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IPS Blog

Entries tagged "budget"

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The End of the Sacred Cow

June 30, 2011 ·

Over the last decade, military spending has nearly doubled — it now exceeds Cold War levels. Coupled with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, these massive expenditures have contributed to the crippling of our economy.

Despite lip service from Washington officials, including outgoing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, there's been little appetite for reining in this rampant spending. Yet, in the increasingly partisan budget debate, military spending is the one area where there may be some bipartisan agreement.

Questioned about Republicans' unwillingness to cut military spending, Freshman Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) said in an interview this week, "Look, I know there are sacred cows, but we cannot afford them anymore."

But any cuts must be done in a smart way that ensures our safety and security here at home. Since 2004, the Institute for Policy Studies has promoted a bold vision about ending waste in the vast military budget, and providing a road map on how to shift security resources more effectively.

Guided by a task force of military, diplomacy, and homeland security experts and led by IPS expert Miriam Pemberton and Lawrence Korb at the Center for American Progress, the Institute released today a new report titled "Unified Security Budget for the United States, FY 2012."

For those on Capitol Hill looking for effective cuts, Korb notes, "There is plenty that can be trimmed from the $700 billion-plus spent annually on the military. In the report we detail $77 billion of lowest hanging fruit."

And Pemberton explains the security framework that makes cuts — and additions — to the budget possible. "We need a budget process that looks at our security challenges as a whole, and allocates resources in a way that matches the lip service everyone in government pays to the co-equal importance of military and non-military tools," she says.

Overhauling U.S. security spending should be just one way the nation moves toward more rational fiscal approach. Just last week, IPS rallied with nurses on Wall Street, calling on the financial industry to pay their fair share of the costs of the economic crisis. And the Institute's Chuck Collins is an integral part of a campaign to target tax cheats, including Apple.

This mixture of smart spending cuts and increases in revenue puts real military and economic security within our grasp.

P.S.: As Glenn Beck leaves the Fox News Network today, IPS is sending him a goodbye card along with a copy of our annual report that he paraded on his show last year. Add your name to the card by making a tax-deductible donation to IPS as we celebrate the end of an error!

85 Percent? How Do You Figure, Mr. Ryan?

April 5, 2011 ·

Back in December, the co-chairs of the bipartisan President’s Deficit Reduction Commission liked their plan’s chances. One of their members was the current chair of the House Budget Committee, Paul Ryan, and he promised that his committee’s budget blueprint would include 85% of the Commission’s recommendations.

Today we have that blueprint, and squint at it as hard as you might; you won’t find anything like that kind of math. The Commission laid down its “guiding principles,” such as:

  • “Don’t disrupt the fragile economic recovery” by cutting too soon. Cong. Ryan’s plan? Let the cutting begin. The deeper the better.
  • Cut and invest “in education, infrastructure, and high-value research and development … to make it easier for businesses to create jobs.” Cong. Ryan’s investment agenda? Nowhere in sight.
  • “Protect the truly disadvantaged.” By slashing Medicaid, Ryan? Really?!
  • “Cut spending we cannot afford—no exceptions.  We must end redundant, wasteful, and ineffective federal spending wherever we find it… including defense.” The commission laid out about $100 billion in military cuts. Cong. Ryan’s plan follows Defense Secretary Gates’  so-called ‘cuts.’ As I wrote when the President’s budget came out, they are not cuts. They slow the projected growth in Gates’ budget, to the tune of $15 billion a year, on average. Attacking the discretionary budget and giving about half of its total—defense--a nearly-free pass is like is like making a cake and leaving out the flour.

This despite the Government Accountability Office’s accounting of $70 billion in new Pentagon waste in the last two years alone. Despite the fact that the U.S. and its NATO allies outspend the rest of the world’s militaries by a factor of two; that the U.S. military alone outspends its nearest competitor, China, by at least six times. That the combined militaries of Iran, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, Somalia, and Syria spend less than one percent of what our military spends.

Despite the fact that support in his own party for putting military spending on the cutting table includes, for starters, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and the tea party base, Rep. Ryan saw fit to exclude it almost entirely.

If this is 85% agreement, what would disagreement have looked like?

Unconventional Wisdom: Name This Moment

February 24, 2011 ·

Two weeks ago, I wrote in this space about Wisconsin and unions and the power of the people. My focus was on football, not workers defending their collective bargaining rights. But just as Hosni Mubarak was stepping down in Cairo, Governor Scott Walker was stepping up in Madison with his bill to slash these fundamental rights.

