Now that Congress and the President have finished playing Let’s Make a Deal on the annual gridlock over the federal budget, readers may think this debate is over.
THINK AGAIN, this has become an institutionalized annual ritual of Congress and the President regardless of political party or ideology.
Given the polarized nature of political ideology in America today, this is far from reality. The issues raised that had nothing to do with the debate on government spending or balancing the budget (abortion comes to mind) were ideological in nature (have always been) and thus debate over what our government spends OUR MONEY on will be indefinite regardless which political party is in the driver’s seat.
Frankly it IS NOT OUR MONEY that the Fed and Congress is wasting but loans from China to subsidize war(s) we cannot afford, and have not been paying cash for. It is our children and grand-children who will pay our debt to China. An interesting aspect of this is what exactly will happen if our children or grand-children should renege on paying our debts to China. Hope I’m not around when that time comes and China demands collection.
Well way back in November 2010 before all this brouhaha over the federal budget began (and the media built up the Tea Party movement far beyond what it really was – far right-wing Republicans pissed at their party leadership. Hell, this is no different than the pissed off left-wing of the Democrat Party staying home to let the Republicans and a few Tea Party allies regain the House and almost the Senate, the New York Times ran a reader interactive federal budget calculator that allowed readers (including many tax payers we hope) to well FIX THE FEDERAL BUDGET. It was called:
Budget Puzzle: You Fix the Budget
Since my edumacation was in political science and military intelligence NOT economics, I decided to take a crack at it.
I went beyond my own expectations and was able to balanced the federal budget by 2015. The NYT’s interactive program went to 2015 and 2030, but since I will be a relatively young 65 years old come 2015 and an old, old 80 years old come 2030, I felt it more realistic for me to fix the federal budget while chances are I’m still alive.
Below is a run down of what hard choices and decision have to seriously be made to balance the federal budget, but we are going to find most folks we elect to go to Congress more and more unwilling to risk addressing, especially earmarks and the most sacred cow – the bloated Defense (well really Offense) budget.
I reflect upon which hard choices I would have made if the voters of the 7th Congressional District of Ohio lost their minds and elected me to Congress. I will note those I support and oppose as a fiscal conservative and some what left-wing libertarian for some of these ideas appear as if they came from Ron Paul or the Libertarian Party at least on paper if not reality.
ROBERT L. HANAFIN, Major, U.S. Air Force-Retired, U.S. Civil Service, Veterans Issues Editor, VT News
Tax Payers – You Fix the Federal Budget
Source courtesy of the New York Times from their interactive article: Budget Puzzle: You Fix the Budget
Today, let’s imagine that our readers are in charge of the nation’s finances, we are members of Congress, if not the the President of the United States. Some of our options have more short-term savings and some have more long-term savings. When we have closed the budget gaps for both 2015 and 2030, we are done. Make your own plan, then share it online.
Here is how I fixed the federal budget with a focus on 2015 including what options I personally would not have chosen:
1. Cut foreign aid in half and save $17 billion by 2015 – YES, YES, YES, YES.
I believe true libertarians and fiscal conservative may go along with me on this one, even a few Tea Partiers.
At a time when the U. S is facing large deficits at home, the country should significantly reduce the money it spends helping other countries. Others say that foreign aid already represents a smaller share of the budget here than in other rich countries and that it expands American influence.
Yes, some opponents of cutting foreign aid will say that the rain drop in the bucket of the federal budget that is forked out on foreign aid is not worth the attention span it takes to cut it. SAY WHAT?
More is forked out on foreign aid than is spent in keeping our Selective Service System (the draft infrastructure going), but that doesn’t mean every little cut does not count. Every nook and cranny of federal spending we can cut is a GOOD THING. Not only would I cut foreign aid, but also the Selective Service System, since we are not using it.
The same rational is almost used to keep Offense/Defense spending a sacred cow except for a twist in which opponents of cutting Pentagon funding (most from right-wing think tanks like the Heritage Foundation) claim that more is spent on domestic, especially social programs than is paid on weapon system WE do not need.
