March 31, 2008
Budget Helps Rescue Faltering Economy and Rebuild America’s Infrastructure
(Washington, DC) – Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-9), Co-chair of the Progressive Caucus (CPC), released the following statement touting the CPC budget alternative that balances moral and fiscal priorities:
“The CPC’s budget is the only proposal that addresses poverty head on and is also the only alternative to cut even one dime from Pentagon spending. Progressives are very concerned that the Bush administration’s bloated defense budget request is the highest since WWII and propose limiting defense spending to $468.3 billion, which is $68.7 billion under the President’s request and does not compromise national security.
“Because Americans have been hit hard by the Iraq recession, our alternative assumes the redeployment of troops and contractors from Iraq between now and FY 2009, saving tax-payers at least $135 billion over the next 18 months.
“Under the Bush administration, a disproportionate amount of funding has gone to the Pentagon and provided tax cuts for the wealthy, while urgent domestic priorities have gone under-funded, poverty has increased, and the gap between the super wealthy and everybody else grew at an alarming rate. To reverse these trends, CPC’s plan includes a second economic stimulus package, which provides funding increases for unemployment insurance, food stamps, housing assistance and Federal Medical Assistance Percentage payments to states.
“The budget also makes an investment of $73.05 billion in FY 2009, which increases to $129.3 billion in FY 2018, to fund a comprehensive strategy to cut poverty in half in a decade and provide immediate and long-term help for Hurricane Katrina victims.
“It is just common sense to redistribute funding, both domestic and international, to help our nation to become more secure and I urge my colleagues to vote for this sensible and mainstream budget plan that balances in FY 2012.
“Progressives are on the right side of the issues that affect the American people and will garner significant support to be in a position to shift economic priorities this Congressional session.”
March 29, 2008
The impact of the New Deal reforms instituted to combat the Depression, are even more important today as our economy faces many of the same problems that people were faced with in the Great Depression of the 1930's. Much like Herbert Hoover, George W. Bush fiddled while the economy burned, and left his mess for his successor to clean up. In his first 100 days in office, FDR changed the way people looked at the federal government. He firmly established a legitimate role for the federal government to regulate the economy and to provide for the welfare of its citizens. However, for forty of the last seventy-five years, politicians - Democrat and Republican - have been chipping away at New Deal programs and reducing the role of the Federal government in regulating business and the economy, but most importantly reducing the legitimate and necessary role of the federal government in providing for the welfare of its citizens. So today, instead of regulating the investment banking industry, we bail out one of the architects of the sub prime debacle with $30 billion in taxpayer funds, while leaving honest, hardworking Americans who were the victims of this huge pyramid scheme to fend for themselves.
So, it is crucial that we stop, take a step back and celebrate all that the New deal has brought to Americans and then energize ourselves to preserve these programs but most importantly to rededicate ourselves to the belief that government can be the solution and that there is a legitimate role for government to regulate business who when left to its own devices will, like water, find the easiest path to the greatest profit without concern for the impact on the common good.
The following article from Spartacus Education http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/ provides a brief overview of the New Deal programs with clickable links to more information.
Roosevelt's first act as president was to deal with the country's banking crisis. Since the beginning of the depression, a fifth of all banks had been forced to close. As a consequence, around 15% of people's life-savings had been lost. By the beginning of 1933 the American people were starting to lose faith in their banking system and a significant proportion were withdrawing their money and keeping it at home. The day after taking office as president, Roosevelt ordered all banks to close. He then asked Congress to pass legislation which would guarantee that savers would not lose their money if there was another financial crisis. On 9th March 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt called a special session of Congress. He told the members that unemployment could only be solved "by direct recruiting by the Government itself." For the next three months, Roosevelt proposed, and Congress passed, a series of important bills that attempted to deal with the problem of unemployment. The special session of Congress became known as the Hundred Days and provided the basis for Roosevelt's New Deal. The government employed people to carry out a range of different tasks. These projects included the Works Projects Administration (WPA), the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the National Youth Administration (NYA), Farm Security Administration (FSA), the National Recovery Administration (NRA) and the Public Works Administration (PWA). Other schemes adminstered by the Works Projects Administration included the Federal Writers Project (1935-39) Federal Theatre Project (1935-39) and the Federal Art Project (1935-43). As well as trying to reduce unemployment, Roosevelt also attempted to reduce the misery for those who were unable to work. One of the bodies Roosevelt formed was the Federal Emergency Relief Administration which provided federal money to help those in desperate need. Other legislation passed by Roosevelt included the Agricultural Adjustment Act (1933), National Housing Act (1934), the Federal Securities Act (1934). In August 1935 the Social Security Act was passed. This act set up a national system of old age pensions and co-ordinated federal and state action for the relief of the unemployed.
