Ten Things Every American Jew Should Know about Paul Ryan


The truth about Rep. Ryan’s role model Ayn Rand

(NJDC) Below are ten documented things that every American Jew should know about Republican vice presidential candidate Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI).

  1. Ryan twice authored regressive budgets that drew concern — and even ire — from many in the Jewish community because of the deep cuts they made to vital social safety net programs that would strand the poor, many in the middle class, seniors, children, and other groups who depend on government assistance. Organizations that panned his budget included the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, B’nai B’rith, and the National Council of Jewish Women, among others.
  2. Ryan wants to end Medicare as we know it by turning it into a voucher program — which would dramatically increase the burden on seniors by leaving them to pick up the tab.
  3. Ryan wants to replace Medicaid with block grants which would severely impact millions of Americans — including seniors, the disabled, and the poor — who desperately need the basic guarantees offered by Medicaid.
  4. Ryan has called Social Security a “Ponzi scheme and advanced a plan to turn it into a privatized program. Under Ryan’s vision, future retirement benefits would be pegged to the risky ups and downs of the stock market instead of providing guaranteed assistance to those who paid into Social Security and earned it.
  5. Ryan has little — if any — foreign policy or national security experience, yet pushed for cuts to the foreign aid budget that are strongly opposed by the pro-Israel community. Also indicative of his inexperience, Ryan had the chutzpah to accuse America’s top generals of lying — for which he later apologized.
  6. Ryan — like the rest of the House Republican caucus — has voted at least six times against measures to strengthen Iran sanctions during the 112th Congress simply because those measures were advanced by Democrats.
  7. Ryan is as anti-choice as they come. He is a proud supporter of so-called “personhood” efforts and even floated the idea of allowing states to criminalize abortions and the women who receive them. Ryan voted to defund Planned Parenthood four times and is opposed to the President’s contraception compromise.
  8. Ryan voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which protects equal pay for women.
  9. Ryan is a staunch opponent of equal rights for gays and lesbians — including marriage equality and military service.
  10. Ryan wants to eliminate millions of dollars in funding for federal Pell Grants that allow low income students to attend college.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s selection of Ryan to serve as his vice presidential candidate is the clearest indication yet that Romney does not reflect the values of most American Jews. This alarming partnership between Romney and Ryan will further reinforce the reasons why such a significant majority of American Jews will be voting to reelect President Barack Obama this November.

The 2012-2013 Pennsylvania Budget: Areas to Improve

Daylin Leach— by Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach

Since the state’s fiscal year ends at midnight on June 30th of each year, May and June are always a busy time when everyone in Harrisburg is scrambling to put together next year’s budget. We’ve had tough budgets for the past four years because during a recession, demand for government services goes up while revenues coming into the state coffers go down. Unlike the federal government, we are constitutionally required to balance our budget each year, so every dollar we spend must come from a revenue source.

There are really only two ways to eliminate a budget deficit: you can either cut expenditures or raise revenues. Actually, the smartest approach is to use a balanced approach that does both prudently. Unfortunately, for the past several years — due to the political realities of Harrisburg and the fact that Governor Corbett has pledged to Grover Norquist, a lobbyist who lives in Washington, DC, that he won’t increase revenues in any way — the budget has been balanced exclusively through cuts.

It is important to remember that there are many areas of the state budget that can’t be cut, either due to federal or state law or contractual obligations. In some cases, if we tried to cut money from a given program, we could be sued and required by a court to spend the money with interest. In other cases, our laws force additional spending. For example, Pennsylvania’s criminal code creates about 2,000 new net prisoners per year (the second highest number in the nation). This requires us to build a new prison, which costs about $300 million to build and $50 million per year to operate, every single year.

All of the cuts we can make must come from a relatively small sliver of the budget that is discretionary. This includes money for first responders, education, libraries, human services, health care for our citizens, transportation improvements and our safety net for the very poor. We have continued to go back to these same areas of funding when making deeper and deeper cuts each year.