Nusair stands in solidarity from Cairo

Muhammad Saladin Nusair's sign in Tahrir Square, which read, "Egypt Supports Wisconsin Workers — One World, One Pain," sums up the extraordinary solidarity between protesters in both locations. Wisconsinites have chomped on pizza purchased by Egyptians as democratic revolutions continue to erupt.

Muammar Gaddafi's brutal response to Libya's uprising reveals democracy's high price. Yet, people power is gaining momentum and spreading across the Middle East and Africa — even reaching the stamp-size French-speaking country of Djibouti, where the police have clashed with anti-regime protesters. As IPS scholar Manuel Pérez-Rocha said during a recent protest that expressed global solidarity with Mexican unions, there's a "renewed international push against injustice."

We at the Institute for Policy Studies are actively involved with campaigns to end injustice, protect workers, and sensibly cut budgets. While state governments and the Obama administration complain that we're running out of money, IPS expert Chuck Collins offers a straight-forward solution for stopping corporate tax dodgers to fund the gap. This Saturday, there's a rally calling for corporations to pay their fair share of taxes before freezing civil servants' pay and cutting government services.

Last week, IPS scholars Janet Redman and Sarah Anderson joined people in more than 25 countries in a global day of action calling for a small financial transaction tax that would raise hundreds of billions of dollars of much-needed revenue while restraining speculation. In addition to these government-revenue-boosting solutions, IPS experts John Feffer, Miriam Pemberton, and Robert Alvarez all suggest ways to shrink the federal budget by cutting military spending.

What will we eventually call this historic wave of peaceful protests and solidarity that's spreading around the world? Write your suggestions below in our comments section, post them on our Facebook wall, or tweet them to @IPS_DC, and we'll post the best ones on our blog next week.

Military Spending Cuts: Depends on what the Meaning of 'On the Table' Is

February 10, 2011 ·

Deficit pressure has put "everything on the table" for cuts, including the Pentagon. Everyone from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor to President Barack Obama agrees on this. But what they mean by this is all over the map.

The budget Obama will present to Congress next week will likely begin what the Pentagon is billing as $78 billion in cuts to its budget over five years. In fact these are cuts to their plans for expansion, i.e., slowing a proposed increase is being defined as a cut.

While both Obama and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan pay lip service to the "defense is on the table" mantra, both also exempt the defense budget from their budgetary restraining actions: a five-year discretionary freeze, in Obama's case, and $100 billion in cuts, in Ryan's.

The president’s debt reduction commission proposed real cuts, but these would leave the military budget only 5 percent below where President Reagan jacked it up to militarily defeat the Soviet Union — shortly before its collapse.

Defense Secretary Gates describes even those modest potential cuts as "catastrophic."

Let's define budget cuts as spending less next year than this year. Nothing else should qualify.

Savings aren't just needed because of the nation's massive debt. We also need to address our security deficit. The civilian and uniformed military leadership agrees on a key point: U.S. foreign policy needs to be less dominated by the military. Achieving that goal would entail decreasing the proportion of resources devoted to offense (the military) relative to defense (homeland security) and prevention (non-military foreign engagement). IPS will score this proposed budget's mix of security expenditures, and report the results after Obama releases it.

Miriam Pemberton, an Institute for Policy Studies research fellow, leads the task force that produces the yearly Unified Security Budget for the United States with Lawrence Korb of the Center for American Progress.

Deficit reduction? If and only if...

June 11, 2010 ·

Progressive economists have told us, quite clearly, that this moment in an extremely fragile economic recovery is NOT the time to focus on deficit cutting ­— that avoiding the even higher unemployment of a real Depression requires another round of stimulative public investments.

HOWEVER.  While holding this thought in our minds, we can’t ignore another: that the president has set up a bipartisan commission on deficit reduction.  It will make its recommendations in December.  In the absence of strong pressure from progressives, we can expect that cutting social programs will dominate this agenda.

What one thought do we need the members of this Commission to keep in their minds? That you can’t take a serious approach to reducing the deficit while exempting the largest portion of the budget that Congress votes on every year.  This is, of course, the military budget.

Congressman Barney Frank assembled a group, called the Sustainable Defense Task Force, to make its own recommendations to the Commission on what cuts in military spending could be made with no sacrifice to our security.  We came up with $1 trillion in savings over the next ten years. Our report outlining these savings to the Commission is being released today. 

UPDATE: The Hill has an overview of a panel commission hearing, featuring Sustainable Defense Task Force members.

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