The Nation Magazine's April7th issue is another excellent resource for more information on the New Deal, and a collection of brief essays written by activitst, writers, scholars and artists on a "New New Deal," http://www.thenation.com/
March 19, 2008
To paraphrase the words of former President Bill Clinton, it’s the war economy stupid. According to the latest CNN News poll, fully 71% of Americans believe that the war is partially to blame for the current economic problems. So, on the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq, let’s take a look at the economic impact of the war, whose costs have reached total spending of $504 billion. Now, If you are like me and you don’t even know how many zeroes are in a billion, I thought I would break those numbers down a bit, based upon figures supplied by the National Priorities Project (www.nationalpriorities.org).
So far we have spent an average of $100 billion per year. Translated to a more personal level that means each and every man, woman and child in America have personally contributed $1,680 or for a family of four, their five year contribution totals $6,720. To those families facing foreclosure due to increased mortgage costs, that could go a long way to help pay down some of their debt.
As a country, what could we have done with these war funds which have all been paid for through borrowing against future generations. The annual war spending totals $100 billion, or $1.9 billion a week, and on a daily basis we are spending $27 million. If that sounds like a lot of money it is because it IS! What else could that money have bought? Based upon the figures provided by the National Priorities Project, and a few simple calculations, we see how far that much money can go if it were focused on human needs and not war.
One hundred billion dollars a year can buy:
Health insurance for all 47 million uninsured people, and
One million college scholarships at $6,000 each, and
One thousand new or refurbished elementary schools, and
Fifty thousand elementary school teachers, and
One million units of affordable housing, and
Five hundred thousand Head Start spaces, and
Fifty-five billion dollars left over for infrastructure repairs on bridges, highways, mass transit improvements and retrofitting public buildings for energy conservation, creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs.
March 18, 2008
With the economy a top issue for voters this election year, the Urban Institute can offer information about the nation’s most vulnerable households, including low-income working families. These families are above the poverty line but still struggle to make ends meet. A sudden job loss or health crisis could derail them.
Institute researchers can provide facts and nonpartisan perspectives on who these families are and what can be done to help them thrive.
Low income is generally defined as twice the federal poverty level, or $40,888 for a family of four in 2006.
There were 11 million low-income working families at the beginning of 2007.
Sixty-one percent, or 6.7 million, of these families had at least one full-time, year-round worker in 2006.
The median wage for workers in low-income families was $9.62 an hour in 2006, compared with $17.55 for workers in all families.
Low-income workers with children are more likely to be young, Hispanic, live in one-parent families, and report being in fair or poor health, compared with the average worker.
In 2006, only 36 percent of the heads of household in low-income working families had any education beyond high school.
One-third of families with children lack sufficient income to cover the basic costs of everyday living, including housing, food, child care, health insurance, transportation, and taxes.
Work supports, such as tax credits, food stamps, and child care subsidies, help but often don’t close the gap between earnings and basic needs.
The latest reports by the Urban Institute ( a nonpartisan economic and social policy research organization) can be accessed at: http://www.urban.org/toolkit/newreports.cfm
March 9, 2008
According to a new book by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard Professor Linda Bilmes, the true costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will total more than $3 trillion. President Bush has endeavored to hide the costs of the wars by financing them outside of the federal budget, thereby funding them through debt. But Stiglitz and Bilmes argue that the true costs of these wars are wildly underestimated. They consider all factors associated with the waging of these wars including interest on the debt, future borrowing to cover costs, the ongoing costs of a military presence and the staggering costs of lifetime health-care and mental health services for veterans.
In spite of the administration’s misleading pledge of a “self-financing” war, the reported spending on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, to date, total $646 billion, all of which is financed through debt. In addition to these direct costs of the war, Stiglitz and Bilmes estimate that future costs for veterans including social security, disability and medical care will add up to a staggering $717 billion in the long-term.
Additional costs that are not reported as war costs are the death benefits that are paid to families of soldiers killed in action. According to the authors, the US pays each family a $100,000 death gratuity and a $400,000 payment in lieu of insurance for an unexpected death. To date there have been over 4,400 combat deaths, totaling $2.2 billion.
Other hidden costs for the military include recruitment, combat pay, hardship benefits and reenlistment bonuses. According to the authors, “the average number of military personnel deployed to the region in any given period has grown by 15 per cent – but the costs have skyrocketed by 130 per cent. Similarly, the intensity of operations is estimated to have risen by 65 per cent during the period – half the rate of the cost increases.
The authors also point to the increased use of private contractors providing support services for the troops as another factor driving up costs. Currently there are more than 100,000 private contractors, who, according to the authors, are “increasing operational expenses far more than if we had relied solely on the military.”
The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict
By Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes
W.W.Norton and Co., Inc. 2008