Tag Archives: spending

Sequestration Madness

OK, I take it back.  A few weeks ago, I said “let sequestration happen”.  My logic…there’s no way D.C. politicians are EVER going to agree to cut the military by nearly 10%, and I’m willing to survive the pain of the other cuts, if we start to cut our ridiculous military spending.  My own agency, as all others funded by “discretionary” spending, would also take a big cut.  If it were all done wisely (don’t laugh), I do think there’s “fat” that can be trimmed from a lot of places in government.  Hence, my previous post that sequestration may not be such a bad thing.

I was wrong.

For one, I foolishly thought that sequestration could be done “wisely”.  Now that we are 3 days from sequestration becoming a reality, it’s becoming quite obvious how poorly prepared Federal agencies are to address the cuts.  Warnings of up to 22 days of furloughs are going out to Federal employees.  First…what does this solve?  If budgets are indeed cut by 8% or so, what does a furlough solve?  You’re cutting costs temporarily, but what happens at the start of the new fiscal year?  You still have a lowered budget, and are facing the same problem.  Are you going to furlough Federal employees one day a week for all of NEXT year as well?  If cuts are enacted, stop-gap measures such as cutting travel, cutting ALL scientific conference attendance (Ugh…gotta love cutting scientists off from contact with their colleagues or the public), and an ill-thought out furlough solve NOTHING for the long-term. 

DC politicians are continually kicking the can down the road instead of dealing with budget deficits.  It seems Federal agencies are following the same line of thinking, trying to patch together a last-minute set of short-term fixes to deal with what could end up being a permanent budget cut. 

Trying to manage a science project right now in the Federal government?  Next to impossible, given the complete uncertainty as to budgets or staffing.  Government CAN be very efficient and can provide wonderful services to the American people…if only the damn politicians would get out-of-the-way.

Sequester? Let it happen…

I’m a Democrat. I’m a liberal. I’m also a Federal employee. However, I’m also increasingly thinking that it wouldn’t be that bad of a thing if the automatic spending cuts in the “sequester” are allowed to take effect.

It really isn’t a lot of fun trying to manage a project right now in the Federal government. Uncertainties over budgets make it incredibly difficult to make even short-term plans, much less longer-term plans. Agencies are already bracing themselves for cuts, so “frills” like travel, hiring, or needed equipment are increasingly difficult to get approved. If the sequester happens, nearly all programs and agencies funded through discretionary spending will be cut by 8.4%. That’s a big number, especially given that we’re already several months into the Federal government’s fiscal year. It will have a real, and very painful impact on agencies, including mine.

And still, I say…let it happen. Unlike the idealogues who run the Republican party, even as a very liberal Democrat, I’m quite pragmatic about the deficit. Republicans say that it has to be managed ONLY through budget cutting, a ridiculous, and frankly, quite impossible task. Democrats, on the other hand, have shown they are much more realistic on the deficit, having already agreed to very signficant budget cuts as part of the debt limit deal last year, and putting more on the table in the attempt to reach a “Grand Bargain” on the sequester and deficit. But Democrats have been balanced, realizing it’s impossible to cut deficits without also raising revenue.

It’s that “balanced” view that leads me to believe the sequester isn’t necessarily a horrible thing. There has to be a balanced and pragmatic approach to cutting the deficit. A VERY big part of that has to be a realistic view of the Defense budget. We spend more on defense than the rest of the world combined, but yet Defense cuts have been generally taboo for Republicans. In the Sequester, Defense takes an unprecedented 9.2% cut. If negotiations to avoid the sequester occur, you can bet the farm that Republicans won’t agree to anything unless it drastically decreases the amount of Defense cuts. The sequester may be the ONLY mechanism that finally gets the U.S. to cut its bloated defense department. The sequester may be the ONLY mechanism that gets the U.S. to take a more realistic view on the role of the U.S. military in the 21st century.

