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Posts Tagged ‘Budget’

The Wrong Way to Measure ‘Strength’

March 10th, 2014

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The ancient Greek military historian Thucydides famously noted that in war, “the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.” Today, Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, concurs.

“It’s a dangerous world, and we’re making it more so by cutting defense,” said McKeon,  responding to the president’s defense budget. “We weaken ourselves, and that is how you get into wars. You don’t get into wars if you’re strong.”

The idea that “weak” countries must fight to uphold their status might seem self-evident. However, while McKeon’s logic might have made sense in the Bronze Age, it makes little sense in the modern age.

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Goodbye and Good Riddance

February 13th, 2014

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The Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship, or LCS, program was dealt a death blow last month when the Pentagon advised the Navy to purchase only 32 of the small, fast and much maligned ships that were originally designed to combat three distinct threats — submarines, mines and groups of small boats.

This was absolutely the right move for at least three reasons.

The first, and most glaring, deficiency of the LCS is that, as a recent Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation report states, the “LCS is not expected to be survivable in high-intensity combat.” While the Pentagon has used similar language in previous reports, the level of detail explaining why the boat wouldn’t survive a real fight is unprecedented.

The report indicates the ship’s vulnerability is inherent in its design. In dry Pentagonese, the LCS  does “not require the inclusion of survivability features necessary to conduct sustained combat operations in a major conflict as expected for the Navy’s other surface combatants.” Thus, despite having “combat” in its name, the LCS is pretty lousy at fighting enemies.

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A Deal on Social Security Hiding in Plain Sight

October 23rd, 2013

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Starting this year, seniors new to Social Security can expect to be pickpocketed. While Congress was fighting over default, the Congressional Budget Office quietly moved up its projected date for Social Security insolvency to 2031. In that year, without a fix to the program, recipients will take an immediate and draconian 23 percent cut in benefits.  So a majority of new retirees today will face a meaningful cut in payments in their lifetime.

We need to fix this, and the newly created budget conference appointed at the conclusion of the debt ceiling crisis is the place to do it. It may seem impossible for a dysfunctional Congress to touch the “third rail” of politics given its disappointing performance in all areas. But a deal on Social Security may not be as far-fetched as it seems.
First, there is more agreement on Social Security solutions among Democrats and Republicans than meets the eye. And second, a deal to fix Social Security may be the only way to make progress on every fiscal issue that concerns Democrats and Republicans—from sequester to the debt ceiling—providing an incentive for both parties to act.

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Shutdown: A fight with no room for compromise

October 2nd, 2013

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To end the government shutdown, all Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) needs to do is let the House of Representatives vote on a budget. It would pass within 30 minutes. Virtually all 200 House Democrats would vote to keep the government open, as would as many as 50 Republicans. An easy majority.

But no. Boehner and other Republican leaders refuse to do that because they are in thrall to Tea Party conservatives.

Hard-line conservatives number about 50 out of 232 House Republicans. But those conservatives are threatening to lead an insurrection against party leaders if they dare to allow a vote. Other Republican members are terrified that they will face a tough primary challenge from the right if they don’t go along with the Tea Party.

So what have we got? Minority government. It’s outrageous when you think about it.

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In Search of the Next Crisis

May 13th, 2013

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The deficit is going down. Woo-hoo!  Let the celebrations begin.

Oh, wait. That may not be altogether a good thing. Certainly not for Republicans. They need an out-of-control deficit to bludgeon Democrats into cutting more spending. It may not be good news for the economic recovery either. Budget austerity means slower growth. Want proof? Look at Europe.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that this year’s federal budget deficit will drop from $1.1 trillion to $845 billion. Economists at Goldman Sachs project that we will get the deficit under control within two years. Why is this happening?

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Can GOP blame Obama for the sequester?

February 20th, 2013

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This piece was originally featured on Reuters.

More than 25 years ago, Representative Jack Kemp told me, “In the past, the left had a thesis: spending, redistribution of wealth and deficits. Republicans were the antithesis: spending is bad.”

He went on to explain, “Ronald Reagan represented a breakthrough for our party. We could talk about lower taxes and more growth. We didn’t have to spend all our time preaching austerity and spending cuts. The question now is: Do we take our thesis and move it further, or do we revert to an anti-spending party?”

We now have the answer. Republicans have reverted to an anti-spending party. Their latest cause? Austerity. Their argument? A shrinking economy is better than big government.

President Barack Obama tried to call the Republicans’ bluff in his State of the Union Address. “Deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan,” the president said. He didn’t come out against deficit reduction. He said it should not be given a higher priority than economic growth. There are many reasons why it is important to reduce the national debt. Short-term economic growth is not one of them.

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