2. Eliminate earmarks, and we save $14 billion by 2015. YES-YES-YES-YES.
Ditto above, for this has been a constant slogan of the Tea Party and fiscal conservatives, but it remains to be seen if reality is the same as passionate patriotic rhetoric and the Don’t Tread on Me flags and banners of the Tea Party.
Earmarks are lawmaker-directed spending items, often to finance local projects favored by a member of Congress. This practice though not limited to defense spending is prevalent around local communities that think they depend on a local military base for economic security.
However, earmarks go far beyond lobbying to get the Space Shuttle to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Ohio to cover everything from farm subsidies to worshiping anti-Muslim memorials like a piece of metal from the twin tower in New York to keep the political exploitation of September 11th alive and kicking as an excuse to continue our anti-Muslin Crusade against the Islamic World.
3. Eliminate farm subsidies would save us another $14 billion by 2015.
I’m not too sure about this one, so I’d have to give it an UNSURE which would be similar to not showing up the day this would be voted on.
One thing is for sure regardless how one views farm subsidies, my family simply needs to drive through our Congressional District in Ohio to not only realize we live in a predominantly agricultural area, and it is quite evident that more and more smaller family farms are going under, selling out to agribusiness, or selling out to housing developers, thus I tend to swing towards farm subsidies being more for corporate farmers NOT family farmers.
A compromise that clearly protects farm families and discourages agribusiness is most important. However, I also believe that outside of the Amish in which farming remains part of their culture and religion, the ideal concept of the American farming family depending on a large extended family to stay a float is most vulnerable today more than ever. It appears fewer and fewer children of farming families desire to take over the farm.
Many economists argue that farm subsidies distort the workings of the market and largely flow to big agricultural businesses. As the Congressional Budget Office has noted, advocates of reducing the subsidies argue that doing so “could help small farms indirectly, slowing the rate” of consolidation. Supporters argue that the subsidies help preserve the American agriculture industry.
4. Cut pay of civilian federal workers by 5 percent will save another $14 billion by 2015. I’d sit this vote out.
As retired civil service, I’d have to tell my constituents if I were elected to Congress that I’d have to sit this one out too. Not because I’m unsure about a vote on it, but that a vote on cutting the pay of my fellow civil servants would be a conflict of interest. However, since I’m too honest to be elected to Congress, I most likely would not be taken serious.
“During the Great Recession, most private-sector employees have seen their wages frozen, and some have even watched wages decline,” the chairmen of the deficit panel wrote. “In contrast, federal workers have seen their wages increase.” This option would be a one-time 5 percent cut in federal civilian workers’ pay; the chairmen called for a three-year freeze on pay, which would have a similar effect.
Note that with the exception of managerial level positions and selective federal agencies like law enforcement that most federal employees at the working level are unionized. The focus on breaking up the collective bargaining of state workers for instance is not by coincidence, it is a stepping stone toward eventually breaking up the collective bargaining of federal workers.
5. Reduce the federal workforce by 10 percent will save us $12 billion by 2015. As I’m against cutting pay for federal workers, especially our military, I say YES-YES-YES to these cuts.
This is one vote that I would feel more comfortable supporting, because I believe that there has been federal agencies and activities created 9many outsourced to private industry and based on earmarks) that are redundant to agencies already in existence (the creation of Homeland Security and overlaps with the federal intelligence community which itself has created redundant employment opportunities). I would also support a shift in federal employment opportunities to those agencies that do the most for MOST AMERICANS not simply an elite minority of special interest groups that bring donations to political campaigns.
This proposal would reduce the size of the federal work force by 200,000, from its current level of more than 2 million. The federal work force peaked at about 2.3 million in the late 1960s and fell to a low of 1.8 million in 2000.
“Under this proposal, the government could hire two new workers for every three who leave service.” The proposal would not take effect until 2012.
6. Cut 250,000 government contractors would save us $17 billion by 2015. YES-YES-YES-YES-YES, but only if the focus was on war profiteers.
