Jerusalem Official Discovers Sudden Disappearance of White House Watchdog

By ILAN CHAIM

Art Buchwald’s 1973 column about excuses for President Richard Nixon. Photo courtesy: Los Angeles Times.

JERUSALEM (PJV) – A  senior government statistician in Jerusalem discovered last week that his official counterpart in Washington has apparently disappeared. The statistician, who must remain unnamed, informed the Philadelphia Jewish Voice that US President Donald Trump has apparently abandoned the US Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) guidelines, which both generate the president’s budget as well as overseeing and regulating how it is used.

Instead, the official finally saw, after a futile search throughout the US government’s considerable number of websites, a new official website appear. It announced that the administration is “updating” the regulations.

The question occurs as to why the OMB guidelines are in sudden need of updating a role it has carried out since the Nixon administration in 1970. The largest White House branch oversees and coordinates the administration’s procurement, financial management, information, and regulatory policies.

The OMB annually reviews federal agency budget requests in preparation for deciding what resource requests would be sent to Congress as part of the president’s budget. It therefore functions as the mechanism by which a president implements his policies – from the Department of Defense to NASA. Its director reports directly to the president, vice president and White House chief of staff.

These regulations also feature as an international role model on the website of the United Nations, so they will apparently be available for comparison with the Trump administration’s adulterated version that is currently under reconstruction.

The Israeli statistician had become alarmed during his search for the original site, when he suddenly found he could no longer reach his Washington counterpart. “I would search and search until I realized that the problem was more serious than an incorrect email address,” said the source.

He suggested that the “updating” apparently indicates that Trump himself or someone high in the administration wants to remove any government supervision of the White House budget. The Israeli equivalent is the Prime Minister’s Office.

“The immediate seriousness of this discovery,” the source pointed out, “is that the quality of information reaching the US public from its government is largely determined by how closely it adheres to standards of good government and reflects reality. When you remove these standards, the government is free to distort reality.”

He said further that this new phenomenon appears to be linked to another recent bureaucratic disappearance in the US capital involving the Office of the Chief Statistician of the American government. The guidelines referred to are listed on the website of the Federal Committee on Statistical Methodology (https://fcsm.sites.usa.gov/policies/). Try reaching any of the links under Government-Wide Standards and Guidelines.

The possible missing link he referred to may be part of an ongoing controversy regarding the appointment of the current US Chief Statistician Nancy Potok. She was appointed a day before Trump was inaugurated (!) and there has been no mention of her since, though she hasn’t officially resigned or is not known to have been purged.

The Trump administration is apparently now casting its darkening shadow over OMB appointments, which are meant to be permanent, non-partisan, qualified staffers who in the past have been relied upon for their accuracy and objectivity. Another indication is that the previous chief statistician had an interactive webpage of her own that served the public’s need for facts, which has since vanished.

Trump Tax Plan Contains $2 Trillion Error

Money Bag. Photo By Barbara Lock [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo By Barbara Lock

by Christopher Bates

On July 22, 1962, the Mariner I was launched after years of planning and preparation. Its mission, in the midst of the space race, was to conduct a flyby of Venus. Mariner never made it, since it exploded five minutes after takeoff. The reason? A missing dash in the mathematical coding done by NASA. It’s famously known as the “$80 million punctuation error.”

That $80 million is equivalent to a bit more than $650 million today. Still, if any of those scientists are still with us, they can sleep a little better, because their mistake is a drop in the bucket compared to the accounting error in Donald Trump’s budget. [Read more…]

Obama: “Bipartisan Budget Agreement Is a Good First Step”

President Obama called the Congress’s bipartisan budget agreement “a good first step” to grow the U.S. economy and create more jobs in an official statement:

Earlier this year, I called on Congress to work together on a balanced approach to a budget that grows our economy faster and creates more jobs — not through aimless, reckless spending cuts that harm our economy now, but by making sure we can afford to invest in the things that have always grown our economy and strengthened our middle class. Today’s bipartisan budget agreement is a good first step.

This agreement replaces a portion of the across-the-board spending cuts known as “the sequester” that have harmed students, seniors, and middle-class families and served as a mindless drag on our economy over the last year.  

President’s statement continues after the jump along with video of Speaker of the House John Boehner and graphics to help visualize the budget.

It clears the path for critical investments in things like scientific research, which has the potential to unleash new innovation and new industries.  

It’s balanced, and includes targeted fee increases and spending cuts designed in a way that doesn’t hurt our economy or break the ironclad promises we’ve made to our seniors.

