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07.11 7,000+ Colleges and Universities Declare Climate Emergency and Unveil Three-Point Plan to Combat It [Fox News and Betsy DeVos never talk about this stuff so it must be Bull Shit, right?]

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Health Care & Environment

07.19 Trump administration won't ban pesticide tied to childhood brain damage [There is no truth to the persistent rumor that chlorpyrifos pesticide was heavily used at Trump's childhood home in Queens]

07.19 'Unprecedented' Decline of Plants and Animals as Global 'Red List' Reveals Nearly One-Third of Assessed Species Under Threat

07.17 ‘Off-the-charts’ heat to affect millions in U.S. in coming decades

07.17 Planned Parenthood president Leana Wen forced out by board [Given that states have lost abortion rights on political grounds recently, Wen's philosophical approach to protect abortion rights based on ‘health care’ was smarter – therefore it was that smarter strategy that was killed at the secret meeting.]

07.17 Billions of air pollution particles found in hearts of city dwellers

07.17 What is happening in America's Cancertown is tragic, immoral and evil [Niggardly white government policies could change to produce better students, better jobs and net revenue instead of costs. But it seems they enjoy more cruelty—like Trump.]

07.16 US aid cuts to UN agency will hurt vulnerable women and children, critics say

07.16 Trump abortion restrictions in effect for taxpayer-funded clinics

07.15 The response to DRC’s Ebola crisis isn’t working. Here’s what we need to do

07.15 Extinction Rebellion protests block traffic in five UK cities [Non-corporate human animals make their annoying bleating sounds...]

07.14 A Glacier the Size of Florida Is Becoming Unstable. It Has Dire Implications for Global Sea Levels [The willfully ignorant needn't read more, Trump]

07.13 'Climate Despair' Is Making People Give Up on Life [Willfully ignorant governments—having fired many of their best scientists—have made themselves too stupid to despair]

07.13 Trump administration to approve pesticide that may harm bees [The worst government money can buy!]

07.12 These solar panels don’t just generate power—they produce drinking water

07.12 David Attenborough: polluting planet may become as reviled as slavery [1:34 video]

07.10 Plastic Has A Big Carbon Footprint — But That Isn't The Whole Story [Fixing our world begins by educating your consciousness with the best truth from trustworthy news sources—so you'll then insist truly bad things will get fixed. But if instead you are educated by untrustworthy news sources—then your consciousness could be warped to where you are hating and fighting with your best friends. Clue: untrustworthy news sources never seriously report news about the world's most critical emergency—Global warming.]

07.10 Molly Scott Cato: ‘It’s the wealthy who are causing climate change’

07.09 Judge reinstates Madrid's low emissions zone [Yeh!]

07.07 How Solar Panels Work (And Why They're Taking Over the World) [Hope they leave space between panels for wild flowers to grow so birds and butterflies can flourish!]

07.05 Tree planting 'has mind-blowing potential' to tackle climate crisis

News Media Matters

07.19 Fox News’s star names excuse the inexcusable after Trump's latest racist attack

07.18 In Sinclair's New 'Must-Run' Segment, Former Trump Adviser Tries to Defend Racist Attacks on 'the Squad'

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US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'

07.19 Are progressives working on a climate plan for 2021? You bet.

07.19 The 51 most outrageous lines from Donald Trump's repugnant North Carolina rally

07.19 The Real Meaning of ‘Send Her Back!’

07.18 Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Breaking up Homeland Security

07.18 Deadly Delays in Jail Construction Cost Lives and Dollars Across California

07.18 Inside Trump's DC hotel, where allies and lobbyists flock to peddle their interests [Also, too much ignored by media, the $millions "donated" corrupting moderate Democrats and Republicans every election cycle must stop]

07.18 This Republican's Case for Medicare for All [A well-informed Republican is rare, so let's hold him in the light so others may learn]

07.18 Trump rally crowd chants 'send her back' after president attacks Ilhan Omar [1:03 video shows Trump pandering to his ignorant idolaters, and together they're making America a greater shit-hole country]

07.18 "Can't Change a Corrupt System by Taking Its Money": Sanders Urges All 2020 Democrats to Reject Insurance, Big Pharma Cash [49:02 video w/ lousy sound]

07.17 Why Democrats’ oversight machine is moving so slowly against Trump

07.17 Here's the real reason Trump is attacking 'the squad': he's scared of their politics

07.17 'Good,' Says Elizabeth Warren, After Billionaire Right-Winger Peter Thiel Says She's 2020 Democrat He Is 'Most Scared By'

07.17 The American Right Defines Patriotism As Complacency About Racism

07.17 This is what today's America looks like. The squad is us

Justice Matters

07.19 UN urged to act over 'purge' of Turkey's lawyers by Erdogan

07.19 DOJ Releases Strong Evidence of Trump’s Campaign Finance Violations But No Explanation of No Charges [The statement]

07.16 Contempt [Variations of frequent loss & theft of property title by organized legal efforts against black owners]

07.15 Australia 'deeply concerned' about China's treatment of Uighur people [What are the reasons, exactly, that justify harsh imprisonment of a million people?]

