Monday, July 23, 2012

Stop Screaming. It's Only An Ice Pick.

(A quick note from MeanMesa:  You may notice the rather awkward formatting in this post.  Although JAVA seems to be in full scale rebellion, the content is fine.  Sorry for the inconvenience.)

You May Have Missed It

In April and May of last year, 2011, the then Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, retired from public service giving the President an opportunity to solve a few political "loose ends" while restructuring the Depart of Defense for what was coming next.  In a nut shell, the rumored war hawk candidate for President, General Petraeus, was installed as probably a very effective CIA Director and the old political heavy weight and CIA Director, Leon Panetta, became the new Secretary of Defense.

At the time all this might have seemed to be fairly routine bureaucratic jumbling, but there was a far larger strategy in play.  Obama, in a manner consistent with his formidable strategic political savvy, was setting the stage for the second phase of his plan to resurrect the nation's faltering economic priorities.  Although the information challenged GOP base couldn't comprehend the gravity of it, on his Inauguration day the US economy was clearly churning through its last chapter.

The lethal extraction which had taken place under the Bush autocracy hadn't hit home yet.  The daily "hair on fire" warnings of economists seemed comfortably remote even though the markets and banks were in a fiscal equivalent of a grand mal seizure. For political reasons, the Obama Administration issued vague innuendos that the seriousness of the impending collapse had "got them off guard," but it turns out that these were slightly disingenuous, yet quite pragmatic, panic control efforts.

Now, three years later, the facts about wealth inequality have been added as a delightful after dinner digestif to the toothache style realization that everyone in the country's middle class had just lost 40% of their wealth to Bush's oligarchs.

Front and center on Obama's desk was an already smoldering, desperate imperative of lowering the country's penchant for borrowing and spending money like a drunken sailor.  Three gigantic "elephants in the living room" were at the very top of his list, and the "elephant" metaphor is not an entirely coincidental one.

1. 1/6th of the GDP -- around $2.6 Trillion -- was being consumed annually by out of control health care costs which were still not even close to actually providing health care.

2.  The Defense Department budget for 2008 was parked at around $1 Trillion dollars.  Hiding behind the official "chart of accounts," the President was staring down the barrel at another $200 or $300 Billion for unreported Pentagon "doodads" which didn't seem to make it onto the budget but had no problem hitting the national check book.

3. The Bush tax cuts, depending on whose figures one uses, amount to about $1 Trillion dollars annually in 2008, representing the accumulated damage of the years under the autocracy which greeted Obama.

This posting is specifically about "item 2" on the list above.  We are already familiar with what's been done with "item 1," and MeanMesa has already posted plenty about it.  The President has already said that the budget busting tax cuts -- "item 3" --  for the "1%'ers" won't be extended on his watch.

Putting the DoD on a Strict Diet

Gates had served as a "shock troop" for reining in the Defense budget, and, in doing so, he had, in a sense, sacrificed himself -- at least a bit of his legacy -- under the cover of his approaching retirement.  The Pentagon was not happy with the prospect of way laying its most recent collection of favorite new, obsolete Cold War weapon systems in exchange for things that were more practical.

The nation's chicken hawks in the military procurement industry were strangely comforted by the apparent superficiality of Gate's "fly by" approach.  Being Republicans down to their last "war making feather," they assumed, as usual, that everything the government was doing was entirely a craven political move which could be undone with a stroke of a pen by their well paid cronies in the Congress.

However, the spastic spending cut penchant of the new House tea bags muddied the water in this previously calm pool of perpetual military industrial prosperity.  As one of the essentially unnoticed, placating narcotics extracted during negotiating through their hostage tantrum with the National Debt, the automatic cuts package was almost invisibly included, passed and signed by the President.

Of course visitors are anxious to read further in this post, but please take just a moment now to re-visit a couple of old MeanMesa posts to refresh your memory about the Gates-Petreaus-Panetta maneuver a year ago in 2011.  It's worth the trouble.

America's Most Serious Military Campaign - Part One


America's Most Serious Military Campaign - Part Two


 Why Call It An "Ice Pick?"

