Friday, April 8, 2011

Aborting government

(Cross-posted at Coalition for Clarity)

In approximately six hours, the threat of a federal government shutdown may be realized if Congress can't pass a budget. And yes, the issue of defunding Planned Parenthood has remained a live one:

"We know the whole world is watching us today," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

He, President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner all agreed a shutdown posed risks to an economy still recovering from the worst recession in decades. But there were disagreements aplenty among the principal players in an early test of divided government — Obama in the White House, fellow Democrats in control in the Senate and a new, tea party-flavored Republican majority in the House.

For much of the day, Reid and Boehner disagreed about what the disagreement was about. [...]

Originally, Republicans wanted to ban federal funds for Planned Parenthood, a health care services provider that is also the nation's largest provider of abortions.

Federal funds may not be used to pay for abortions except in strictly regulated cases, but supporters of the ban said cutting off government funds for the organization — currently about $330 million a year — would make it harder for it to use its own money for the same purpose.

Democrats rejected the proposal in private talks. Officials in both parties said Republicans returned earlier in the week with a proposal to distribute federal funds for family planning and related health services to the states, rather than directly to Planned Parenthood and other organizations.

Democrats said they rejected that proposal, as well, and then refused to agree to allow a separate Senate vote on the issue as part of debate over any compromise bill.

Instead, they launched a sustained campaign at both ends of the Capitol to criticize Republicans.

I highly doubt the whole world is watching this budget showdown; most Americans aren't even paying all that much attention. Because, if they were, I think more Americans would be outraged that the Democrats in Congress are ready to abort the funding of the federal government rather than stop funding the nation's largest abortion chop-shops run by Planned Parenthood.

For my part, I think that there are several bloated government projects that could stand to be aborted. Consider this list of some such projects from last year, courtesy of the Citizens Against Government Waste. Here are some of my favorites:
$12,500,000 by Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Ranking Member Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) for 13 projects, including: $2,750,000 for polymer research; $1,000,000 for wheat genetic research; $1,000,000 for a phosphorous reduction cooperative agreement through the Kansas Livestock Foundation; and $250,000 for workforce development and out-migration through the Kansas Farm Bureau Foundation (KFBF). In addition to the appropriation, KFBF has also applied for a $7 million stimulus grant for rural broadband deployment. To add insult to injury, the Kansas Farm Bureau, which is conveniently located at the same address as the foundation, had a fund balance of $98 million at the end of 2007. [...]

$775,000 for the Institute for Food Science and Engineering (IFSE) requested by Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee member Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Rep. John Boozman (R-Ark.). One of IFSE’s research areas is called “Pickle Science and Technology” which the institute’s website boasts, “is dedicated to increasing product value by improving production and quality of pickled vegetables. The program, which enjoys significant industry support, includes the annual national evaluation of pickled vegetable products.” With the continued spending of taxpayer money on initiatives like these, it is not surprising that taxpayers are in a financial pickle of more than $12.7 trillion in debt. [...]

$61,600,000 for 30 projects by Senate CJS Appropriations Subcommittee Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), including: $14,000,000 for the Cooperative Institute and Research Center for Southeast Weather and Hydrology at the University of Alabama; $6,000,000 for six projects for the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville; $1,000,000 for the Tools for Tolerance program at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, California; $250,000 for a wireless area network for the city of Hartselle (population 13,888); $200,000 for the Cherokee County Methamphetamine and Marijuana Reduction program; and $150,000 for Zelpha’s Cultural Development Corporation for the University of Alabama’s After-School Delinquency Prevention program. [...]

$1,200,000 by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), House appropriator Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) for the American Museum of Natural History for infectious disease research. Funding museum research in a defense bill really bugs taxpayers. [...]

$1,250,000 by Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee member Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) for research into the long-term environmental and economic impacts of the development of a coal liquefaction sector in China. Sen. Byrd has directed $2,070,150 to this project over the past three years. [...]
I could go on, but you get the point--and that's before we look at the number of "historic" small theaters, museums, and other businesses being restored with federal money, because apparently the people who actually live near these things don't care to spend state or local funds to fix them up. Something to bear in mind as you work on your taxes this weekend, anyway.

