The so-called congressional "super committee" got to work this week, beginning its task of finding trillions in budget savings. Sharing the halls of Congress with those "supers," the defense contracting industry also got down to work this week, in a full-court press to convince Congress to cut spending anywhere but in the Pentagon.
Charged with finding at least $1.2 trillion in savings before the end of Thanksgiving, the "super committee" could influence the course of government policy, economic growth and the overall national trajectory for at least a decade. The group of12 promises to put scrutiny on every "sacred cow" in Washington, from Medicare to defense.
With that kind of power, it's no surprise that corporate lobbyists are gaming for access to super committee members. The defense industry in particular has much at stake -- if the super committee fails to agree to a plan for $1.2 trillion in savings, it will automatically "trigger" certain measures into effect, including $600 billion in defense cuts.
Already this year, the Budget Control Act -- the debt ceiling deal that spawned the super committee -- puts Washington on track to cut $350 billion from the defense budget over 10 years, in the first defense cut since the 1990's. More cuts this year to the Pentagon seem inevitable, but defense contractors say that doesn't have to be the case.
"Defense has been cut into the bone, and we cannot have that continue," Marion Blakey, president of the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), said at a press briefing this week. "As far as defense is concerned, the cuts have been taken that could be absorbed."
Perhaps fortunately for AIA, some of its strongest allies sit on the super committee. The group's co-chair, for instance, is Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, who represents Boeing's home state of Washington, is a founding member of the Senate Aerospace Caucus, and a member of the Senate Appropriations Defense subcommittee.
But defense contractors are looking past Murray, crafting a message for an entire Congress that's itching to slash budgets, as well as a war-weary nation. Cut $600 billion from their industry, say companies like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, and nothing less than America's economic strength and national security would be at risk.
"If we had additional cuts of $600 billion ... I would question whether or not we will have a fighting force that's capable, or an industrial base left," Jim Albaugh, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said at the AIA briefing.
Guillermo Gomez-Sanchez, a Mexican national and lawful U.S. resident declared incompetent to stand trial in an ongoing deportation case, will learn his fate from an immigration judge in San Diego on Dec. 8, 2011.
This 50 year-old man has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and speaks little English, and he has languished in detention for five years. Four of these years were spent in immigration custody, lost in a detention system that -- unlike its criminal justice counterpart -- lacks clear and appropriate procedures to address the mentally impaired.
"The next fight is in an immigration court to determine if he should be deported or not, and in federal court in an ongoing fight to determine if he should remain in immigration custody while we fight his case," said Bardis Vakili, staff attorney of the ACLU of Southern California and the pro bono counsel for Gomez-Sanchez.
Robert Greenwald joins the third hour of Thom Hartmann Radio to discuss Brave New Foundation’s new campaign, War Costs, and why the Super Committee has an ideal opportunity to focus on budget changes that have a chance of getting people back to work.
The increase of foreign troops in Afghanistan that has taken place during Obama’s administration has been followed by a corresponding increase in Afghan insurgency. “The US needs to let go of the military strategy and instead get serious about negotiations with the Taliban,” said Derrick Crowe on RTTV. “Throwing hundreds of thousands of troops and $2 billion a week at that problem… is just going to escalate the problem.”
“Every $1 billion spent on war costs us at least 3,200 jobs,” reads an ad by Brave New Foundation (BNF) in today’s print edition of Politico. Part of a new consciousness raising campaign called WarCosts, the ad was launched to put Second to None, an association of military contractors, on the defense vis a vis their propaganda and distortion of facts. Particularly, Second to None is staging a “march to the hill” Tuesday, September 13, to drum up support to protect massive military spending.
The WarCosts campaign is designed to expose Second to None’s white-washing of history, to call out their deceptive spin on jobs, and to make clear to Congress that war industry profits are playing a major role in killing the economy, when more productive jobs is what we need to help fix the economy.
Second to None is trying to play on fears with their propaganda. A recent AlterNet article by Nick Turse points out that the organization's website says “some extreme voices are calling for massive cuts to our national security and aerospace spending that would devastate our military, weaken our economy, and force us to cede global leadership in a time of increasing threats." Of course statement is patently absurd; in truth, the U.S. Defense budget is virtually as large as all the rest of the world's defense expenses combined.
Furthermore, The Associated Press reports that an independent panel investigating U.S. wartime spending estimates that “$60 billion in U.S. funds has been lost to waste and fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade through lax oversight of contractors, poor planning and payoffs to warlords and insurgents, as BNF explains on their blog.
