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The U.S. Budget Crisis…We Just Got to See Congress at Its Worst

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Finally in the 11th hour, the United States Congress has reached an agreement to continue funding our government until next Thursday cutting $2 billion from the budget. They claim that this will give them time to work out the details of a budget to fund the government for the remainder of 2011. Let’s hope that this comes to fruition.

First of all, In my view, after watching the speeches of both Sen. Harry Reid (D) and Speaker John Boehner (R), I felt as though I was watching the Academy Awards. If Senator Reid, thanked one more person, I think I would be sick. I was waiting for him to thank his producer and his agent, thank God that didn’t happen. The bottom line is that neither the democrats nor the republicans should have ever allowed this budget showdown to occur and they certainly shouldn’t expect a pat on the back from the American people for doing the jobs that they were elected to do.

The lives of over 1,000,000 Americans hung in the balance while this crisis deepened, and yet our politicians couldn’t seem to even agree on what they disagreed about. Then to make matters worse some members of congress stated that they would not accept their paychecks if the federal government shutdown. I’m certain that this was little consolation to those making $30,000 per year when predominantly wealthy politicians state that they will go without their paychecks. I personally found this to be a hollow offer and not at all comforting.

But wait…it gets even worse. The greatest disgrace in the actions of our congress is that they had the audacity to tell the members of our armed forces that they would receive pay through midnight tonight, after which they would not be paid without a federal budget agreement. Then to add to the discomfort, they were told that there were no guarantees that their pay once a budget was passed, would be reinstated retroactively. This included those soldiers deployed in the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan. How dare they punish these brave men and women who are paid so little, but give so much, up to and including their lives.

And where was our President in all of this? I find it utterly distasteful that he would announce his run for reelection in 2012 while the state of our nations finances was in question. In my opinion, he should have postponed his reelection announcement and taken a much more aggressive stance towards our members of congress, holding them accountable before the American people, until they got the budget passed. My guess is that we wouldn’t have had to wait until almost 11:30PM EST to find out if our government would be open for business tomorrow had he taken the lead on this issue from the start. The bottom line is that his reelection announcement was ill timed and should have been postponed in light of the important, time-sensitive issues on the table. It was an unnecessary distraction.

I have written several brief opinions on this topic over the past few days as it is of special importance to me. I have a loved one in the armed services, and as an individual early in his military career, he can scarcely afford to go without pay. Those that suffer most are the ones like him, that are at the lowest levels of the pay scale and those soldiers with families. Do they not already sacrifice enough for our country without becoming pawns in a political game?

Hopefully, during the coming week, while negotiations are made to fund our country for the remainder of 2011, congress will realize the negative impact they have had on both those directly and indirectly affected by their inaction. In honesty though, I hold little hope of that happening given the current state of our politics..

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About Dominic DiFrancesco

  • Ricka

    you didn’t anything about the biggest reason why this is going down. clue: Tea party. It’s thier fault.

  • Dominic DiFrancesco

    Ricka, you are correct. In this particular piece I didn’t specifically mention the Tea Party movement, however I too would like to know when the Tea Party got to dictate public policy for the average American. Thank you for your comment.

  • Clavos

    Your article misses the point that almost all of the “negotiation” on both sides of the aisle, (and even the “shutdown crisis” itself) was manufactured grandstanding to give the pols an opportunity to play to the voters.

  • Boeke

    The GOP chose to play to the Tea Party extremists to hold their loyalty.

  • Clavos

    …While the Dems played their clients, everyone on the government tit.

  • Dominic DiFrancesco

    It absolutely was both parties playing the game with this issue. I don’t see things getting any better anytime soon as we approach the 2012 elections.

  • http://eagleviews.org Allen Scott

    In reality the democrat controlled 111th congress failed in their due diligence to pass a budget in April of 2010 to fund the government for 2011. Instead they chose to ram OBAMACARE down the collective throats of the American people instead of doing the job they were supposed to do. So 7 continuing resolutions later we are still arguing the 2011 budget that the DEMS failed to pass in 2010.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Yeah, how DARE those doggone liberals wanting to do something about forty-odd million Americans not having any health insurance at all, about half of all bankruptcies being due to health problems (which is never a problem in any other first-world democracy), about closing the infamous donut hole, about health insurance companies dropping a person’s insurance just because they can…

    …yeah, how DARE those liberals do such a thing!

  • Dominic DiFrancesco

    Allen and Glenn you both have good points.