As a result, we have now reached the point at which we are in real danger of abandoning basic government services and the citizens who rely on them. You may have read about how some of our poorer schools literally would have had to close their doors if the federal courts had not intervened and ordered us to provide additional funds. Tens of thousands of people have lost their access to healthcare, childcare facilities have had to close, and libraries are either closing or drastically cutting back their hours and programs. Schools are eliminating art and music programs, guidance counselors and tutoring; and we are opening 30,000 new natural gas rigs across the state while drastically reducing the funding for environmental inspectors charged with making sure the drilling is done safely. In short, the picture is very bleak.

Following the jump below, I am going to try to give you a fuller picture of the cuts we are facing and provide you with the alternatives for which I am fighting. In my view, we could easily raise sufficient revenue to avoid most of the worst cuts without burdening a single Pennsylvania family. We could accomplish this by, among other things, enacting a reasonable tax on the Marcellus Shale extraction that is giving energy companies billions of dollars and closing the “Delaware Loophole,” which allows 70% of Pennsylvania companies to avoid paying their fare share to help our state prosper.

These and other ideas will enable us to continue providing basic services to our citizens and will ensure that Pennsylvania is a state with the educational, economic and environmental quality of life that will attract businesses and families for decades to come. I hope you find this information helpful.

A list of programs funding to be restored and funding mechanisms follow the jump.
As I noted above, I would like to stimulate an open and honest dialogue about the current budget’s shortcomings. There are a number of cuts that I believe will be extremely harmful to our state. I will first enumerate some of the
worst of the many troubling cuts in the budget proposed by Governor Corbett.

If I want to restore the funds for these important programs, I obviously have an obligation to identify where the necessary revenues would come from. So I will provide some suggestions along those lines as well.

Top 5 most destructive cuts in the budget proposal.

  1. Higher Education
    Governor Corbett has proposed cutting higher education by 30 percent this year, on top of the 19 percent cut passed last year. These draconian proposals represent not cuts, but an abandonment of our commitment to make college affordable for all Pennsylvanians. These cuts would result in dramatic tuition increases in state related universities and put college out of reach for many of our citizens.
  2. Basic Education
    Last year, over my “no” vote, the legislature and governor enacted a budget that cut over $850 million from basic education. These cuts came disproportionately from poor school districts, but hurt all public schools. The governor
    has proposed hundreds of millions in dollars of additional cuts, including eliminating the No Child Left Behind Compliance grants and the Charter School Reimbursement grants.

  3. Department of Environmental Protection
    At a time when we are opening over 30,000 new fracking wells in Pennsylvania, the DEP budget is being cut, which will result in many fewer inspectors and enforcement agents ensuring that this new and controversial fracking technology is being used safely and responsibly.
  4. Human Services
    The governor proposes to cut human service funding by 20 percent ($168 million). These services cover needs including Mental Health, Behavioral Health, Drug & Alcohol, Intellectual Disabilities, Child Welfare, Homeless Assistance and what remains of the Human Services Development Fund. These cuts will obviously have a devastating impact on many of the most vulnerable Pennsylvanians.
  5. Child Care Services
    If this budget passes, we will have cut childcare services and assistance by almost $140 million over the past two years. Without these services, parents may be unable to get back on their feet, receive training, or go back to work if they have to turn down a job or opportunity because they can’t afford or find childcare. Also, this lack of funding could mean the elimination of “Keystone Stars”, a nationally-recognized program that provides resources and professional development to the educators who prepare children for school success.

In addition, the governor has rejected the recommendations of his own hand-picked commission to raise money to fund much needed road and bridge repairs.

