February 15, 2006
Getting back to the proposed 2007 budget, it looks like the programs the president feels are “not performing,” generally amount to-as suspected-human services and public health programs. From defibrillators in rural areas, cutting close to $1 billion in health care grants to states, and completely wiping out the budget of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Resource Center, the Preisdent’s agenda is clearly not designed with a public health standpoint in mind. “If you can’t afford health care on your own, too bad-don’t come running to the government for assistance, and don’t bother asking the states either; we cut their funding too!” As a reaction, it’s likely that state governments may have to raise taxes in order to keep many of their own health programs alive as federal monies dwindle and die.
In the meantime, the House and the Senate both want to include a sprawling array of tax cuts; the House opting to refresh the capital gains and dividends tax breaks, which wind up giving a significant tax break to the wealthiest 5% of the American people, and the Senate opting to give the middle class a break from the Alternative Minimum Tax, which is steadily deepening its grip on average Americans trying to get by. While I would normally support a break in the AMT (which would go back to the middle class, who are the highest spenders and also the bulk of the workforce, which would actually send money back into the economy), the capital gains and dividends tax breaks are uncalled for; but right now it looks like the Senate and House conference to try and hammer out the differences are going to try and slip them both into the budget. Well okay then-but who’s left to pick up the taxation slack and pay for the President’s increased defense spending and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? That’s right-the poor.
Between cutting job training programs, social services, and public health care, the poor will probably face increased taxes in the wake of all of this. Hey, the money’s got to come from somewhere, right?
More info on the types of programs the budget slams and who the winners wind up being (defense and homeland security, if you didn’t know already) are in the full article:
Bush Budget Would Cut Popular Health Programs
Source: The Washington Post
It’s pretty rare that we hear any good news out of Iraq; any progress on rebuilding the country, or getting the Iraqis on their feet and ready to handle their own nation, or even rebuffing the insurgency. We consistently hear those statements from politicians, but all too often the on-the-ground reports from soldiers, reporters, and citizens is anything but positive, and incredibly bleak. Now, we have American generals claiming “oh well, we never planned to rebuild anyway,” despite the billions of dollars being shoveled into Iraq every month.
It’s a fair question for an American taxpayer to ask, “What’s happening to our money,” and not to settle for the type of answer we’ve been getting thus far, which amounts to “shut up and support the troops so we can fight them there so we don’t have to fight them here, etc etc.” CBS News brings us the story of a war profiteering case that’s in court now (a civil case that the Federal Government could have signed on with, but opted not to, without explanation) that potentially bilked taxpayers out of millions of dollars and robbed Iraqis of a new currency, as well as other waste, fraud, and corruption that’s draining money from the coffers dedicated to our soldiers and the reconstruction efforts now, and has been since the war started. The story of Custer Battles, the company in court now facing charges of proiteering, gives us a window into what’s happened, where our money’s been going, and how the reconstruction effort could fail so miserably that the tone now has changed from “we’ll rebuild” to “we’ll help rebuild” to finally “we never meant to rebuild.”
Billions Wasted in Iraq
Source: CBS News
I couldn’t excerpt this if I wanted to, it’s just too fitting:
The American Bar Association told President George W. Bush on Monday to either stop domestic eavesdropping without a warrant or get the law changed to make it legal.
When the American Bar Association has doubts as to whether a program is legal or not, or more specifically says outright that if you want to do something, you should change the law to make sure you can do it, they’re stopping just short of telling you “hey look, we know you wanna do what you wanna do, and we’re not in the politics game, but we do know law, and we’re telling you, this is illegal.”
So regardless of what the Republicans say about the Use of Force Authorization passed after September 11th, the program is straight contrary to existing law. Nevermind that the President could easily have gotten his warrants from the secret court that exists specifically for this purpose, and nevermind that that same court has only rejected a warrant appeal twice in it’s history, and nevermind that most of those warrants are as easy to get as a telephone call in the middle of the night; that’s not the point, right?