When Norquist ordered the junior millionaires elected to the House in 2010 to "cut everything and run," the command found them not only wordless and breathless in their dutiful genuflection, but also unanimously compliant. Comatose in the narcosis of a media fortified, ideological austerity "feeding frenzy,"  the House tea bags couldn't even so much as reliably tell what day it was through the creamy fog of the resulting grisly "ejacula" of their mind numbing, orgasmic, on-going, hatchet job.

Their plan was that everyone without a lobbyist and a check book would bleed.

However, the inexperienced tea bags didn't notice that among the intended victims one could also find a nasty clutch of very suspiciously plump, over fed defense contractors with already authorized Pentagon purchase orders for yet another zillion dollars worth of obsolete war making junk.

Deciding on Defense Purchases (image source)


2012's tea bags, rosy cheeked Congressional "boys about town," turn out to have this one thing profoundly in common with the old "regular Republicans" they ran out of D.C. in 2010.  Like peas in a pod, they have always sought the company of the ultra-generous, uber-patriotic, military industrialists who prowl the Capitol. The new bunch had no problem eagerly embracing the "slightly used" amors of the old bunch -- particularly if those old amors could already claim their own ex-lovers in the Pentagon.

Even the viciously corpse-like Ryan budget -- and, of course, the Romney Campaign -- predictably proposed increasing defense spending beyond its atmospheric current level, but not everything was "roses, simply roses" with these newly forged romances.

As Ferlinghetti wrote: "In the morning her teeth weren't straight, and she didn't like poetry." 

The tea bags are suddenly discovering that the "passionate flowers" with the ready checks who seemed so dreamy the night before have mysteriously lost that enticing eagerness.  In fact, with sequestration rushing toward their favorite projects, the very same tantalizing military industrial companions these Republicans ferreted out of the ball room in the halcyon nights of 2011 have now become screeching harlots with tear smeared mascara and an attitude to match.

Looking over what appeared to be an impossibly perfect match only a few weeks back, the tea bags now see automatic spending cuts for what they are -- an ice pick ever so delicately plunged into the wrinkled thighs of their previously intoxicating ball room prizes.  Their cozy industrialist donors are suddenly no longer in the mood for anything besides relief from the sequestered deficit reduction spending cuts.

Let's have a look at the "ice pick." Reuters does a fairly even minded job of describing the frightening consternation of both the heavily mortgaged tea bags and the soon to be wounded industrialists. (Read the whole article here. )

January's automatic spending cuts spook US Congress

By Richard Cowan

July 19, 2012

Lawmakers fear $109 billion in indiscriminate reductions
* Some hold out hope for alternative plan
* Pentagon, social programs, economy would suffer

WASHINGTON, July 19 (Reuters) - A meat axe approach to Washington's budget deficit problem that hacks away at nearly every corner of American society - from farmers to weapons manufacturers - is spooking the very U.S. Congress that embraced the idea nearly a year ago.

Barring any decisions to suspend or alter the plan known as "sequestration" in Washington budget parlance, $109 billion in across-the-board spending cuts will kick in on Jan. 2, 2013.

They are an outgrowth of the 2010 elections, in which conservative Republicans swept into power promising to shrink the size and cost of government. Just months after those elections, Congress and President Barack Obama, a Democrat, signed off on nearly $1 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years, with an iron-clad commitment to follow up with another $1.2 trillion.

Now, as the initial installment of that second round of spending cuts draws near, members of Congress facing re-election this Nov. 6 are beginning to worry that voters will not be pleased when they find out exactly how painful it can be to down-size government, especially if the belt-tightening stalls an already shaky economic recovery.

 On Jan. 2, approximately $54.5 billion in new spending cuts will hit the Pentagon while domestic programs will suffer an equal $54.5 billion in reductions. All of the cuts would be jammed into the nine remaining months of the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, 2013, deepening the pain.

The details of how the scalpel is to be applied would be determined by Obama's budget office. The Republican-led House of Representatives on Wednesday passed legislation demanding those details from the White House and the Democratic-led Senate has approved a similar measure.


