Two Party System Screws Us All

Proto Union Man - Haymarket Riot

Obama’s quick and easy capitulation to every budget cut the GOP asks for is symptomatic of a larger problem, namely that neither the Democratic Party nor the Republican Party cares much about the citizens of the US. Where is the party who represents you and me?

For instance, as The Hill reports, most of the cuts affect people more than corporations. For instance, slashing 16% out of a an already underfunded EPA seems to encourage polluting corporations to continue doing what they want without fear of fines. I don’t see any cuts to the bloated Pentagon budget, don’t see any elimination of corporate tax cuts. Instead, nutrition programs for low-income families is deemed less important.

Compared to 2010 levels, there are big cuts to cherished Democratic-backed programs. The Women, Infants and Children nutrition program is cut $504 million, foreign food assistance by $194 million and assistance to state and local law enforcement by $415 million.

The Environmental Protection Agency is cut by $1.6 billion, a 16 percent reduction, and lawmakers from Western states were able to include a rider allowing states to de-list wolves from the endangered species list.

The Homeland Security Department sees significant cuts as well: $226 million is cut from the southern border fence at the suggestion of the Obama administration, and the number of Transportation Security Administration workers is capped. FEMA first-responder grants are cut by $786 million.

Health funding also takes a serious hit. Community healthcare centers lose $600 million while HIV and other disease-prevention funds are cut by $1 billion. But Democrats noted that the health centers would not have to close altogether under a cut of this size.

On the other hand, Democrats were pleased that the Pell Grant award remains at $4,860 and there is a modest increase for Head Start. They also highlight that Race to the Top education awards continue.

The Food and Drug Administration will be able to implement last year’s new food-safety bill, and the Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodity Futures Trading Commission will be able to implement the Dodd-Frank financial reform under the levels spelled out in the bill, Democrats said.  The Clinton-era COPS program is cut by $296 million. Low-income heating assistance is cut $390 million, while Community Development Funds are cut $942 million.

Contributions to the U.N. and other international institutions are cut $377 million; federal highway investment is cut $650 million.

The largest cut in the bill is from the Commerce Department, but this is something of an accounting trick since it relates to unspent Census money totaling $6.2 billion.

(click here to continue reading Six-month spending bill unveiled: What’s cut and what’s not –

Sickening, it is as if the Democrats have already decided to join the Republicans in everything except name. They aren’t going to be satisfied until the US turns into Somalia.

and then, predictably, Obama is going to support the so-called Cat Food Commission, which we mocked previously

Now it’s getting a little clearer: Obama will throw his support behind the bipartisan effort in the Senate to turn the Simpson-Bowles plan into legislation. This will raise as many questions as it answers — if Obama is such a fan of this approach, for instance, why didn’t he say more about it during his budget? — but it is, at base, a more realistic plan both in terms of policy and politics.

For one thing, it’s plausibly bipartisan. Ryan’s budget was almost a calculated effort to appall Democrats, which means it has little chance of passing through the Senate. Simpson-Bowles was an effort to attract votes from both parties. The reason it can be bipartisan is that, unlike the House GOP’s proposal, it doesn’t use deficit reduction as cover to sneak in ideological changes to the state: there’s no effort at privatizing Medicare or block granting Medicaid, no decision to go after programs for the poor while exempting both revenues and defense cuts. The plan’s theory is that cutting the deficit is hard enough without also engaging a couple of long-running ideological wars about the shape and responsibilities of the America state. So it dodges those wars, and in endorsing it, Obama will too.

But if the president was actually interested in passing Simpson-Bowles, this was a bit of an odd way to go about it. Leaving it out of his budget and State of the Union speeches meant it didn’t become the central issue on the table. That gave Ryan room to make his proposal, and the early signs are that his proposal has turned many Republicans against Simpson-Bowles, as they’d prefer Ryan’s plan and don’t want to weaken their negotiation position. If the process then becomes a compromise between a centrist plan like Simpson-Bowles and a hardline conservative plan like Ryan’s, that’s not going to produce something Democrats are happy with, and Obama will be blamed for not taking the initative and forcing everyone to simply consider Simpson-Bowles when he had a chance.

(click here to continue reading Wonkbook: Obama to back Simpson-Bowles – Ezra Klein – The Washington Post.)

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