It does all this while slightly reducing our deficits over time — coming on top of four years of the fastest deficit reduction since the end of World War II.

And because it’s the first budget that leaders of both parties have agreed to in a few years, the American people should not have to endure the pain of another government shutdown for the next two years.

This agreement doesn’t include everything I’d like — and I know many Republicans feel the same way. That’s the nature of compromise.

But it’s a good sign that Democrats and Republicans in Congress were able to come together and break the cycle of short-sighted, crisis-driven decision-making to get this done.

That’s the way the American people expect Washington to work. I want to thank Senator Murray, Congressman Ryan and all the other leaders who helped forge this bipartisan agreement.

And I want to call on Members of Congress from both parties to take the next step and actually pass a budget based on this agreement so I can sign it into law and our economy can continue growing and creating jobs without more Washington headwinds.

But, as I said last week, the defining challenge of our time is not whether Congress can pass a budget — it’s whether we can make sure our economy works for every working American.

And while today’s agreement is a good first step, Congress has a lot more to do on that front. In the immediate term, Congress should extend unemployment insurance, so more than a million Americans looking for work don’t lose a vital economic lifeline right after Christmas, and our economy doesn’t take a hit.

And beyond that, they should do more to expand broad-based growth and opportunity — by creating more jobs that pay better wages, by growing our economy, and by offering a path into the middle class for every American willing to work for it.

Yes YOU Can, Too: Footage of Clergy Visit to Congressional Offices

— by Rabbi Goldie Milgram

Have you been wanting the courage to go down and visit congress to express your views? This video, taken yesterday of Philadelphia Rabbi Arthur Waskow leading the way, shows one clear and compelling way to do so. Filmed by an unnamed participant yesterday during a clergy visit to the office of House Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Rabbi Waskow is joined by Gerry Serota of New Jewish Agenda, and Rabbi David Shneyer of Am Kolel, a greater Washington area congregation.

Seventy colleagues from a wide array of religions joined the effort, part of a Capitol Hill Pilgrimage with locked-out federal workers. Their goal: To urge an immediate end to the government shutdown and urgent passage of laws to prevent a default on the US debt. While Cantor wasn’t in his office, interns and staff received what must surely have been an unforgettable delegation.  

Obama: “There Are No Winners” From Government Shutdown

President Obama today criticized GOP members of Congress for causing the government shutdown that ended yesterday, in a statement from the State Dining Room of the White House:

There are no winners here. These last few weeks have inflicted completely unnecessary damage on our economy. We don’t know yet the full scope of the damage, but every analyst out there believes it slowed our growth.  

The President called for cooperation in three key areas:

Passing a budget; immigration reform; farm bill. Those are three specific things that would make a huge difference in our economy right now. And we could get them done by the end of the year if our focus is on what’s good for the American people. And that’s just the big stuff. There are all kinds of other things that we could be doing that don’t get as much attention.  

Obama concluded his speech thanking federal workers who were not paid during the shutdown:

You defend our country overseas. You deliver benefits to our troops who’ve earned them when they come home. You guard our borders. You protect our civil rights. You help businesses grow and gain footholds in overseas markets. You protect the air we breathe and the water our children drink. And you push the boundaries of science and space, and you guide hundreds of thousands of people each day through the glories of this country. Thank you. What you do is important. And don’t let anybody else tell you different.

Full remarks after the jump.
Well, last night, I signed legislation to reopen our government and pay America’s bills. Because Democrats and responsible Republicans came together, the first government shutdown in 17 years is now over. The first default in more than 200 years will not happen. These twin threats to our economy have now been lifted. And I want to thank those Democrats and Republicans for getting together and ultimately getting this job done.  

Now, there’s been a lot of discussion lately of the politics of this shutdown. But let’s be clear: There are no winners here. These last few weeks have inflicted completely unnecessary damage on our economy. We don’t know yet the full scope of the damage, but every analyst out there believes it slowed our growth.  

We know that families have gone without paychecks or services they depend on. We know that potential homebuyers have gotten fewer mortgages, and small business loans have been put on hold. We know that consumers have cut back on spending, and that half of all CEOs say that the shutdown and the threat of shutdown set back their plans to hire over the next six months. We know that just the threat of default — of America not paying all the bills that we owe on time — increased our borrowing costs, which adds to our deficit.  

And, of course, we know that the American people’s frustration with what goes on in this town has never been higher. That’s not a surprise that the American people are completely fed up with Washington. At a moment when our economic recovery demands more jobs, more momentum, we’ve got yet another self-inflicted crisis that set our economy back. And for what?  

