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Issues Economic and Social Justice Featured News Defense trumps poverty in Republican House
Friday, 04 May 2012 16:50

Defense trumps poverty in Republican House

Written by  David Rogers | Politico
Is the true moral issue the nation’s debt — or the nature of American government? Is the true moral issue the nation’s debt — or the nature of American government? Teuters

American soldiers learned the hard way not to walk down enemy trails in Vietnam — and certainly not twice. But here come the House Republicans, marching into the sunlight by shifting billions from poverty programs to the Pentagon, all within hours of adopting an entirely new round of tax cuts for those earning more than $1 million a year.

Is this the same party that abhors class warfare and wants to show a gentler side of Mitt Romney toward women and Hispanics? Are we talking smart, principled politics or the charge of the light brigade?

The House Budget Committee meets Monday afternoon to put the final touches on the more than $300 billion 10-year package — the opening shot of a fall campaign to preserve defense spending without bowing to Democratic demands for new taxes.

Monthly food stamp benefits would be cut, hitting millions of single-mother households by summer’s end. Unemployed workers would be dropped from the rolls until they spend down their cash savings below $2,000 — one-fifth of Romney’s famous $10,000 bet. Working-class, often Latino, parents would be denied child tax credit refunds if they lack Social Security cards proving they are authorized to work in the U.S.

These are immigrant taxpayers whose average annual wages are $21,240 and generate far more for the Social Security system in payroll taxes than any refunds they receive. Yet their children, many of whom are U.S. citizens, would lose out even as the House channels an almost identical sum, $7.35 billion, into a new tax deduction for 125,000 small-business owners whose income exceeds $1 million.

Because none of these House bills are going anywhere soon in the Democratic Senate, it’s easy enough to dismiss. Much of the press — and even some Republicans — prefer to do so.

But something far bigger is happening here.

There have been ugly moments in the course of committee markups: snide comments about what food stamp recipients buy at the local grocery line, a wild accusation that President Barack Obama’s preventive care fund had been used to spay dogs in Tennessee. But going into November, here too are the seeds of a real national debate about guns, butter, taxes — the math and morals of budget choices when the money’s running out.

“Ignore it at your own peril,” Rep. Rob Andrews (D-N.J.) told POLITICO. “They think it’s not the enemy path. They think that’s the path to victory.”

This moral dimension explains why the Roman Catholic bishops have come off the sidelines with such force in opposition. And what’s to make of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) having voted against some of these same cuts promoted by the party’s other young vice presidential face, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan?

Before a skeptical audience at Georgetown University, Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, insisted that the moral imperative is on his side, even quoting Pope Benedict XVI to bolster his argument that the debt must be addressed in this generation and not passed on to the future.

By failing to engage more with solutions of their own, Obama and Democrats can blame only themselves for creating this political void. Ryan and other House chairmen see themselves as prudent stewards stepping into the breach — performing their triage but also saving the core assistance for those most in need.

“Government safety-net programs have been stretched to the breaking point,” Ryan said, “Failing the very citizens who need help the most.”

The great catch to this argument — and one that makes this budget round different — is the whole exercise seems less about debt than staving off defense cuts and tax increases in January. And just 24 hours after committees approved the deepest cuts from poverty programs, the full House voted along party lines April 19 to approve nearly $46 billion in new tax cuts.

So is the true moral issue the nation’s debt — or the nature of American government itself?

No one may “get to heaven” by voting to tax others to help the poor, but the recent back and forth over food stamp cuts is telling.

As a young father, Rep. Joe Baca had himself relied on food stamps, and during the House Agriculture Committee debate, the California Democrat emotionally invoked the Gospel of Jesus feeding hundreds from a few fish and loaves of bread. Rather than sympathy, this brought a sharp rebuke from Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.). “Nowhere in Scripture did God give instruction to government over us as the individual,” said the Christian conservative. “Read it, sir. He was speaking to individuals not governments.”