There are also some political advantages to Democrats for allowing the sequester to happen. Republicans have only ONE party message, one platform…CUT GOVERNMENT. They don’t even have a plan for WHAT to cut, their only message in the last several years is to cut, cut, cut, and when asked about details, they hem and haw, and lately, have even had the gall to say that it’s up to DEMOCRATS to decide what to cut.  It’s a ridiculous platform to begin with, but given the hollowness of the Republican party and COMPLETE lack of any other party message, if the sequester is allowed to happen, Republicans are suddenly left without ANY party message.  Democrats would have already agree to billions of dollars of cuts last year’s debt ceiling negotiations.  Massive cuts would occur with the sequester.  Suddenly, the ONLY message that Republicans seem to have is irrelevant.

As I said, cuts would hurt, and not just for those of us in the Federal government.  It’s a horrible time to cut spending, given that the economy is finally just getting back on its feet.  Economists have stated the sequester would likely reduce GDP by a full percentage point for the next few quarters.

But the pragmatic side of me states that across-the-board spending cuts would force agencies to streamline, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  The pragmatic side of me says a short-term hit to the economy is worth it, IF it gets the U.S. to take a more realistic look at our military spending.

Sequester?  Just let it happen…

You are NOT entitled to your opinion – Shut the hell up

From Patrick Stokes, here’s a nice piece on why you are sometimes NOT “entitled to your opinion”.   The point he’s making is that you are only “entitled” to an opinion that you can make a coherent argument for.  He uses an example of anti-vaccination paranoia to make his point, where the manic anti-vaccine crowd doesn’t have a scientific leg to stand on.  Science is science, fact is fact.  If your opinion is based on conjecture, intuition, “faith”, or other factor not supported by the facts?  Then you are NOT entitled to your opinion, when trying to argue against science and against fact.

Thus, a “Shut the Hell Up” topic for this post.  As we enter the home stretch of the presidential election, it’s rather laughable to read some of the opinions of those on the right.  Do you believe any of the following?  If so, then please do everyone else a favor, and save yourself some embarrassment.  Just Shut…the…hell…up.

- Obama Muslim? Obama a non-citizen? – Do I need to even mention these? Are you a disgusting, racist, pig-of-a-human being who believes Obama is not a citizen?  Do you believe that historical newspaper reports and a birth certificate are simply part of some massive conspiracy? Are you a disgusting, racist, pig-of-a-human being who refers to Obama as “Barack Husein Obama” and believes he’s secretly a Muslim?  If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, PLEASE…SHUT…THE…HELL…UP.

- Evolution Denial – Science is based on theory.  Theories are tested, with evidence either supporting or negating hypotheses.  With evolution, the evidence is extremely clear, both in the fossil record, and in real-world, observable processes.  Do you believe in creationism?  I really don’t care if you believe some omnipotent, all-powerful entity created the earth and the universe, IF you can reconcile that in your own mind with the science.  Do you believe evolution is false?  Do you believe evolution is a “lie straight from hell”, like Paul Broun, quite possibly the most ignorant congressman in the U.S.?  Do you belive the earth is just a few thousand years old?  If so, then SHUT…THE…HELL…UP.  Save yourself the embarrassment that’s sure to come whenever you open your mouth.

- Climate Change Denial – Possibly as soon as 5 years from now, the Arctic will be ice-free in the summer for the first time in at least 13 million years.  The U.S. is about to set a record for its warmest year ever.  Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels continue to rise, and the scientific evidence continues to overwhelmingly point to not only a warming climate, but a warming climate caused by anthropogenic activity.  Do you believe climate change isn’t real?  Do you believe scientists and liberals are involved in some unprecedented, massive conspiracy to somehow consolidate government power by pointing to climate change?  Do you believe that climate change is occurring, but humans have nothing to do with it?  If so…SHUT…THE…HELL…UP.

