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DANIEL J. ROHLF
Rohlf, a law professor at Lewis & Clark Law School specializing in environmental issues, states that despite the announcement of a moratorium on offshore oil drilling, the federal regulators are still granting such permits. He said today: "The stated moratorium does not even cover all of the dangerous drilling that caused the problem in the first place. The Minerals Management Service has issued at least 17 permits for new drilling since the BP disaster began. At least four of those are for wells in water over 9,000 feet deep -- nearly twice as deep at the Deepwater Horizon well that is still spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
"The Minerals Management Service doesn't even do a required environmental impact assessment before allowing deep sea drilling. Instead, the agency issues a 'categorical exclusion' from legal requirements because industry and the agency claim the chance for environmental damage is so remote that it's not worth considering. The Minerals Management Service is arguably violating a host of environmental laws. The MMS was embroiled in a scandal two years ago involving sex and taking drugs with oil industry people, and it appears that attempts at reforming the agency into one that complies with the law did not succeed."
Background: See "Despite Moratorium, Drilling Projects Move Ahead"
A nationwide consortium, the Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA) represents an unprecedented effort to bring other voices to the mass-media table often dominated by a few major think tanks. IPA works to broaden public discourse in mainstream media, while building communication with alternative media outlets and grassroots activists.
"We keep hearing that our government can't afford nice things—or necessary things—for everyone," said the paper's co-author, "...yet militarized spending in the U.S. has almost doubled over the past two decades."
As the United States barrels headlong toward a possible historic debt default, a report published Wednesday highlights that the majority of this year's federal discretionary funds were used for militarized programs, while urging the U.S. government to re-prioritize spending to serve human needs instead of the mechanisms and machinery of violence.
The report—entitledThe Warfare State: How Funding for Militarism Compromises Our Welfare—was published by the Institute for Policy Studies' National Priorities Project (NPP), which aims to inspire people and movements "to take action so our federal resources prioritize peace, shared prosperity, and economic security for all."
"Our country's economy faces a dire threat from so-called 'fiscal conservatives,' including the present GOP House majority, who have resorted to dangerous brinkmanship to force deep cuts in the federal discretionary budget," the report states, referring to what critics and even one congressional Republican have called "hostage-taking" over the debt ceiling.
"The discretionary budget contains the Pentagon budget as well as a number of other broadly militarized line items, including nuclear weapons, federal immigration enforcement, law enforcement, prisons, and so on," the paper continues. "That same budget also hosts most social programs outside of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and [the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program]. It includes federal jobs programs, education, scientific research, and the like."
\u201cNEW: Of the $1.8 trillion federal discretionary budget in FY2023, 62% was used for militarized programs.\n\nThat leaves less than $2 in $5 to invest in communities.\n\nResearch from our @natpriorities team exposes the full extent of militarized spending today:\nhttps://t.co/tm7wCCADkV\u201d— Institute for Policy Studies (@Institute for Policy Studies) 1684936713
"The militarized portion of this budget is by far its largest single component," the report stresses. "And yet the same legislators demanding billions in discretionary savings have vowed to exempt that militarized spending from any cuts. Instead, they’ve targeted the much smaller portion that funds human and community needs for even deeper cuts."
For fiscal year 2023, that militarized portion amounts to $1.1 trillion, or 62% of the $1.8 trillion federal discretionary budget. That leaves less than 40% of funds for investments in human needs like housing, education, child care programs, disaster relief, the environment, and scientific research.
Last month, President Joe Biden sent Congress a budget blueprint requesting $886.4 billion for the military for Fiscal Year 2024, a nearly $30 billion increase from the current Pentagon allotment.
"When we invest so heavily in militarism at home and abroad, we deprive our own communities and people of solutions to problems that pose immediate security threats," NPP program director and report co-author Lindsay Koshgarian said in a statement.
"We underfund programs to end poverty, provide affordable housing, bolster public education, and protect clean air and water at our peril," Koshgarian added. "Spending on militarism takes up the majority of the federal discretionary budget, and it has grown faster than all other spending. If we keep up these patterns, we are hurtling toward a future where we can't afford the basics of a civilized society."
