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Tag: federal budget

Republicans Rage Over Budget, Bibi, And Border, But Can't Dent Biden In Polls

Congressional Republicans are once again outraged that President Joe Biden has not allowed them to run his calendar. This time they are furious that he has not yet submitted a formal budget to Congress.

Biden, who was inaugurated on Jan. 20, has been president for just 76 days. He has spent much of that time cleaning up the messes left by Donald Trump: the ongoing deadly coronavirus pandemic, the economic crisis the pandemic has caused, and systemic problems of racism and violence made even more visible in the past four years.

Still, Republicans on the House Budget Committee used their official Twitter account on Tuesday to attack Biden for not yet releasing a budget proposal.

"President Biden's lack of transparency is historic as he continues to fail to submit any budget plan or outline to Congress," they charged. "When he does it will be the latest a President has submitted an initial budget outline to Congress in the modern budget era. @POTUS where is your budget?"

Biden's acting budget director has been on the job for less than two weeks. Rather than cooperate with Biden's team to ensure a smooth transition, Trump's team at the Office of Management and Budget pretended that they were going to write the 2022 budget, even after Biden's decisive election victory.

Congressional Republicans are demanding that Biden prioritize filing a budget document as if the president is obligated to do exactly what they tweet he should do.

Over the past two months, they have whined repeatedly when Biden didn't drop everything to meet assorted other GOP demands.

For weeks, they complained that since his inauguration, President Biden had not had a phone conversation with embattled and indicted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — even though the two had spoken during the transition and Netanyahu's ambassador to the United States had made clear he was in no rush, saying, "The prime minister is not worried about the timing of the conversation."

"What is @POTUS avoiding?" asked Texas Rep. Ronny Jackson on Feb. 11. "I urge President Biden to ignore the radical left in his party and make a strong show of support for our partnership with Israel by calling @IsraeliPM Netanyahu."

"From Xi and Putin to Mario Kart, President Biden has found plenty of time for many activities since being sworn in," groused Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York on Feb. 16. "It's past time to pick up the phone and call America's loyal friend, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu."

"Over the years, the U.S. has strengthened our relationship with Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, due to our shared interests and values," tweeted Tennessee Rep. David Kustoff on Feb. 17. "Yet, after 28 days, @JoeBiden has still not picked up the phone to call Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu."

Biden and Netanyahu spoke on Feb. 17.

Next, Republicans, who had defended Trump as he attacked and stonewalled the press for four years and set records for the length of time that passed between news conferences, went after Biden for not holding a formal news conference. Biden had frequently answered reporters' questions in informal settings.

"Why does Joe Biden, the least transparent president in history, need to announce his press conference over a week in advance?" asked Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert on March 17 after the White House announced the date.

"What kind of President takes 64 full days to finally have a press conference? NOT a mentally competent one I'll tell you that!" tweeted Jackson on March 18.

"If Trump had gone 60+ days without taking questions and then held a nonsensical press conference like Biden did yesterday, the Dems would be shouting to invoke the 25th Amendment," tweeted Texas Rep. Brian Babin on March 26, the day after Biden spent an hour answering questions from the White House press corps about immigration, Trump, and Biden's plans for 2024.

More recently, congressional Republicans have demanded Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris visit the U.S.-Mexico border to witness what they call a "crisis."

"It's time @JoeBiden takes responsibility for the crisis he has created at our border and makes a visit to see it for himself," Sen. Rick Scott of Florida tweeted on March 23.

"Our border is devolving into more chaos as the days go by," claimed Boebert on March 24. "Joe Biden has yet to announce plans to visit and Kamala Harris cackled at the thought."

"Move the southern border to Delaware and Joe Biden might visit it," sniped Texas Rep. Lance Gooden on March 29.

Biden said in response to questions on whether he'd visit the border, "At some point I will, yes. ... I know what's going on in those facilities."

Despite the GOP outrage, voters seem unperturbed.

According to FiveThirtyEight polling averages, Biden continues to enjoy the positive job approval ratings he's seen since taking office. Those averages put current approval of the job he's doing at 53.6% and disapproval at just 39.6%.