Here’s the full story, and the statement of the American Bar Association:
Lawyers group slams Bush on eavesdropping
Perhaps the most complete and well written account of the events leading up to and including the recent outrage in the Islamic world and middle-eastern nations over the caricatures of the prophet Muhammad that were posted in Danish newspapers (and subsequently reprinted across Europe), David Morris of Alternet [ http://www.alternet.org/ ] lays out the issue at hand, and brings us to a very important point: even with the controversy and voilence and uproar, we are no closer to attempting a meaningful discussion over what happens when the press of the world self-censor themselves to suit special interests, or where the lines of religious tolerance end the the freedom of expression and press begin. More analysis below the jump.
So much for a fresh start with a fresh majority leader. A new controversy arose, merely days after the Republicans elected by secret ballot Rep. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) as the House Majority Leader; partially because it was percieved that Boehner had few ties to the kinds of ethics scandals and lobbyist relationships that was bringing down the Republican party in the first place, and the same kind that the former majority leader, Tom DeLay had been cited for numerous times by the Ethics Committee and is now on trial for in Texas.
So what did Boehner do? Maybe it was some silly slight of hand, a meeting or a dinner, a golfing trip or maybe a paid vacation, something that the Republicans could wave off and overlook, right? Nope-he’s renting his apartment from a lobbying firm that directly benefitted from legislation Boehner has co-written and that he has overseen as chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee. Looks like that culture of corruption runs a little deeper than the Republicans wish the American people would believe.
Boehner Rents Apartment Owned by Lobbyist in D.C.
Source: The Washington Post
The 2007 budget is a nightmare; we all know that already; and essentially everyone whose office doesn’t reside at Homeland Security or The Pentagon is cringing in fear of the eventual budget cuts that they’ll have to suffer; especially human and social service programs that are expected to take the brunt of the cuts because, as the President says, he won’t fund programs that “won’t perform,” which translated into right-winger speak means “supports the middle and lower-class.” We all knew that, so no biggie there; but here’s a kicker.
The social security privatization plan that got such little support in both the House and the Senate last year, and that made the public incredibly weary about the future of Social Security; the plan that the Mr. Bush essentially spent his so-called “political capital” on and yet still failed, somehow, some way, managed to get slipped into the 2007 budget bill that he sent to Congress last week.
Sadly, only time will tell if the program gets stripped out of the bill prior to final votes and conference meetings, but the best we can do in the meantime is to keep an eye on it. Details below from the Washington Post:
Bush’s Social Security Sleight of Hand
Source: The Washington Post
In a statement published at TruthOut.org [ http://www.truthout.org/ ], Wisconsin sentator Russ Feingold, the only senator to vote against the original Patriot Act because of concerns over civil liberties and freedoms, launched into the foray over President Bush’s warrant-less domestic spying program of eavesdropping on Americans communicating with individuals acros the world. To quote the good Senator:
“This program is breaking the law, and this President is breaking the law. Not only that, he is misleading the American people in his efforts to justify this program. …. Congress has lost its way if we don’t hold this President accountable for his actions.”
Hear hear, Senator. The good Senator’s entire evocative and inspiring comments on the Senate floor are below:
On the President’s Warrantless Wiretapping Program
For those of you who have been with us since our days over at Pleasant Tingle [ http://www.pleasanttingle.net/ ] and are looking for the political, current events, and op-ed archives we had there, fear not! Over the next several weeks we’ll be pulling our archives from PTnet over here for archiving, while simultaneously bringing you continual new and breaking content. So hang in there; your old favorite articles will be over here soon, and you won’t have to wait for new pieces either!
Joining in with the rest of the chorous of voices calling for positive social change, for societal progress, and the rejection of stagnating values and the sad recent turn backwards in our country, Not So Humble dot net is a resource for those of us who don’t think “liberal” or “progressive” are words that people should be punished for having attached to them. We’re dedicated to making sure that “conservative” and “neo-con” are deadlier words, we’re dedicated to bringing you the truth behind the spin, to share the less-oft covered news stories, and to bring you a perspective that’s not just entertaining, but informative and covers a wide berth of information.
We’ll be discussing everything from the foriegn policy to health care, from the environment to congressional antics, from gender and sexuality to race, from homeland security to reproductive rights. You’ll see links to other columnists and other articles, as well as our own commentary and analysis. Top it all off with us keeping you informed with ways you can get involved, make phone calls, write letters, and make your voice and your beliefs heard to your representatives in government, and you’ve got yourself a new blog to bookmark. Stick around a while, contribute to the discussion, and above all, welcome. Together we’ll make something good happen.