The key political fact about the proposed Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico is this: at the end of the day, the decision of whether to approve the permit for the pipeline or not will be a political decision wholly owned by President Obama.
The final determination on the permit will be based whether approval would be in the "national interest" of the United States. This is an inherently political determination. By denying the permit for the pipeline, President Obama can take a concrete action against climate chaos without securing one Republican vote, without spending one tax dollar, without getting approval from the Tea Party.
If, on the other hand, President Obama were to approve the permit for the pipeline, then he would be acting to promote climate chaos, and this decision could not be blamed on the dispute over the nation's projected debt in 2021, Republicans or the Tea Party. It would be President Obama, standing alone, breaking a campaign promise to act to protect the climate from chaos induced by human action.
This is a global justice issue, because climate chaos is inherently discriminatory against the poor and the weak. A hurricane that strikes Haiti and Florida with the same force is virtually guaranteed to hurt Haitians more, because Haiti has fewer resources to protect its citizens against hurricanes. More Haitians have inadequate shelter to start with; the infrastructure for emergency response is weaker; the health care system is weaker. So any action which has the effect of making hurricanes more intense is going to have disparate impact on Florida and Haiti, for the future as far as we can see.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has noted:
By Thanksgiving, the Congressional "Super Committee" is supposed to come up with $1.2 trillion in debt reduction over the next ten years. The Super Committee can include anything it wants in its package - short-term economic stimulus (like extending unemployment benefits and the payroll tax holiday), revenue increases from curtailing tax breaks, cuts in military or domestic spending, subject only to two constraints. To avoid automatic cuts, the package has to add to $1.2 trillion in debt reduction over ten years. Also, to avoid automatic cuts, the package has to pass both houses of Congress in December, so the package has to have the property that it can pass the House and Senate.
A plausible and reasonable option would be to curtail future spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, consistent with keeping existing agreements and commitments to withdraw our troops, rather than replacing these agreements and commitments with agreements to establish permanent military garrisons in Iraq and Afghanistan. Under plausible and moderate assumptions, this would save at least $200 billion over ten years, 1/6 of the Super Committee's debt reduction goal.
Rep. Lynn Woolsey is circulating the following Dear Colleague and Sign-On letter to the Super Committee urging them to end funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of the debt deal.
Urge your representatives to sign the Woolsey letter here.
Letter to Super Committee: $1.8 Trillion in Savings
August 12, 2011
As the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, also referred to as the “Super Committee,” begins its work, we must remind its members of the overwhelming costs due to the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I urge you to join me in cosigning the letter below to the Co-Chairs and members of the Select Committee noting the $1.8 trillion that could be saved by ending the wars. To cosign or for additional information, please contact me or Jennifer Goedke (5-5161) on my staff.
Member of Congress
September 9, 2011
The Honorable Patty Murray
The Honorable Jeb Hensarling
Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction
The Honorable Xavier Becerra
The Honorable Dave Camp
The Honorable James E. Clyburn
The Honorable Fred Upton
The Honorable Chris Van Hollen
The Honorable Max Baucus
The Honorable Jon Kyl
The Honorable John Kerry
The Honorable Rob Portman
The Honorable Pat Toomey
Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction
Dear Co-Chairs and Members,
Congress and the American people have entrusted you with a great responsibility – ensuring the economic well-being of our nation. This is no simple task and will require both bold decisions and fair compromises.
For the first time in a decade, significant cuts in projected military spending are on the table. If the "Super Congress" doesn't reach a deal on $1.2 trillion in debt reduction over the next ten years by Thanksgiving, $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts will be triggered, half of which must come from the military; and if the Super Congress does reach a deal, the prospects are good that cuts in projected military spending will be a significant part of the story (you can add your voice for cuts in projected military spending here.)
Obviously, however, the prospect of significant military cuts has well-heeled opponents. The military-industrial-Congressional-lobbyist-think tank-corporate media complex is not just going to roll over and play dead. In the next three months, we can expect a steady stream of pro-military spending propaganda. Expect to hear a lot about China, Iran, North Korea, and "global terrorism" as the beneficiaries of the military-industrial complex try to justify why we must continue to spend much more on the military than we did while opposing the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
But another argument against cuts to projected military spending is sure to rear its ugly head: we shouldn't cut military spending, because that would cost American jobs.
In the current political context, this "jobs" argument is 100% nonsense. Here's why.
The (first-order) Keynesian economics story for government spending to boost employment has three basic elements:
1. The economy is not always at full employment. Sometimes, there are a significant number of people who are "involuntarily unemployed" - they would like to work for the prevailing wage but cannot find a job.
The Senate and the Roman People have declared that the U.S. government is spending too much money. We have to live within our means. Difficult choices lie ahead. We can't do everything anyone might like us to do. Everything is on the table.
Therefore, instead of keeping U.S. troops in Iraq past December, we should pull them out like we promised. If not now, when? John McCain once said there's no problem with keeping U.S. troops in Iraq forever, just like we do in Germany, Japan, and South Korea. How liberals mocked him! But that's what the Obama Administration is now trying to do: keep US troops in Iraq forever.
Some Members of Congress have a different idea: let's leave Iraq like we promised in the signed agreement between the two governments.
Representative Barbara Lee has introduced legislation that would prevent the Pentagon from keeping thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq by cutting off funds for the war after December 31, 2011. In other words, the bill would cut off funds for violating the agreement with Iraq to pull out troops by December. It would cut off funds for violating Obama's campaign promise to end the war.