07.15 Zuma tells South Africa corruption inquiry he is victim of foreign plot [Unaccountable corrupt governments are so in fashion these days...]

High Crimes vs. Human Rights

07.19 Conscientious objectors of first world war – their untold tales [The record proves they were morally right by avoiding violent early deaths of their cousins and themselves]

Economics & Corrupt Capitalism

07.18 Corporate tax cuts blocked at least 15,000 affordable homes in California. Here’s how

07.15 China’s Economic Growth Hits 27-Year Low as Trade War Stings

International & Futurism

07.19 U.N.'s Bachelet says Congresswomen opposing Trump are 'fantastic'

07.19 Iran makes 'substantial' nuclear offer in return for US lifting sanctions [Was barbaric Saudi Arabia—whose citizens were more involved in the 9-11 attacks—the wrong ally all along?]

07.19 “The Task Ahead Is Enormous, and There Is Not Much Time” [Read this and learn. Or read Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) | Twitter and/or President Trump (@POTUS) | Twitter. Are you serious? Or are you in hideously criminal denial?]

07.18 Foreign purchases of American homes plunge 36% as Chinese buyers flee the market

07.18 There are 16 million slaves around the world making our stuff

07.18 ‘No rioters, only a tyrannical regime’: Thousands of Hong Kong seniors march in support of young extradition law protesters [Most people around the world have more in common with these Hong Kong Chinese protestors than with the ignorant people at Trump rallies]

07.18 Dozens Arrested as Over 1,000 Jewish Activists and Allies Shut Down Entrances to ICE Headquarters Demanding Closure of Trump Detention Camps [Obviously these are not the immoral and less educated right-wing jews who support Netanyahu, Trump and ICE, and who slowly exterminate Palestinians when no one is looking]

07.17 Trump Murdered the Iran Deal—And Europe Isn’t Too Happy About It [Only psychopathic Saudi Arabia and Russia are U.S. ’allies’ now...]

07.17 Trump’s Unlawful Asylum Policy Is a Jab at Mexico

07.16 Trump’s race fantasy is clear: the US as home for whites fleeing Europe [1:09 video]

07.15 India’s Terrifying Water Crisis

07.15 Australia now has the highest minimum wage in the world [From 1960 to 2018 – the U.S. has fallen from 1st place to below the tenth place and off the chart]

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  Obama's Budget Revealed: Money for Wars and Weapons, While More Americans Face Joblessness and Hunger

A REPUBLICAN-LITE'S PRIORITIES:

Obama's Budget Revealed: Money for Wars and Weapons, While More Americans Face Joblessness and Hunger

The latest federal budget opens the American public to yet more pain, while shielding the military and the rest of the national security establishment from the same.

by Jo Comerford
March 2, 2010

If the 2011 budget and its projections proceed as planned, many Americans will be hungrier and still jobless in a harsher, meaner world. Budgetary savings achieved by cutting aid for the poorest Americans will be spent on wars, weapons, and “security” needs.

Send up a flare! The 2011 federal budget has sprung some leaks in the midst of a storm. Not sure there's enough money for life rafts!  Forget women and children first!

Buffeted by economic hard times, the 2,585-page, $3.8 trillion document is already taking on water, though this won’t be obvious to you if you’re reading the mainstream media. Let’s start with the absolute basics: 59% of the budget’s spending is dedicated to mandatory programs like Medicaid, Medicare, Unemployment Insurance, Social Security, and now Pell Grants; 34% is to be spent on “discretionary programs,” including education, transportation, housing, and the military; 7% will be used to service the national debt.

A serious look at this budget document reveals some “leaks” -- two in actual spending practices and two in the basic assumptions that undergird the budget itself. Ship-shape as it may look on the surface, this is a budget perilously close to an iceberg, and it’s not clear whether the captain of the ship will heed the obvious warning signs.

Whose Security Is This Anyway?

In his State of the Union Address, given several days before the 2011 budget was released, President Obama announced a three-year freeze on “non-security discretionary spending.” This was meant as a gesture toward paying down the looming national debt, but it should also be considered an early warning sign for leak number one. After all, the president exempted all national-security-related spending from the cutting process. Practically speaking, according to the National Priorities Project (NPP), national security spending makes up about 67% of that discretionary 34% slice of the budget. In 2011, that will include an as-yet-untouchable $737 billion for the Pentagon alone.