    I am not a fan of Obama’s healthcare plan or the way in which it was rammed through congress. I don’t approve of either party doing what was done with healthcare, it just happens to be the democrats that did it this time. I still would like to think that there is a better way to solve this problem.

    I like many other Americans, also firmly believe that something needs to be done to reform healthcare. Unfortunately its going to take someone smarter than myself to know exactly what that “something” is.

    With regard to the budget crisis, I don’t believe that it should ever be left to the last minute as was done this past Friday. It begs the question: What changed between March (pick any date) and Friday April 8th that made the house and senate come to agreement?

    My guess…can you say ELECTION! 2012 is right around the corner and neither party wanted to be the one to hold up the federal budget. Instead, as was mentioned in earlier posts, this was an opportunity for both parties to grandstand and make themselves look like the hero.

    The unknown in all of this is whether the American public will fall for it as they have done repeatedly in the past. My guess is that they will. I guess we will have to just wait and see.

  • http://usa-china-international.blogspot.com/ David M. Ginsberg

    The Republicans are solely to blame for the current fiscal crisis. It is their fault. Republicans are betraying America with their shenanigans about the budget deficit. The debate has, pathetically, abandoned any hope or attempt about even balancing the budget. Instead, they are debating merely when the new limit to the deficit should expire, because the Republicans want the crisis to reemerge before the Presidential election. In other words, there is a limit as to how high the amount the USA owes can reach. Each year, because our budget it not balances, we owe more and more money, as the yearly deficits add up. There have been caps on how high that debt could go. There were many caps which keep getting raised, because congress can never ever balance the budget. The cap was raised six of seven times during the Bush administration, without any big deal being made, because, as disgusting as this is, it needed to be done in the interests of the country, and even democrats recognized this. But once again, we have a Democrat elected as President, and it is not bad enough for the Republicans that they can’t, like dictators, impose their will on the rest of us. It is not enough that the Democrats are willing to compromise with and give them most of what they want. They are going to (I don’t say willing because as I write this, time is literally running out) “tank the country” to destroy a President. The harm which will befall America will far exceed, literally, the harm to America which would be caused if Al-Queda invaded Washington DC and destroyed all government buildings and killed all members of the legislative branch of government.
     
    Their sole goal is to make sure the crisis revisits us shortly,, right before the next presidential election, before it can be adequately addressed. This begs the issue. We don’t care when the crisis revisits us. We want it cured. It should be cured, and can be cured, and that is what our politicians were elected to do. And while there is the pretense that there is a theoretical intellectual debate regarding tax increases versus spending cuts (two different economic theories) in practice, most politicians care more about their own special interests of getting re-elected. In some very real but extreme cases, some of the Republicans don’t even care about being re-elected they want so badly to cause the current crisis to “explode.”

    Let’s talk about the issue of tax increases versus spending cuts. Democrats want to balance the budged with the former, while Republicans want the later. Although the Democrats have largely agreed to spending cuts, the Republicans won’t agree to any tax increases whatsoever, even when they are not real tax increases.

    Case in point. George Bush gave a four billion dollar tax cut to oil companies when oil was Ten ($10) Dollars a gallon. At that point, we were desperate to decrease our dependency on imported oil from Arab countries who had a monopoly and there was the well founded fear, after 9/11, that a portion of our money was going to fund Arab terrorist groups. Moreover, due to the instability in the Arab world, we had a lot of troops diverted to those areas where oil was drilled and shipped. We had to protect shipping lanes, and oil producers. Remember the war to protect Kuwait (and Saudi Arabia)? Does anyone really doubt that this was a war to protect our supply of oil? Same issue arose when hostilities with Iran threatened oil tankers passing through the straights near Iran.

    So, as existing wells on US land dried up, it became more expensive to bring up oil from existing wells and to drill in more and more difficult and expensive places, like off shore. Because oil was only Ten ($10) Dollars a barrel, a tax cut was temporarily given to the oil companies. But oil has shot up ten fold, and Exxon, for example, just posted another quarter of profits of more than Ten Billion Dollars!!! It is absurd to claim that the oil companies need or deserve the Four Billion Dollar Tax Break. Remember, Four Billion Dollars is for the entire industry. The entire industry is profitable. If Exxon alone made Ten Billion Dollars dollars in a single quarter, how can this tax cut be justified? It can’t be.