How to pay for the restoration of these funds:

  1. Levying a Marcellus Shale Impact Fee
    Imposing an impact fee on drillers would go a long way toward helping recoup the loss of natural resources taken from our state, as well as toward helping us balance the budget. Going further, imposing a tax on those drillers would do even more to help us. Consider that a 6% tax on producing wells would generate about $312 million in 2012-13 and $396 million in 2013-14. This rate is consistent with what virtually every other state in the nation charges for the extraction of natural resources from its soil.
  2. Closing the Delaware Loophole
    The Delaware Loophole, a way under the law for corporations to evade paying taxes, is an issue that has needed fixed for years. For some reason, this has yet to happen. If we closed the Delaware Loophole, our state would be able to bring in $550 million in just one fiscal year.
  3. Ending the Vendor Discount
    Under the Vendor Discount, Pennsylvania pays private businesses millions of dollars each year just to handle sales tax receipts and remit them to the state. This program was conceived many years ago before the advent of computers, and since there’s no longer a valid need for it, it’s time to end it. Currently, Pennsylvania is one of only 13 states with an unlimited sales tax vendor discount. If we stopped providing this unnecessary discount, our state would save nearly $75 million per year.
  4. Taxing Smokeless Tobacco
    Currently, Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation that does not tax smokeless tobacco. This would be an easy solution that would garner $50 million per year, simply by imposing a tax of $1.35 per unit — the same tax that is levied on cigarettes.

Obama on Ryan-Romney GOP Budget: “A Prescription for Decline”

— by David Streeter

President Barack Obama delivered remarks today in which he slammed the budget advanced by Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), supported by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and passed by House Republicans. Obama referred to the budget as a “Trojan Horse” and “thinly veiled social Darwinism.” He also chided Republicans for irresponsibly stranding seniors and the middle class by making huge cuts to the social safety net and other public investments. Excerpts from the speech appear below.

Before slamming the Ryan-Romney budget, Obama provided some context on the budget:

… [F]or much of the last century, we have been having the same argument with folks who keep peddling some version of trickle-down economics.  They keep telling us that if we’d convert more of our investments in education and research and health care into tax cuts-especially for the wealthy-our economy will grow stronger.  They keep telling us that if we’d just strip away more regulations, and let businesses pollute more and treat workers and consumers with impunity, that somehow we’d all be better off.  We’re told that when the wealthy become even wealthier, and corporations are allowed to maximize their profits by whatever means necessary, it’s good for America, and that their success will automatically translate into more jobs and prosperity for everybody else. That’s the theory.

… [W]e’ve tried their approach-on a massive scale. … The wealthy got wealthier-we would expect that. … But prosperity sure didn’t trickle down. Instead, during the last decade, we had the slowest job growth in half a century. And the typical American family actually saw their incomes fall by about 6 percent, even as the economy was growing….

… [Y]ou would think that after the results of this experiment in trickle-down economics … that the proponents of this theory might show some humility, might moderate their views a bit. You’d think they’d say, you know what, maybe some rules and regulations are necessary to protect the economy and prevent people from being taken advantage of by insurance companies or credit card companies or mortgage lenders.  Maybe, just maybe, at a time of growing debt and widening inequality, we should hold off on giving the wealthiest Americans another round of big tax cuts. Maybe when we know that most of today’s middle-class jobs require more than a high school degree, we shouldn’t gut education, or lay off thousands of teachers, or raise interest rates on college loans, or take away people’s financial aid.

But that’s exactly the opposite of what they’ve done. Instead of moderating their views even slightly, the Republicans running Congress right now have doubled down, and proposed a budget so far to the right it makes the Contract with America look like the New Deal. In fact … Newt Gingrich, first called the original version of the budget ‘radical’ and said it would contribute to ‘right-wing social engineering.’ This is coming from Newt Gingrich.

And yet, this isn’t a budget supported by some small rump group in the Republican Party. This is now the party’s governing platform. This is what they’re running on. One of my potential opponents, Governor Romney, has said that he hoped a similar version of this plan from last year would be introduced as a bill on day one of his presidency. He said that he’s ‘very supportive’ of this new budget, and he even called it ‘marvelous’…

He then explained the dramatically negative impact the Ryan-Romney budget would have:

So here’s what this ‘marvelous’ budget does. Back in the summer, I came to an agreement with Republicans in Congress to cut roughly $1 trillion in annual spending. …This new House Republican budget, however, breaks our bipartisan agreement and proposes massive new cuts in annual domestic spending — exactly the area where we’ve already cut the most.  And I want to actually go through what it would mean for our country if these cuts were to be spread out evenly.  So bear with me. I want to go through this-because I don’t think people fully appreciate the nature of this budget.  

