Breaking the Box of the Bush Budget: Why we should not Compromise with a Weapon of Mass(es) Destruction.
What the corporate media have failed to acknowledge, and yet we all know, the 2008 Bush budget is more of the same, failed over-expenditures on the national security state and wars, and on favorable treatments of his cronies. The budget does not get serious about critical issues of the day, notwithstanding the platitudes Bush has mouthed about "compromise", "energy independence", "health care reform", and others. Actions and numbers speak louder than words, and it is evident in Bush’s budget proposals. We must stop and reverse this budget dead in its tracks, for myriad reasons below the fold.
"Money for nothing, and your chicks for free" – Dire Straits
"Let them eat war" – Bad Religion
"We can fight for democracy at home, and not in some foreign land" – Billy Bragg
As has been documented elsewhere, including this site, the 2008 Bush budget proposals can be boiled down thusly for the bottom 90 percent of Americans: let them eat war, and pay taxes while receiving no benefits. The mainstream media has spent less time and print space (one day and several print pages in the Chicago Tribune and USA today, and probably 30-60 seconds on the TV news) analyzing this budget disaster and potential alternatives than it has on the Anna Nicole Smith media circus and Britney Spears bizarre behavior.
The already bloated military budget for endless wars and questionable military hardware, including the failed Iraq war devour 58 percent of the discretionary budget
excluding Social Security and Medicare, which are supposed to have dedicated funding sources and the budget also proposes that the monstrous tax cuts that focus on unearned passive income (i.e dividends and capital gains), and huge estates be extended forever. Social Security continues to be used as a cash cow to paper over the deficit and mask the true nature of the budgetary problems, and act as a de-facto regressive tax began under the early Greenspan regime under Reagan.
The twin elephants in the room are the bloated military budget and war, and massive tax reductions for the wealthiest Americans. These items alone account for the monstrous deficits under the Bush regime, with money to spare. These deficits are financed by the Chinese, Japanese and the wealthiest Americans, and the interest payments on them amount to a vast transfer of wealth abroad and an additional upwards redistribution of money to the rich.
The neocons and establishment economists would like you to believe otherwise, that social programs cause the massive deficits, but Social Security is currently in the black, if only the receipts were left in that pot. Medicare is going bust due to unsustainable trends in the health care industry and the flawed Part D program instituted by the Bush regime and Republican congress that fails to use volume purchasing and other cost controls for drugs, while partially privatizing Medicare with a multipayer system, thus losing the single-payer cost advantage.
As we know, for the first time in U.S. history, the government is not asking for wealthy Americans to contribute to financing the war effort. This is in spite of a military budget that is the largest both in absolute and percentage terms of the discretionary budget since World War II and proposed 2008 spending on the Iraq war exceeding the combined 2008 military budgets of Russia and China
Simultaneously with the massive ramp-up of the military budget, taxes have been slashed for the wealthiest Americans, with more cuts to go into effect before they sunset in 2009. Taxes have been cut for most non-wage income sources such as dividends and capital gains while still remaining high on wage income. 27 years of neo-con arbitrage economy budgets and outsourcing have slashed manufacturing jobs from 21.86 percent of the economy in 1979 to 9.86 percent in 2006, with a loss in absolute terms of nearly 6 million manufacturing jobs over the same time period.
From 1973 to 2001, incomes at the 60th percentile rose only 29 percent, barely keeping up with inflation, while rising 87 percent at the 99th percentile, and 181 percent at the 99.9th percentile. This is while the neocons are hell-bent on cutting taxes that apply to this tiny group of people, despite the fact that they can well afford to pay much higher taxes and still be much better off than they were 30 years ago. It all boils down to extreme greed. The foregone money from the tax cuts is likely to add up to more than 1 trillion dollars over the period 2001-2011, money that has added to the deficit and the cost of repayment with interest is siphoned out of the hands of ordinary Americans out of the country or into the hands of the wealthy that hold the US debt paper.
All of this is while costs soar, largely day-to-day necessities that disproportionately hit ordinary Americans in the wallet.. Under the Bush regime, since the year 2000, energy costs have increased at least 50 percent to date, health care costs have increased 60 percent or more, food has become significantly more expensive, and housing costs have increased by 50 percent or more in many areas. Other costs such as insuring vehicles or housing has similarly skyrocketed, while benefit payouts have decreased. Credit has become more expensive, especially to the non-wealthy, who have been slammed with penalty fees, universal defaults, and loan-shark level payday and title loans. The credit industry is salivating over financing health care expenses also. This is all while income for average wage earners has remained flat or decreased. For entry level workers, it decreased by 3 to 8 percent from 2000 to 2005..
Small wonder the savings rate has gone negative It is not the taxes stupid, it’s the personal and family balance of payments, with costs going up faster than income.
Despite a Democratic congress, ostensibly with which Bush is supposed to compromise, this budget does not effect any of deviation from the previous class warfare, drunken sailor spending, wasteful Bush budgets that have hollowed out this country and have worsened life for most Americans. This execrable budget also fails to address critical issues currently staring the country in the face, such as global warming, peak oil, concentration of wealth, deterioration of infrastructure, both man made and ecological, and the hollowing out of American capacity to make things.