Asked about the exchange by POLITICO, the Georgetown Jesuit scholar Thomas Reese — a critic of the Ryan budget — quickly countered.

“Jesus lived in an occupied country. He wouldn’t talk to that government,” Reese said of the Roman rule then in Jerusalem. “It was very different from an American democracy.”

All this plays out now with remarkable timing. Exactly a year ago this week — having survived a threatened government shutdown — bipartisan talks began at Blair House on May 5 to address the next great cliff hanger, averting default. Three months later, the Budget Control Act emerged, setting targets for close to $1 trillion in savings from discretionary spending and setting in motion additional cuts if Congress failed to reach agreement on entitlements and taxes.

Now so much in 2012 is arguing over what was agreed to then in 2011.

Indeed, the 66 House Republicans who voted “no” last Aug. 1 seem to have more of a lock on Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) than the 174 who said “yes.” And to keep these conservatives in the fold, the speaker has walked away from the August agreements on appropriations targets for the coming fiscal year.

Defense spending goes up — breaking those caps; nondefense funds are cut an additional $27 billion under allocations approved last week. “Blah, blah, blah,” Boehner said dismissively of White House protests. But the speaker has hurt his credibility and risks another shutdown crisis unless he reverses himself again before Oct. 1.

The savings package Monday seeks also to alter the Budget Control Act, this time by disarming automatic cuts threatening the Pentagon in January.

Nearly $110 billion in 2013 spending would be affected by the scheduled automatic cuts — or sequester. Farm subsidies and Medicare account for a portion, but the lion’s share is again appropriations: $43 billion from domestic programs and $55 billion — a 10 percent cut — from defense.

Given the cuts already from nondefense appropriations, the real House focus is on protecting the Pentagon. Measured against the post-sequester path set out last August, there would be a massive 13 percent, $62 billion shift of resources to defense under Ryan’s plan. By comparison, domestic appropriations are only $15.7 billion or 3 percent better off than if the dreaded sequester were to happen.

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    And so he did.

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  • State of the Union: It doesn’t have to be this way
    State of the Union: It doesn’t have to be this way

    President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night will focus on inequality, on the reality that this economy does not work for working people. Given the obstruction of House and Senate Republicans, the president faces the reality that little of what he proposes can pass this Congress. He has vowed to use his “pen” and “phone” to act unilaterally where he can. But the real challenge is to explain to the American people what the reality is, what must be done and who is standing in the way.

    Written on Tuesday, 28 January 2014 15:56 Read more...
  • Ellison’s Steps to Income Equality: More Powerful Unions and Weaker Trade
    Ellison’s Steps to Income Equality: More Powerful Unions and Weaker Trade

    Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairman Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) said that increasing the power of unions is key to addressing income inequality in America.

    “We need a comprehensive plan, but let’s start with increasing the right to collective bargaining,” Ellison said on MSNBC. “We’ve got to get workers on the job in a position to demand that the wealth that they create be shared by the company. That’s a key thing. If you look at how wages has stagnated in the United States and you look at how union did something that has gone down, the lines track right together. You got to get power in the hands of the workers. That’s key.”

    Written on Thursday, 23 January 2014 18:18 Read more...
  • Celebrating MLK: A drum major for justice
    Celebrating MLK: A drum major for justice

    As I went from event to event Monday celebrating the birthday of Martin Luther King, I was struck by both the tribute and the distortion.

    The tribute is remarkable. Martin Luther King held no public office. He amassed no great fortune. He led no victorious armies

    Written on Tuesday, 21 January 2014 16:03 Read more...
  • Keith Ellison Blasts Inaction on Government-Backed Poverty: “The Most Remarkable Dodge I’ve Ever Seen”
    Keith Ellison Blasts Inaction on Government-Backed Poverty: “The Most Remarkable Dodge I’ve Ever Seen”

    One day after a top Obama administration official deflected a congressman’s call for executive action to raise labor standards for contractors, activists Wednesday announced the filing of a new Department of Labor complaint over alleged wage theft in a government building. The complaint alleges that dozens of workers in D.C.’s government-owned Union Station are owed over $3 million in back pay and damages for rampant failure to pay minimum wage or overtime.