The year after next, nearly 10 million college students would see their financial aid cut by an average of more than $1,000 each. There would be 1,600 fewer medical grants, research grants for things like Alzheimer’s and cancer and AIDS. There would be 4,000 fewer scientific research grants, eliminating support for 48,000 researchers, students, and teachers. Investments in clean energy technologies that are helping us reduce our dependence on foreign oil would be cut by nearly a fifth.

If this budget becomes law and the cuts were applied evenly, starting in 2014, over 200,000 children would lose their chance to get an early education in the Head Start program. Two million mothers and young children would be cut from a program that gives them access to healthy food. There would be 4,500 fewer federal grants at the Department of Justice and the FBI to combat violent crime, financial crime, and help secure our borders. Hundreds of national parks would be forced to close for part or all of the year.  We wouldn’t have the capacity to enforce the laws that protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, or the food that we eat.

Cuts to the FAA would likely result in more flight cancellations, delays, and the complete elimination of air traffic control services in parts of the country. Over time, our weather forecasts would become less accurate because we wouldn’t be able to afford to launch new satellites. And that means governors and mayors would have to wait longer to order evacuations in the event of a hurricane.

That’s just a partial sampling of the consequences of this budget. Now, you can anticipate Republicans may say, well, we’ll avoid some of these cuts-since they don’t specify exactly the cuts that they would make. But they can only avoid some of these cuts if they cut even deeper in other areas. This is math. If they want to make smaller cuts to medical research that means they’ve got to cut even deeper in funding for things like teaching and law enforcement. The converse is true as well. If they want to protect early childhood education, it will mean further reducing things like financial aid for young people trying to afford college.

Perhaps they will never tell us where the knife will fall — but you can be sure that with cuts this deep, there is no secret plan or formula that will be able to protect the investments we need to help our economy grow. This is not conjecture. I am not exaggerating. These are facts. And these are just the cuts that would happen the year after next.

If this budget became law, by the middle of the century, funding for the kinds of things I just mentioned would have to be cut by about 95 percent.. … As a practical matter, the federal budget would basically amount to whatever is left in entitlements, defense spending, and interest on the national debt-period.  Money for these investments that have traditionally been supported on a bipartisan basis would be practically eliminated.

And the same is true for other priorities like transportation, and homeland security, and veterans programs for the men and women who have risked their lives for this country. This is not an exaggeration. Check it out yourself.

And this is to say nothing about what the budget does to health care. We’re told that Medicaid would simply be handed over to the states-that’s the pitch … But here’s the deal the states would be getting. They would have to be running these programs in the face of the largest cut to Medicaid that has ever been proposed-a cut that, according to one nonpartisan group, would take away health care for about 19 million Americans-19 million.

Who are these Americans? Many are someone’s grandparents who, without Medicaid, won’t be able to afford nursing home care without Medicaid.  Many are poor children.  Some are middle-class families who have children with autism or Down’s Syndrome. Some are kids with disabilities so severe that they require 24-hour care. These are the people who count on Medicaid.

Then there’s Medicare. … [T]he solution proposed by the Republicans in Washington, and embraced by most of their candidates for president: Instead of being enrolled in Medicare when they turn 65, seniors who retire a decade from now would get a voucher that equals the cost of the second cheapest health care plan in their area. If Medicare is more expensive than that private plan, they’ll have to pay more if they want to enroll in traditional Medicare. If health care costs rise faster than the amount of the voucher-as, by the way, they’ve been doing for decades-that’s too bad. Seniors bear the risk. If the voucher isn’t enough to buy a private plan with the specific doctors and care that you need, that’s too bad….

The net result is that our country will end up spending more on health care, and the only reason the government will save any money … is because we’ve shifted it to seniors. They’ll bear more of the costs themselves. It’s a bad idea, and it will ultimately end Medicare as we know it.