So, I'm all for a government shutdown, if it comes to that. I'd much rather abort wasteful government than continue to permit federal funds to finance the Abortion Kings of America over at Margaret Sanger's racist, eugenicist organization, Planned Parenthood (unofficial slogan: "We kill more of the poor than drugs and gun violence combined!"). Let's hope enough of the new Republicans are thinking the same thing tonight.


Jacque said...

Your last paragraph says it all Erin! I with you.

Carrie said...

This is very relevant to my family: my husband is a DoD civilian, and if the government shuts down, he doesn't get a paycheck. We're not "well-off" enough that this will not cause some pretty serious worry for us. My husband's is our only income, and we have a 5-month old baby.

HOWEVER, even with all that in mind, we are praying that the GOP sticks to their guns (if this truly is what is keeping the Democrats from agreeing) ... even though it affects us personally, we would gladly take a sacrifice in order for Planned Parenthood to be defunded.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

I would probably agree on most of your list of cuts. As I've said before, I would favor ending federal funding for a variety of private charitable organizations, including Planned Parenthood, as well as the whole 501(c)(3) law, and let organizations raise their own funding from people who believe in the cause.

But, I would dig in my heels against any part singling out an organization on the grounds that "even though what they do is perfectly legal, and lots of other causes get funded, we don't like what this one does so we won't fund it."

Unfortunately, the Democrats are probably not creative enough to come back with a broad series of cuts across the ideological spectrum, and dare Republicans to back it. I sometime sympathize with Kathleen Parker's desire to declare her personal dictatorship for a few years.

Here's a few I might keep:

$1,000,000 for a phosphorous reduction cooperative agreement through the Kansas Livestock Foundation; (the phosphorous is a pollution problem, and maybe we should all chip in to help the farmers reduce their use and or the volume of run-off)

Come to think of it, I can't find many others I would defend. I definitely don't want my tax dollars paying for pickle research.

But when we angst about the national debt, remember that Bill Clinton (whatever his moral lapses) had generated budget surpluses and started paying down the national debt, whereas George W. Bush turned surpluses into deficits overnight, more than doubling the debt. And Republicans want to pose as champions of fiscal probity? I don't think so.

Geoff G, said...

To stick up for some of the stuff on the list, Richard Shelby's $200,000 for methamphetamine and marijuana reduction program strikes me as exactly the way government ought to be waging the war on drugs rather than pushing addicts through the criminal justice system.

The weather and hydrology science sounds an awful lot like cutting back on volcano or tsunami monitoring (great to cut until you actually need it). Arguably with climate change (anthropogenic or otherwise)/hiccups or whatever you want to call the freaky weather lately, hydrology's probably a good thing to study and something the private sectors unlikely to step up to bat for.

Coal liquefaction is likewise a possible technology that we might use in the future to offset oil imports using our coal resources, but it has some fairly serious environmental effects. Probably worth studying.

In other words, lots of the stuff you cite is basic scientific research (OK, no reason why Peter Piper can't pick up on the pickle research) or stuff that has educational or cultural value (and yeah, I know education and culture should be the first things on the chopping block in hard times...all the better to have kids growing up getting their cultural cues for TV and pop music I suppose).

Basic research has traditionally not been supported well by the private sector, which is why government stepped into that void in the first place.

The classic case is research into physics. Quantum mechanics developed about 100 years ago with no commercial applications on the horizon at all. But 40 years after that we get LASERs (which rely on an understanding of quantum mechanics to work) and 30 years after that we get CD players (which need LASERs).

You never know when a lot of that research will lead or how long it will take to get there which is precisely why the private sector is less willing to fund that than, say, another antidepressant they can roll out in five years.

Patrick said...

