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Mea Culpa

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Dear Readers,

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve not posted anything to my blog. Not even about those little known stories the mainstream media tends to ignore…and I love. It’s not that those stories don’t exist. Heck, plenty of them exist everywhere; just look at any issue of Wired Magazine’s Wired Science blog. I’ve just been occupied elsewhere.

I admit to having “liked” Bruce Bartlett’s facebook page which supplies me with endless conversations (and articles) on economics and politics as well as the absurd. Of course, I still read the news every morning in the Washington Post (especially Wonkblog) as well as The Atlantic, The New Republic, The American Conservative, Bloomberg, and a few others like the Financial Times and the Economist.

But over the course of the last year I’ve become more involved in volunteering my expertise to community non-profit groups. My little, rural town in the Sierra Nevada foothills can’t afford paid services for the help it needs. We’re still suffering from the severe recession.

Wages are below median average for California, and industry, as we generally think of it, is practically unknown here. For years, Colfax, where I live, was ruled by a “no expansion” crowd that hamstrung local businesses and the community at large. Finally, that hold is breaking as a result of the Great Recession. Businesses, hard hit by lack of customer revenues, are finally speaking up and demanding revenue growth in order to stay in business and to fill the empty storefronts. Residents are seeing the need to build sustainable businesses that can help support necessary, and even desired, community services.

I’ve spent most of my adult years in large towns where governmental actions made a huge difference in both the local economy and in people’s lives. When governments partner with the business community, local service non-profits, and residents great accomplishments occur that better the lives of everyone in the community. The current Tea Party inspired, Ayn Rand anti-government fad fails to acknowledge the many benefits government provides communities via increased demand revenues and stabilizing taxes.

For me, when my local community chose to develop an Art Walk which promoted both local artists and main street businesses, expand the reach and profitability of our annual July 3rd Independence Day Celebration (yeah, I know it’s a day ahead of the real thing), and develop a community-wide business plan to promote our city, I volunteered. Unlike the Ayn Randers out there, there’s more to a good life than just me…and the financial perks I personally am getting. I saw these non-profit activities as a chance to rebuild and renew our business community.

Certainly, Social Security and Medicare made it economically possible for me to spend my time on efforts to help my community develop and become more profitable. Without those earned insurance benefits, as they currently exist, I’d be bankrupt…and be left wondering what to do to survive. It’s not that I didn’t save in retirement accounts throughout my 40-some working years. I had. I invested the maximum amount the federal government allows each working year. Regardless, between 2001 and 2009, following the great crash, I lost nearly 2/3s of my retirement savings. Over that decade, I continually bought more shares via my retirement accounts, but the values (profits) decreased. The end result became my need for these two primary insurance benefits into which I paid for over 40 years.

Nevertheless, those insurance benefits now afford me the ability to spend many hours each week voluntarily working for my cash-strapped community, rather than solely worrying about how I’m going to pay the bills or how to survive another month. I’m not forced to go begging for state or federal assistance. Or made to feel like I’m the lowest of the low for needing help. I still have my dignity and the knowledge that I’m taking financial care of myself.

But I’m no hero, by any means. Those earned insurance programs now have just provided me the means to the end of helping my community at large.

Strikingly, my community volunteering increased my skills far beyond what I learned during my career…and I really enjoy all I’m learning in the process of doing. Sure as heck beats vegetating and waiting to die!

But I guess, for me anyway, I feel valuable again. I feel like I really can make a contribution to my community and my fellow citizens…and that makes me feel important and good about myself.

I understand my senior’s path isn’t the same for everyone. But it’s working for me and adding to the renewal efforts of my community while not increasing costs. Most of all, though, I’m getting far more personal satisfaction out my volunteer activities than I’m putting in terms of time and my increased skills.


Sequester Consequences: The GOP Chooses Tax Expenditures on the Uber Wealthy Over Job Loses

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So, you liked your job – or at least it paid the bills and kept you going. Well, all that may be coming to an end. Congressional Republicans have chosen the consequences of the sequester over raising more tax revenues from closing tax loopholes that favor the uber wealthy.