This is a significant reversal from his predecessor. After his first week in the White House, Trump never again reached his highest average approval rating of 46% and spent most of his four years in office with a majority of those polled disapproving of his job performance.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Big Deficits, Growing Debt, And Limitless Hypocrisy

On April 1, 2018, when Thad Cochran retired after 40 years as a U.S. senator from Mississippi, he made history; Cochran was the last Republican in Congress to have ever voted to increase federal taxes. He had done so on Dec. 19, 1990, when Republican President George H.W. Bush, deeply concerned about the rising federal budget deficit, persuaded Cochran and 18 other Republican senators to join 35 Democratic colleagues (this was a different era, remember) and to vote to cut federal spending and to raise Americans' taxes. Since that date, no Republican in the House or the Senate has voted to raise taxes.

Think about it: The U.S. budget deficit that so upset President George H.W. Bush that he broke his 1988 campaign pledge of "no new taxes" had risen to $221 billion (with a "b"). Compare that to the record of the most recent one-term Republican president who had, in March 2016, told Robert Costa and Bob Woodward of The Washington Post that, as president, he could pay down the national debt —then about $19 trillion — in eight years by stimulating economic growth and renegotiating trade deals, but during his four years in the White House presiding over the nation's national debt, it exploded by close to 40%, to $27.8 trillion (with a "t").

From winning independence from England through establishing a continental nation and fighting 11 major wars — including two world wars — and a Great Depression, the United States, by the time the presidency of fiscally prudent Jimmy Carter ended, had accumulated a national debt of just under $1 trillion. Carter was defeated soundly by Republican Ronald Reagan, who ran on a platform of doubling the defense budget, cutting taxes by one-third and balancing the federal budget.

Well, two out of three isn't bad. Reagan did cut taxes by nearly one-third and did double defense spending. But that federal debt, which had been just under $1 trillion when he took office, semiexploded to $3 trillion during his White House tenure, causing Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., to conclude: "A responsible government does not triple the national debt in eight years."

But the political consequences of the Gipper's deficit spending were quite different: economic growth, a pleased electorate, the return of optimism and a 49-state victory in winning reelection. Questioned about his budget deficits, Reagan quipped to reporters: "I'm not going to worry about the budget deficit. It's big enough to take care of itself."

The next two-term Republican chief executive was George W. Bush, who inherited a $5 trillion national debt accumulated by the first 42 presidents. Bush, by taking the country into two wars while enacting another major tax cut, added $ 4 trillion to the growing national debt.

The last time the federal budget was balanced? When Democrat Bill Clinton was in the White House in the last century and dared to pass a budget that increased taxes on the better-off Americans while cutting spending. Clinton did it, of course, without a single Republican in Congress voting for it and with the votes of dozens of Democrats who did so knowing that it would cost them reelection.

So, with a Democrat in the White House, it is wise to heed the most recent president's White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, who spread the ugly truth: "My party is very interested in deficits when there is a Democrat in the White House. The worst thing in the whole world is deficits when Barack Obama was the president. Then Donald Trump became president and we're a lot less interested as a party." Amen.

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

In This Crisis, States Should Get A Lot Of Federal Money

The economic collapse precipitated by the coronavirus pandemic has been a disaster for a multitude of individuals and companies, and the federal government has wisely showered them with money to offset their losses. But the downturn has also been a disaster for states, which don't get the same love in Washington.

When the House passed a $3 trillion relief bill with $1 trillion for state, local and tribal governments, only one Republican voted yes. President Donald Trump has threatened to veto the measure in the unlikely event that it gets through the Senate.

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Mitch McConnell’s True Colors

If you're listening to politicians, you hear them sing bipartisan praise for the heroes who march bravely into the viral storm every day. They constantly eulogize doctors and nurses, cops and firefighters, but also those who maintain essential services amid the coronavirus catastrophe — from grocery clerks to delivery drivers to sanitation workers, train conductors and traffic engineers. Suddenly, we have all realized that those good people, whose thankless toil we took for granted, deserve our gratitude and respect.

Or so it seemed until Mitch McConnell opened his mouth and proved that, to him at least, those civic accolades mean nothing.