    Written on Saturday, 18 January 2014 16:26 Read more...
  • King’s evolving Dream
    King’s evolving Dream

    It is that time to pause and think about the incredible life and contributions of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., oftentimes referred to as MLK. He was named Michael King Jr. after his father ­ who later changed both their names to Martin Luther, in honor of the religious reformer.

    Written on Saturday, 18 January 2014 15:37 Read more...
  • Moral Monday Movement Spreads Through the South
    Moral Monday Movement Spreads Through the South

    After drawing thousands of protesters to the state legislature and inspiring the arrests of more than 900 people for nonviolent civil disobedience, North Carolina's Moral Monday movement challenging the extreme conservative agenda of the state's Republican-controlled legislature and administration is gearing up for more actions in 2014.

    Written on Monday, 13 January 2014 13:30 Read more...
  • On 50th anniversary of 'War on Poverty' speech, Worcester Rep. Jim McGovern says cuts to SNAP are 'war on poor people'
    On 50th anniversary of 'War on Poverty' speech, Worcester Rep. Jim McGovern says cuts to SNAP are 'war on poor people'

    U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern says the "War on Poverty" has shifted from helping the poor to fighting them.

    McGovern, a Democrat who represents the 2nd district, spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives Wednesday about hunger in America and potential cuts to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) in the proposed Farm Bill.

    Written on Saturday, 11 January 2014 15:37 Read more...
  • War on Poverty wages on
    War on Poverty wages on

    Fifty years ago this week, President Lyndon Johnson, lamenting that too many Americans “live on the outskirts of hope,” declared an “unconditional war on poverty in America.” This will not be “a short or easy struggle,” he stated in his State of the Union address to the Congress, “no single weapon or strategy will suffice, but we will not rest until that war is won. The richest nation on earth can afford to win it. We cannot afford to lose it.”

    Written on Tuesday, 07 January 2014 18:11 Read more...
  • Will New York City Lead the Way on Pre-K?
    Will New York City Lead the Way on Pre-K?

    At the Future of America Learning Center in the West Bronx, the pre-K curriculum is built around adult jobs—visiting real workplaces and then learning about the vocabulary and skills that grown-ups use every day.

    Written on Tuesday, 07 January 2014 01:24 Read more...
  • Advice for Young Women: Get a Union Job
    Advice for Young Women: Get a Union Job

    Back in the days before modern feminism, a young woman looking for work might typically be advised, politely, to “learn a trade,” with the implication that she wasn't bound for college or an elite career, but a humbler job as, say, a secretary or seamstress. Such a phrase might sound condescending today. Yet working in a trade might still be sound career goal for a woman, if she gets the right kind of job—in a union.

    Written on Tuesday, 24 December 2013 21:30 Read more...
  • Walmart Workers Will Make History on Friday As America Confronts Growing Inequality
    Walmart Workers Will Make History on Friday As America Confronts Growing Inequality

    This Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year, tens of millions of Americans will travel to Walmart stores to look for holiday discounts on computers, toys, and cell phones as well as to buy groceries and basic household items.

    Written on Saturday, 30 November 2013 15:20 Read more...
  • McDonald's: Low-Paid Workers, High-Flying Execs
    McDonald's: Low-Paid Workers, High-Flying Execs

    He was CEO of the hamburger behemoth, McDonald's, pulling down a hefty $8.8 million in pay. Last year, though, Skinner retired, and, rather than getting a gold watch, he was given a load of gold — so large that even a Brink's armored truck would have been too small to haul it all away. His salary of $753,000 was the least of it.

    Written on Thursday, 21 November 2013 13:44 Read more...
  • Growing Movement: Expand Social Security or 'Pay a Price'
    Growing Movement: Expand Social Security or 'Pay a Price'

    Sen. Warren: 'Social Security is incredibly effective, it is incredibly popular, and the calls for strengthening it are growing louder every day.'