Paul Ryan

From Neil Gillies: The New York Times on what the republican party is about to do to America: “These cuts, which will cost the economy more than one million jobs over the next two years, are the direct result of the Republican demand in 2011 to shrink the government at any cost, under threat of a default on the nation’s debt. Many Republicans say they would still prefer the sequester to replacing half the cuts with tax revenue increases. But the government spending they disdain is not an abstract concept. In a few days, the cuts will begin affecting American life and security in significant ways.”om Neil Gillies: The New York Times on what the republican party is about to do to America: “These cuts, which will cost the economy more than one million jobs over the next two years, are the direct result of the Republican demand in 2011 to shrink the government at any cost, under threat of a default on the nation’s debt. Many Republicans say they would still prefer the sequester to replacing half the cuts with tax revenue increases. But the government spending they disdain is not an abstract concept. In a few days, the cuts will begin affecting American life and security in significant ways.”

The GOP obviously know what the sequester will do the economy. They can’t be that dumb! But it appears they don’t care. They’d rather kill millions of jobs…as well as increase the deficit due to increased social safety net spending for the newly unemployed…than raise one more dime in new tax revenues. That attitude not only put the lie to their deficit reduction stance, but it should show every American just how little Republicans care about their jobs and lives.

According to Matt Taibbi’s Rolling Stone reporting, in 2003 when then Senator Lincoln Chaffee confronted Vice President Cheney on the second round of tax reduction legistation, stating that it would probably lead to out of control increased deficits, Cheney said we (meaning he and his wealthy friends) deserve it. My hunch is the GOP still believes that the Plutocrats deserve every tax break and cut they’ve received.

My, how times have changed in less than 100 years. At the beginning of the 20th Century, our Plutocrats – men like Rockefeller, JP Morgan, Carnegie and to a lesser extent railroad magnate, Commodore Vanderbuilt – dominated our industrial landscape. Absolute profit, by and large, was their motive. Each actively sought to become the most wealthy, not because they needed the wealth or the cash. Instead the accumulation of wealth for them was like winning real live a Monopoly game. If worker lives were destroyed or communities ruined, to many of them it mattered not. Only winning the game of becoming the most wealthy and powerful…and controlling entire industries.

Not being blind to the rising populist movement against them, they spent millions to elect McKinley twice to protect their interests, even going so far as to choose TR, whom they rightlyTeddy Roosevelt saw as a threat, for what they thought was the politically dead end position of Vice President. However, when McKinley was killed shortly after his second election, TR became president and game changed entirely for those plutocrats. The country was ripe for change…and TR ushered it in.

Populist worker movements in the early 1900s had sprung up all across the country. Labor was becoming aligned with the new socialist and communist movements which would have ended private ownership in favor of labor-public ownership. Labor unions became more than popular among working class people who saw them as the only way to fight back against corporate giants for economic justice and the rights of workers to decent wages and working conditions. Religious and charity groups supported the labor movement, decrying the vast accumulation of wealth by a few. Violence and extreme turmoil were seen everywhere across the country. Capitalism, itself, was under a massive threat to its existence.

Into this conflict, following McKinley’s assassination, stepped TR. He’d been greatly affected by a few highly influential progressive economists who recognized the dangers facing capitalism. In their minds, if capitalism was to survive, the federal government needed to address the concerns of the growing, vast majority of working class citizens for economic justice and fair play. Those economists proposed better, safer working conditions, higher minimum wages, and shorter working hours (a la 40 hours/week). But TR, once in office, went even further, recognizing that the monopolies retarded growth and innovation, he chose policies to to break up the monopolies that had dominated the previous couple of decades and thereby invigorated 20th Century innovation.

Corporate feeding at the public troughThat action alone led to an era of creative destruction and innovation that lasted throughout much of the 20th Century. Only during the latter quarter of the 20th Century, did his anti-monopoly policies begin to lose the favor among the political elite who saw their own personal fortunes or futures rise through choosing policies that favored the plutocrats over labor, creative destruction innovation, and monopolistic business practices.