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Having Sworn To Protect Social Security, Trump Is Scheming To Cut It

Donald Trump’s recent budget proposal included billions of dollars in Social Security cuts. The proposed cuts were a huge betrayal of his campaign promise to protect our Social Security system. Fortunately for Social Security’s current and future beneficiaries, he has little chance of getting these cuts past the House of Representatives, which is controlled by Democrats.

So Trump and his budget director/chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who has long been hostile to Social Security, are trying another tactic to cut our earned benefits. They are pursuing a long game to reach their goal. In a divide-and-conquer move, the focus is not Social Security. At least, not yet.

Last week, the Trump administration revealed that it is planning to employ the so-called chained Consumer Price Index (CPI) in a way that does not need congressional approval. “Chained CPI” might sound technical and boring, but anyone who has closely followed the Social Security debate knows better. It has long been proposed as a deceptive, hard-to-understand way to cut our earned Social Security benefits.

Trump plans to switch to the chained CPI to index the federal definition of poverty. If he succeeds, the impact will be that over time, fewer people will meet the government’s definition of poverty—even though in reality, they will not be any less poor. The definition is crucial to qualify for a variety of federal benefits, including Medicaid, as well as food and housing assistance. The announcement was written blandly about considering a variety of different measures, but anyone who knows the issue well can easily read the writing on the wall.

So, what does this have to do with Social Security? Like the poverty level, Social Security’s modest benefits are automatically adjusted to keep pace with inflation. If not adjusted, those benefits will erode, slowly but inexorably losing their purchasing power over time. These annual adjustments are already too low, but they are better than no adjustment at all. The chained CPI would make these adjustments even less adequate. The top line of the following chart shows what a more accurate adjustment would look like. The line below it shows what the current adjustment does to benefits, and the bottom line shows what the stingier chained CPI would do:

Proponents of the chained CPI say that it is better at measuring “substitution,” but don’t be fooled. The current inadequate measure already takes into account substitution of similar items. This is the idea that if the price of beef goes up, you can substitute chicken. In contrast, the chained CPI involves what are called substitutions across categories. If your planned vacation abroad goes up, you can stay home and buy a flat screen television and concert tickets instead.

Of course, neither form of substitution is much help to seniors and people with disabilities whose health care costs are skyrocketing. There’s no substitution for hospital stays and doctor visits. Those who propose the chained CPI are apparently fine with letting seniors who can’t afford even chicken substitute cat food.

The idea of substitution within or across categories makes no sense for people with no discretionary income. If all of your money goes for medicine, food and rent, how does substitution make sense? If you are so poor that your children go to bed hungry, how do you substitute?

Back in 2012, President Barack Obama proposed a so-called Grand Bargain to cut Social Security using the chained CPI, in return for Republicans agreeing to increase taxes on the wealthy. The goal of this Grand Bargain was ostensibly to reduce the deficit, despite the fact that Social Security does not add a single penny to the deficit.

Grassroots activists around the country fought back, and Obama ultimately realized his error. He removed the chained CPI from his budget proposals and endorsed expanding, rather than cutting, Social Security’s modest benefits. Social Security expansion is now the official position of the Democratic Party.

Yet Republicans have still continued to push Social Security cuts, including the chained CPI. Back in December 2017, they passed a massive tax cut for corporations and the super-wealthy. Afterwards, they used the predictable deficits their tax cuts caused as an excuse to call for cutting Social Security. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans made well-publicized statements about the so-called “need” to cut Social Security. What was much more secret was a provision in the tax bill which replaced the measure used to index the tax brackets with the chained CPI.

Now, Trump wants to apply the chained CPI to the calculation of poverty rates. This will directly hurt many seniors and people with disabilities by making it more difficult to qualify for Medicaid and other programs many of them rely on, including food and housing assistance. It is also a long-term threat to Social Security itself.

The strategy is clear: Trump and his Republican supporters in Congress plan to apply chained CPI everywhere else, and then say that it is only common sense and indeed fair that we apply it to Social Security as well. We should be consistent, right?

Trump thinks that he can get away with executing this long-game attack on Social Security quietly, while the media and public are focused on his tweets, name calling, and scandals. But we must not be distracted. If we do not stop this attack in its tracks, our earned benefits will be next.