In the past decade, both the number of federal employees and the number of contractors rose. Recent estimates suggest that contractors outnumber federal employees by millions. “While contractors provide useful services — sometimes at a lower cost than the federal government — their numbers are simply too high in light of the current budget deficit.”
Then of course let’s not forget Black Water and related Dick Cheney style defense contractors making a killing (no pun intended) AND STILL ARE out of the Global War on Terror.
Note also that with any degree of pull back from Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere the need for rent-a-cop gate guards at our stateside military bases would no longer be needed.
The law enforcement contractors came into guard our military bases to give military police and security forces the opportunity to participate in the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars. These private corporation military gate guards have and will stay until their INDEFINITE contracts run out, and regardless how many security troops return to bases. Since the so-called War on Terror is indefinite, the vulnerability of military security forces continuing multiple deployments is high while private security guards are not (YET) subject to deployments.
7. Other cuts to the federal government would save us $30 billion by 2015 – MIXED FEELINGS
This calls for a series of smaller cuts, including eliminating some agencies, cutting research funds for fossil fuels, reducing funds for the Smithsonian and the National Park Service, eliminating certain regional subsidies, and eliminating the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools.
I’d have to sit this one out also, for I have mixed feelings about cutting funds to both the Smithsonian and the National Park Service. For example I see no difference in cutting funding for educational and historical sites than cutting funding to NPR and the Public Broadcasting Station (PBS), which I would also be against cutting.
However, one federal agency that I would have no problem cutting all funding to is the Selective Service Agency (SSA) for at least the near future until we balance the federal budget.
VT readers although I make it no secret that I endorse a return to the Selective Service System (THE DRAFT) what do WE seriously think the chance of THE DRAFT ever being implement again are???
That’s right – 0% – so why even waste one dollar on a federal agency that continues to collect personal data on young American men when they turn 18 when the chances of our government ever seriously using said information is about as good an odds as every VT reader winning their state lottery.
Back to the point, I cannot speak for your state, but my military family has seen property tax levy’s on a ballot fail that cause city and county parks in Clark County, Ohio close for a season due to budget cuts. Do we really want to witness our National Parks and Museums closed or go without care to instead continue turning plow shares into swords for questionable wars?
8. Cut aid to states by 5 percent could save us $29 billion by 2015. MIXED FEELINGS, BUT I LEAN TOWARD NO-NO!
In the past decade, even before the stimulus bill, state aid rose significantly, as a share of the economy. In 2005, it equaled 3.4 percent of gross domestic product, compared with 2.3 percent in 1990 and 3.3 percent in 1980. Cutting state aid, advocates say, would persuade states to spend more efficiently and reduce waste. Opponents worry about the effects on education, poverty and public safety.
Again I cannot speak for your state, but here in Ohio, we have witnessed votes for education, public safety, and related property tax levy’s pass despite an increasing state budget deficit.
However, I’m not optimistic that home owners [the only folks really paying taxes in property taxes] can afford to continue passing such tax levies on our property to counter act cuts in federal funding to the states.
I do believe that there is and should be a defined difference between earmarks going back to a state or Congressional District and federal funding for schools, parks, police and fire first responders.
We must find other ways to force the states to spend more efficiently and reduce waste. One thought comes to mind is the portion state tax payers pay in taxes for the state National Guard when it is not federalized. (When Guard units are federalized the funding still comes out of federal tax payer dollars).
We need to cut back on the abuse and exploitation of our National Guard, and their family members in order for our government to continue avoiding implementation of THE DRAFT.
Simply put if a war (any war however defined) is not worth the sacrifice of every American citizen fit to fight and die for – WE should not commit or condemn only a small percentage of our population to do the fighting and dying for the rest of us, because they VOLUNTEERED. If a war is not worth implementing THE DRAFT, then said war IS NOT WORTH sacrificing our Guard and Regular military members and their families.
SPECIFIC MILITARY CUTS
9. Reducing our nuclear arsenal and space spending could save us $19 billion by 2015. YES-YES-YES-YES.
This cut in funding would reduce the number of nuclear warheads we have from 1,968 to 1,050. It would also reduce the number of Minuteman missiles and funding for nuclear research and development, missile development and space-based missile defense.