    Yet, the industry claims that repealing the tax credit (which was temporary) amounts to a tax increase. They say “ No New Taxes!!!). This is an absurd lie and argument. Taxes aren’t being increased, nor is anything new being imposed. A per-existing tax is being restored because the circumstances in which the credit was granted have disappeared and furthermore, the country desperately needs the money. While it is clear that even this four billion dollar tax credit, if repealed, would not solve the budget problem, it is a big single item, and quite easy to be implemented. The American population, if asked, would never support keeping this credit. But big oil companies have lots of money which they donate to politicians. So they basically have all the republicans, and a number of democrats, who won’t touch this ridiculous gift to the oil industry. The legislation which would have repealed the tax credit to the oil industry was correctly described by CNN as “Dead on Arrival.” This is a betrayal of the American Public by politicians that is incomprehensible. Every politician who voted to retain this credit, even those who did not actively campaign for its repeal, should find their re-election campaigns “dead on arrival.” They should also have any and all campaign contributions, and all compensation to their friends, family, and staff, and even themselves after they leave office, disclosed and investigated. We need full transparency here. If we had it, the American public would never stand for this. This is not a partisan issue. This is not an issue which is subject to legitimate economic debate. This is the “sell-out” of the American public due to a lack of transparency.

    A similar issue arises with respect to certain temporary tax credits given to the very rich which are set to expire. These people are rich and don’t need the tax credits. America is broke and does need the tax revenue. Republicans are describing these people as “Job Creators.” That is a nice title. But there is not a shred of evidence linking the restoration of the taxes to any detrimental effect on jobs. In fact, the jobless rate is at an all time high? Why didn’t these “job creators” create some jobs with all of the tax breaks they have received for almost a decade? What is clear is that, if America defaults and/or doesn’t get its budget deficit under control, our entire economy will be destroyed, and that includes jobs and a whole lot more.

    President Obama is willing to cut expenditures. But honestly, I don’t see where or how he can do this. It is not like people on social security are getting that much. And social security is something workers paid for and earned. As far as other expenditures, like education, the real long term answer to all of our problems is education. The answer to crime, drug abuse, drug dealing, teenage pregnancy, unemployment, and so many ills is education. And also, if you want to talk about job creation, teaching is a job. We need more teachers, not less. Teachers are underpaid and overworked. To talk about cutting expenses for education instead of making rich people “job creators” pay a little more money in taxes is absurd. Any republican who makes that argument should receive a full battery of drug and psychiatric tests.

    Let’s look at programs for the poor. In this economy, statistics prove that we have a lot more poor people, they are a lot poorer then before, and a lot of them are educated hard working people who lost jobs and can’t find new jobs. They don’t get that much aid to begin with. Does it make sense to make these people starve, literally, so a multimillionaire can die and have his/her heirs pay no inheritance tax? Morally, there should be no argument. As a graduate of the Wharton School with honors and having majored in economics, I can assure you that it is better to give a dollar to a starving person who will spend the dollar than a rich person who will just save it. You see, there is a ripple effect. The person who gets the dollar to eat buys food from a local store, which in turn, can employ people to work in the store, Instead of going on welfare themselves, they get jobs, and spend their money at other businesses. They also buy homes, or can pay their existing mortgage. And on and on. The answer to our current economic woes is to get money to the poorest people who need it and will spend it, and the only place to get that money (given the budget deficit) is to take it from those people who have more than enough money to give it.

    A Congressman from Wyoming (a Republican), whom CNN interviewed, said President Obama “should show leadership” by trying to forced Democratic Senators to pass the [Republican] House Bill on the Budget Ceiling and then by signing it himself. I am so disgusted by this intellectual dishonesty by yet another Republican. What he The Republican Congressman really was saying is that the President should capitulate to the Republican House Members who have totally abandoned the wishes of the American public who wanted a balanced budget and instead are [the Republican congressmen] focused only on trying to sabotage the next Presidential election.

    Why does this bill have to create a crisis just before the next presidential election? Because Republicans have learned they can’t win an election by running an honest election on the merits. They need to lie or steal an election or create irrelevant and obfuscating drama and issues. Since this President has kept himself free of any sex or other scandal, like so many Republican and Democratic politicians before him, the Republicans need to create a financial crisis just before the election.

    So it is Republicans (and a few Democrats) who are preventing the problem from being cured. It was Republicans who caused the problem from the beginning.