Obviously, I'd prefer the gov't shutdown rather than fund Planned Baby-Killing. Nevertheless, the election *was* fought more on the grounds of spending than abortion: you can hardly blame the GOP for "caving" on something that wasn't an election issue (as was general spending cuts).

That doesn't make it right, obviously, but I can't say as I'm particularly outraged at the GOP.

"We know the whole world is watching us today," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Haha. Don't flatter yourself, Harry. "what's Harry Reid up to" has literally never crossed my mind...

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Patrick, if we were talking about babies, I would agree with you. What we as a nation can't come to a near-consensus on is precisely that question. The last place that debate should be settled is in a budget bill.

Bathilda said...

Red, in previous posts, you bemoan the prices of groceries, and how people are putting much of their paychecks into food. In this post, you mock research funding for food/crop research. Your "pickle" funding is likely research into methods of food preservation, and could help people in the third world get nutritious food. Some of that is pork, but much of that is small potatoes. These are not what is driving the deficit. The deficit is driven by corporate welfare, entitlement spending and defense spending.

That the Republicans were sticking Planned Parenthood as an add on to the bills was just petty politics. They weren't the champions of the unborn...only jerks.

PP isn't just abortions, and as a woman who relied on planned parenthood for inexpensive pap tests after I had precancerous cells removed (in college--off of my parent's plan), I am a supporter.

JohnE said...

$1,200,000 by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), House appropriator Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) for the American Museum of Natural History for infectious disease research. Funding museum research in a defense bill really bugs taxpayers. [...]

Isn't the snark at the end (and I know it was written by the quotee, not by Red) sort of gratuitous misdirection?

The bill doesn't seem to fund museum research - it seems to fund infectious disease research done under the auspices of the American Museum of Natural History.

'Guns, Germs, and Steel', lays out the importance of being able to prevent infectious disease - and historically, such disease has been important in military settings. Look at the history of Yellow Fever, for example.

Anonymous said...

If we leave basic research in the hands of corporations, which all too often now we do, they own it and can use it to whatever ends they desire. Publicly funded research means there has to be a report out to the public, so we can have the conversations we need to have.

Bathilda is right. The budget is not being busted by these little grants. It is being busted by corporations that have avoided income tax and even collected tax credits (GE) and the like.

When you work on your taxes, think about two extended (Republican-started) wars, corporate welfare kings and upper class people who pay a fraction of what they would have in the 1950s - that Golden Era conservatives love to harken back to.

Social Security and Medicare can be balanced with political will - it's not an economic problem so much as a political fight. Republicans bitterly hate anything that came out of the Roosevelt administration and are trying to roll us back to 1929. Bush almost accomplished that and the Boehner Congress is trying to finish the job.


Hector said...

I can't think of many better things for the government to spend money on than research into wheat genetics, or phosphorus reduction.

Producing enough food to feed everyone (particularly in a world with a very large and growing human population, that is already taxing our resources) is arguably the most important function of government. Improved plant breeding (which depended largely on modern genetic science, though they aren't quite the same thing) was the biggest single component of the Green Revolution, and was responsible for the majority of the increase in food production. As for phosphorus: we're running out of phosphorus, Peak Phosphorus is already being called a future disaster even bigger than peak oil, and any way to reduce our phosphorus runoff is just about the best thing a government can spend money on. Once phosphorus gets carried downriver to the ocean, it's effectively lost to us, on any reasonable time scale.

And yes, the pickling business is important too, at least if you care about the livelihood of American farmers. One of my really good friends is a fruit and vegetable farmer who sells his cucumbers to the pickle industry.

If we want to reduce the national debt, then we ought to start by taxing the h*ll out of the rich.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Although I favor a 90% tax rate on income over $10 million (which is a way of saying, nobody should bother making more than $10 million a year, and nobody deserves that much for ANYTHING), it wouldn't take taxing the h*ll out of the rich.