But analysts have a good idea of where the cuts - aimed at reducing annual budget deficits of more than $1 trillion - would fall and it is not a pretty picture.

According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, nearly every domestic program would face the equivalent of a 12 percent spending cut next year. So, for example, grants to help states provide safe drinking water and low-income housing would suffer.

About 700,000 young children and pregnant or nursing mothers would lose nutrition assistance, 25,000 teachers and school aides would be laid off and 100,000 kids would not enter Head Start pre-school programs. The National Institutes of Health would issue about 700 fewer grants to medical researchers, the Bipartisan Policy Center estimated.

Shielded from the "sequestration" are veterans benefits, Social Security retirement checks, Medicare health benefits to the elderly and transportation programs, which are funded through a highway trust fund. Payments to doctors and others treating Medicare patients would see a 2 percent cut, though.



These automatic spending cuts were never supposed to happen.

They were folded into a hard-fought fiscal deal enacted last August as a cudgel. By purposely containing such Draconian actions, congressional leaders reasoned they would force the bitterly-divided Congress into taking a more intelligent approach to deficit reduction.

But by mid-November, the effort to come up with a balanced, targeted array of spending cuts and revenue increases ended in total failure.

Various members of Congress continue to study ways to write a new, more reasonable approach to deficit reduction. Democratic Senator Carl Levin told reporters on Wednesday that "Ninety percent of us want to avoid sequestration" and said a deal was still possible before the November elections.

But privately, many congressional aides say behind-the-scenes talks will not come to fruition until after Nov. 6, if then.

In the meantime, everyone from defense contractors to recipients of social services are beginning to prepare for the worst because of uncertainties over Washington's ability to work out a compromise.

Now that the military industrialists see that the "ice pick" of automatic sequestration is actually headed their way, they are "screaming to high heaven" for their Congressional strumpets to make it stop, but these are exactly the same Congressional strumpets who passed the thing in the first place, inebriated with their typically adolescent, frothy insistence of tormenting the President by any means possible.

Election-wise, the same Congressional strumpets are now realizing that not every voter shares Grover Norquist's wet dream of gleefully decimating the first signs of recovery, either.  

The Perpetual Resistance to Defense Cuts

Here, we must remember that cutting defense spending has always been roughly as unthinkable as passing any kind of gun control.  The very second it's so much as mentioned on the House floor, a thousand horrifying scenarios  begin to gush forth from the well lubricated fear machine.

Massed millions of "wrong colored" invaders are now circling on every border.  According to the pundits, every single one of them is dreaming of "soiling" a white Christian woman left undefended by Obama's military spending cuts. The truly incomprehensible domestic gun confiscating, Muslim conspiracy will, of course, be unfolding at the same time.

When the pillaging and plundering of these first invasions are complete, the Russians, Arabs and Chinese will immediately follow.  Godless atheism and the homosexual agenda will be imposed -- no doubt accompanied with a War on Christmas -- once the nation has become a slave state.

All of this is absolutely nothing new.  These have been repeated every time defense spending cuts have been proposed for decades.  The result was always the same.  In every instance, there would be no spending cuts for the Pentagon.

However, we see Obama in a place where this can simply not go on the same way it always has in the past.  The dilapidated thing is simply sucking way too much money out of the General Fund for the country to be able to sustain it any further -- this is the case even more than ever after the Bush autocracy has already just finished emptying the Treasury. 


The name which cannot be uttered had a great defense budget, right? (image source)

The President has never shied away from making tough choices, and this one fits into that picture with bloody realism.  DOD cuts will create increased unemployment.  The Congressmen with constituencies heavily dependent on local military industrial employment are already refusing calls from the Pentagon procurement contractors -- the ones they were drinking with aboard private jets as recently as April.

However, Obama is unquestionably a "long term thinker."  He's clearly ready to endure this employment downturn -- although, granted, probably after he is re-elected --  in order to move the economy toward some sort of rational state.  His focus has always been on repaired infrastructure, a sensible military budget, renewable energy and the like even though a grotesquely "stone walled" Congress is still obsessed with paving the way for still more looting.

MeanMesa's compliments to the President.

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