    It is not a partisan opinion that (i) George Bush ran the country for 8 years (and until three years ago); (ii) Democrats can not pass effective legislation to solve the budged deficit because they need (and don’t have)60% of the vote in the Senate to avoid filibusters (which Republicans do to get their way); (iii) Democrats can not pass effective legislation to solve the budget deficit because the Republicans control the house of Representatives; (iv) under his administration, Bush greatly outspent revenues at an ever accelerating pace such that the budget crisis now facing us was, if not created by Bush, was made far worse by Bush [due, for example, to the costs of the Iraqi war, Bush tax cuts, and lack of regulation of such companies like Enron and the resulting economic catastrophes]; and (v) the debt ceiling was raised many times during Bush’s eight year term, but all of a sudden, now that a Democrat is elected President, they have a problem raising the Budget Deficit ceiling.

    It is also not a “partisan opinion” that people are really suffering due to the extremely high costs of gasoline, the still rising costs of health care (both of which were just reported on CNN today), the loss of jobs, and the loss of wealth due to the housing crisis (including the rising foreclosure rates). How can it be argued that the rich should not have their taxes cut but the little money which is going to help the poor in this country should be cut, especially when those poor are growing in numbers and getting even poorer.

    Republicans need to obfuscate the issues, because all Americans, like me, will want to know why, for example, Exxon Mobile announced that their profits again were astronomical 10.7 Billion Dollars (this quarter) but the oil companies were able to keep their tax credits? We will want to know, “When is enough enough?”

    The Republicans disingenuously call these ultra-rich the “job creators.” But when and how are they going to create jobs? In the oil company example, USA Refineries are running at full capacity and it will take years to get approvals for and then build more refineries. These same oil companies oppose other forms of Green energy. What jobs are they going to create? I hope they aren’t asking us to make them even richer so they can create a handful of jobs in third world countries where they will exploit their workers and the USA will get no benefit. The only thing which will come our way (to the USA) is the effects of the pollution and global warming and the bill for the defense of foreign sources of oil since these foreign operations do not face the same environmental regulations they do in the USA.

    Even the taxes these companies supposedly pay on their income is false, since they don’t pay taxes on their foreign operations. The only jobs being created are a handful of jobs for already very rich international tax lawyers and international tax accountants. Perhaps I am being to shortsighted. When our servicemen and women get killed defending our foreign oil interests, some people will get jobs burying our deceased. And some of our service men and women will only be maimed, and this, some people will get jobs as physical therapists and other health care providers. I guess that is the kind of jobs we can expect by making these “job creators” even richer.

    We all want, no demand, to know why Republicans are refusing to repeal the 4 billion dollar tax cut oil companies get (especially since the tax cut was enacted when oil was Ten ($10) Dollars a barrel but it is now One Hundred ($100) Dollars a barrel at the same time) which they obviously no longer need. Personally, I think the President is to soft on Republicans and Republican interest groups. I would not only repeal the tax breaks on oil companies, I will impose a windfall profits tax and give half of the proceeds of that tax to design in the USA, patent in the USA, and manufacture in the USA devices, equipment, machines, etc. to produce (or increase the production or efficiency of the product) of energy from alternative “green” renewable sources. If you read my other blog which I wrote a long time ago, you will see that the costs of continuing to import oil from foreign countries is far worse than the $100 per barrel and includes astronomical economic and non-economic costs (such as National Security costs), environmental costs, etc.

    We all know, as well, that there is a lag effect, and no president, or his administration, can effect change in just a couple years, especially when any attempt at legislative action is thwarted by Republicans who are only concerned about getting elected and re-elected and protecting a few special interest groups, mainly really wealthy businesses like oil companies. They really don’t even care about their usual special interest groups, like the “moral majority” as through their own personal examples of how they live their own lives, at the state and local levels, and even certain congressman abandon their opposition to gay marriages (and I am glad they did). The problem is they abandon their opposition to such issues not because they really care about these issues, one way or the other, but because they want to capture as many votes as possible, and they recognize that they get more votes, overall, by voting for the “center” on such issues, as the die-hard liberals will never vote for them, and the :”die-hard” conservatives will never vote for a democrat, so the votes they can capture, the so called “centrist” votes, are overwhelmingly in favor of gay marriage. That, and the fact that republicans who are constantly being caught in sex scandals, including “gay sex scandals” and occasionally, inferences of inappropriate behavior towards children and male children (like with the congressional page issue) make them seem like hypocrites (which they are).