If you want to forestall another fight over cutting Social Security through the chained CPI, call your members of Congress, write to your local paper, and tell your friends: No chained CPI! No chained CPI for our earned benefits! No chained CPI for the most vulnerable among us!

This quiet effort to embed the chained CPI is a fight Trump does not want to have, certainly in an election year. But it is one we will bring to him. Grassroots activism defeated the chained CPI before. This time it will be harder because Trump can substitute the chained CPI without legislation. That means we have to simply fight harder. If we stick together, we surely will win. And we must. All of our economic security depends on it.

Danziger: Her Disabilities

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.com.

More Than A Third Of Trump’s ‘Emergency’ Funding Is Already Spent

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

President Donald Trump now plans to build his border wall under the guise of a “national emergency.” The declaration, announced last Friday, will theoretically empower the president to divert $3.6 billion from military construction projects, $2.5 billion from federal counternarcotics programs, and $600 billion from the Treasury Department’s asset forfeiture fund to start constructing a barrier at the southern border, on top of the $1.35 billion that was allocated for border construction in the compromise bill passed by Congress to avert another shutdown.

There’s a problem, though: Trump probably can’t spend all that money. That’s because, according to Congressional Quarterly writer John Donnelly, more than a third of that money has already been spent.

John M. Donnelly

@johnmdonnelly

BREAKING: More than a third of the federal 💰@realDonaldTrump wants to redirect to build a is not available. It’s been spent. Congress—including Dems—would have to approve making new 💰 available. That’s not happening. Time for a Plan B.

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That means that, right from the start, Trump is working with billions fewer than he had planned for.

And that assumes he will be allowed to spend it at all. On Thursday, House Democrats released a resolution to block Trump’s declaration under the National Emergencies Act, and Senate Democrats have their own version in the works. If either of these passes, the other chamber is required to take it up, and it is not clear whether Republicans have yet whipped the votes necessary to affirm the president. Meanwhile, 16 states have banded together in a lawsuit to block the emergency declaration in federal court.

The upshot of this is that the only money Trump is absolutely guaranteed to have for construction at the border is the $1.35 billion he received from Congress, which theoretically would pay for just 55 miles of fencing. And even there, Democrats put heavy restrictions on how Trump can use that money: only existing designs, no construction in five sensitive areas including the National Butterfly Center, and the Department of Homeland Security must consult with local governments before any new barriers can be built.

All things considered, Trump’s hopes of using a national emergency as a shortcut are looking shakier by the day.

Broken Promise: Trump Must Borrow 84 Percent More To Finance Debt

Donald Trump didn’t mention the national debt or budget deficits in his first State of the Union address, possibly because his own policies have left him with nothing good to say on the matter.

Thanks to lower tax receipts resulting from the tax scam pushed on the American people by Trump and the GOP, the administration is set to borrow nearly $1 trillion in fiscal year 2018, during Trump’s first full year in charge of the budget.

It was already clear just months into his presidency that such a promise was absurd and unachievable. Trump’s own budget director, Mick Mulvaney, refuted his boss’s absurd pledge in April 2017, telling CNBC that it was “safe to assume [it] was hyperbole.”

Indeed, his debt reduction plan was shown in September 2017 to potentially increase the debt by $5.3 trillion, and the tax scam is estimated to balloon the deficit by as much as $1.5 trillion.

That’s even before any money is allotted to crucial areas like infrastructure, disaster relief, or the military.

And recent history may already be about to repeat itself.

“Some of my Wall Street clients are starting to talk recession in 2019 because of these issues,” noted Peter Davis, a former tax economist in Congress.

“Fiscal policy is just out of control,” he added bluntly.

And as Marc Goldwein, senior policy director at Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, put it plainly, “We’re addicted to debt.”

“Every time you feed your addiction, you grow your addiction,” he warned.

And despite Trump’s promises on the campaign trail, the self-proclaimed “king of debt” appears ready to do just that.

Alison R. Parker is a reproductive justice and LGBTQ rights activist; freelance writer. Follow her on Twitter @alisonrose711.