By Joseph Gerson for Global Campaign On Military Spending – Trump and Congressional Republicans are preparing to eliminate any restraints in the Pentagon’s budget, while also reducing spending for essential social services, from housing and medical care to environmental protection to education. Projected cuts in social services could be as hight as $10.5 trillion over the coming decade. Even without the proposed increases in military spending, the Pentagon’s budget equals the combined total of the world’s next eight largest military spenders. Add to this the “Overseas Contingency Operation” funding for the military interventions from Syria and Iraq to Libya and Yemen, Department of Energy spending for nuclear weapons, and the black budget for “intelligence”
By Deirdre Fulton for Common Dreams – In fact, warned Diane Yentel, head of the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, Trump’s budget “would have a devastating impact on millions of the lowest income people across the country.” As expected, the proposal would cut overall funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by 13 percent or $6.2 billion compared to 2016 levels, resulting “in the most severe cut to HUD since President Reagan dramatically reduced funding in the early 1980s,” she said. “Reagan’s deep spending cuts ushered in a new age of homelessness with a dramatic increase in the number of people sleeping on the streets, in cars, and in shelters,” Yentel added.
By Alex Emmons for The Intercept – THE U.S. GOVERNMENT already spends $600 billion dollars a year on its military — more money than the next seven biggest spenders combined, including China and Russia. On Monday, the White House said it would request $54 billion more in military spending for next year. That increase alone is roughly the size of the entire annual military budget of the United Kingdom, the fifth-largest spending country, and it’s more than 80 percent of Russia’s entire military budget in 2015. If Congress were to follow Trump’s blueprint, the U.S. military budget could account for nearly 40 percent of global military spending next year. The U.S. would be outspending Russia by a margin of greater than 9 to 1. At a meeting of U.S. governors on Monday, Trump described his forthcoming budget proposal as “a public safety and national security budget.”
By David Swanson for World Beyond War – Trump proposes to increase U.S. military spending by $54 billion, and to take that $54 billion out of the other portions of the above budget, including in particular, he says, foreign aid. If you can’t find foreign aid on the chart above, that’s because it is a portion of that little dark green slice called International Affairs. To take $54 billion out of foreign aid, you would have to cut foreign aid by approximately 200 percent. Alternative math! But let’s not focus on the $54 billion. The blue section above (in the 2015 budget) is already 54% of discretionary spending (that is, 54% of all the money that the U.S. government chooses what to do with every year). It’s already 60% if you add in Veterans’ Benefits. (We should take care of everyone, of course, but we wouldn’t have to take care of amputations and brain injuries from wars if we stopped having the wars.) Trump wants to shift another 5% to the military, boosting that total to 65%…
By Ellen Brown for Counter Punch – It sounds great; but as usual, the devil is in the details. Both parties in Congress agree that infrastructure is desperately needed. The roadblock is in where to find the money. Raising taxes and going further into debt are both evidently off the table. The Trump solution is touted as avoiding those options, but according to his economic advisors, it does this by privatizing public goods, imposing high user fees on the citizenry for assets that should have been public utilities.
By Scot J. Paltrow for Reuters. The United States Army’s finances are so jumbled it had to make trillions of dollars of improper accounting adjustments to create an illusion that its books are balanced. The Defense Department’s Inspector General, in a June report, said the Army made $2.8 trillion in wrongful adjustments to accounting entries in one quarter alone in 2015, and $6.5 trillion for the year. Yet the Army lacked receipts and invoices to support those numbers or simply made them up. As a result, the Army’s financial statements for 2015 were “materially misstated,” the report concluded. The “forced” adjustments rendered the statements useless because “DoD and Army managers could not rely on the data in their accounting systems when making management and resource decisions.”
By Staff of Gad Fly On The Wall Blog – Pennsylvania lawmakers are ready to help all students across the Commonwealth – if only they can abuse, mistreat and trample some of them. Which ones? The poor black and brown kids. Of course! That seems to be the lesson of a school code bill passed with bipartisan support by the state Senate Thursday. The legislation would require the Commonwealth to pick as many as 5 “underperforming” Philadelphia schools a year to close, charterize or just fire the principal and half the staff.
Months after Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said budget constraints forced him to push for pension cuts and mass school closures, an analysis of government documents reveals the city has $1.71 billion in special accounts often used to finance corporate subsidies. While the Emanuel administration has rejected open records requests for details of the subsidies, evidence suggests at least some of them have flowed to companies connected to Emanuel’s campaign donors. The analysis conducted by the TIF Illumination Project evaluated the city’s 151 tax increment financing, or TIF, districts, which divert a share of property taxes out of accounts obligated to schools and into special accounts under the mayor’s control. The report shows $412 million was diverted last year alone into the TIF accounts and out of traditional property tax funding streams, many of which are dedicated to the city’s schools. In 21 of those districts, the report says 90 percent or more of all property taxes were diverted into the TIF accounts. Citing Chicago subsidies offered to S&C Electric Co., LaSalle Street Capital, United Airlines and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, an earlier study from the taxpayer watchdog group Good Jobs First found in the last 25 years, $5.5 billion of taxpayer money has gone into TIF accounts, and “much of the city’s TIF revenue was spent on subsidizing corporations, nonprofits and developers.”