Yet, his policies for the working classes are probably the best known and appreciated among working people. For the first time, labor, en masse, was guaranteed the right to demand better wages, safer working conditions, and moderately legislated time off.

Throughout the entire era of vast changes, however, Congress never once failed to do its duty to the Country by taxing the people progressively as needed to hold down the nation’s debt – regardless of how much progressive taxes were disliked once they came into being, they were deemed a moral responsibility…and every church and parish and synagog repeated that message of individual and national responsibility in sermons all across the nation.

Presidents from FDR to LBJ only added to what TR began: to create a more perfect nation for every citizen, regardless of wealth or gender or race or religion or ethnicity, could live a sustainable life and to expect their children to accomplish more than they had. In other words, to live the American dream. Now, it appears the GOP would take away that dream to return to an even more perverse rendition of McKinley’s economic policies.

If Republicans refuse to comprise with Democrats on the sequester then our nation will suffer major job losses, home value decreases again as more homes go into foreclosure, and rising deficits in both state and federal budgets as more people require assistance. As Paul Ryan explained, his real emphasis is on tax cuts – or avoidance – and not the deficit or for that matter on how many millions of people are left to struggle along without jobs. His policies emulate those of the McKinley Administration wherein only the uber wealthy matter.

The genius of the American democratic Republic system of capitalism is that it enabled the greatest numbers of people have their say on issues that directly affected their lives and their beliefs. Because of the social safety net we now enjoy, many do not see the harm that our grandparents endured as a result of the same kind of speculation that caused the ’08 financial collapse. Without that safety net, for which we must give thanks to progressive administrations from TR through LBJ, millions of families would be ruined. The Great Depression would have been replayed en toto.

Surely, the US can do better and should do better…as this nation has done in the past to save both capitalism from its worst practices and to assist workers’ aspirations for better lives. Current dogmatic GOP policies (supply side economics which have never worked and only led to greater human suffering and death since first put into practice during the Great Famine in Ireland) only lead to more domestic economic harm. As a result of GOP dogma on preventing evenirish famine Mother and children modest and economically competitive tax increases on the most wealthy, this nation will likely return to another recession that will affect every average family and cause the loss of not just the millions of jobs but an increased loss of average middle and working income family wealth again.

I understand that many will denigrate me and proclaim me a vile, evil “liberal”. But to them I answer that history provides us many lessons, amongst which are economics and moral, religious integrity. History is a great teacher for future policy decisions…at the very least, well beyond me, that is what our founders, from the Pilgrims to those who participated in the Constitutional Convention, believed. As a free, democratic republic, we do need to relearn our historic economic lessons to prevent the disasters of the past. And we as a people do need to rise up, as our forefathers did, to seek better justice and economic viability.

Written by Valerie Curl

February 18, 2013 at 9:58 AM

Are Oil Prices Misleading? An Unknown Discussion on the Origins of Oil.

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Chinese symbolI’ve just finished rereading The Emperor’s Tomb, by Steve Berry. It’s a suspense filled, fictional tale between two factions within the Chinese hierarchy…and which both exist in reality today. The book, as in all of Berry’s books, incorporates a great deal of real, documented history. In this case, it’s the history of Chinese innovation and technology along with its historical political past.

But what is most interesting is a theory about oil which has been ignored or is unknown. First a little background.

The Chinese first drilled for oil 2,500 years ago. Those ancients not only used oil but also Ancient Chinese Philosophersnatural or methane gas – which is a product associated with oil deposits – to light their lamps and one can assume for cooking. But that technology was lost as succeeding governing powers wiped away the history, and technology, of preceding generations.

In 1757, Russian scientist Mikhail Lomonosov, to presented to the Imperial Academy of Sciences, wrote that oil was a product of fossil fuel degeneration under extreme pressure. “Rock oil originates as tiny bodies of animals buried in the sediments which, under the increased influence of increased temperature and pressure,acting during an unimaginably long periods of time, transform into rock oil.”

