressive tax became more so. Obama’s hyped “tax increase for the rich” was comparatively trivial. It affected only the very few Americans earning over $450,000, raising their top tax rate from 35 percent to 39.6 percent. Our leaders hope we forgot the 1950s and 1960s, when the top tax rate was 91 percent. On March 1,
I don’t know if Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell or House Speaker John Boehner read much history.
But this old history teacher wonders if the GOP’s stubborn refusal to seriously negotiate with the Democrats over the sequester cuts is more cribbing from Andy Jackson’s 1824 political playbook.
That year, Old Hickory lost the presidency to John Quincy Adams. Immediately, Jackson set out to make Adams a one-termer.
Jackson sent the word to pro-Jackson members of Congress: If Adams is for it, oppose it. If he’s against it, support it.
Jackson unseated Adams in 1828.
No sooner was Barack Obama elected president in 2008 than McConnell said the GOP’s top political priority was beating him in 2012. “Amens” rose from Boehner and the rest of the party. GOP lawmakers got their marching orders: If Obama’s for it, we’re not, and vice versa.
(This article, which first appeared on Equal Voice, includes information from Equal Voice News reporter Kathy Mulady and Associated Press writers Nedra Pickler, Jim Kuhnhenn and Stephen Ohlemacher. Please see Equal Voice’s infographic at the end of this post. Republished with permission.)
Unless sequestration is stopped by an act of Congress, the budget cutting will [contine], reducing funding to thousands of programs that took years to build, and provide a safety net for millions of poor working families.
Under the plan, every dollar approved each year by Congress [will] be slashed by a uniform amount, resulting in at least temporary layoffs for hundreds of thousands of public and private-sector workers. Programs like Medicare and Social Security are exempt, but the slashing of other programs will slow the nation’s fragile economic recovery.
On March 1 automatic cuts of $85 billion from a $3.6 trillion budget [began].
“In 1933 we reversed the policy of the previous Administration. For the first time since the Depression you had a Congress and an Administration in Washington which had the courage to provide the necessary resources which private interests no longer had or no longer dared to risk.
This cost money. We knew, and you knew, in March, 1933, that it would cost money. We knew, and you knew, that it would cost money for several years to come. The people understood that in 1933. They understood it in 1934, when they gave the Administration a full endorsement of its policy. They knew in 1935, and they know in 1936, that the plan is working.”—FDR, 1936
Eighty years ago this month, at the height of the worst economic crisis in our nation’s history, Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered on his promise to launch a New Deal for the American people.
Imagine a plot to undermine the government of the United States, to destroy much of its capacity to do the public’s business, and to sow distrust among the population.
Imagine further, that the plotters infiltrate Congress and state governments, reshape their districts to give them disproportionate influence in Washington, and use the media to spread big lies about the government.
Finally, imagine they not only paralyze the government but are on the verge of dismantling pieces of it.
Far-fetched? Perhaps. But take a look at what’s been happening in Washington and many state capitals since Tea Party fanatics gained effective control of the Republican Party, and you’d be forgiven if you see parallels.
Tea Party Republicans are crowing about the “sequestration” cuts beginning today (Friday). “This will be the first significant tea party victory in that we got what we set out to do in changing Washington,” says Rep.