Within the context of the total budget, then, so-called non-security discretionary spending represents a mere 11% of proposed 2011 spending. In other words, Obama’s present plans to chip away at the debt involve leaving 89% of the budget untouched.  Only the $370 billion going to myriad domestic social programs will be on the chopping block.

What's in that $370 billion? Well, for starters, programs that focus on the environment, energy, and science. In the 2011 budget, these categories combined are projected to receive $79 billion or 6% of total domestic discretionary spending. Though each of these areas could actually use a significant boost in funds, that’s obviously not in the cards -- and this will translate into less money at the state level.  New York, for example, is projected to receive $247 million in home energy assistance for low-income folks, down more than $230 million from 2010. These funds mean an energy safety net for our communities, and also warmth and jobs in a cold winter, which looks like “security” to most of us, no matter what our captain says.

Asking for disproportionate cuts and efficiencies in programs in only 11% percent of the overall budget might perhaps be slightly easier to stomach if military spending wasn’t allowed relatively free rein in 2011 (and thereafter). The NPP estimates, in fact, that aggregated increases in military spending over the next decade will exceed $500 billion, drowning twice-over the projected $250 billion in non-security discretionary savings from the president’s cuts over the same time period. Consider this visible unwillingness to control military-related spending leak two in our budgetary Titanic.

By now, danger flags should be going up in profusion because the second leak is so familiar, so George W. Bush. With each new bit of information, in fact, it sounds more and more like the same old song, the last guy's tune. It’s clear that, as soon as the stimulus bump wears off later this year, we're in danger of falling back into exactly the same more-money-for-the-military, less-federal-aid-to-the-states rut we’ve been in for years, despite strong statements from both President Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates decrying Pentagon waste.

And speaking of waste, the Department of Defense is currently carrying weapons-program cost overruns for 96 of its major weapons programs totaling $295 billion, which alone are guaranteed to wipe out any proposed savings from President Obama's non-security discretionary freeze, with $45 billion to spare. That's only to be expected, since neither the Pentagon nor any of the armed services have ever been able to pass a proper audit. Ever.

If they had, what would have become of the C-17, the Air Force's giant cargo plane? With a price tag now approaching $330 million per plane and a total program cost of well over $65 billion, the C-17, produced by weapons-maker Boeing, has miraculously evaded every attempt to squash it. In fact, Congress even included $2.5 billion in the 2010 budget for ten C-17s that the Pentagon hadn’t requested.

Keep in mind that $2.5 billion is a lot of money, especially when cuts to domestic spending are threatened. It could, for instance, provide an estimated 141,681 children and adults with health care for one year and pay the salaries of 6,138 public safety officers, 4,649 music and art teachers, and 4,568 elementary school teachers for that same year. Having done that, it could still fund 22,610 scholarships for university students, provide 46,130 students the maximum Pell Grant of $5,550 for the college of their choice, allow for the building of 1,877 affordable housing units, and provide 382,879 homes with renewable electricity -- again for that same year -- and enough money would be left over to carve out 29,630 free Head Start places for kids. That’s for ten giant transport planes that the military isn’t even asking for.

Domestic-spending freeze proponents demand that our $13 trillion national debt, accumulated over seven decades, be turned back starting now. Critics of Obama’s freeze remind us that, while the C-17 flourishes, cutting into that domestic 11% is like trying to get blood from a stone. They argue that what we need in recessionary times is an infusion of strategic domestic spending. They tend to cite Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s Economy.com, who has noted that, for every dollar in stimulus aid directed toward the states, $1.40 returns to the economy, while every dollar invested in infrastructure spending yields $1.60.

Freeze critics are acutely aware that, by December 31, 2010, most of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), that Obama stimulus package, will expire and states will face a remarkably bleak future. By then, they will also have spent the bulk of their education-relief funds, even as they grapple with a projected 48-state 2011 budget gap of $180 billion. Last year, despite the infusion of stimulus money, the same 48 states were already experiencing significant budget gaps and so cut a cumulative $194 billion or 28% of their total 2010 budgets.

Having already imposed deep program cuts, governors in almost every state will have to make even more excruciating choices before July 1st, the beginning of their next fiscal year. In Massachusetts, officials are considering eliminating funding for a program providing housing vouchers to homeless families. California is facing $1.5 billion in reductions to kindergarten through 12th grade education and community college funding, while New York State may have to reduce payments to health-care providers by $400 million.

On the eve of the annual gathering of governors in Washington D.C., Ray Scheppach, executive director of the National Governors Association, told a Washington Post columnist that he anticipates states needing to do far more than just institute program cuts, layoffs, and benefit cuts.  Governors will have to permanently sell off assets like roads and office buildings, or implement a host of other previously “off-limits” changes.