From Lomonosov’s theorem, modern society derives the notion that oil is a limited biotic source that will decline over time as usage increases. Obviously, OPEC and other oil producing states have made great amounts of money from this theorem and in promoting it.

But what if that theorem is only half the story?

In 1956, the senior petroleum exploration geologist for the USSR said, The overwhelming preponderance of geological evidence compels the conclusion that crude oil and natural petroleum gas have no intrinsic connection with biological matter originating near the surface of the Earth. They are primordial materials which have been erupting from great depths. What this geologist talked about was abiotic oil. In other words, oil that the earth, deep down beyond beyond the point at which most drilling reaches, creates a continual supply of oil and is infinite whereas biotic oil, from ancient fossils, is finite.

However, few people listened or paid attention. In 2005, Raymond Learsy’s book Over a Barrel noted ..scarity – or more accurately, the perception of scarcity – spells opportunity for manipulators. And so it has. Oil is not scarce. We only fear that it is.

Nevertheless, deep wells in Gulf of Mexico are depleting at an astoundingly slow rate which has confounded American experts. Many scientists have come to believe that oil originates solely from organic compounds, and not just from ancient fossils.

If it is true that abiotic oil exists in these deep wells which are constantly replenished by the earth itself, then the notion of scarcity is not only wrong but has placed a higher than necessary price tag on oil.

Of course, that’s not to say we, as a nation and as a world overall should not look for cleaner sources of energy, especially in light of the fact that technological advances require ever increasing amounts of energy sources. Anyone who has seen the amount of air pollution in Chinese cities easily understands the need to reduce oil consumption air pollution that promises to kill millions and increase health related expenses beyond the point any society can afford. It only makes economical sense that the world transitions from dirty, polluting energy to cleaner, non-polluting energy to lessen the many costs associated with burning higher polluting fuels.

But it is worth noting – and discussing – that the current ideology of oil scarcity, which keeps oil prices high, may be false.

America’s CEOs Say Fix the Debt…As Long As We’re Exempt

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Having watched the last episode of the History Channel’s “The Men Who Built America”, I get the feeling I’m seeing history repeat itself again.

At the end of the 19th C and beginning of the 20th C, America’s richest CEOs pooled their money to buy the presidency for their favored candidate, Wm McKinley, who would allow them to business as usual regardless of the devastating price paid by labor, farmers and merchants. Their concerns were to keep their monopolies and their extraordinary wealth, regardless of the effects on rest of the populace.

After McKinley was killed shortly after his 2nd inauguration, Teddy Roosevelt, who was hated by those captains of industry, became president and began the progressive era, breaking up the industrial and banking monopolies as well as ushering in an era that protected labor, farmers, and merchants. These changes led to a vast improvement in working conditions and higher wages which eventually led to the great expansion of the middle class.

The times may be different, but the arguments from huge businesses remain the same.

‘Fix The Debt’ CEOs Underfund Employee Retirement, Demand Cuts For Elderly

A group of high-profile corporate CEOs are lobbying Capitol Hill this week to put Social Security and Medicare cuts at the forefront of deficit reduction negotiations. Their own retirement funds, however, are secure: The coalition includes 54 CEOs who have amassed combined pension assets of more than $649 million from their companies’ executive retirement plans, according to a new report from the Institute for Policy Studies, titled “A Pension Deficit Disorder: The Massive CEO Retirement Funds and Underfunded Worker Pensions at Firms Pushing Social Security Cuts.”

The CEOs’ employees are much less secure in their retirement than the CEOs. According to the report, less than 60 percent of the 71 public companies offer pension plans for their employees. Of the 41 companies that do, 39 of them haven’t contributed enough to their workers’ pension funds to enable the plans to pay out their anticipated obligations. Among the companies with employee pension funds in the red, these deficits exceed $100 billion.

The CEOs are among 71 chief executives of publicly traded companies who belong to the Fiscal Leadership Council of the influential Campaign to Fix the Debt, a group which has raised more than $60 million to lobby for a debt deal driven by cuts to “entitlements.” The coalition will meet Wednesday morning with congressional leaders, according to sources familiar with the group’s lobbying activities. The group, funded in part by former private equity magnate Peter G. Peterson’s foundation, has pledged to push for austerity during the lame duck congressional session, and beyond. Peterson has spent nearly half a billion dollars in recent years pushing his austerity agenda.

