Bankrupting America’s Spending Daily

| March 15 2013

Spending Daily | March 15, 2013

Washington Post: Senate Budget Disappoints On Entitlements
The Washington Post editorializes, “Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) has now weighed in with a budget plan to counter the HouseRepublican tax-and-spending blueprint. We’ll get to that Democratic document in a moment. First, here’s a quick fiscal reality check, based on an analysis published Feb. 28 by economists William G. Gale and Alan J. Auerbach of theBrookings Institution. There has been halting but real deficit reduction progress in recent months. The United States faces no imminent budget ‘crisis.’ … Except for the part about no imminent crisis, the Senate Democratic budget recognizes none of this. Partisan in tone and complacent in substance, it scores points against the Republicans and reassures the party’s liberal base — but deepens these senators’ commitment to an unsustainable policy agenda. … It is on the issue of entitlements that the Democrats’ document really disappoints. There is literally nothing — not a word — suggestive of trimming Social Security, whether through greater means-testing, a more realistic inflation adjustment or reforming disability benefits. The document’s fuzzy call for $275 billion in ‘health savings’ is $125 billion less than the number President Obama has floated.”

“Binder Full Of Gimmicks”
The Washington Free Beacon reports, “The top Republican on the Budget Committee said Thursday that the Senate Democratic budget proposal is based on accounting gimmicks, double-counts spending cuts, and raises taxes by hundreds of billions of dollars more than advertised. Republicans claim an accurate accounting of the budget proposal shows that it achieves all of its deficit reduction through tax hikes and in fact increases spending rather than cuts it. Democrats say thebudget resolution unveiled yesterday by Sen. Patty Murray (D., Wash.), who chairs the Budget Committee, trims the deficit by $1.85 trillion over ten years through spending cuts and tax hikes. … On the spending side, the budget assumes in its baseline that cuts mandated by the sequester  that went into effect this month will be repealed, but fails to account for the resulting $1.1 trillion increase in federal outlays. Murray’s budget actually contains a net spending increase after that is taken into account, even though Democrats claim the proposal will reduce spending by $975 billion over ten years. … Murray included Overseas Contingency Operation (OCO) spending in her budget’s baseline then eliminated that spending, allowing Democrats to claim an additional $240 billion in savings for operations that are already scheduled to be drawn down. She also included spending on Sandyrelief in the baseline, even though that spending will not be a part of the federal budget in future years. The Murray budget then counts a reduction in Sandy-related outlays towards its overall reduction in spending.”

“Stop Stealing From Our Kids”
Steven Rattner editorializes in The New York Times, ‘The sequester’s arrival on March 1 has set off a raging debate over not only whether those immediate forced budget cuts are the right fiscal medicine, but also whether we should be trying to accomplish longer-term deficit reduction while the economy remains weak. Of course we should. Our budget outlook is so grim and the policy changes that are required will be so painful — politically as well as financially — that putting efforts to get our fiscal house in order on hold would be the height of irresponsibility. … Thanks to decades of accumulated federal budget deficits and, more significantly, imprudent Medicare and Social Security policies, we’ve stolen almost $60 trillion from our children. That’s the amount that would be required to both pay off our national debt (a comparatively modest $11 trillion) and provide for benefits that we awarded ourselves without paying for them.”

Senate Budget Panel Approves First Fiscal Blueprint in Years
The Hill reports, “The Senate Budget Committee on Thursday evening approved its first budget in four years and, as expected, the 12-10 vote came down rightalong party lines.  The fiscal blueprint produced by Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) makes modest cuts to the federal deficit over the next decade and contains $975 billion in tax increases by ending tax breaks for corporations and wealthier individuals.  Murray explained that she is asking wealthier taxpayers and bigger businesses to chip in a little more to ‘make critical investments to get economy going again.’ The budget also proposes $100 billion in stimulus spending for road and bridge construction and repairs, school repairs and worker training. It is headed for Senate floor next week — thefirst time the full Senate will consider a budget since 2009.  The budget blueprint reflects $1.85 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years. But when the sequester cuts are turned off, Murray’s budget appears to reduce deficits by about $800 billion, using the Congressional Budget Office’s baseline.”

Senators Try to Keep Cuts From Affecting Constituents  
POLITICO reports, “As the clock runs down, the stopgap spending bill before the Senate is looking more and more like a life raft for senators trying to protect home-state interests from the automatic spending cuts ordered under sequestration. Alarmed by the rush, the leadership stalled action on the continuing resolution, or CR, Thursday, while it assessed the political situation. And there is a fear that if too many accommodations are made by the Senate, it risks a blowup with the House and exactly the sort of shutdown fight both parties want to avoid on March 27 when funding runs out. … About $30 million would come from deferring maintenance on Agriculture Department buildings. But $25 million is taken from a new grant program favored by the White House tohelp schools buy equipment for school breakfast programs. In House testimony this week, Dr. Elisabeth Hagen, undersecretary for food safety at the Agriculture Department, warned that sequestration will force one-day-a-week furloughs for FSIS inspectors mid-July through September. The beef and poultry industry is alarmed by the situation since packing houses can’t operate without an inspector on site. And consumers could see an increase in meat prices as supplies are reduced because of the disruption.”