For example, the Society of Civil Engineers rates US infrastructure as Grade D and continuing to decline. Existing roads and railroads are left to deteriorate or develop gridlock while pork barrel highway projects such as the 1 billion dollar Prairie Parkway project, a road to nowhere that does not connect any urban centers and is located in rural northern Illinois 40 miles from Chicago are funded, courtesy of the retired Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, while improvements to inadequate rail infrastructure such as CREATE that cost the same are tossed aside And despite huge increases in demand (5-10% ridership increases in 2006, and record ridership) rail and transit are ignored, and even defunded. As the American Prospect's "Sick Transit" states:
But President Bush, in his budget, proposes to cut the federal Railroad Administration budget by 19 percent, from $1.32 billion to $1.07 billion. Meanwhile, he proposes an equally large percentage increase to the already enormous Federal Highway Administration budget, from $31.48 billion to $37.18 billion.
This illustrates Bush's real priorities with regard to conserving our resources. Another example of Bush as wastrel was flying in Air Force One from Washington to Wilmington Delaware, a mere 90 mile trip, that would have taken him less than 90 minutes on Amtrak’s high speed electrified Acela train, and saved the taxpayers a large chunk of change by taking the train. All of this to make a speech on energy conservation. And this is the hypocrite whose budget the sycophant media wants us to consider as if it was legitimate.
Since this awful Bush budget does not compromise on priorities or funding, and furthers priorities repudiated by the American electorate in 2006, there are three alternatives, to paraphrase the response after the election to the Iraq War. These are Status Quo, Go Big, or Go Home.
Status quo is assuming bipartisan compromise, where there will be a little tinkering around the edges to develop some sort of bipartisan compromises on peripheral issues, while leaving the essentials untouched. This seems to be the path that this timid Congress is pursuing. As Paul Wellstone once said "Politics should be about improving peoples lives". For the vast majority of Americans, this budget, or any compromise with it, does not improve their lives; it worsens them.
Bipartisanship with this current reactionary president and Republican minority will get us this: A few cuts here and there that are politically popular inside the Beltway left alone. Social security left alone for now, a few cuts to children’s healthcare, Social Security, education and Amtrak rolled back by the Democrats to current levels; perhaps save the EPA from the worst cuts. It will preserve the bloated highway budget and most of the priorities of Big Energy, the military-industrial complex and the national security state. It is politics by reaction, not action. This is what we had shortly after Bush was elected (remember the Democratic senate), yet bloated, unaccountable military spending, a class-war bankruptcy bill, an out of control credit industry, overly expensive health care industry, greedy-self serving energy industry (remember Enron), military industrial complex and paper pusher (investment/insurance community) continued to grow like Topsy at the expense of ordinary Americans. For the bottom 90 percent of Americans, their wages have stagnated or declined, while the prices of necessities, and budget deficits exploded under the combined effects of the Iraq war, a bloated national security budget and 1 trillion dollars in tax cuts mainly focusing on breaks for wealthy and non-wage income. Compromise on this criminal budget only encourages more crime – you would not compromise with a serial killer coming down the aisle at you with a gun – you would take immediate action to stop the madness.
If this is the best our Congress can do in response to the Unitary Executivetm, the only option is to go home, and let the reactionaries run the table with their ruinous budget. The American people are ready for a change, literally a 180 from our current path, and that is evident in recent polling. Therefore the only solution is to GO BIG!
FDR did exactly that, in reaction to the Great Depression, the crisis of his day, and Americans are looking for today’s leadership to do the same. Compromising with the BushCheney budget is not the way to break out of the stagnant box we are stuck in. Compromise has only sold us six years of disasters for this country. Bold new initiatives will also get rid of the MSM canard that Democrats have no alternatives.
In short, we should:
- Rebuild our deteriorated domestic infrastructure with emphasis on energy and resource conserving technology such as rail transit.
- Fund big energy initiatives to wean America off of fossil fuels through aggressive promotion of conservation and alternative fuels that are carbon-neutral. Provide assistance to communities that are trying to re-localize energy and food production. Increase support of basic research in sustainable energy and materials technologies.
- Initiate universal, single payer health care (Medicare for All), to provide better healthcare outcomes and greatly reduce bureaucratic and administrative costs. A health care system devouring 20% of GDP is economic suicide.
- Reform and simplify the regressive, loophole ridden, unfair Federal tax code. Wrest this issue away from the reactionary political class. End favorable tax treatment for the wealthy. Institute progressive taxation for corporate profits, including excess profits taxes. Consider pollution and waste fees/taxes as substitutes for income and sales taxes.
- End the Iraq War and reduce military spending by 40% (10% per year for the next four fiscal years). A combination of this, pollution and waste taxes, and increased taxes on the upper 5% of the income distribution and excess profits will help balance the budget and pay for items 1, 2 and 3. A 40% military reduction still gives us a military budget six times that of the next highest military spender, China.
Therefore, I propose, in short form, that we counter the BushCo budget with the powerful initiatives of our own listed above. Later diaries will examine ways to implement each of these priority items.