As the debate heats up over whether to cut Medicare, Social Security or Medicaid in order to maintain federal spending and corporate tax breaks, companies with well-compensated CEOs who preside over underfunded employee pension funds invite a new round of questions about the motives, and methods, of the CEOs pressuring Congress and the White House to cut programs for the middle class.

The companies in arrears on their pension funds include defense giant Boeing, which paid CEO Jim McNerney $23 million last year; Honeywell, where CEO Dave Cote earned more than $55 million in compensation in 2011; and AT&T, which docked CEO Randall Stephenson’s pay by $2 million last year after he orchestrated a failed takeover of T-Mobile. The $2 million penalty meant that Stephenson made only $22 million total that year, as opposed to the $24 million he would otherwise have been paid.

Boeing, Honeywell, and AT&T represent just three of the dozen companies who are cited in the IPS report as having CEOs with individual retirement assets totaling more than $20 million each, despite the fact that their companies have underfunded pension funds for their employees.

If each of these 12 CEOs were to convert his retirement accounts into annuities at age 65, the report shows each would receive a monthly check for at least $110,000 for life. By contrast, the average monthly Social Security payment was $1,237 in October. Still, the CEOs argue that Social Security benefits are too generous.

Written by Valerie Curl

November 27, 2012 at 8:32 PM

Money, Power & The American Dream

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Hat tip to one of my Facebook friends, Bruce Bartlett who advised Presidents Reagan and GHW Bush on tax policy, including Reagan’s tax reform of ’86, for letting me know about this video documentary.

The first 20 minutes or so describe the lives and luxury of the uber wealthy. But don’t be deceived into thinking this video is a rant against the wealthy. It’s not.

This video is an expose on how politics and wealth intersect…and how that intersection affects middle and working income and poor families.

This hour-long video needs to be seen by every voter of conscience, from whatever party, before casting their votes. It shows quite clearly how our system is broken, why it’s broken and how beloved nation has begun to fail to live up to its potential. Neither party is spared judgement.

I urge everyone to put aside everything else and take the time to watch the entire video documentary and to think about our nation, her well-being, and all her people before the election.

The US is not, nor has it ever been, pre-Revolutionary France or Russia wherein a few very wealthy held all the power and opportunity while everyone else struggled to survive, thrive and paid all the national bills.

John Winthrop and his Massachusetts colonists created the first free schools because the colonists knew education was vital to economic health, demanded that everyone help those who suffered hardships because doing so was the message of Jesus, and required each family pay a income proportional tax so the colony could pay for its needs and wants. Winthrop believed that only through building a strong, cohesive, educated community could the colony become the shining city on the hill that Reagan and many other politicians have cited rhetorically.

As you can see in this documentary, Winthrop’s dream of a shining city – Jesus’ shining city – is not just under attack but is threatened with having its lights extinguished. Yes, the political system is broken because of money in politics and the wealth that can be made through the use of and manipulation of political power. But much worse is erosion of the traditional social values of social cohesion, caring for the poor, and education of which Winthrop spoke and this nation held for over 300 years.

Time For a New Progressive Era

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Yesterday I spent a couple of hours working on a new blog post. But in reading it over, much it was just a rant. A rant against the wealthy…and their boy Mitt Romney. Admittedly, I’m very angry with the very wealthy in this country. Not because they are wealthy but because they’ve allowed their egos to supercede the needs and welfare of the nation.

Henry George 19th C. Political Economist This morning, though, I read something that caused me to think about a different post. Chrystia Freeland, in her article, discusses the influence of a highly prominent US economist, Henry George, whose name has been mostly lost to history.

During the Industrial Revolution, millions were thrown out of work and lost everything while a few make vast fortunes, not just in America but all over Europe as well. That vast income inequality sparked a variety of consequences: the Russian Revolution; the rise of unions, socialism, and communism; Karl Marx’s call to end private property (industry); riots in many cities.