\u201cThe U.S. currently spends more on its military than 144 other countries combined.\n\nIf Republicans were really worried about the #DebtCeiling, they would start by cutting this cartoonishly bloated budget\u2014not underfunded social programs that most American families rely on.\u201d— Institute for Policy Studies (@Institute for Policy Studies) 1684267305
NPP urges the U.S. government to:
"All this serves the profits of a wealthy few war profiteers, at everyone else's expense," Siddique added. "Meanwhile, public goods that benefit all of us are under attack. For a fraction of the cost of U.S. militarism since 2001, we could have instead ended homelessness in this country, or invested in a fully renewable national electric grid to help address the climate crisis. A better world is possible, if we build the power we need to make it happen."
"This hostage crisis has never been about deficits for the GOP," said Rep. Ilhan Omar. "It has always been about wealth transfer—taking away food and healthcare from the poor and middle class to give away $3 trillion more in tax cuts to their rich friends."
With the U.S. careening toward a default crisis that they manufactured, House Republicans are reportedly crafting a major tax cut package that would overwhelmingly benefit the rich and corporations while blowing a multitrillion-dollar hole in the federal deficit.
The fresh push for tax cuts, according to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), further shows that "this hostage crisis has never been about deficits for the GOP."
"It has always been about wealth transfer—taking away food and healthcare from the poor and middle class to give away $3 trillion more in tax cuts to their rich friends," Omar, the deputy chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, tweeted Tuesday.
Politicoreported earlier this week that Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee hope to finish work on their emerging tax legislation by June 16, just over two weeks after the so-called "X-date"—the day on which the Treasury Department expects the federal government to run out of money to cover its obligations unless Congress raises the debt limit or President Joe Biden acts unilaterally.
"Key parts of the [tax cut] package... will likely include a full restoration of research and development deductions, full bonus depreciation, removing caps on business interest expensing, and a doubling of the $1.08 million limitation on the section 179 deduction (which, like bonus depreciation, allows a company to deduct an asset's cost up-front)," Politico noted.
The outlet added that Rep. Vern Buchanan's (R-Fla.) legislation aimed at making the 2017 Trump-GOP tax cuts for individuals and some businesses permanent "also has a strong likelihood of getting marked up in a broader package." The bill, known as the TCJA Permanency Act, currently has nearly 100 Republican co-sponsors in the House.
Buchanan, one of the wealthiest members of Congress, personally benefited from the 2017 tax law that he's working to extend.
"Republicans are holding our economy hostage because they want to cut programs for working families," Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) said Tuesday. "Their next big move? Massive tax cuts for their rich corporate buddies. They may call it fiscal responsibility—I call it extortion."
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated last week that extending the individual provisions of the 2017 tax cuts—which are currently set to expire in 2025—would add $2.5 trillion to the deficit over the next decade. The original law made the cut to the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21% permanent.
"The hypocrisy of Republicans in Washington is truly breathtaking," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wrote in a Fox News op-ed on Wednesday. "Over and over again, we hear from the Republican leadership about how deeply concerned they are about the large deficit and national debt that we have. Really?"
"If that's the case," Sanders asked, "why are they pushing for an extension of the Trump tax breaks that disproportionately benefit the wealthy and large corporations and would increase the federal deficit by $3.5 trillion?"
The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) estimated earlier this month that just 1% of the benefits of the TCJA Permanency Act would go to the poorest fifth of Americans.
The richest fifth, by contrast, would receive nearly two-thirds of the tax benefits, ITEP found.
"The average tax cut for the richest 1%," the organization noted, "would be 25 times that of the middle 20% and more than 250 times that of the bottom 20% of Americans."
\u201cNEW: The push by Congressional Republicans to make the tax provisions in TCJA permanent would cost nearly $300 billion in the first year and deliver the bulk of the tax benefits to the wealthiest Americans. https://t.co/6QgZbXjIfH\u201d— ITEP (@ITEP) 1683211388
Republicans are preparing to launch their push for new tax cuts as they continue to hold the U.S. and global economies hostage in pursuit of steep federal spending reductions, all under the guise of lowering the deficit.
"We're not going to raise taxes," House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said earlier this week. "It's a spending problem."
But research published in March by the Center for American Progress (CAP) found that the GOP austerity crusade "does not address the true cause of rising debt"—tax cuts.
"Tax cuts initially enacted during Republican trifectas in the past 25 years slashed taxes disproportionately for the wealthy and profitable corporations, severely reducing federal revenues," noted Bobby Kogan, CAP's senior director of federal budget policy. "In fact, relative to earlier projections, spending is down, not up. But revenues are down significantly more."