According to BNF, at least 193,000 jobs could have been created for that $60 billion in waste, helping to put a dent in high levels of unemployment in the country. BNF cites a 2009 study by Political Economy Research Institute (PERI), which showed that military spending, wasted or not, creates fewer jobs, both directly and indirectly, than every other kind of spending reviewed. Disarming the mythical war-sparks-the-economy argument: war spending makes only a few large corporations rich on the expense of taxpayers.
The debt limit deal passed last month creates an unexpected opportunity to cut military spending. It includes $1.2 trillion in mandatory cuts over the next decade if Congress can’t agree on a broader deficit reduction plan by December. Most of that amount targets the Pentagon and Medicare providers. If Congress fails to reach a different agreement, the Pentagon and other defense-related programs will face about $350 billion in guaranteed cuts, plus up to $600 billion in additional reductions.
The "bi-partisan" Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction has been given a deadline of Nov. 23, 2011 to agree on a deficit reduction plan. With rising public opposition to two unpopular wars, Brave New Foundation is optimistic that this is a historic opportunity to cut the run-away military budget. "If the members of the Committee are serious about doing what’s best for this country, they’ll focus on changes to the budget that have a chance of getting people back to work and Pentagon will be on the top of their list," argues Brave New Foundation.
The nation’s biggest military contractors are descending on Capitol Hill this week to lobby against potential defense spending cuts they warn would produce “devastating job losses“. But military spending is one of the least efficient ways the government can create jobs, according to a campaign the antiwar group Brave New Foundation launched on Monday.
By the group’s reckoning, “when you compare it to other ways of spending the money, every $1 billion spent for military purposes costs us, at minimum, 3,222 jobs.” The group uses as a basis for its calculations a 2009 study by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
“In assessing the impact of military spending on job opportunities in the U.S. economy, the relevant measure is how many jobs it creates per dollar of spending relative to various alternative spending targets,” the report’s co-author, economics professor Robert Pollin, said in a statement on Monday.
“By this standard, military spending does very poorly. It creates about 12,000 jobs per $1 billion in spending, compared with 17,000 for the green economy, 20,000 for health care and 29,000 for education. This means that when we spend $1 billion on the military rather than green investments, health care or education we are forfeiting between 5,000 and 17,000 jobs. Creating more job opportunities in this country therefore means moving money out of the military and into socially beneficial domestic spending.”
And keep in mind that when it comes to military spending, $1 billion is almost a rounding error. The Commission on Wartime Contracting concluded just last week that as much as $60 billion in taxpayer money has been lost to waste and fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade.
A spokesman for the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), the umbrella group coordinating this week’s lobbying blitz, said he had no comment on the antiwar group’s job figures. But he said his own group will be releasing some jobs data they have compiled at a press briefing on Wednesday.
Cuentame partnered with the CLEAN Carwash campaign to launch a new video highlighting the abusive conditions in the LA carwash industry. Univision interviews Axel Caballero (Cuentame) and Neidi Dominguez (CLEAN Campaign) about what Angelenos can do to stop worker exploitation.
[UPDATE: On the Thursday, August 18, 2011 edition of "The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell" on MSNBC, Prof. Melissa Harris- Perry examined the alleged Koch Brothers connection to the 2009 Wake County School Board elections. Here is The News & Observer's WakeEd take on the segment.
Did money from wealthy conservative industrialists Charles and David Koch (pronounced “coke”) - money that has been documented to fund opposition against President Obama, fund the Tea Party movement and the campaign of controversial Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker - indirectly help bankroll the campaigns of the four Republicans who won the majority on the Wake County Public School Board in 2009, and dismantle Wake's socioeconomic diversity policy?
And will money from the libertarian billionaire brothers, whose politics swing to the extreme right, indirectly find its way into the coffers of this year’s school board GOP candidates, including Southeast Raleigh’s Venita Peyton.
A controversial new eleven-minute video titled, “Why the Koch Brothers Want To End Public Education,” produced by Robert Greenwald for Brave New Films, alleges that Koch brothers dollars indeed helped to fuel 2009 Wake School Board Republican candidates John Tedesco; Deborah Pickett; Debra Goldman and Charles Malone. The goal was resegregating Wake Public Schools, increasing the number of high poverty schools after dismantling the system’s socioeconomic diversity policy, and ultimately privatizing the school system once the white population deserted it.