Barney Frank

Barney Frank Schools NPR on S&P, Social Security, and Cuts to Military Spending

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.

Obey's Afghanistan: At Long Last, It's Guns vs. Butter

One of the many destructive legacies of the Reagan Era was the effective Washington consensus that wars and other military spending exist on their own fiscal planet. Reagan got a Dixiecrat Congress to double military spending at a time when the U.S. was not at war (unless you were a poor person in Central America.) Meanwhile, Reagan got the Dixiecrat Congress to cut domestic spending - we just couldn't afford those costly social programs. Reagan pretended the two things were totally unrelated, and the Dixiecrat Congress went along.

Ever since, the Democratic leadership and the big Democratic constituency groups have largely collaborated in maintaining the destructive fiction that we can shovel tax dollars to war and to corporate welfare called "defense spending" without having any impact on our ability to provide quality education, health care, effective enforcement of environmental, civil rights, and worker safety laws, and other basic services to our citizens that are taken for granted by the citizens of every other industrialized country.

But maybe - maybe - that destructive connivance is coming to an end.

This week, House Appropriations Committee Chair David Obey told the White House that he was going to sit on the Administration's request for $33 billion more for pointless killing in Afghanistan until the White House acted on House Democratic demands to unlock federal money to aid the states in averting a wave of layoffs of teachers and other public employees.

Obey didn't just link the two issues rhetorically; he linked them with the threat of effective action.

At last, at long last.

But why is David Obey standing alone?

Perhaps, behind the scenes, the big Democratic constituency groups are pulling for Obey.

With IMF Money, the War Supplemental Could Fail in the House

Last month, 60 Members of the House of Representatives, including 51 Democrats, voted against the war supplemental for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. But this week, when the House is expected to consider the agreement of a House-Senate conference on the war funding, the supplemental could well be defeated on the floor of the House - if most of the 51 anti-war Democrats stick to their no vote - which they might, if they hear from their constituents.

The key thing that's changed is the Treasury Department's insistence that the war supplemental include a $100 billion bailout for the International Monetary Fund - a bailout for European banks facing big losses in Eastern Europe, the international version of the Wall Street bailout.

House Republicans, including Minority Leader John Boehner, have threatened to vote no on the war funding if the IMF money is attached. If Boehner could bring all the Republicans with him, and if all the Democrats who voted no last month voted no again, the war supplemental would fail on the floor of the House, 200-228.

But not every Democrat who voted no before will vote no now, and therein lies the drama. The House leadership didn't need those anti-war Democrats before, so in a way it was a "free vote" - 51 Democrats could vote on behalf of their anti-war constituents without running afoul of the leadership. But if Treasury insists on the IMF money, and Republicans vote no, the leadership will need 18 of those Democrats now.