Here in Dayton, Ohio we just witnessed a crowd at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force groan and whine because our city lost out in a debate over which cities deserved to get one of the retiring Space Shuttles. We lost out to Kennedy Space Center in Florida (among 3 other cities). Now, more political focus has been placed on why we were so unfairly treated than has been placed on ending the spreading wars of choice NOT necessity.
I’m all for funding cuts for Nukes and Space Exploration spending. That said, I also believe we need to keep a cautious eye on (1) nuclear strike capability falling into the wrong hands, and (2) what other nations may feel a need to possess nuclear weapons, and lastly our competitors on the international stage (3) China, and Russia that outside of US possess the largest nuclear stockpiles in the world.
I believe the Space Program should be placed on hold until our National Debt and Deficit is paid off, but we still need to maintain a infrastructure to continue Space Exploration once the costs are within our means.
10. Reduce our US military to pre-Iraq War size and further reduce troops in Asia and Europe would save us $25 billion. YES-YES-YES-YES-YES-YES-YES-YES-YES-YES-YES!!!
“This option,” according to the bipartisan Sustainable Defense Task Force, “would cap routine U.S. military presence in Europe and Asia at 100,000 personnel, which is 26 percent below the current level and 33 percent below the level planned for the future. All told, 50,000 personnel would be withdrawn.” The option would also reduce the standing size of the military as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down.
Until recently, our government has asked our allies to only subsidies the presence of our forces on foreign soil through host nation agreements and existing treaties. Our government has not asked our allies to take a more proactive role either in their own defense or on the international stage. However, part of the problem we will run into in Asia and Europe is the Peace Constitutions we force on Japan and Germany as victors in WWII.
It may be relatively easy to get NATO nations to take a more proactive role IF our government withdraws our troops from Germany, South Korea, and Japan. South Korean already has compulsory military service (the draft) for the same reasons as Israel (the survival of the nation). However, Germany and Japan would have to (1) Revise the constitutions forced on them by a victorious United States, and more so (2) convince the people of Germany and Japan that taking a more proactive role in their defense and even offensive operations on the international stage is not only the right thing to do but a necessity. The people of Germany and Japan would be extremely reluctant to return to the level of militarism experienced during WWII, or even the degree now experienced by the United States.
11. Reduce the size of our Navy fleets and Air Force would save us $19 billion by 2015. YES-YES-YES-YES-YES-YES
The Navy would build 48 fewer ships and retire 37 more ships than now scheduled. Overall, the battle fleet would shrink to 230 ships, from 286. In addition, the Air Force would retire two tactical fighter wings and reduce the number of fighter jets it planned to purchase.
Rational is the nature of warfare the our government chooses to engage in does not call for intensified and continuous naval and air operations outside of resupply or supplementing our ground forces, something that our Sailors and Airmen are reluctant to do, since they did not sign up to be Soldiers or Marines. Once air and naval superiority was achieved, there has been little for the Air Force and Navy to do.
If tax payers seriously consider the quality and quantity of Iraqi, Afghanistan Taliban, and Al Queda Air Force and Navy we have had to challenge for air and sea superiority, such U.S. dominance has been frankly a given.
The only potential challengers in the air or sea anytime in the future would be the real threat posed by China, and to a lesser extent Russia, since the demise of the Soviet Union.
12. Cancel or delay some weapons programs would save U.S. taxpayers $19 billion by 2015. YES-YES-YES-YES-YES!!!
Tax payers only need to cancel the purchase of some expensive equipment, like the F35 fighter and MV-22 Osprey, with less expensive equipment that the bipartisan Sustainable Defense Task Force judged to have similar capability. It would delay other purchases. Research and development spending, which the task force considered a relic of the cold war arms race, would be reduced.
Source: Sustainable Defense Task Force report Debt, Deficits, & Defense: A Way Forward
13. Reduce noncombat military compensation and overhead could save $23 billion by 2015. MIXED FEELINGS – IT WOULD BE A CONFLICT OF INTEREST FOR ME TO SAY HOW I WOULD VOTE FOR THIS.