The Pentagon doesn't want you to notice that at the same time Washington is seized with debt hysteria, and the nation's mainstream media are demanding cuts to Social Security and Medicare benefits on the preposterous claim that "we can no longer afford it," the Pentagon is laying plans to keep 10,000 U.S. troops in Iraq forever. They call these troops "trainers," so we are not supposed to notice. But these "trainers" engage in combat: they kill Iraqis, and they get killed by Iraqis.
Barney Frank smacks down National Pentagon Radio:
- S&P has a long track record of error, over-rating private debt and
undervaluing public debt
- if you make more than $250,000 a year in taxable income, for the
government to get another $30 from every additional thousand will have
no negative impact on you are the economy and will help us reduce the
deficit without savage cuts to the environment and highways
- we can no longer be the world's military budget or policeman
- withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan at a cost of $125 billion a year
- the President is unfortunately talking about keeping US troops in
Iraq, at a cost of billions of dollars a year, which would keep US
troops there longer than George Bush
- there is no firm withdrawal date in Afghanistan, they're talking
about staying there several more years
- time to tell NATO they no longer need American protection,
everything has changed in the world except the tens of billions of
American money that go there
- many Republicans now are starting to move in this direction.
Obviously I and the Tea Party disagree on a number of issues, but a
significant number of them are willing to break with the establishment
view that it is somehow America's responsibility to guard the whole
world. There is no justification for America protecting Western Europe
against nonexistent threats. There is no justification for us building
anti-missile defense systems in Poland the Czech Republic to protect
them against nonexistent threats from Iran
- the Defense budget is bigger than Medicare
- Social Security is self-financing
- I am not going to tell an 80 year woman living on $19,000 a year
that she gets no cost of living, or that a man who has been doing
physical labor all his life, and is now at a 67 year old retirement,
which is where Social Security will be soon, that he has to work for
five more years.
The agreement in Washington to raise the debt ceiling in exchange for spending cuts has made a lot of people very unhappy. But the agreement had one important positive aspect: it created a historic opportunity for significant cuts in projected military spending.
Under the agreement, a joint House-Senate committee is supposed to propose, by Thanksgiving, $1.5 trillion of debt reduction (expenditures less revenues) over ten years. Significant cuts in projected military spending are on the table. Indeed, if the joint committee doesn't agree on a plan or Congress doesn't enact it, $1.2 trillion in cuts in projected spending over 10 years will be triggered, of which half must come from the military.
This letter was sent to the Hill this morning.
The relevant paragraph:
"Any discretionary savings must rely at least as much on cuts in national security programs as on spending cuts in non-security discretionary programs. While there is an effort to cut spending across the broad array of annual discretionary spending programs, national security spending, which comprises 61% of the discretionary budget, continues to grow. Without cuts to national security programs, even very deep cuts to all other discretionary funding taken together will fall far short of dealing with the deficit. We want a safe and secure nation. But national security programs should not be immune from oversight and fiscal responsibility. We can responsibly reduce spending in this area without compromising our nation's security."
While some leaders in Washington - including, apparently, President Obama and Speaker Boehner - want to cut Social Security benefits and raise the retirement age for Medicare, the White House and the Pentagon are planning to increase spending on the U.S. occupation of Iraq by extending the U.S. military presence without Congressional approval.
Eighty Members of the House, led by Barbara Lee and Walter Jones, have a different idea: obey the December deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq that the U.S. has agreed with the Iraqi government and that President Obama has touted as fulfillment of his campaign promise to end the Iraq war.
In a letter to the President circulating in the House, the Representatives write:
We are writing to urge you to hold to our nation's Status of Forces Agreement with the government of Iraq that commits our nation to bringing all of our troops and military contractors home at the end of this calendar year.
Lee-Jones Letter to President Obama calling for complete withdrawal from Iraq by previously agreed upon deadline
Thanks to everyone who took action to ask their member of Congress to support the Lee-Jones letter on Iraq! With your help, 95 Members of Congress signed the letter, calling on the President to keep the previously agreed upon deadline for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, not to extend it or to leave troops in the country indefinitely. The final version of the letter was sent to President Obama on July 27, 2011. Representative Lee's press release on the letter is posted here.
KEEP TO THE CURRENT DEADLINE
Bring all U.S. Troops and Military Contractors in Iraq Home by Dec. 31, 2011!
The following 95 members of Congress signed the Lee-Jones letter on Iraq: Baldwin, Bass (CA-33), Boswell, Braley, Capps, Capuano, Chu, Cicilline, Clarke (MI-13), Clarke (NY-11), Clay, Cleaver, Clyburn, Cohen, Conyers, Costello, Cummings, Davis (IL-7), DeFazio, DeLauro, Deutch, Doggett, Doyle, Duncan (TN-2), Edwards, Ellison, Farr, Filner, Frank, Fudge, Garamendi, Grijalva, Gutierrez, Hahn, Hanabusa, Hastings (FL-23), Heinrich, Hirono, Holt, Honda, Jackson Jr. (IL-2), Jackson-Lee, Johnson (IL-15), Johnson (TX-30), Jones, Kaptur, Kucinich, Larson, Lee, Lewis (GA-5), Loebsack, Lofgren, Lujan, Maloney, Matsui, McCollum, McDermott, McGovern, Michaud, Miller (CA-7), Moore, Nadler, Napolitano, Norton, Olver, Paul, Payne, Pingree, Polis, Rangel, Richardson, Rush, Sanchez (CA-39), Sanchez (CA-47), Schakowsky, Schrader, Scott (VA-3), Serrano, Sewell, Slaughter, Speier, Stark, Thompson (CA-1), Thompson (MS-2), Tierney, Tonko, Towns, Tsongas, Velazquez, Waters, Watt, Welch, Wilson (FL-17), Woolsey, Yarmuth