- Polls are politically biased – Just one week ago, before the debates, conservative talking heads and blogs were expressing outrage over the liberal bias of polls that showed Obama with a healthy and growing lead over Romney.  Obama with a 6-point lead in Ohio?  A 5-point lead in Florida?  BALONEY, said those on the right!  It’s a liberal conspiracy to discourage Republicans and depress voter turnout from the right!!  One short week later, and an Obama debate flop has the poll trends strongly reversing towards Romney. Hey Rush?  Do you still think the polls are biased toward Obama?  How about you other buffoons and blowhards who scoff at polls when they show Democrats ahead?  GMAFB.  The very success and long-term continuance of polling entities depends on them being RIGHT.  If they’re wrong, they are ignored in future elections and the polling group goes out of business.  Are you one of those idiots who thinks political polls are purposely biased towards Democrats?  Do you think there’s some conspiracy in the polls to depress Republican turnout?  If so, then SHUT…THE…HELL…UP.

- 1997 Michigan was better than 1997 Nebraska - A bit off topic, but…do you believe the 1997 Michigan Wolverines would beat the 1997 Nebraska Cornhuskers?  Do you believe the Wolverines were “robbed” when a perfect, 13-0 Nebraska team finished first in the coaches poll, while the Wolverines finished first in the AP poll?  Puh-lease.  The Nebraska ground game easily wears down the Wolverine defense, and the Blackshirts dominate the Wolverines.  Final score if they’d have played?  Nebraska 31, Michigan 13.  Do you believe the Wolverines were the better team?  Laughable!  SHUT…THE…HELL…UP.

- Unemployment numbers manipulated by Obama and Liberals - Unemployment numbers out last week were good by any measure, with unemployment falling to 7.8%.  Good news, right?  Well, to nutjob conservatives, ANYTHING positive that could EVER be attributed to Obama has to be a lie!  A liberal conspiracy!  Clearly Obama has somehow influenced the unemployment statistics!  Are you one of those conservative wackos who believes last week’s unemployment numbers were altered by Obama?  Please, just SHUT…THE…HELL…UP.

- Romney Budget Miracle - Do you believe that you can simultaneously 1) Cut taxes 2) Maintain or raise military spending, and 3) balance the budget?  Romney/Ryan seem to believe in such a formula for long-term fiscal sanity.  Do you believe it’s possible?  GMAFB….SHUT…THE…HELL…UP.

- Voter ID Regulations Are About Voter FraudReport after report show that voter fraud in the U.S. is insignificant.  However, a number of states have pushed strict voter ID regulations, with Republican-led state legislatures and governors leading the charge to increase scrutiny of in-person voters.  If in-person voter fraud isn’t an issue, if very few instances have been documented…why the push by Republican state legislatures to push for very strict voter ID laws?  Under oath, I don’t think you’d even get most Republicans to say the laws are about curbing voter fraud.  It’s about suppressing votes by minorities and other groups who historically lean very heavily towards Democrats.  It’s a form of discrimination, it’s a form of racism, it’s about voter suppression.  If you believe it’s actually about voter fraud?  You’re an idiot…SHUT…THE…HELL…UP.

Obama’s Defense Vision – Sure to Scare Warmongering Repubs

We’ve been at war in Afghanistan for 10 years now.  We just wrapped up a war in Iraq that was nearly that long.  What have we gained?  Yes, Sadam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden are dead.  I will be the first to say that’s a good thing.  But…at what cost?  Back in March, a report stated that we’ve spent $1.3 trillion on those two wars.   We’ve lost well over 6,000 American lives in those wars.  Over 1,000 other “coalation” troops have also been lost (something Americans don’t really seem to care about, or acknowledge).

Today, President Obama announced his vision for the future of the military.  It moves us away from the incredibly expensive, long-term “nation-building” wars of Iraq and Afghanistan, towards a smaller military heavy on special-operations forces, cybersecurity, and drone observation and defense.  As the Post article reports, the strategy will (gasp!!) make us more reliant on coalition building rather than unilateral action.  Obama also plans to reduce our overseas footprint, removing troops from Europe and other places around the globe.