Yet, no one wanted to turn back the clock to pre-industrial revolutionary days. So, society had to figure out ways to deal with the vast upheavals that the industrial revolution caused. In the US, George, and his younger political colleague Teddy Roosevelt, responded to the upheaval and economic inequity with new progressive ideas and programs to ameliorate the negative but natural effects of the Industrial Revolution. The Republican Party not only championed those ideas, they made progressivism a norm in political discourse and policies all the way through the 1940s.

George’s diagnosis was beguilingly simple — the fruits of innovation weren’t widely shared because they were going to the landlords. This was a very American indictment of industrial capitalism: at a time when Marx was responding to Europe’s version of progress and poverty with a wholesale denunciation of private property, George was an enthusiastic supporter of industry, free trade and a limited role for government. His culprits were the rentier rich, the landowners who profited hugely from industrialization and urbanization, but did not contribute to it.

George had such tremendous popular appeal because he addressed the obvious inequity of 19th century American capitalism without disavowing capitalism itself. George wasn’t trying to build a communist utopia. His campaign promise was to rescue America from the clutches of the robber barons and to return it to “the democracy of Thomas Jefferson.” That ideal — as much Tea Party as Occupy Wall Street — won support not only among working class voters and their leaders, like Samuel Gompers, but also resonated with many small businessmen. Robert Ingersoll, a Republican orator, attorney and intellectual, was a George supporter. He urged his fellow Republicans to back his man and thereby “show that their sympathies are not given to bankers, corporations and millionaires.”

The world is going through another upheaval, just as enormous in scope and change as the Industrial Revolution, caused by technological innovations and globalization. Those innovations and globalization are good things. They’ve made workers more productive and reduced hard labor. Globalization has brought many millions out of poverty worldwide. And in many ways, ushered in more democratic states.

America today urgently needs a 21st century Henry George — a thinker who embraces the wealth-creating power of capitalism, but squarely faces the inequity of its current manifestation. That kind of thinking is missing on the right, which is still relying on Reagan-era trickle-down economics and hopes complaints about income inequality can be silenced with accusations of class war. But the left isn’t doing much better either, preferring nostalgia for the high-wage, medium-skill manufacturing jobs of the post-war era and China-bashing to a serious and original effort to figure out how to make 21st century capitalism work for the middle class.

Globalization and the technology revolution aren’t going away — and thank goodness for that. Industrialization didn’t go away either. But between 1886, when George lost the mayoral race, and the presidency of FDR, American progressives invented, fought for and implemented a broad range of new social and political institutions to make capitalism serve the whole of society — ranging from trust-busting, to the income tax, to the welfare state.

We are living in an era of comparably tumultuous economic change. The great challenge of our time is to devise the new social and political institutions we need to make the new economy work for everyone. So far, that is a historic task neither party is taking on with enough energy, honesty or originality.

It’s becoming more and more clear that Republicans will not lead the way towards another progressive era that ameliorates the vast distortions and upheaval caused by this second industrial revolution. So, progressives must. But just tweaking around the edges and calling for more taxation of the wealthy won’t work. As Freeland writes, we need new social and political institutions. We need new ideas but ideas that don’t disavow capitalism or attempt to destroy it.

So, here’s the question: Where are those new ideas? And who is talking about them?

Written by Valerie Curl

October 22, 2012 at 1:54 PM

Let’s Talk Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity”

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Wi Representative and Romney VP nominee Paul Ryan promoting his "Path to Prosperity" planRather than expend a great deal of digital ink on describing Ryan’s plan, let’s go to the Washington Post’s Wonkblog, Ezra Klein. who has analyzed it in detail.

Ryan’s budget, recall, would raise $2.2 trillion less in tax revenue over the next decade than President Obama’s budget. Ryan’s plan would also spend $5.3 trillion less over that time. A big chunk of this is health care: Ryan would cut federal spending on Medicare and Medicaid for a portion of his savings. But he’d also spend $2.2 trillion less on everything else. So what, specifically, is Ryan planning to cut? (Or, alternatively, what is Obama planning to spend more on?)

