In my last article I asked a question as to whether we the electorate were asleep at the wheel. I received many replies, some from a lot of people who I am sure are simply not aware that they are asleep, but most agreed that there is something wrong when congressional members have an overall approval rating of just under 19% and yet 90+% get re-elected year after year.
We have a President and Senate that haven't done their jobs in preparing a federal budget (I am not talking about "short-term" budgeting, but an annual long-term budget under which the country is to be run, going into the fourth year. If a business were to operate in this manner, the stockholders would get a rope and find a tree, this probably after filing for bankruptcy. Yes, the President did submit a tentative budget request that was unanimously rejected by both Republicans and Democrats. So the country just slithers along running on a series of Continuing Appropriations Resolutions, which leads to the kind of last minute, pieced together, cluster-flops we deal with on a perpetual basis. This is like traveling without a road map.
The federal budget has two practical purposes. One, the budget provides a financial record of federal revenue and expenditures. Two, the budget articulates the nation's priorities by allocating limited discretionary funds to various federal programs, such as funding for the Department of Defense, National Science Foundation, US Geological Survey, Environmental Protection Agency, and so forth.
The federal budget process includes the Presidential budget and the Congressional budget. These budgets establish the framework within which Congress appropriates funding for specific departments and programs.
Traditionally the President sends a budget request to Congress each year on the first Monday of February. It is important to remember that it is only a spending plan and is not set in law. It is not uncommon for Congress to make adjustments to a President's budget, particularly if the Congress and White House are controlled by different political parties with significant policy differences.
The Congressional budget process really begins with the receipt of the President's budget, which is considered by both the House and Senate Budget Committees which convene hearings and receive testimony from Administration officials, non-governmental policy experts, and other interested parties. From these hearings followed by deliberations, Congress comes up with a Concurrent Resolution. Concurrent resolutions are non-binding (they lack the force of law) and are not sent to the President.
The Congressional Budget Office reviews the information presented by the Budget Committees with their version of drafts usually containing a series of "mark-ups" designed to allow Members of Congress to introduce their own budget plans or offer amendments to the current budget plan. After the mark-up, the Budget Committee reports a Concurrent Resolution on the budget. Once differences between the House and Senate versions have been reconciled, the Congress adopts a common plan.
In the past this BUDGET PROCESS was considered standard protocol, but in today's dysfunctional and heatedly divided partisan environment, the government is running like a train without an engineer. The 112th Congress ended the session as the most unproductive since the 1940s, with only 219 bills passed which became law. It is not that I am against grid-lock, as when there is grid-lock less damage is done to our Constitutional rights and freedoms, but it is so bad, we can't even address really important issues like Hurricane Sandy relief measures.
To add insult to injury, President Obama's recent executive order gave an across the board salary hike to white collar federal employees, whose average compensation exceeds $100,000. This would also include the members of Congress which is basically a reward for non-productivity, inefficiency, and ineptness. In January 2012, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued a study which found that total compensation for federal employees was 16% greater than comparable private sector employees.
With more than 23 million Americans unable to find work, the US taxpayer already facing another costly extension of unemployment benefits, increased food stamp appropriations, and now increases in federal income taxes, shows just how out-of-touch those inside the Beltway can be.
Vice President Joe Biden is included in those scheduled to get a pay raise. According to disclosure forms, Biden made a cool $225,521 last year. After the pay increase (which takes place in the first pay period beginning or after March 27) he will start receiving $231,900. Besides Biden, and other federal workers, Congressional pay for senators and representatives will go from $174,000 to $174,900.
Beside the increase in taxes for every American, the insensitivity on the President's executive order is a slap in the face to those of us toting the financial tax burden. The average American household income has dropped 2.3 percent since 2009 (the lowest levels since 1996) and the U.S. poverty rate has risen from 14.3 percent to 15.1 in this same time period (Bloomberg Businessweek, Keith Wimer, Dec. 30), our "servants" in D.C. and elsewhere were rewarded for their "stellar" performances in engineering the worst economic slump in 70 years!
There was a little bright light is this complete indifference to the taxpayer…On a bi-partisan vote of 287-129 the House of Representatives approved H.R. 6726, a bill to overturn the President’s executive order was passed in the House. The bill was introduced by Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick, R-Pa. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., led debate on the House Floor. The President’s executive order will cost taxpayers $11 billion over the next 10 years if it is allowed to stand.
Representative Issa went on to state, "The President, the Senate Majority, and the House Minority have not been able to agree to even the most meager spending cuts, yet the President’s executive order gives all members of Congress a salary hike on top of the $174,000 a year we already earn.” Additionally, “The President’s across the board pay increase for white collar workers is not necessary to retain talented employees and just wastes taxpayer money…federal employees have continued to receive promotions and within-grade pay increases over the past few years of the supposed ‘pay freeze,’ and voluntary separations from the federal government are near all-time lows.”
232 Republicans and 55 Democrats voted for H.R 6726 to overturn the executive order while 2 Republicans and 127 Democrats voted to support the pay raises. Visit this site to confirm - http://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/112-2012/h655, and see if your congressperson had the gall to support a raise and then think about that the next time you vote!
Here are some extra little facts that you should know. Many have heard how bad House Speaker John Boehner is…how uncaring he is about those hit by Hurricane Sandy, and that he is just a real uncaring S.O.B., when it comes to the residents struggling to put their lives back in order in New York and New Jersey. He had the temerity to pull a bill that would have appropriated some $60 billion supposedly in relief aid for Sandy victims…really?