    With Social Security cuts once again on the table in closed-door congressional budget negotiations, a growing movement has taken the offensive, demanding that lawmakers strengthen, rather than stranglehold, our social safety net.

    Written on Thursday, 21 November 2013 13:36 Read more...
  • Paul Ryan Gets 700,000 ‘No’ Votes on Social Security Cuts
    Paul Ryan Gets 700,000 ‘No’ Votes on Social Security Cuts

    Ryan’s office on Wednesday received a petition signed by more than 700,000 people that said there should be “no grand bargain” in the budget negotiations being led by Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., “in exchange for cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits.”

    Written on Saturday, 16 November 2013 03:10 Read more...
  • House Dems Can Block GOP Food Stamp Cuts—By Killing the Farm Bill
    House Dems Can Block GOP Food Stamp Cuts—By Killing the Farm Bill

    The farm bill will almost inevitably include deep cuts to the food stamps program—unless House Democrats join with conservatives to kill the bill. The food stamps program—which helps feed one in seven Americans—is in peril. Republicans in the House have proposed a farm bill—the five-year bill that funds agriculture and nutrition programs—that would slash food stamps by $40 billion. But by taking advantage of House Republicans' desire to cut food stamps as much as possible, Democrats might be able to prevent cuts from happening at all.

    Written on Tuesday, 12 November 2013 15:28 Read more...
  • Food Stamps, Yes!
    Food Stamps, Yes!

    If you’re reading this column, you probably don’t participate in a government program such as SNAP, to help provide food for your family. If you can afford to have a newspaper delivered to your home, or if you have a computer and an internet connection so you can read online, you may have more than enough money for food.

    Written on Friday, 04 October 2013 01:50 Read more...

Does Your Legislator Support the Robin Hood Tax?

Join "Countdown to Coverage" Share TPP with your Daily Newspaper

CWA devised a simple plan for which they were uniquely suited: drag TPP out of the shadows and into the light - one city at a time - using a medium they understand intimately: Daily Newspapers!

Two CWA members - Dave Felice in Denver, CO and Madelyn Elder in Portland, OR have started the ball rolling. We just need to keep up the momentum leading up to a big day of petition deliveries.

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Hand Deliver a Letter to your Rep on Jobs

If your Representative is not currently a cosponsor of HR 1000 they may not completely understand how important full employment is to your community; click on your state at the bottom of this page to see all the cosponsors in your state. Nothing sends a stronger message to a Congressional member than a personal visit to a district office by a voter with a written request. Phone calls and emails are incredibly important but nothing gets attention like a personal visit. Our Educate Congress page has information and a sample letter. Print the letter, sign it, deliver it.

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Report on your TPP Contact

Please let us know your legislator's stance on Fast Track Authorization for the Trans Pacific Partnership as well as their stance on the TPP in General. Click here to report the response.

The Robin Hood Tax

Robin Hood Tax: John Nichols and Keith Ellison and Michael Lighty

Why The Robin Hood Tax

Rep. Jim McGovern on Protecting SNAP

Workers Speak Out on the TPP

PDA Labor Panel - Progressive Central III

Main Street NOT Wall Street

The Trans Pacific Partnership: Corporate Global Domination

Lori Wallach on the TPP from PDA Progressive Roundtable

Progressive Roundtable with Reps. Ellison and Pocan and Lori Wallach on TPP

Lori Wallach Leaked TPP Documents (Democracy NOW)

TPP: The Biggest Threat to the Internet You've Probably Never Heard Of

Lori Wallach on Thom Hartmann (Great Minds) - The TPP

TPP Downloads

The following documents are available from the Oppose TPP Downloads Folder

June 29th TPP Powerpoint

CWA TPP Jobs Report

Endorse HR 1000

Read the bill text and endorse HR 1000 as an individual or an organization