There was no economic rationale for all of this. Over the past four years, our economy has been growing, our businesses have been creating jobs, and our deficits have been cut in half. We hear some members who pushed for the shutdown say they were doing it to save the American economy — but nothing has done more to undermine our economy these past three years than the kind of tactics that create these manufactured crises.  

And you don’t have to take my word for it. The agency that put America’s credit rating on watch the other day explicitly cited all of this, saying that our economy “remains more dynamic and resilient” than other advanced economies, and that the only thing putting us at risk is — and I’m quoting here — “repeated brinksmanship.” That’s what the credit rating agency said. That wasn’t a political statement; that was an analysis of what’s hurting our economy by people whose job it is to analyze these things.  

That also happens to be the view of our diplomats who’ve been hearing from their counterparts internationally. Some of the same folks who pushed for the shutdown and threatened default claim their actions were needed to get America back on the right track, to make sure we’re strong. But probably nothing has done more damage to America’s credibility in the world, our standing with other countries, than the spectacle that we’ve seen these past several weeks. It’s encouraged our enemies. It’s emboldened our competitors. And it’s depressed our friends who look to us for steady leadership.

Now, the good news is we’ll bounce back from this. We always do. America is the bedrock of the global economy for a reason. We are the indispensable nation that the rest of the world looks to as the safest and most reliable place to invest — something that’s made it easier for generations of Americans to invest in their own futures. We have earned that responsibility over more than two centuries because of the dynamism of our economy and our entrepreneurs, the productivity of our workers, but also because we keep our word and we meet our obligations. That’s what full faith and credit means — you can count on us.  

And today, I want our people and our businesses and the rest of the world to know that the full faith and credit of the United States remains unquestioned.

But to all my friends in Congress, understand that how business is done in this town has to change. Because we’ve all got a lot of work to do on behalf of the American people — and that includes the hard work of regaining their trust. Our system of self-government doesn’t function without it. And now that the government is reopened, and this threat to our economy is removed, all of us need to stop focusing on the lobbyists and the bloggers and the talking heads on radio and the professional activists who profit from conflict, and focus on what the majority of Americans sent us here to do, and that’s grow this economy; create good jobs; strengthen the middle class; educate our kids; lay the foundation for broad-based prosperity and get our fiscal house in order for the long haul.  That’s why we’re here. That should be our focus.  

Now, that won’t be easy. We all know that we have divided government right now. There’s a lot of noise out there, and the pressure from the extremes affect how a lot of members of Congress see the day-to-day work that’s supposed to be done here. And let’s face it, the American people don’t see every issue the same way. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make progress. And when we disagree, we don’t have to suggest that the other side doesn’t love this country or believe in free enterprise, or all the other rhetoric that seems to get worse every single year. If we disagree on something, we can move on and focus on the things we agree on, and get some stuff done.

Let me be specific about three places where I believe we can make progress right now. First, in the coming days and weeks, we should sit down and pursue a balanced approach to a responsible budget, a budget that grows our economy faster and shrinks our long-term deficits further.  

At the beginning of this year, that’s what both Democrats and Republicans committed to doing. The Senate passed a budget; House passed a budget; they were supposed to come together and negotiate. And had one side not decided to pursue a strategy of brinksmanship, each side could have gotten together and figured out, how do we shape a budget that provides certainty to businesses and people who rely on government, provides certainty to investors in our economy, and we’d be growing faster right now.

Now, the good news is the legislation I signed yesterday now requires Congress to do exactly that — what it could have been doing all along.  

And we shouldn’t approach this process of creating a budget as an ideological exercise — just cutting for the sake of cutting. The issue is not growth versus fiscal responsibility — we need both. We need a budget that deals with the issues that most Americans are focused on: creating more good jobs that pay better wages.  

And remember, the deficit is getting smaller, not bigger. It’s going down faster than it has in the last 50 years. The challenges we have right now are not short-term deficits; it’s the long-term obligations that we have around things like Medicare and Social Security. We want to make sure those are there for future generations.  

So the key now is a budget that cuts out the things that we don’t need, closes corporate tax loopholes that don’t help create jobs, and frees up resources for the things that do help us grow — like education and infrastructure and research. And these things historically have not been partisan. And this shouldn’t be as difficult as it’s been in past years because we already spend less than we did a few years ago. Our deficits are half of what they were a few years ago. The debt problems we have now are long term, and we can address them without shortchanging our kids, or shortchanging our grandkids, or weakening the security that current generations have earned from their hard work.

So that’s number one. Number two, we should finish fixing the job of — let me say that again. Number two, we should finish the job of fixing our broken immigration system.  