The clearest way to figure this out is to look at the “Chairman’s mark.” This is the version of Ryan’s budget that’s in legislative language and gives specific forecasts for spending by government function. You can see them in table form at the end of his bill (pdf) and then compare them with the White House’s Table 32-1 here. Exciting, yes.

Over the next decade, Ryan plans to spend about 16 percent less than the White House on “income security” programs for the poor — that’s everything from food stamps to housing assistance to the earned-income tax credit. (Ryan’s budget would authorize $4.8 trillion between 2013 and 2022; the White House’s would spend $5.7 trillion.) Compared with Obama, Ryan would spend 25 percent less on transportation. He’d spend 6 percent less on “General science, space, and basic technology.” And, compared with the White House’s proposal, he’d shell out 33 percent less for “Education, training, employment, and social services.”

How might this lower spending play out in the real world? Let’s take transportation as an example. Right now, the United States is facing a number of pressing infrastructure challenges. The National Highway System, first built in the 1950s, is reaching the end of its natural lifespan. Our air-traffic control system is outdated, causing airport delays around the country. About one-quarter of the country’s bridges are either “structurally deficient” or inadequate to today’s traffic needs, according to the GAO.

A variety of think tanks and analysts have pegged the cost of repairing and upgrading our transportation networks at somewhere between $200 billion and $262 billion per year over the next decade. The White House’s budget envisions spending an average of about $104 billion per year over that time. Ryan’s budget, meanwhile, allocates $78 billion per year. In his summary, Ryan claims he can meet the country’s needs by cutting back on “imprudent, irresponsible, and downright wasteful spending,” though it’s not clear what waste Ryan has in mind, much less whether it would make up the gap.

Alternatively, we can look at what specific cuts might ensue in the very near future. Third Way has tried to game out the impact of Congress’s recent debt-ceiling deal on specific government programs. The cuts to domestic spending, if applied across the board, would lead to fewer food inspectors, fewer air-traffic controllers, and so forth. And Ryan’s budget, for its part, goes even deeper than the debt-ceiling deal.

Back in March, I asked Third Way’s budget expert David Kendall if he could update some of his numbers for Ryan’s budget. Under Ryan’s plan, for instance, spending on transportation would be 26.1 percent lower in 2014 than it is today. If that size cut was applied to, say, air-traffic control programs, Kendall noted, “there would be 3,092 more flight cancellations and 68,683 delays annually. At the U.S. average of 49 passengers per flight, that’s enough to strand 151,503 more people at the gate and make 3,365,685 more people late every year.”

Likewise, spending on natural resources and the environment would be 14.6 percent lower under Ryan’s budget in 2014 than it is today. Assuming those cuts hit all programs in this category equally — and, again, this is for illustration purposes — then this is how it would affect weather forecasting. “Our weather forecasts would be only half as accurate for four to eight years until another polar satellite is launched,” estimates Kendall. “For many people planning a weekend outdoors, they may have to wait until Thursday for a forecast as accurate as one they now get on Monday. … Perhaps most affected would be hurricane response. Governors and mayors would have to order evacuations for areas twice as large or wait twice as long for an accurate forecast.”

Now, obviously, Ryan’s budget may not lead to these exact cuts. Perhaps Congress will go out of its way to shield weather forecasting while cutting something else in the environmental budget even more. But when the budget is this tight, Congress can’t shield everything. And Kendall’s analysis is a useful way to make those spending reductions a little more concrete.

Does this plan even remotely appear to increase America’s competitive ability or insure the nation’s fiscal stability or protect the nation’s most vulnerable from economic harm? Or to put it another way, if Jesus were involved in economics and business today, would He approve of Ryan’s plan, given all He said about caring for the poor, the widow and orphans, the homeless and needy? I’m not convinced.

Yet, this plan is Romney has endorsed by his selection of Ryan as his running mate.

NOTE: To see all the links from the original Wonkblog post, gohere.

Written by Valerie Curl

August 13, 2012 at 9:29 AM

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