November 2011

JFP 11/30: Afghanistan withdrawal amendment passes Senate by voice vote

Just Foreign Policy News
November 30, 2011


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Merkley Amendment Passes Senate by Voice Vote
In a stunning development, the Senate today approved the Merkley Amendment to the NDAA, calling for an expedited military withdrawal from Afghanistan, by voice vote. Previously, 27 was the high water mark of Senators urging a speedier withdrawal.

Senators Have Ideas for Cutting the Military Budget
You might not know it from national press reports, but there are plenty of Members of Congress of both political parties who think that cutting the military budget is a perfectly reasonable thing to do, and have concrete ideas for doing so. You can see that senators have ideas for cutting the military budget from the list of amendments filed in the Senate to the National Defense Authorization Act, currently under consideration.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-naiman/military-spending_b_1121210.html

Robert Jensen - Occupy Congress: Norman Solomon Sees Role for Progressive Legislators
Solomon argues that when the left have treated elections as irrelevant, the result has been self-marginalization that helps empower the military-industrial complex.
http://www.truth-out.org/occupy-congress-norman-solomon-sees-role-progressive-legislators/1322497228

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Senators Have Ideas For Cutting the Military Budget

You might not know it from national press reports, but there are plenty of Members of Congress of both political parties who think that cutting the military budget is a perfectly reasonable thing to do, and have concrete ideas for doing so.

 

(The New York Times did note last week that the leaderships of both parties are content to let stand the automatic cuts to the previously projected military budget mandated by the Budget Control Act.)

 

You can see that Senators have ideas for cutting the military budget from the list of amendments filed in the Senate to the National Defense Authorization Act, currently under consideration. [To weigh in with your Senators on these amendments, you can use the toll-free number established by the Friends Committee on National Legislation: 1-877-429-0678.]

 

Even if many of these amendments don't pass in the next few days, these ideas will still be nominees for consideration as the Pentagon considers how it wishes to cough up an additional half trillion dollars in savings from previously projected spending over the next ten years, as mandated by the Budget Control Act.

 

JFP 11/29: Military cuts may stand; Merkley Amendment could pay for half of payroll tax cut

Just Foreign Policy News
November 29, 2011


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*Action: Tell the Senate: End the War in Afghanistan
Senator Merkey is introducing an amendment (#1174) to the National Defense Authorization Act that would expedite US military withdrawal from Afghanistan. Ask your Senators to support the Merkley Amendment. FCNL has provided a toll-free number: 1-877-429-0678. Or you can write to them here:
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/ndaa2012senate

Shortening the War Would Pay for Half of the Payroll Tax Holiday
If the war in Afghanistan were shortened by two years - as Senators Merkley, Paul, and Udall have proposed - that would easily save $120 billion, half the cost of the extension of the payroll tax holiday, which is expected to create half a million American jobs.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-naiman/payroll-tax-holiday_b_1118733.html

Groups Urge Senate to Back Merkley, Paul Amendments to NDAA
Twenty three organizations from across the political spectrum and representing a variety of constituencies sent a letter urging the Senate to adopt bipartisan amendments by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Rand Paul (R-KY) to the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. Sen. Merkley's amendment would call for an accelerated drawdown of US troops in Afghanistan and help end the longest war in American history. Sen. Paul's amendment would repeal the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force in Iraq.

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Shortening the War Would Pay for Half of the Payroll Tax Holiday

Shortening the war in Afghanistan by two years could easily pay half of the costs of an extension and expansion of the payroll tax holiday, the centerpiece of President Obama's jobs bill. Thus, the amendment put forward by Senator Merkley calling on the President to accelerate the drawdown in Afghanistan - which the Senate may vote on today - could make a significant contribution to creating more than half a million American jobs next year.

 

On Monday, Senate Democrats introduced legislation to extend the payroll tax cut. According to Majority Leader Reid, under the bill the average working family would have close to $1,500 a year more to spend. As the New York Times noted, "lower- and middle-income workers are the greatest beneficiaries of the tax cut."

 

Unfortunately, press reports indicate that Senate Republicans are very unlikely to support the bill, because to pay for the payroll tax holiday - which also would reduce the tax paid by employers - Democrats propose a 3.25 percent tax on gross income over $1 million.

 

From the point of view of the 99%, the appeal of paying for the payroll tax holiday with a tax on the very rich is obvious. As Paul Krugman has noted, the economic case for increasing taxes on the very rich is compelling.

 

However, if - as expected - the current Senate bill goes down to defeat due to Republican opposition, the question of how to pay for the extension of the payroll tax holiday will remain, so it makes sense to get some other good ideas for debt reduction which could pay for the tax holiday on the table.

 

Call your Senators Regarding Three Key Amendments to the 2012 NDAA; Report Back Here

Calling your Senators is easy—just follow these simple instructions:

1. Call the Capitol switchboard using this toll-free number provided by FCNL: 1-877-429-0678

2. Ask the switchboard operator to connect you to one of your Senator's offices. If you need to look up your Senators, go to www.senate.gov.