"If not for the Bush tax cuts and their extensions—as well as the Trump tax cuts—revenues would be on track to keep pace with spending indefinitely, and the debt ratio (debt as a percentage of the economy) would be declining," Kogan observed. "Instead, these tax cuts have added $10 trillion to the debt since their enactment and are responsible for 57% of the increase in the debt ratio since 2001."
"A key player in the extreme MAGA House majority now admits what anyone paying attention has suspected all along," said one watchdog group.
Through their actions in recent months, House Republicans have made clear that they view the debt ceiling standoff as a hostage situation that they can exploit to advance their political agenda—which includes draconian cuts to social programs and massive handouts to the fossil fuel industry.
On Tuesday, just days before the June 1 "X-date," Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) came right out and admitted it, telling reporters that "my conservative colleagues for the most part support Limit, Save, Grow, and they don't feel like we should negotiate with our hostage."
Semafor's Joseph Zeballos-Roig published audio of Gaetz's comments on Twitter:
\u201cThere\u2019s a lot of interest in the Gaetz audio, so here it is. I conducted a brief interview with him before a House vote earlier today to get his views on debt limit talks. @semafor \n\nH/t @joeposner @thejulianlim\u201d— Joseph Zeballos-Roig (@Joseph Zeballos-Roig) 1684866850
The Limit, Save, Grow Act is legislation that Republicans passed in a party-line vote last month, staking out their position that the debt ceiling shouldn't be raised unless rich tax cheats are protected and an axe is taken to spending on federal nutrition assistance, Medicaid, affordable housing, childcare, and other key programs.
The House GOP, officially led by Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) but heavily influenced by the far-right Freedom Caucus, has held to that position, threatening to force a debt default and unleash global economic chaos unless their demands are met.
Gaetz, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, suggested Tuesday that the deal McCarthy struck with his far-right flank to secure the speakership—specifically the rule allowing just one lawmaker to call a vote to unseat the speaker—has kept the Republican leader committed to debt ceiling brinkmanship.
"I believe the one-person motion to vacate has given us the best version of Speaker McCarthy and I think he's doing a good job," Gaetz said Tuesday.
Democratic lawmakers and progressive watchdog groups saw Gaetz's remarks as a frank acknowledgment of what they've said since the start of the debt ceiling standoff.
"A key player in the extreme MAGA House majority now admits what anyone paying attention has suspected all along: Congress Republicans consider the U.S. economy and millions of jobs a 'hostage' while making unreasonable austerity demands that especially hurt low-income veterans and seniors," said Jeremy Funk, spokesman for Accountable.US. "Anyone who doubts the looming default crisis and recession is not entirely manufactured by the MAGA majority need only give the fringe Freedom Caucus a call and hear it from the horse's mouth."
Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.), the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, wrote on Twitter that "Matt Gaetz just admitted Republicans are holding the U.S. economy hostage."
"The pro-default extremists in the GOP are willing to risk economic calamity to force their cruel cuts on American families," Boyle wrote. "House Democrats will not let that happen."
Boyle is leading a longshot procedural effort known as a discharge petition to force a vote on a debt ceiling increase as the Republican leadership remains committed to pursuing deep spending cuts that Democrats in the House and Senate have dismissed as nonstarters.
Not a single House Republican has signed the discharge petition, and two Democrats—Reps. Jared Golden of Maine and Ed Case of Hawaii—have yet to sign.
With negotiations between the White House and Republicans at a standstill, a growing number of congressional lawmakers—including prominent progressives such as Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)—are imploring President Joe Biden to use his 14th Amendment authority to unilaterally avert a default, an option the president has thus far resisted.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who has said the 14th Amendment "should be on the table," pointed to Gaetz's comments Tuesday as further confirmation that Republicans are not negotiating in good faith.
"I want to be clear about what the Republican Party is taking hostage. It is not Democrats. It is the entire U.S. economy," Ocasio-Cortez toldCNN late Tuesday. "It is extreme, and it is not acceptable."
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) added on Twitter that Gaetz and the GOP "are playing a dangerous game and, like every hostage situation, someone is likely going to be hurt."
"We have to rescue the American people," she wrote.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly described Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.) as a Republican.