I’m SURE hawkish Repubs will make this a centerpiece of the 2012 election.  If there’s one thing Repubs are good at, it’s scaring people, regardless of whether those fears are baseless or not.  Up until this point, it’s been damned hard to bash Obama too much on foreign policy, given that he’s ended the Iraq war as he promised, authorized a daring raid to kill Bin Laden, and started to restore our very damaged international reputation after the Bush era.  However, this will likely give Repubs something to use against Obama and Democrats as they try to revive the old Repub favorite of calling Dems weak on defense.   Given the great jobs news that came out today (highest private sector hiring in 10 years, lower unemployment filings), Repubs might NEED another issue to focus on come November, if the economy keeps perking up.  God knows Repubs will also have defense contractors and their $$$$$$ chomping at the bit to help fund an anti-Obama campaign.

Obama will be well prepared to fight back on the issue though.  As the story notes, these defense “cuts” STILL will result in a Pentagon budget that rises every year, but “only” by about the rate of inflation.  It’s damned hard to criticize continued increases as being too draconian.  We spend more on the military than the rest of the world combined.  We have a huge budget deficit.  Obama is being the only adult in the room and is proposing a REAL solution to help the economy and the deficit, but still maintain strong defense capabilities.

Obama is showing leadership on the issue, just as a sitting president should be doing.  He could have easily waited until after the election to announce his defense vision, but he’s putting the country above politics in making this announcement.   Just wait in the coming days and weeks to see if Repubs respond in kind, or if we immediately start to hear the same old rhetoric about the need for a massive, bloated military.

Perusin’ & Musin’

Some random thoughts from perusing the web…

Rick Perry Wants Wall Street Regulation Rolled Back – In an interview on CNBC, Rick Perry said that regulation of Wall Street was fine before the collapse, that it was actually the fault of government regulators that the economy crashed.  He wants Dodd-Frank and other Wall Street regulations to be rolled back.   Merry Christmas, Wall Street.  Between Perry’s 20% flat tax proposal and his desire to roll back financial regulation, happy times are sure to return to Wall Street.  It’s just the rest of us who won’t be participating in whatever kind of economic recovery Perry prefers.

CDC Recommends Boys get HPV  Vaccination - The CDC today put out a recommendation that young boys also get the HPV vaccine, before they become sexually active.  The vaccine will protect boys from certain cancers and genital warts.  I wonder who will be the first to come out and oppose the recommendation.  After all, we can’t have any government entity telling us what to do now, can we!?!?  It’s oppression!!  It’s some kind of governmental control conspiracy!!   Mark my words, you WILL see such comments from the right very soon.   Maybe it’s all a matter of evolution, survival of the fittest.  Pretty soon, all the ignorant, anti-science, right-wing wackos will be extinct through their own refusal to accept recommendations such as these, while us liberal, science-loving, tree-huggin’ wackos will rule the earth because WE were smart enough to immunize our children.

U.S. Security In Peril, $200 billion in proposed weapons cut - One proposal to help the debt reduction committee find $1 trillion in savings over the next decade is to cut spending on nuclear weapons by $200 billion.   $200 billion cut??!?!  How will America survive?!?!?  Those on the right would have you believe this somehow decimates America’s nuclear “deterrent”.  Uh….no.   Cutting $200 billion means we still would spend $500 billion on nuclear weapons over the next century.  HALF A TRILLION dollars spent for a weapon we say we will never use.   I actually wouldn’t mind seeing the debt panel fail, which would trigger the automatic cuts, including cuts to defense.  Political gridlock may be the ONLY thing that gets us to reduce our ridiculous levels of military spending.

