Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Even a Broken Obama Makes a Good Point Occassionally (Even If It Wasn't the Point He Was Trying to Make)

No, I didn't drop acid this morning and it is a few days past April fools. I was reading the speech Obama gave yesterday and I noticed that he actually made a valid point about the Ryan budget, in his own way. Now, I definitely didn't like it when he said:

This congressional Republican budget is something different altogether. It is a Trojan Horse. Disguised as deficit reduction plans, it is really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country. It is thinly veiled social Darwinism. It is antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity and upward mobility for everybody who’s willing to work for it; a place where prosperity doesn’t trickle down from the top, but grows outward from the heart of the middle class.

Talk about over the top. Who attacks a budget for social darwinism (side note, does this attack mean he is a social creationist?)? Most of the speech is the usual class warfare kind of claptrap which tries to make the case that the poor people will starve and children will end up like Oliver Twist if you enact this deficit reduction legislation. But what I actually thought was a relatively good point was when he said:

The year after next, nearly 10 million college students would see their financial aid cut by an average of more than $1,000 each. There would be 1,600 fewer medical grants, research grants for things like Alzheimer’s and cancer and AIDS. There would be 4,000 fewer scientific research grants, eliminating support for 48,000 researchers, students, and teachers. Investments in clean energy technologies that are helping us reduce our dependence on foreign oil would be cut by nearly a fifth.

If this budget becomes law and the cuts were applied evenly, starting in 2014, over 200,000 children would lose their chance to get an early education in the Head Start program. Two million mothers and young children would be cut from a program that gives them access to healthy food. There would be 4,500 fewer federal grants at the Department of Justice and the FBI to combat violent crime, financial crime, and help secure our borders. Hundreds of national parks would be forced to close for part or all of the year. We wouldn’t have the capacity to enforce the laws that protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, or the food that we eat.

Cuts to the FAA would likely result in more flight cancellations, delays, and the complete elimination of air traffic control services in parts of the country. Over time, our weather forecasts would become less accurate because we wouldn’t be able to afford to launch new satellites. And that means governors and mayors would have to wait longer to order evacuations in the event of a hurricane.

That’s just a partial sampling of the consequences of this budget. Now, you can anticipate Republicans may say, well, we’ll avoid some of these cuts -- since they don’t specify exactly the cuts that they would make. But they can only avoid some of these cuts if they cut even deeper in other areas. This is math. If they want to make smaller cuts to medical research that means they’ve got to cut even deeper in funding for things like teaching and law enforcement. The converse is true as well. If they want to protect early childhood education, it will mean further reducing things like financial aid for young people trying to afford college.

The reason I think this is all a valid point is simple. In order to reduce the deficit on the back of domestic discretionary spending, you will have to cut a lot of popular programs. The math is unavoidable. The worst part is that domestic discretionary spending is actually not what is killing our finances. As I wrote before, its the entitlements that are killing us, domestic discretionary spending as a % of GDP has actually been trending down over the decades:

Now I might question the need for scientific grants from the Federal government but based on my Federal Tax Receipt, I spent about $50 last year on that. Conversely, I spent several thousand dollars on social security and medicare payments to the elderly and thousands more on entitlements to a smattering of other people. Should we privatize the national weather service? Sure, it's probably a good idea (I don't remember weather forecasting being in the constitution) but at the end of the day, that won't make much of a difference to our well-being. Put another way, in 2012, even if we give up our entire military and shut down almost every federal agency (other than the IRS, CMS and SSA), we will just be meeting our obligations, we won't even be running a surplus.

The fatal flaw in the Ryan budget is that it leaves the entitlements alone for the foreseeable future. He doesn't touch Social Security at all and his medicare reform plan only starts helping after Medicare's scheduled point of bankruptcy (some help). And don't even get me started on his tax plan.

It seems that the GOP's Ryan worship has yoked them with a politically unpopular plan that doesn't even seriously tackle the main threats to our well-being as a nation.

Cross-posted from libertarian neocon's blog.


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