There’s already a broad coalition across America that’s behind this effort of comprehensive immigration reform — from business leaders to faith leaders to law enforcement. In fact, the Senate has already passed a bill with strong bipartisan support that would make the biggest commitment to border security in our history; would modernize our legal immigration system; make sure everyone plays by the same rules, makes sure that folks who came here illegally have to pay a fine, pay back taxes, meet their responsibilities. That bill has already passed the Senate. And economists estimate that if that bill becomes law, our economy would be 5 percent larger two decades from now. That’s $1.4 trillion in new economic growth.  

The majority of Americans think this is the right thing to do. And it’s sitting there waiting for the House to pass it. Now, if the House has ideas on how to improve the Senate bill, let’s hear them. Let’s start the negotiations. But let’s not leave this problem to keep festering for another year, or two years, or three years. This can and should get done by the end of this year.  

Number three, we should pass a farm bill, one that American farmers and ranchers can depend on; one that protects vulnerable children and adults in times of need; one that gives rural communities opportunities to grow and the long-term certainty that they deserve.  

Again, the Senate has already passed a solid bipartisan bill. It’s got support from Democrats and Republicans. It’s sitting in the House waiting for passage. If House Republicans have ideas that they think would improve the farm bill, let’s see them. Let’s negotiate. What are we waiting for? Let’s get this done.

So, passing a budget; immigration reform; farm bill. Those are three specific things that would make a huge difference in our economy right now. And we could get them done by the end of the year if our focus is on what’s good for the American people. And that’s just the big stuff. There are all kinds of other things that we could be doing that don’t get as much attention.  

I understand we will not suddenly agree on everything now that the cloud of crisis has passed. Democrats and Republicans are far apart on a lot of issues. And I recognize there are folks on the other side who think that my policies are misguided — that’s putting it mildly. That’s okay. That’s democracy. That’s how it works. We can debate those differences vigorously, passionately, in good faith, through the normal democratic process.  

And sometimes, we’ll be just too far apart to forge an agreement. But that should not hold back our efforts in areas where we do agree. We shouldn’t fail to act on areas that we do agree or could agree just because we don’t think it’s good politics; just because the extremes in our party don’t like the word “compromise.”  

I will look for willing partners wherever I can to get important work done. And there’s no good reason why we can’t govern responsibly, despite our differences, without lurching from manufactured crisis to manufactured crisis. In fact, one of the things that I hope all of us have learned these past few weeks is that it turns out smart, effective government is important. It matters. I think the American people during this shutdown had a chance to get some idea of all the things, large and small, that government does that make a difference in people’s lives.

We hear all the time about how government is the problem. Well, it turns out we rely on it in a whole lot of ways. Not only does it keep us strong through our military and our law enforcement, it plays a vital role in caring for our seniors and our veterans, educating our kids, making sure our workers are trained for the jobs that are being created, arming our businesses with the best science and technology so they can compete with companies from other countries. It plays a key role in keeping our food and our toys and our workplaces safe. It helps folks rebuild after a storm. It conserves our natural resources. It finances startups. It helps to sell our products overseas. It provides security to our diplomats abroad.  

So let’s work together to make government work better, instead of treating it like an enemy or purposely making it work worse. That’s not what the founders of this nation envisioned when they gave us the gift of self-government. You don’t like a particular policy or a particular president, then argue for your position. Go out there and win an election. Push to change it. But don’t break it. Don’t break what our predecessors spent over two centuries building. That’s not being faithful to what this country is about.

And that brings me to one last point. I’ve got a simple message for all the dedicated and patriotic federal workers who’ve either worked without pay or been forced off the job without pay these past few weeks, including most of my own staff: Thank you. Thanks for your service. Welcome back. What you do is important. It matters.

You defend our country overseas. You deliver benefits to our troops who’ve earned them when they come home. You guard our borders. You protect our civil rights. You help businesses grow and gain footholds in overseas markets. You protect the air we breathe and the water our children drink. And you push the boundaries of science and space, and you guide hundreds of thousands of people each day through the glories of this country. Thank you. What you do is important. And don’t let anybody else tell you different. Especially the young people who come to this city to serve — believe that it matters. Well, you know what, you’re right. It does.

And those of us who have the privilege to serve this country have an obligation to do our job as best we can. We come from different parties, but we are Americans first. And that’s why disagreement cannot mean dysfunction. It can’t degenerate into hatred. The American people’s hopes and dreams are what matters, not ours. Our obligations are to them. Our regard for them compels us all, Democrats and Republicans, to cooperate, and compromise, and act in the best interests of our nation — one nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.