This is what the mainstream media wants you to believe, but in reality, that bill was so loaded with Democrat PORK it had trichinosis (NIH says there are a reported 40 cases each year - the US Congress not withstanding). It took real heuvos for Boehner to shelve the bill knowing he would be clobbered by the Democrats and the media, and lambasted by, of all people, Governor Christie, Governor of New Jersey. BUT IT WAS THE RIGHT THING TO DO.
Remember Rahm Emanual, former operative of the Obama administration and now Governor of Illinois, who stated, " You never want a serious crisis to go to waste, and what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things that you didn’t think you could do before", the Hurricane Sandy Relief legislation is just what he was talking about. What the residents need is money to make their lives whole…nothing like what was in the pork-laden bill being considered which contained nearly $30 billion in funding of pet projects for Democrats that had no bearing on the residents of the hurricane struck area…That's $30 billion in additional waste to a deficit are children would have to pay. Below is a short list of some of the crap they tried to sneak in…
- $13 billion for large infrastructure projects that we are assured would “mitigate” damage from future storms.
- A truly audacious $17 billion in Community Development Block Grant funds, an embarrassingly transparent slush fund.
- $10.8 billion for public transportation, almost entirely for future projects, not disaster relief.
- $8 million to buy cars and equipment for the Homeland Security and Justice departments.
- $207 million for the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Manhattan Medical Center.
- $199 million in tax breaks for rum makers.
- $188 million for upgrading, not repairing, Amtrak rail lines.
- $150 million for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to provide fisheries in Alaska.
- $58.8 million for forest restoration on private land.
- $197 million to… protect coastal ecosystems and habitat impacted by Hurricane Sandy.
- $17 billion for wasteful Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), a program that has become notorious for its use as a backdoor earmark program.
- $2 million for the Smithsonian Institution to repair museum roofs in DC.
- $41 million to fix up eight military bases along the storm’s path, including Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
- $4 million for repairs at Kennedy Space Center in Florida
- $3.3 million for the Plum Island Animal Disease Center
- $100 million for the repair of all 265 Head Start centers around the country.
- $1.1 million to repair national cemeteries.
- $100 million for a federal day-care program.
- $57 million for tracking debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami.
- $20 million for a national “water priorities” study.
$28 billion of these expenses are for future "disaster-mitigation" projects not the related to Hurricane Sandy. Remember, this is just the short version of the pork list. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-CA, says a bill that focused solely on Hurricane Sandy relief would be less than half of $60 billion. ... That’s the kind of bill Congress should pass – with matching cuts in existing federal spending to keep down the deficit.
This is not to say that maybe one or two of the added expenditures might not be worthy, but that's the whole problem with Washington and the legislative procedure. They just shovel in a load of horse manure to a needed bill, because as a stand-alone bills, most of the expenditures couldn't get enough support to be passed in an environment where we should be scrutinizing every dime government wastes.
So…LET GOVERNOR CHRISTIE THROW A TANTRUM ALL HE WANTS, and let Congress deal with the real issue of hurricane relief. Christie should direct his outrage over the "selfishness and duplicity," not at the GOP House and its leadership, but at the Democrats who loaded it up with an assortment of earmarked pork on the theory that a devastating hurricane is a spending opportunity that should not be wasted.
In closing this expose on government waste, ineptitude, sleight-of-hand, skullduggery, and other scoundrel associated political gamesmanship maneuvers, I'll spend a few sentences on the tax increases that were sold to the American public as getting the "wealthy to pay its fair share".
Again, Americans were sold a false bill of goods by a smooth talking snake-oil salesman and a weak-kneed Congress. The tax increase will hit every working American. First, in the Social Security and Medicare column. Second to all those who have stocks and bonds where the dividend tax was increased; third, in any household that experiences a capital gains; and fourth, in all the forthcoming Obamacare taxes coming to a program near you.
It is actually a PUNISHMENT TAX on productive members of society who provide most of the jobs in the private sector. IT DID NOT REACH THE REALLY RICH PEOPLE the majority of Obama supporters wanted to punish. The working folks who provide jobs and work for a living had an increase in the upper tiers of income generation, but they are not the rich. They are the job providers. Think about that for a minute before you slip a gear. They work every day just like you and me.
The really rich folks are the Warren Buffets, the Bill Gates, the Oprah Winfreys, the John Kerrys, the Nancy Pelisis, and the hoity-toity Hollywood millionaires (those marked by an air of assumed importance). They live on dividends, capital gains, and protect their incomes with stock option deals and deferred revenue sharing contracts. In short they don't pay an exorbitant amount of income taxes. They are taxed at a much lower capital gains and dividend tax rate (about half that of income taxes).
Okay all you big tax enthusiasts…so let's really hammer them the next time around. Raise the dividend and capital gains taxes and really sock it to the rich. That's the next step. BUT WHAT ABOUT THOSE OF US IN THE MIDDLE? If you have any stock or bonds in your retirement portfolio where you get a dividend; if you sell your home or experience a capital gain from the sale of your stocks; if you see any major assets where you realize a gain…you are then the target…you get screwed too.
The system is rigged to keep the wealth in the hands of the wealthy because they are the big campaign donors and influence peddlers. The rest of us are striving to get their too, but the weighed tax structure is against us. The scoundrels have seen to it that the elite and politically connected are protected.