What no Republican likes to discuss (although some conservatives admit to it), is that under the last two years of the Clinton administration, we had budget surpluses, and were beginning to pay down the national debt. As soon as Bush came in, that was scattered to the winds. In eight years dominated by the Republicans, we doubled our national debt from $5 trillion to $10 trillion.

After running up the debt during relatively GOOD times, when we should have been paying it down, we were overburdened when we hit rough times, which is when we should have had more leeway for extra spending.

It can't be said too many times: go back to what we were doing right 1998-2000. The purpose of increased taxes on the upper brackets should be

1) to keep the 10% bracket, while still generating surpluses, and,

2) to increase the size of the standard deduction.

Anonymous said...

Al Franken had a story he liked to tell, before he was senator. He had claimed that based on the performance of the two Bush family members as presidents, had their family been in the White House since 1776, no American would have ever held a job.

Republicans like debt - they only pretend not to when they are running for office. They and their financial industry cronies hold that debt. Why do you think they hated Clinton so much? His debt reduction/deficit reduction budgets cut into their investment profits.

Republicans also like debt because it hamstrings the government and makes it appear to be incompetent, which serves their interests in reducing budgets in regulatory agencies. We don't want biznezz to have to be careful about the garbage they spew into the air we breathe - all under the guise of protecting/creating jobs, which we've already noted they do not.

My husband is reading Deer Hunting with Jesus, a book about how the working class has been convinced to shoot themselves in both feet at the same time by electing Republicans. Sad business.


Anonymous said...

Elizabeth--it's true. Part of why the working poor vote republican even though it makes no sense finacially is the three G's--God, Guns and Gays. The Republicans have aligned themselves with the Christian right, and they brainwash the poor into keeping their corrupted financial policies in place. Remember how the municipal workers put us into crippling debt and then took millions of dollars in personal bonuses and had their best year ever? Yeah. Me neither.

As for taxing the rich, I think that depends on what you think rich is! :-) No one should be taxed at 90%, I don't care how much money you make. That's just not fair. If you make it, you make it. Should anyone have $10 million per year? probably not. But this is capitalism, and if someone wants to pay you for a pet rock and you invest your money wisely, then you might make $10 million a year.

My husband makes what I consider to be a lot of money. He earns it. He went to school for a long time, worked hard and made all A's. He works the better part of 60 to 70 hours every week. We don't live in a mansion, we drive cars that are five years old, we save a lot for college and have a comfortable home. Why should we pay over 35% of our income in taxes just because it's more? The tax code is crazy. corporate welfare is rampant. there are some real issues that need to be solved. now. cutting agricultural research is not even half a drop in the bucket. The republican party survives by smoke and mirrors, and the suckers who believe the pretty lies while someone pickpockets them.


Hector said...

Re: Although I favor a 90% tax rate on income over $10 million (which is a way of saying, nobody should bother making more than $10 million a year, and nobody deserves that much for ANYTHING), it wouldn't take taxing the h*ll out of the rich.

Yup, Siarlys. I'd completely agree with a 90% tax rate (or more, hell, I would be happy with a 100% tax rate) on anything over $10 million dollars.

There's no reason why anyone should be making that much, and its certain that no one deserves, or is entitled to that much.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

While I'm glad to have Hector's support, I think I could hammer out a platform with Audrey that both of us could live with. Anyone who sees that the tax code is crazy, Republicans are brainwashing the poor, and corporate welfare is rampant, I'm willing to meet half way on where the upper tax bracket falls.

The first step is to increase the standard exemption. Everyone should get the first $15,000 to $20,000 tax free. Then, taxes can start being collected on the income OVER that amount. Please remember, its not 35 percent of total income, it's 35 percent of income OVER the lowest amount in the bracket.

Bottom line: whatever we WANT government to deliver, must be paid for. If it takes 35 percent, then it takes 35 percent. If that's too high, we need to be specific about what we choose to do without. It does not sound to me like Audrey and her husband are what any reasonable person would call "rich." Successful, comfortable, and worked hard for it, but not rich.