3. When you reach your Senator's office, tell them your name and address, and then ask them to:

a. Support the Merkley amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (No. 1174), which would put pressure on President Obama to accelerate the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. Current co-sponsors:

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)
Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)
Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM)
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL)
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA)
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)
Sen. Bernard Sanders (D-VT)
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)

b. Support the Paul amendment to the NDAA (No. 1064), which would repeal the Authorization for the Use of Military Force in Iraq, officially ending the war in that country. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is currently a co-sponsor; [Update 11/30: the Paul amendment was defeated 30-67. Check how your Senators voted.]

c. Oppose the Kirk-Menendez amendment to the NDAA (No. 1414), which aims to collapse the Central Bank of Iran, a provision that could have dangerous consequences for the US economy as well as US-Iran relations. Sens. Manchin (D-WV), Blunt (R-MO), Tester (D-MT) are currently co-sponsors. [Update 11/29: Previously, both Kirk and Menendez had introduced amendments to this effect, but have since withdrawn them in favor of a joint effort.]

Three Key Amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act

Three key amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act are expected to come up for a vote this week in the Senate. Two of these amendments would help end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, while the other could bring us closer to war with Iran.

Amendment to Accelerate the US Military Drawdown from Afghanistan

The Merkley amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (No. 1174) would put pressure on President Obama to accelerate the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. You can find the full text, with a list of current cosponsors, here.

Amendment to Officially End the War in Iraq

The Paul amendment to the NDAA (No. 1064) would repeal the Authorization for the Use of Military Force in Iraq, officially ending the war in that country. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is currently a co-sponsor. You can read the full text here.

Amendment to Collapse the Central Bank of Iran

The Kirk-Menendez amendment to the NDAA (No. 1414) aims to collapse the Central Bank of Iran, a provision that could have dangerous consequences for the US economy as well as US-Iran relations. Sens. Manchin (D-WV), Blunt (R-MO), Tester (D-MT) are currently co-sponsors. Previously, both Kirk and Menendez had introduced amendments to this effect, but have since withdrawn them in favor of a joint effort. You can read the full text of the Kirk amendment here.

Dancing on the Super Committee's Grave, Singing Halleluyah

The spectacle of Democrats and Republicans arguing about who is to "blame" for the "failure" of the "Supercommittee" is certainly tempting for many partisans. But any progressive who participates in the spectacle risks attacking their own interests to the degree that they promote the implicit assumption that the public interest would have been better served if the Super Committee had reached a deal.

 

We shouldn't be arguing about who is to "blame" for this development. We should be arguing about who should be awarded credit for this best-plausible-outcome.

 

We should, to borrow a phrase from Monty Python, be dancing on the Super Committee's grave, singing Halleluyah.

 

Who should get the Academy Award? The AFL-CIO? The Strengthen Social Security Campaign? The Tea Party? All of the above?

 

Indeed, it was a de facto coalition between the AFL-CIO and its friends and the Tea Party and its friends which again defeated the cruel plan of the extreme center to trade Social Security cuts and raising the Medicare retirement age for a relatively meaningless increase on the tax rates paid by rich people.

 

Why meaningless? Because tax rates raised today can easily be lowered in the future. Cutting Social Security benefits by changing the cost-of-living formula and raising the Medicare retirement age are forever.

 

From the point of view of the national aspirations of the indigenous people of the United States, what was the right price to charge for Manhattan Island? Surely the answer is: there was no right price. Cash is ephemeral. Control of territory could be forever.

 

Similarly, there is no amount of increasing taxes on rich people that can compensate low-income workers for cutting their Social Security benefits and taking away their access to Medicare.

 

JFP 11/22: Iraq war boosters backing Romney; Ron Paul slams foreign bases

Just Foreign Policy News
November 22, 2011


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I) Actions and Featured Articles

*Action: Tell the Senate: End the War in Afghanistan
Senator Merkey is introducing an amendment (#1174) to the National Defense Authorization Act that would expedite US military withdrawal from Afghanistan. Ask your Senators to support the Merkley Amendment.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/ndaa2012senate

Sen. Merkley's Harm Reduction Plan for Afghanistan Would Save Lives and Billions
Shortening the war by two years would save hundreds of American and Afghan lives and $200 billion dollars. That's real money: a sixth of the Super Committee's goal. Wouldn't you rather shorten the Afghan war by two years than cut Social Security benefits or raise the Medicare retirement age?
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-naiman/sen-merkleys-harm-reducti_b_1105206.html

Just Foreign Policy Responds to Super Committee "Failure": "We Now Have a Historic Opportunity to Cut Military Spending"

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Press Release: Just Foreign Policy Responds to Super Committee "Failure": “We Now Have a Historic Opportunity to Cut Military Spending”

Just Foreign Policy issued a press release earlier today in response to the Congressional "Super" Committee's failure to come to an agreement to reduce government spending by $1.2 trillion over the next ten years. You may read the press release here.

Groups Press Secretary Clinton on Human Rights in Bahrain

Just Foreign Policy joined with the Project on Middle East Democracy, Human Rights Watch, the AFL-CIO and other groups and individuals in sending a letter to Secretary of State Clinton, urging her to press the government of Bahrain for concrete measures to improve the human rights situation, including the release of medical professionals and other political prisoners, the reinstatement of workers who were dismissed, and access for international journalists. 

The letter is here.