Iceland to Plant French Trees to Save Species from Warming – Icelandic and French scientists are discussing a plan to plant French tree species endangered by global warming in Iceland.  Warming temperatures will soon make Iceland’s climate suitable to support some French tree species, which may not be able to adapt to warming temperatures in France.  It’s an interesting plan, and I certainly support efforts to save endangered plant and animal species.  However, I do think efforts like this are better PR moves than they are for long-term conservation planning.  If climate change becomes so extreme that some French tree species begin to die out, the climate shift isn’t a short-term phenomenon.  It would take one hell of a long-term view to plant trees in Iceland with the intention of replanting them in France many centuries in the future.   It’s a nice thought, but the practicality and utility of such plans is pretty questionable.  Unfortunately, the vast majority of plant and animal species are going to have to be able to adapt or migrate on their own.

Top Earners Doubled Share of Income - Over the last 30 years, the top 1% of wage earners had incomes increase 275%.   The bottom 20% of wage earners had incomes only increase a dismal 18%.  As the study notes, government policy is much less redistributive now than 30 years ago, with current tax and other government policies favoring the rich more than they used to.  This study pretty much typifies what Occupy Wall Street is protesting.  I find it laughable that many conservative commentators continue to brush off Occupy Wall Street as a short-term passing fad.  As long as the gap between rich and poor continues to grow, OWS is here to stay.

Repeal the 20th Century – Vote GOP -  I love this column on the Washington Post, by Katrina vanden Heuvel.  I love the reference to an earlier Washington Post column, and the “Repeal the 20th Century – Vote GOP” line.  As vanden Huevel notes, the GOP would not only like to dismantle 20th century social programs such as Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid, but they seem hell-bent on dismantling several decades (or more) of scientific research.  Given how GOP candidates seem to stumble all over themselves trying to see who can sound the most ignorant on climate change and evolution, it wouldn’t surprise me if the eventual GOP winner is the first one to embrace the flat earth theory.

Record-low SAT scores – Let's cut education spending!!

American Education - Grade of FAmerican investment in education and our future is paying off!!  We are getting EXACTLY what we deserve!! And what are we getting?  Dumb children.   SAT scores in reading for last year were the lowest ever recorded.   Very surprising…we continue to cut education funding, and our children continue to get dumber and dumber. 

 Out of the 41 countries tested in 2003.  U.S. students scored 28th in math testing.    Latvia just edged us out for 27th.  In reading, we scored 18th out of 41.  In science, we scored 22nd out of 41.  But who can blame us?  The United States just doesn’t have the resources to spend on education like Latvia does!!  Right????   Well, no, that isn’t quite right.  In 2011, the Federal government spent 12 times as much on the military as we did on education.   We spent nearly 10 times as much on the military as we did on science, environmental, and energy programs, combined.  Our military budget nearly matches the rest of the WORLD’S military budget, combined!!

It’s all about priorities.  Education funding seems to be one of the first things on the chopping block when there are budget issues.  Raise taxes?  Or fire teachers?  9 times out of 10 in the U.S., the answer seems to be to fire teachers.   Now we unquestionably have issues with federal deficits and debt, and what are our priorities for addressing that debt?  Do we raise taxes to ensure our ability to invest in our future?  GOD NO!!  This is America!  Land of the brain-dead GOP!   Raising taxes is COMPLETELY off the table!!

Do we cut our massive bloated military budget?  GOD NO!!!  This is America!  Land of the brain-dead GOP!  Cutting the military budget is COMPLETELY off the table!!!

Do we foolishly cut our investments in education and science?  GOD YES!  This is America! Land of the brain-dead GOP!  Michele Bachman has advocated that we simply CUT the entire Department of Education.  Rick Perry and Herman Cain also strongly advocate moving all control of education to states and local governments.  Surely state and local control would result in a better education system, right?  GOD NO!!  In my current state of South Dakota this past year, when budget issues arose, one of the first things cut (surprise!!) was education funding.   When push comes to shove, be it at the Federal, State, or local level, people consistently choose the short-sighted view to handle short-term budget issues by cutting long-term investment in education and science.

America land of the free, and home of the brave.  OH, and also the land of dumb children.  And there’s no one to blame but ourselves and our screwed up priorities.