Thursday, December 11, 2014

Spend, Spend, Spend...

With all the other hysteria going around, Congress passed a $1.1 trillion budget to keep "The Government" open for a little while longer. And despite the all the fire-breathing Drudge headlines condemning the Republicans and Boehner for betraying us, it doesn't really look that way entirely. Like all federal spending budgets, it's got goodies for everyone especially politicians! Washington Post did a fairly good point-by-point breakdown of what it includes some interesting funding cuts. And like the title indicates they "did the skimming" so we don't have to!

Here are few of the points from the article that I am going to cut and paste mainly because I am too lazy to do anything else. You can read the whole article here - LINK

The law is still funded, but there's no new money for it. There's also no new ACA-related funding for the Internal Revenue Service and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the two agencies most responsible for implementing the law. The bill also would cut the budget of the Independent Payment Advisory Board -- what Republicans have called "the death panel" -- by $10 million.

Congress withholds funding for the Afghan government "until certain conditions are met," including implementing the bilateral security agreement reached with the United States.

Oh, this point is interesting. With all the calls for passing legislation to curtail all that "Citizen's United" campaign spending, our elected officials seem to just double-down (or triple or quadruple) the amount one can donate. This ought to set those anti-campaign spending advocates tongues a-wagging!

The bill would dramatically expand the amount of money that wealthy political donors could inject into the national parties, drastically undercutting the 2002 landmark McCain-Feingold campaign finance overhaul. Bottom line: A donor who gave the maximum $32,400 this year to the Democratic National Committee or Republican National Committee would be able to donate another $291,600 on top of that to the party’s additional arms -- a total of $324,000, ten times the current limit. Read more on this here.

Democrats agreed to make some of the biggest changes yet to the 2010 financial regulatory reforms. In a deal sought by Republicans, the bill would reverse Dodd-Frank requirements that banks "push out" some of derivatives trading into separate entities not backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporations. Ever since being enacted, banks have been pushing to reverse the change. Now, the rules would go back to the way they used to be. But in exchange, Democrats say they secured more money for the enforcement budgets at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

This might be problematic for the anti-immigration crowd, but we can't just let the southern border states go broke taking care of Obama's new "migrant" children. And apparently we will be paying their home countries for the privilege...

The bill only funds the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees most immigration policy, until February. But negotiators gave new money for immigration programs at other federal agencies. There's $948 million for the Department of Health and Human Service's unaccompanied children program -- an $80 million increase. The program provides health and education services to the young migrants. The department also gets $14 million to help school districts absorbing new immigrant students. And the State Department would get $260 million to assist Central American countries from where of the immigrant children are coming.

Well, this is step in the right direction!

One of the GOP's favorite targets will see its budget slashed by $345.6 million. The nation’s tax agency also would be banned from targeting organizations seeking tax-exempt status based on their ideological beliefs.

Oh, no! This is really mean...
The legislation once again enacts a pay freeze for the vice president "and senior political appointees."

But the other Federal workers will get their raise, but no more music videos and Vegas conventions. And a military personnel with get the same payraise.

The bill allows a 1 percent pay raise ordered by Obama to take effect in January. And the legacy of embarrassing spending scandals at federal agencies persist as Congress once again banned or put limits on certain conferences, official travel and some employee awards.

Military service members will receive a 1 percent pay increase next year. But there's a pay freeze for generals and flag officers. The bill also ends a five percent discount on tobacco and tobacco-related products sold at military exchanges.

After a year of embarrassing scandals at the sprawling Department of Veterans Affairs, lawmakers are making good on promises to provide more money and oversight. There's a total of $159.1 billion in discretionary and mandatory spending. Of that, $209 million was added to address new costs related to the bipartisan veterans' reform bill passed last summer. The legislation calls for adding medical staff and expanding dozens of facilities. In order to specifically addressing the "wait list" scandal, the VA's inspector general is getting a $5 million budget increase to continue investigating lapses in patient care.

Well, anyway, here are some others:
- Cuts to food stamps, but white potatoes are now an official vegetable "eligible for purchase" with food stamps. Of course, why weren't they before now?
- Sadly, no money to save the sage-grouse, but there is money to save their habitat from further destruction. Poor sage-grouse...
- Official portraits of elected officials will now have to be out of pocket.
- Continue to fund Israel and will no longer fund the Palestinian Authority or Hamas.
- Oh, and you'll be able to get those cheaper incandescent bulbs for a little while longer...

There's more, but you can read it for yourself...well, the WashPo article anyway.


BevfromNYC said...

Sorry about that...I forgot to set the post time for midnight for you night owls!

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, Those are all pretty amazing changes for the Democrats to agree to. I'm really surprised they agreed rather than trying to trick the Republicans into a shutdown fight.

The one I think is very interesting (in a bad way), by the way, is letting banks continue to use federally insured funds for trading. Everyone should see the problem with that, yet the GOP stupidly want to allow it and the Dems are happy to go along. That's truly obnoxious to taxpayers. I want someone to back my bad bets too!

tryanmax said...

I agree with Andrew. That's a truly stupid move on Republicans' part. Obviously, Dems are just as much in favor of it, or they'd be making a stink. They'd have nothing to lose, after all, everyone knows Dems hate big banks (hee hee). But Republicans are happily stepping up as their foils when they do decide to stink about it later.

And then there's the matter of it being bad policy, but I'm not sure if that matters at this point.

AndrewPrice said...

What I'd like to see next, with the Democrats out of the equation, is a spending bill that includes a big chunk for "border security", some smart economic ideas that encourage people to buy new hardware and invest in new ideas, and start to free parts of the medical system from Obamacare by making its provisions voluntarily. That should not be enough to let Obama support a veto, but should slowly but surely reshape the economy, immigration and healthcare along conservative lines.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, It's frustrating because it's obviously something the Democrats want, so why let them pretend that they were forced into it while making us look like the corporate tools again? Let them do their own dirty work.

Koshcat said...

This is nothing; just moving the deck chairs.

What needs to be done is a complete overall of programs like the government health service. Either plan to provide everyone a "safety plan" or don't. This getting into the minutia of how much a cut this doctor gets and how much of a raise this other doctor gets is really a waste of time. It also saves little money and generally pisses everyone off.

Give everyone a $2500 voucher for very basic plan and let people buy up from there. This would cost about $750B-$1T/year. About the same or less what they are already spending and much easier to budget for.

What Obamacare did was show that the argument on whether basic health care is a right or a privilege is over. They won but they are incompetent in how to organize it.

BevfromNYC said...

Sorry guys. I have been crazy busy with work this week.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, Work comes first! Sad, but true.

AndrewPrice said...

Koshcat, As strange as it may sound, deck chair movement in government often has the power to forever reroute the ship of state. And in this case, there are a couple of these that are really powerful changes, but not in a good way, and others that are just placeholders for future fights.

In terms of the medical idea, I concur completely. As we've discussed completely, a change to what we call CommentaramaCare would be a hugely positive change for everyone in the country... but our politicians are incapable of making that kind of change.

Kit said...

Am I the only one expecting Congress to pass a price floor on oil/gas in response to lobbying by oil companies?

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, Sadly, it wouldn't shock me at all.

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