No More Food Inspections And For Some No More Food

By Meteor Blades from Daily Kos:

As my colleague Laura Clawson noted last week, the Republican shutdown of the federal government is literally taking food out of babies’ mouths. In North Carolina, the state has stopped issuing vouchers for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). This provides money for healthy food as well as infant formula and a support program for breast-feeding.

But, Patrick Center reports, WIC is not the only nutrition program that’s being held hostage to the tea party’s crusade. So is the USDA’s Commodity Supplemental Food Program.

More at Daily Kos.

Prove It

Speaker of the House John Boehner claimed, “There are not the votes in the House to pass a clean CR [continuing resolution]” and reopen the government. To that, President Obama called on Boehner to “prove it:”

If Republicans and Speaker Boehner are saying there are not enough votes, then they should prove it. Let the bill go to the floor and lets see what happens. Just vote. Let every member of Congress vote their conscience and they can determine whether or not they want to shut the government down.

My suspicion is, my very strong suspicion is, there are enough votes there, and the reason Speaker Boehner hasn’t called a vote on it is because he doesn’t apparently want to see the government shutdown end at the moment unless he’s able to extract concessions that don’t have anything to do with budget.

The House has already voted 46 times in a quixotic attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Why not try one up-or-down vote to fund the government? And another vote to raise the debt limit consistent with the spending Congress has already authorized?

Even if Boehner is right and there aren’t enough votes, what do we have to lose? If indeed a majority of the House is determined to keep government shutdown and undermine the credit worthiness of our nation, then let them vote “no” and face the voters next year for the consequences of such a decision.

Meanwhile, the shutdown is hurting Pennsylvanians: 71,000 Federal workers in Pennsylvania are going without pay, and 227,254 Pennsylvanian small businesses can no longer access certain government loans.


Satire entitled Applying government shutdown logic to the baseball playoffs by Atlanta Braves fan Paul Kaplan’s follows the jump.

GOP Negotiations Are On Cruz Control

According to Ezra Klein:

One thing that’s gotten lost in the debate over the shutdown is how much Democrats have already conceded to Republicans on spending. This is partly the consequence of the direct spending cuts in the 2011 debt-ceiling deal and partly the consequence of sequestration (which was, of course, also part of the 2011 deal). Still, the bottom line is that Republicans have been so successful at making Obamacare concessions the issue that Democratic concessions on spending have gone almost unnoticed.

Meanwhile, Jedd Lugum of Think Progress tweets out what kind of “compromise” the Republicans are demanding from Obama.

Mutually Assured Self-Destruction

— by Steve Sheffey

The debt ceiling should be raised or eliminated.

The Republicans will play the same partisan games they played with their manufactured fiscal cliff crisis (that they did build).  Raising the debt ceiling does not allow Congress to spend more money; it simply allows the government to pay money it already owes. How can anyone be against that? Not raising the debt ceiling would be terrible for the economy. But the Republicans will threaten not to raise the debt ceiling, putting all of us at risk, to get the spending cuts that are at the heart of the Tea Party agenda. Walter Dellinger came up with a great analogy:

I don’t see why either political party or either branch of government should gain any leverage by threatening economic harm to the United States of America whose financial management is the mutual responsibility of each of them.

The whole thing reminds me of the great moment in “Blazing Saddles” when Sheriff Bart takes himself hostage by pointing a gun at his own head. The simple townsfolk of Rock Ridge were dumb enough to fall for it. Are we?

More after the jump.
Steve Benen sums it up perfectly:

Let me say this as plainly as I can: congressional Republicans are threatening to hurt Americans on purpose. They can rationalize the need for the threat, and perhaps even justify to themselves why the threat has merit, but that doesn’t change the basic fact that GOP officials know the debt ceiling must be raised, they know failing to do so would trash the full faith and credit of the United States and likely cause catastrophic harm to the economy, they know lawmakers in both parties routinely raised the debt ceiling 89 times without precondition between 1939 and 2010, and yet, they’re going through with this anyway.

There’s nothing normal about this, and if the political establishment treats it as yet another partisan dispute, it will get this story wrong. In 2011, when Republicans created a brutal debt-ceiling, it not only damaged the country, it was the first time since the Civil War when an entire political party threatened, en masse, to do deliberate harm to the nation. And now, even after faring poorly in national elections, Republicans are poised to commit an act of political violence all over again.

The debt ceiling used to be routinely raised; now it’s a vehicle for political gamesmanship. It serves no useful purpose. We ought to just eliminate it.