Afloat in an Ever Harsher World

Having looked at two obvious leaks in the upper hull of our budgetary ship of state, it’s time to move deep underwater and examine the weak spots in two of the basic assumptions that undergird the new budget. The first deals with an issue on everyone's mind: unemployment.

The 2011 budget numbers are based on a crucial projection: just where the unemployment rate will be in 2012.  Revenues available at the federal and state levels will depend, in part, on how many people go back to work and once again begin paying taxes on their wages. For the pending and projected federal budgets to have a shot at panning out, unemployment must decline, as the budget predicts it will, from the present official rate of 9.7% to 8.5% by 2012. That doesn’t sound like much of a drop, especially when Americans are in job pain. But there's a strong likelihood that even this goal is unattainable.

In reality, the U.S. needs to generate an estimated 1.5 million new jobs each year simply to keep pace with the arrival of newcomers on the job market.  That’s before we talk about knocking down the present staggering unemployment rate. In this case, however, one set of budget projections (that three-year domestic spending freeze) might work against the other (that modest decline in unemployment).  Fewer federal stimulus dollars will be available to offset onrushing shortfall disasters at the state budgetary level, which means a potential drop in jobs.  And, thanks to that domestic freeze, more pain is in the offing, with fewer services available, for those out of work.  Even if the new Senate jobs bill makes it to the president's desk, it’s unlikely to go far enough to make a real difference.  All of this means that an 8.5% unemployment rate in two years is, at best, an optimistic projection.

Even if that figure were hit, however, Americans still wouldn’t be celebrating, in budgetary terms or otherwise.  At 8.5%, we’re only back to an unemployment rate not seen in more than a quarter of a century, and keep in mind that a one-dimensional unemployment figure can’t begin to capture the complexity of what the Bureau of Labor Statistics describes as “alternate measures of labor underutilization.”  In other words, it doesn’t count everyone who is underemployed, employed only part-time, or discouraged and so considered out of the job market. At 16.5% as of January 2010, this measure tells a very different story.

Nor does that 8.5% figure capture the disproportionately terrible employment situation faced by young people or people of color who are distinctly over-represented on the unemployment rolls.  And if you happen to live in certain metropolitan areas, 50% of you can kiss your chances of a quick recovery goodbye.  According to the projections of a U.S. Conference of Mayors study titled U.S. Metro Economics, Dayton, Ohio, is not expected to see a significant employment bounce until 2015; Hartford, Connecticut, not until 2018, and Detroit, Michigan, not until after 2039.

As Atlantic magazine Deputy Managing Editor Don Peck noted recently, it will be a long time before we dig ourselves out of this current job crisis. “We are living through a slow motion catastrophe,” he writes, “one that could stain our culture and weaken our nation for many, many years to come.”

That projected 8.5% figure and all the projected freezes and cuts that go with it, don’t begin to address this reality.  Think of that as leak three.

Then, consider this little tidbit from the 2011 budget, hardly noted or discussed in the news, even though it has the potential to punch a hole in the budgetary hull:  the document projects a zero percent cost of living adjustment (COLA) for Food Stamps through 2019.

To understand just what this means, it’s necessary to step back for a moment. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), food stamp usage is remarkably widespread and growing.  Thirty-six million Americans, including one out of every four children, are currently on Food Stamps. An estimated monthly Food Stamp benefit for a family of four is $321 (approximately 89 cents per person per meal), which already falls significantly short of what the USDA considers a “thrifty” family's grocery receipts, estimated at roughly $513 per month.

If the COLA for food stamps is frozen over the next eight years, NPP analysts project a 19% erosion in the buying power of those stamps due to inflation. This means that, by the end of 2019, a similar family of four, eating at exactly the same level, would be paying $611 a month for its food, or $100 more, while still receiving that same $321.

In other words, if the 2011 budget and its projections proceed as planned, a great many Americans will be hungrier and still jobless in a harsher, meaner world, while what budgetary savings are achieved on the backs of the poorest Americans will be gobbled up by wars, weapons, and other “security” needs.  Ordinary Americans will largely be left in a sink or swim world and the waters will be very, very cold.

Tell the radio operator.  It’s none too soon.  Start sending out the signals.  SOS... SOS... SOS...


Jo Comerford is the executive director of the National Priorities Project. Previously, she served as director of programs at the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and directed the American Friends Service Committee's justice and peace-related community organizing efforts in western Massachusetts.

Copyright 2010 Jo Comerford

This article is republished in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission. Additional edifying comments and links can be found here on the Tom Dispatch site.



Copyright © 2009 The Baltimore Chronicle. All rights reserved.

Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.

This story was published on March 2, 2010.

 



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