VT Editorial Comment: the way the NYT’s explained this approach was sort of misleading when they use the term VETERAN so loosely, and for that reason, plus being a retired military officer making this a conflict of interest to express my opinion on, I would have to sit this vote out
According to the NYTs, this would be a change in health-care plans for veterans who had not been wounded in battle.
Most Veterans please note that the NYT’s appears to be talking only about military retirees and the TRICARE health insurance program most of us come under, including active duty. Outside of being vulnerable for having to pay VA co-pays, most Veterans do not pay premiums for access to the VA system as such depending on category (1-8), if a Veteran is poor, or if a Vet is disabled.
The last part of this proposal on placing restrictions on multiple deployments is about the only part that really makes any sense.
[TRICARE] Premiums, which have not risen in a decade, would rise. More veterans would receive health insurance from employers. This option would also take some benefits, like housing allowances, into account when tying military raises to civilian pay raises. Currently, increases in those benefits come on top of pay raises. The military would also reduce the length and frequency of combat tours. No unit or person will be sent to a combat zone for longer than a year, and they will not be sent back involuntarily without spending at least two years at home.
14. Reducing the number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to 60,000 by 2015 would save U.S. taxpayers $51 billion, and to reduce the number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to 30,000 by 2013 would save us a whopping $86 billion by 2015.
Today, the United States military has 100,000 troops in Afghanistan and 50,000 in Iraq.
The Obama Administration plans to reduce these numbers in coming years but has not specified troop levels.
Defense and budget experts say this 60,000 option would be faster than what is now planned. The savings is the difference between the administration’s projected spending and the spending under this option.
- Enact medical malpractice reform
- Increase the Medicare eligibility age to 68
- Increase the Medicare eligibility age to 70
- Reduce the tax break for employer-provided health insurance
- Cap Medicare growth starting in 2013
- Raise the Social Security retirement age to 68
- Raise the Social Security retirement age to 70
- Reduce Social Security benefits for those with high incomes
- Tighten eligibility for disability
- Use an alternate measure for inflation
- The Lincoln-Kyl proposal
- President Obama’s proposal
- Return the estate tax to Clinton-era levels
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About the Writer: ROBERT L. HANAFIN, Major, U.S. Air Force-Retired, U.S. Civil Service-Retired, Veterans Issues AND Peace Activism Editor, Vice-Chair of the Editorial Board, VT News Network
Readers are more than welcome to use the articles I’ve posted on Veterans Today, I’ve had to take a break from VT as Veterans Issues and Peace Activism Editor and staff writer due to personal medical reasons in our military family that take away too much time needed to properly express future stories or respond to readers in a timely manner.
My association with VT since its founding in 2004 has been a very rewarding experience for me.
Retired from both the Air Force and Civil Service. Went in the regular Army at 17 during Vietnam (1968), stayed in the Army Reserve to complete my eight year commitment in 1976. Served in Air Defense Artillery, and a Mechanized Infantry Division (4MID) at Fort Carson, Co. Used the GI Bill to go to college, worked full time at the VA, and non-scholarship Air Force 2-Year ROTC program for prior service military. Commissioned in the Air Force in 1977. Served as a Military Intelligence Officer from 1977 to 1994. Upon retirement I entered retail drugstore management training with Safeway Drugs Stores in California. Retail Sales Management was not my cup of tea, so I applied my former U.S. Civil Service status with the VA to get my foot in the door at the Justice Department, and later Department of the Navy retiring with disability from the Civil Service in 2000.
I’ve been with Veterans Today since the site originated. I’m now on the Editorial Board. I was also on the Editorial Board of Our Troops News Ladder another progressive leaning Veterans and Military Family news clearing house.
I remain married for over 45 years. I am both a Vietnam Era and Gulf War Veteran. I served on Okinawa and Fort Carson, Colorado during Vietnam and in the Office of the Air Force Inspector General at Norton AFB, CA during Desert Storm. I retired from the Air Force in 1994 having worked on the Air Staff and Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon.
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