2,000 Illegal Immigrants Released from Jails “Due to Budget Concerns”
The Associated Press reports, “After weeks of denials, the Obama administration acknowledged Thursday that it had, in fact, released more than 2,000 illegal immigrants from immigration jails due to budget concerns during three weeks in February. Four of the most serious offenders have been put back in detention. The administration had insisted that only a ‘few hundred’ immigrants were released for budgetary reasons, challenging as inaccurate a March 1 report by The Associated Press that the agency had released more than 2,000 immigrants in February and planned to release more than 3,000 others this month. Intense criticism led to a temporary shutdown of the plan.”

“Jobless Claims Unexpectedly Fall as Labor Market Improves”
According to Bloomberg, “A strengthening job market is helping lift Americans’ spirits, raising the odds the economy will pick up this year as consumers sustain a surprise spending streak. The number of people filing claims for jobless benefits averaged 346,750 over the past four weeks, the lowest level since March 2008, according to data today from the Labor Department in Washington.”

Reid: Let’s Pass Budget Every Two Years
The Hill reports, “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says Congress should consider passing a budget once every two years instead of once a year, as the law now requires. The Nevada Democrat suggested Thursday the time has come to consider passing budgets with less frequency, which advocates say would improve the chances of debating appropriations bills on the Senate floor and give lawmakers more time to oversee government programs.”

“Pelosi open to looking at Obama proposal to cut Social Security”
According to The Hill, “House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that she’ll consider Social Security cuts as part of a sweeping deficit-reduction package. Ahead of a meeting between President Obama and House Democrats, Pelosi said moving to a less generous formula for adjusting Social Security benefits to inflation — if it protects the most vulnerable Social Security beneficiaries — might be preferable to other entitlement cuts Republicans are urging, like raising Medicare’s eligibility age.”

“The Silence Was More Responsible”
Michael Gerson writes in The Washington Post, “Ryan’s budget proposal is similar to his previous two in both strengths and failures. It deserves everlasting fiduciary fame for proposing a plausible Medicare reform plan, essential to the future of the program and the long-term stability of the federal budget. And yet . . . the refusal to consider additional revenue and the delayed implementation of proposed Medicare reform result in impossible reductions in Medicaid and discretionary spending. … Congressional Democrats, in turn, have emerged from nearly four years of budgetary silence with their own ideological caricature — a proposal combining heavy taxes, budgetary gimmicks, a net increase in spending and a strident refusal to consider meaningful entitlement reform. The silence was more responsible.  … The Republican argument: Given demographic and fiscal trends, if you want to provide income and health-insurance support to the elderly and poor, and preserve a meaningful American role in the world, government will need to become less of an all-purpose service provider and to refocus key programs, such as Medicare, on helping those in the greatest need. The Democratic argument: We can do it all — as long as you don’t look beyond the 10-year budget window.”

Obama: Bring on the Green
The Hill reports, “President Obama will revive his green energy sales pitch Friday with a proposal to divert offshore oil-and-gas revenues to fund research into alternative fuel and vehicle technologies. The president will highlight the plan during a visit to a clean-energy research lab in Chicago, arguing the investment is vital to reduce dependence on foreign oil and spur high-tech jobs for the United States. … It follows on his announcement of a $2 billion ‘Energy Security Trust’ in his State of the Union address last month.  White House officials framed the trust as a way to wean the U.S. off oil and to reduce carbon emissions.“

Bankruptcy Lawyer Appointed to Manage Detroit’s Intervention 
The New York Times reports, “A veteran lawyer who once worked on Chrysler’s bankruptcy has been handed what may prove to be his toughest case yet: to bring Detroit back from the edge of financial collapse.Michigan officials on Thursday appointed the lawyer, Kevyn Orr, a partner in the Jones Day law firm, as an emergency manager to oversee operations in Detroit, one of the largest cities to ever receive such intervention. ‘This is the Olympics of restructuring,’ Mr. Orr said during a news conference in Detroit as he stood near Gov. Rick Snyder, who chose him, and Mayor Dave Bing, who, like all city officials in such situations, will be forced to cede significant powers to Mr. Orr under the state’s plan to save the city. … Mr. Orr described Detroit’s problems, which include annual cash shortages, about $14 billion in long-term liabilities, and complaints by residents that broken streetlights are not replaced and that the police do not respond to calls — as ‘very challenging.’ But he also struck an upbeat tone, saying that he hopes to someday reflect back on having participated in one of the nation’s ‘greatest turnarounds.’”

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