Posts tagged with 'government'
Congressional leaders and President Barack Obama reached an eleventh hour budget deal on Friday night, to fund the government for the rest of the 2011 fiscal year and avert a government shutdown for the time being.
The deal would cut about $38 billion, Amy Goodman reports for Democracy Now!, including $13 billion in cuts to the Department of Health, Labor, and Human Services.
John Nichols describes the nuts and bolts of the stopgap plan in The Nation:
The arrangement worked out Friday night averted the threatened shutdown with a two-step process. First, the House and Senate passed a one-week spending bill that addressed the immediate threat. That should give Congress and the White House time to finalize a fiscal 2011 spending deal—on which they have agreed in principle—before an April 15 deadline.
The Republicans will not be allowed to zero out Planned Parenthood. Instead they were allowed a separate, largely symbolic vote, which passed the House, but which is expected to die in the Senate.
Planned Parenthood and ACORN
Nick Baumann of Mother Jones argues that the deal is a case study in the priorities of the Democratic Party. At the last minute, congressional Democrats rallied to save Planned Parenthood. The venerable family planning organization was under fire because of an undercover video sting by Lila Rose, a onetime protegee of conservative propagandist James O’Keefe, who himself pulled a similar stunt against the anti-poverty, pro-voter registration group ACORN in 2009.
O’Keefe’s videos created a media firestorm and Congress rushed to de-fund ACORN with little protest from Democrats. Subsequent independent investigations revealed that the tapes had been deceptively edited. Vindication came too late for ACORN, which was forced to close its doors.
Baumann argues that Democrats spared Planned Parenthood and sacrificed ACORN because ACORN didn’t have friends in the right places:
Abortion rights affect everyone. But to put it bluntly, big Dem donors care a lot more about abortion rights than they do about community organizers in inner cities.
In the days leading up to the deal, the media created the expectation that the budget was a game that one party would “win.” Paul Waldman of The American Prospect argues that in his eagerness to declare “victory” in the budget showdown, President Obama is undermining his own political agenda.
It would have been nice if when announcing the budget deal, President Obama had set aside the politician’s natural inclination to declare victory and his own preference for casting himself as the adult who settles things between the squabbling children. He could have said something like this: “The deal we just made is preferable to a government shutdown, which would have been truly disastrous. But nobody should mistake it for anything but the tragedy it is. As a result of the cuts Republicans have forced, people who rely on government services will suffer, and the economy will lose jobs. The Republicans held the government hostage, and we had no choice but to pay the ransom.”
By rushing to champion the spending cuts, Obama may be saving face, but he’s also setting a precedent that will make the next round of cuts even easier. The truth is that Democrats conceded under duress, they didn’t volunteer to cut spending because they thought it would help the country.
Indeed, Democrats agreed to far more cuts than the Republicans initially asked for. Cenk Uygur of the Young Turks argues that the Tea Party and the ostensibly more mainstream Republicans set up a very effective good cop/bad cop negotiating strategy in which the Democrats would offer cuts and the mainstream Republicans would say, “I’d like to help you, really I would, but you know my partner isn’t going to like that.”
Joshua Holland of AlterNet explains how corporate American has successfully lobbied to shift an ever-increasing share of its tax burden onto the backs of individual citizens:
Well, consider this: in the 1940s, corporations paid 43 percent of all the federal income taxes collected in this country. In the 1950s, they picked up the tab for 39 percent. But by the time the 1990s rolled around, corporations were paying just 18.9 percent of federal income taxes, and they forked over the same figure in the first decade of this century. We – working people – paid the difference.
Something to think about as we prepare to file our income tax returns.
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The entire federal government might shut down over birth control. Yes, birth control. This special edition of the Pulse is about the ongoing war against women being waged in Congress and in state legislatures nationwide.
Cutting birth control
Last Friday, the House voted to amend the continuing resolution to fund the federal government to defund the $317 million Title X Family Planning Program, a major beneficiary of which is Planned Parenthood. None of this money funds abortions. Instead, it goes to birth control, cancer screenings, and other reproductive health services for 5 million low-income Americans.
This kind of preventive care is highly cost-effective. Every federal family planning dollar saves an estimated $4 tax dollars on unintended pregnancy costs alone. Saving money by de-funding contraception is like “saving money” by not paying your rent. It’s not savings if you end up staying in a hotel that costs even more.
As Nick Baumann reports for Mother Jones, Senate Democrats are confident that they can defeat the measure. However, if that happens and the House Republicans won’t pass an acceptable alternative, the federal government will run out of money and shut down until the impasse is resolved. (more…)
by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger
King is one of an growing number of Republicans who say that, if the GOP takes over congress this fall, they will hold up every appropriations bill until the Affordable Care Act is repealed, as Steve Benen reports in the Washington Monthly. Brian Beutler of TPM explains how this would actually work.
Blood oath or suicide pact?
Benen thinks the hardliners are crazy enough to actually follow through—They’ve done it before. In 1995, the Republicans shut down the federal government because then-president Bill Clinton refused to sign off on Congress’s radical plan to slash Medicare and other social spending. Several hundred thousand federal employees were furloughed because there was no money to pay their salaries and every aspect of the economy suffered, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service. (more…)
Lawmakers are increasingly stepping up to address the crisis in the journalism business. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi wrote a letter in March 2009 to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder urging the Justice Department to consider an antitrust exemption to help newspapers survive. The public benefit of saving newspapers might outweigh historical concerns about anti-competitive behavior. In Connecticut, among other places, lawmakers are also intervening to keep newspapers alive. Pelosi’s letter prompted a House Judiciary Committee hearing the following month about problems in the newspaper industry.
If government officials had the will, they could support the public value of media in many ways besides loosening up anti-trust regulations for failing newspapers. How far they will go remains to be seen. “There is this massive behind-the-scenes, epic, political battle being waged inside the beltway, right now, between the forces that want to create this more open, distributed, participatory media and telecommunications future and those who favor a centralized, command and control regime, a reinstitution of command and control in all of these new media in telecommunications systems,” said Sascha Meinrath, Research Director for the New America Foundation, during a speech at eComm in March 2009. (more…)