Friday, October 01, 2010

Cutting benefits?

Chuck Raasch (Gannett News Services) notes, "Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen said he expects suicide and other post-combat problems to intensify as soldiers return to home and family. And as part of the push to cut federal deficits, the Pentagon almost certainly will face this new front with smaller budgets." Raasch quotes Mullen's stating he's "hoping to avoid any massive cuts." Is he worried about the service members health? (National security comments right after may cast some doubt on that.) Yesterday the House Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing entitled "The True Costs of the War." Committee Chair Bob Filner noted the efforts to attack veterans benefits. From Filner's opening remarks:

Every Congressional appropriation for war, in my view, should include money for what, I'm going to call it, a veterans' trust fund that will ensure the projected needs of our wounded and injured soldiers are fully met at the time that their going to war is appropriated. It's not a radical idea. Business owners are required to account for their deferred liability every year. Our federal government has no such requirement when it comes to the deferred liability of meeting the needs of our men and women in uniform even though meeting those needs is a moral obligation of our nation and a fundamental cost. It does not make sense fiscally, it does not make sense ethically. If in years past, Congress had taken into account this deferred fiscal liability and moral obligation of meeting the needs of soldiers, we would not have the kind of overburdened delivery system that we have today in the Veterans Administration. And would veterans and their advocates on Capitol Hill have to fight as hard as they do every year for benefits that should be readily available as a matter of course? Would they have to worry as much as they do today that these benefits will become targets in the debate over reducing the federal budget? Listen to this statement by one of the co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility -- that's trying to figure out how we balance our budget -- former Senator [Alan] Simpson said, "The irony is that veterans who saved their country are now in a way not helping us to save this country in this fiscal mess." That is, they should defer their health and welfare needs because of a budget problem.

Chair Filner and US House Rep Walter Jones both spoke of the need to create a Veterans Trust Fund to ensure that veterans benefits are not under attack under the current system where they are funded according to how much money is in the budget (as opposed to wars which are funded by passing the bill on to future generations). Among those testifying before the committee was economist Joseph E. Stigliz who stated, "And the reality then is that under the pay-go current framework that supporting these obligations that we've undertaken to our veterans has to compete with every other expenditure. And -- and there will be pressure. And the reference to the Debt Commission, the reference to former Congressman Simpson's testimony is evidence of that kind of pressure that will be put on veterans expenditures."

Bryan Bender (Boston Globe) reports Mullen stated "he expects soldier suicides and other personal and family problems -- already alarmingly prevalent in the ranks -- to increase further in the coming months as large numbers of troops settle back into their bases after years of deployments." On the topic of military suicides, Ann Gerhart (Washington Post) notes, "So far, 104 Army troops have killed themselves this year, a rate that eclipses the one in the civilian world. The rate at Fort Hood, where 14 suicides already are confirmed this year and six other deaths are under investigation, is nearly four times that of the civilian population."

Meanwhile Chris Buckley (Colorado's Fox 21 News) reports on yesterday's send-off ceremony for the 4th Infantry Division's deployment to Iraq -- their fourth deployment to Iraq. Gebrah Noonan and Jon Carrillo Jr. were killed in Iraq last week, apparently by another US soldier (Neftaly Platero). Rinker Buck (Hartford Courant) reports his Gebrah Noonan's body "will arrive at Bradley Airport in Windsor Locks today and be given a full police escort to the Chase Parkway Memorial and Albini Family Funeral Home in Waterbury." Visitation will be Monday (three p.m. to eight p.m.) with the memorial service the next day at ten in the morning.

The following community sites -- and -- updated last night:

Caro (MakeThemAccountable) weighs in on the continued American health care crisis and explains, "I'm also upset that the measures I’ve taken over the last few years to improve my health—lowering my cholesterol and blood pressure, exercising regularly, eating, have no impact on the cost of my health care insurance. I even started a health blog, Many Years Young, to encourage myself and others. You’d think they’d want to incentivize healthier lifestyles, but no. It almost seems that nothing can be done on any issue that makes any sense. Those who were foolish enough to do what we were told was the right thing, saving money, are getting less than 2% return on those savings. Those who were foolish enough to do what we were told was the American Way, buying a home, are watching the value of those homes continue to decline. Everything of value in our lives is decreasing, while our costs are increasing exponentially.
The Democrats have the power to kill this snake. It’s what we hired them to do. Why are they not doing it?"

We'll go out with this from the Senate Democratic Policy Committee.

How Republicans Have Failed the American People

Over the past year and a half, Senate Republicans have consistently put the interests of their corporate cronies above the American people. Obstructionism has become the central tactic in the Republican playbook, one which has failed hard-working Americans in a wide array of issues. In this short amount of time, Republicans have said “no” to:

· Middle-class families

· Health care consumers

· Small businesses

· Reforming Wall Street

· Military families

· Unemployment benefits

· Job creation

· Economic recovery

· Energy independence

· Tobacco regulation

· Hate crimes prevention

· Two Supreme Court nominees

Failing the American public and blaming Democrats is not new territory for Republicans, especially when it comes to the economy. In fact, they had ample practice during the Bush Administration. Their rhetoric is tired and based on a skewed version of reality. They seem to have forgotten that when President Obama took the oath of office, he inherited a record $1.3 trillion deficit and an economy on the brink of collapse. [Office of Management and Budget]

They also ignore the fact that when President Bush entered the White House eight years earlier, America enjoyed a $236 billion budget surplus. The Bush Administration and Congressional Republicans not only squandered this surplus, but left the American people reeling from a decade of irresponsible tax breaks for multi-millionaires and special interests, and catastrophic fiscal policies.

