The New 1,582-page Bipartisan-Sell-Out Austerity Budget
Andre Damon in “US Congress passes bipartisan austerity budget” runs down details of the 1,582-page budget that was overwhelmingly accepted by both houses. In fact, it had a fast-tracked approval process Monday through Thursday in the Senate, suggesting that most of the senators never even read it.
Damon labels the new budget “reactionary” and “anti-working class in character” and points out that it reduces discretionary social spending to its lowest percentage since the 1950s.
He emphasizes that the new budget leaves intact the “sequestration framework” that cruelly will cut $85 billion from federal spending over the next decade. A budget bill that flowed not only from the “bipartisan budget agreement” reached December 10, but also from back in 2011 with the endorsement of an austerity war against average Americans from a “give-away-the-store” White House, from both cowardly and collusive Democrats and rabidly ruthless Republicans in Congress.
The December agreement cut spending for federal retirement benefits by $12 billion over ten years. It raised $12.6 billion by increasing security fees for airline passengers and another $8 billion by charging higher fees for insuring private-sector pensions.
Damon mentions that this budget vote follows the December cut off of extended jobless benefits for 1.3 million workers. It also “precedes” an imminent deal to slash $9 billion more of food stamps benefits.
The budget funds the federal government through September 30, the end of the current fiscal year, allocating $1.1 trillion in discretionary spending. This is a drastic reduction from the budget in 2009 which allocated $1.5 trillion in discretionary spending. The $.4 trillion cut was taken almost entirely from social programs.
Damon worrisomely writes:
The budget deal was [sic] been welcomed by Wall Street and corporate executives, who praised the framework agreement to the skies when it was announced last month. “I’m going to send [lead negotiators] Paul Ryan and Patty Murray an email this morning that just says, ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you, and may God bless you,’” JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said following the deal's announcement.
In the days since the text of the 2014 budget was released, details have begun to trickle out about regulatory loopholes and corporate oversight cuts inserted into the agreement behind the backs of the public.
* The budget prohibits the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating methane pollution by industrial livestock companies. The EPA budget will be cut by $143 million and the National Labor Relations Board’s budget will be reduced by $4 million.
* The bill includes major handouts to the coal industry, including provisions to block the EPA from developing new rules on "fill material" for mountaintop removal mining, and more favorable financing terms for energy companies.
* The budget leaves in place most of last year’s cuts to the National Institutes of Health, resulting in an allocation that is 10 percent lower in real terms than it was in 2007.
Another depressing revelation of the bill is that MORE THAN HALF OF THE MONEY ALLOCATED GOES TO THE PENTAGON. It will receive more than $520 billion, plus another $92 billion for military operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Damon explains that there will be “regressive consumptive taxes” in the form of “user fees” which will increase pension costs for federal civilian workers. There will be cuts in retirement benefits for military personnel and reductions in Medicare spending.
Damon sees the budget as underscoring that behind the phony as big-time pro-wrestling show of gridlock of the two corporate parties, they are in reality profoundly united in “attacking the social conditions and living standards of working people.” He concludes:
The passage of the austerity budget, together with the expiration of extended jobless benefits, new cuts in food stamps, White House support for the bankruptcy of Detroit, and the gutting of health care for workers under Obama’s health care overhaul, gives the lie to Obama's rhetorical posturing as an opponent of social inequality.
So let's watch our millionaire Dem politicians -- having helped railroad through this cruel budget -- stride toward the elections of 2014 and 2016 hypocritically talking the oh-so-empathetic sounding, faux-progressive social and economic inequality talk, while us average Americans goose-step an austerity walk!
[cross-posted on open salon]