The Committee to Save Cooper Union is pursuing legal action as a last resort after Cooper Union’s Board of Trustees and administration proceeded with their plans to abolish a 150 year tradition of free tuition enshrined in the Charter of the school, refusing alternatives that would preserve free tuition. A Working Group of faculty, students and alumni elected by their respective constituencies had developed a sustainable plan for preserving free tuition that was supported by the Faculty Union, the alumni association and students. The President and Board refused to accept this plan and chose to press on with their plan to charge tuition. After carefully evaluating all of the legal options for both legal and cost-effectiveness, the Committee to Save Cooper Union decided that the best approach is to seek an injunction against charging tuition in New York Supreme Court. This option also allows us to petition the court for formation of “The Associates of Cooper Union” as required by the Cooper Union charter. The Associates would serve as a check on the Board of Trustees since the Associates’ elected Council can remove Trustees by majority vote. This route also allows us to petition the court for an audit, as provided for in the charter, to help provide more detail on the fiscal mismanagement happening at Cooper Union.
Just days before its international debut at an airshow in the United Kingdom, the entire fleet of the Pentagon’s next generation fighter plane — known as the F-35 II Lightning, or the Joint Strike Fighter — has been grounded, highlighting just what a boondoggle the project has been. With the vast amounts spent so far on the aircraft, the United States could have worked wonders, including providing every homeless person in the U.S. a $600,000 home. It’s hard to argue against the need to modernize aircraft used to defend the country and counter enemies overseas, especially if you’re a politician. But the Joint Strike Fighter program has been a mess almost since its inception, with massive cost overruns leading to its current acquisition price-tag of $398.6 billion — an increase of $7.4 billion since last year. That breaks down to costing about $49 billion per year since work began in 2006 and the project is seven years behind schedule. Over its life-cycle, estimated at about 55 years, operating and maintaining the F-35 fleet will cost the U.S. a little over $1 trillion. By contrast, the entirety of the Manhattan Project — which created the nuclear bomb from scratch — cost about $55 billion in today’s dollars.
More than 13 percent of the officers in the Memphis Police Department have called in sick since June 30, the so-called Blue Flu that officials acknowledged Sunday was a deliberate work action. A total of 308 Memphis officers have called in sick over the last week, MPD Director Toney Armstrong said in a Sunday afternoon press conference outside City Hall. That’s 13.5 percent of the estimated 2,280 officers in the department. That’s also a big jump from the 181 who had called in sick through Saturday, a number that led MPD to ask the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department for help. About 50 deputies and reserve officers helped patrol Downtown Saturday night, and at least eight more were on loan Sunday. The job action, which does not appear to have spread to the city’s fire department, comes in protest to a recent City Council vote that will reduce health care subsidies for current and retired city employees to redirect that money to the city’s troubled pension fund.
Thousands of people have attended rallies across Australia to protest the Abbott Government’s first budget. Large Bust the Budget protests were held in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Darwin. Smaller rallies took place in regional areas including Lismore in New South Wales, and Wodonga in Victoria. Union groups including the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) marched at the protests. ACTU secretary Dave Oliver says a wide range of people, including families, students, retirees and pensioners, were marching to send a strong message to the Government. “This budget is going to hit the most vulnerable in our society,” he said. “What this budget is doing is sending our country down the same path to where the United States is today … they have a country that is divided by a nation of haves and have-nots.”
The current situation in Iraq has grabbed the nation’s attention, and President Obama has already deployed U.S. military assets in response to the crisis. The President has also suggested that the U.S. military may take further action, such as drones or airstrikes. Many reports have also suggested that, unlike in the case of Syria last fall, the President may not seek authorization from Congress before bombing Iraq. Thankfully, many Members of Congress are speaking up and calling on President Obama to come to Congress for authorization before using military force. Our best tool to stop this rush to war is to press President Obama to come to Congress for authorization before using military force, as required by the U.S. Constitution. Read what Members of Congress are saying, and then ask your Representative to add his or her name. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR)- “As broad as it was, the AUMF for Iraq does not cover this instance, and… the president should come to Congress and sketch out a plan [and] ask for authorization. Because I’m not sure what the plan is.” [6/24/14]
Among the many questions facing retirees and pension beneficiaries as they vote on Detroit’s bankruptcy grand bargain is one often asked: Aren’t retirees better off rejecting the deal they don’t like and betting on a court appeal to force the city or the state to pay full benefits? It’s a risk Yvonne Jones, 63, says she’s willing to take — although it’s a risk that emergency manager Kevyn Orr and many experts say is a long shot and fraught with the danger of even deeper cuts. Jones says that she’s definitely going to reject the plan because she doesn’t believe that city pensions should be cut at all in the bankruptcy process. “To accept it says we give up all rights to litigate,” Jones said last week. She retired as a manager in the city’s old employment and training department in 2001. “The court cases go away.” Jones said she has lived in Detroit all her life, raised four kids and agrees that Detroit has issues. But she doesn’t believe it’s right for retirees to see more cuts on top of higher health care costs that have already taken place. “This intimidation is wrong,” she said. “I’m not ready to take any cut. I’m fighting to take no cuts.”