Despite this record of failure, Republicans continue to insist on the same disastrous economic policies that squeezed American families and caused the financial crisis in the first place: deregulation and a hands-off approach to markets, tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations at the expense of the middle class, health care policies that favored insurance companies at the expense of consumers, and little or no assistance for those in greatest need. As history has shown, these ultra-conservative Republican policies helped cause America’s worst economic crises over the last century: the Great Depression in the 1930s, the Savings and Loan Collapse of the 1980s, and the Financial Crisis of 2008. The fact is that the economy has performed significantly better under Democratic administrations than Republican administrations.

This Fact Sheet provides just some of the examples of Republican’s misguided, irresponsible tactics in the 111th Congress.

Killed Jobs and Blocked Tax Cuts

Republicans pushed a job-killing agenda that included opposition to tax cuts for small businesses, opposition to clean energy jobs, and opposition to closing tax loopholes exploited by multinational corporations. Senate Republicans opposed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) throughout the legislative process (P.L. 111-5). According to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report in May 2010, the positive change in employment attributable to the Recovery Act over the 4 year period from 2009-2012 is estimated to be 2.9 million to 7.7 million jobs. From 2009 through this year alone, CBO reported that the positive change in employment is an estimated 1.8 million to 4.4 million jobs. [CBO, Table 1, 5/2010]

Senate Republicans largely opposed the HIRE Act, which created a new payroll tax exemption for businesses that hire American workers, a fully paid-for proposal designed to boost private-sector job growth (P.L. 111-147). On August 2, 2010, the Treasury Department reported that from February 2010 to June 2010, businesses hired an estimated 5.6 million new workers who had been unemployed for eight weeks or longer, making those businesses eligible to receive HIRE Act tax exemptions and credits. [Department of Treasury, 8/2/10]

Ignored Middle-Class Families

Senate Democrats intend to extend tax cuts to the millions of middle-class Americans who need and deserve tax relief during these challenging economic times. With millions of Americans still out of work, this should have been a policy that garners broad support across party lines. Unfortunately, Congressional Republicans have blocked these efforts and are threatening to let middle-class tax cuts expire unless they can secure even bigger giveaways for millionaires and CEOs who ship American jobs overseas.

Hurt Small Businesses

For months, Senate Republicans chose to protect big corporations and millionaires at the expense of small businesses across the country. Republicans fought against key provisions for small businesses in the Recovery Act and attempted to block the Small Business Jobs and Access to Credit Act, which is estimated to create 500,000 new jobs. (H.R. 5297, signed into law on Sept. 27, 2010) Republicans used a rotating series of excuses to try and explain their decision to block these common-sense measures to help small business owners create half a million jobs in this tough economy. Republicans fought against tax cuts at a time when America’s 27 million small businesses are starving for adequate access to capital and desperately seeking to hire workers and expand their businesses.

Defended Wall Street CEOs

But Democrats stood up to these Republican tactics, believing that hard-working American families deserve strong protections from the predatory practices of Wall Street.

Senate Republicans also brought forward a CEO-friendly “plan” that failed to protect consumers, investors and businesses from the predatory practices of Wall Street. [Americans for Financial Reform, 4/28/10] The proposal, hastily written after Senators McConnell and Cornyn agreed to do Wall Street’s bidding, would have left hard-working Americans susceptible to the same reckless behavior Despite the overwhelming call for reform by the American people, Senate Republicans spent weeks obstructing progress on the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in an effort to protect special interests and banks. (P.L. 111-203) They attempted to water down this vital legislation on behalf of CEOs and credit card companies. that destroyed over 8 million jobs and trillions of dollars in life savings. It would have inserted loopholes for lobbyists and watered down or eliminated critical provisions found in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform bill.

Failed the Military

Republicans stood between our troops and the resources they need to effectively carry out their missions and keep us safe. Senate Republicans have twice blocked the Senate from debating the Fiscal Year 2011 National Defense Authorization Act. (S. 3454) This legislation would authorize funding for military pay and benefits, health care for wounded service members, and critically needed protective equipment, including combat vehicles and bulletproof vests for our troops on the battlefield. Republicans actively stood in the way of investments to improve military equipment and ensure the readiness of our forces.

By preventing debate on the Defense Authorization Act, Republicans also withheld highly-deserved pay raises for our troops, which would go a long way in helping these service members and their families make ends meet. Senate Republicans have consistently delayed funding that would provide vital services and benefits to our troops and military families by preventing debate on the Defense Authorization Act, as well as by filibustering previous defense appropriations bills. While our troops risk their lives to safeguard our freedom, Republicans play politics with our national security.

DPC Fact Sheet | How Republicans Have Failed the American People

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oh boy it never ends