Obama also pushed back against the tax cuts for the wealthy contained in the Ryan-Romney budget:

We’re told that these tax cuts will supposedly be paid for by closing loopholes and eliminating wasteful deductions. But the Republicans in Congress refuse to list a single tax loophole they are willing to close. Not one. And by the way, there is no way to get even close to $4.6 trillion in savings without dramatically reducing all kinds of tax breaks that go to middle-class families-tax breaks for health care, tax breaks for retirement, tax breaks for homeownership.

Meanwhile, these proposed tax breaks would come on top of more than a trillion dollars in tax giveaways for people making more than $250,000 a year. That’s an average of at least $150,000 for every millionaire in this country — $150,000.

Let’s just step back for a second and look at what $150,000 pays for: A year’s worth of prescription drug coverage for a senior citizen. Plus a new school computer lab. Plus a year of medical care for a returning veteran. Plus a medical research grant for a chronic disease. Plus a year’s salary for a firefighter or police officer.  Plus a tax credit to make a year of college more affordable. Plus a year’s worth of financial aid. One hundred fifty thousand dollars could pay for all of these things combined-investments in education and research that are essential to economic growth that benefits all of us….

He summed up the Ryan-Romney budget by saying:

This is supposed to be about paying down our deficit? It’s laughable. … This congressional Republican budget is something different altogether. It is a Trojan Horse. Disguised as deficit reduction plans, it is really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country. It is thinly veiled social Darwinism. It is antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity and upward mobility for everybody who’s willing to work for it; a place where prosperity doesn’t trickle down from the top, but grows outward from the heart of the middle class. And by gutting the very things we need to grow an economy that’s built to last -education and training, research and development, our infrastructure — it is a prescription for decline.

  • Click here to learn more about the Ryan-Romney GOP budget-including what Jewish community leaders said about the plan.
  • Click here for a comparison of the Obama budget and the Ryan budget.

Complete transcript of speech follows the jump.
Remarks by President Barack Obama at the Associated Press Luncheon
Marriott Wardman Park, Washington, D.C.

It is a pleasure to speak to all of you — and to have a microphone that I can see.  (Laughter.)  Feel free to transmit any of this to Vladimir if you see him.  (Laughter.)  

Clearly, we’re already in the beginning months of another long, lively election year.  There will be gaffes and minor controversies, be hot mics and Etch-a-Sketch moments.  You will cover every word that we say, and we will complain vociferously about the unflattering words that you write — unless, of course, you’re writing about the other guy — in which case, good job.  (Laughter.)  

But there are also big, fundamental issues at stake right now — issues that deserve serious debate among every candidate, and serious coverage among every reporter.  Whoever he may be, the next President will inherit an economy that is recovering, but not yet recovered, from the worst economic calamity since the Great Depression.  Too many Americans will still be looking for a job that pays enough to cover their bills or their mortgage.  Too many citizens will still lack the sort of financial security that started slipping away years before this recession hit.  A debt that has grown over the last decade, primarily as a result of two wars, two massive tax cuts, and an unprecedented financial crisis, will have to be paid down.

In the face of all these challenges, we’re going to have to answer a central question as a nation:  What, if anything, can we do to restore a sense of security for people who are willing to work hard and act responsibly in this country?  Can we succeed as a country where a shrinking number of people do exceedingly well, while a growing number struggle to get by?  Or are we better off when everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules?

This is not just another run-of-the-mill political debate.  I’ve said it’s the defining issue of our time, and I believe it. It’s why I ran in 2008.  It’s what my presidency has been about. It’s why I’m running again.  I believe this is a make-or-break moment for the middle class, and I can’t remember a time when the choice between competing visions of our future has been so unambiguously clear.  

Keep in mind, I have never been somebody who believes that government can or should try to solve every problem.  Some of you know my first job in Chicago was working with a group of Catholic churches that often did more good for the people in their communities than any government program could.  In those same communities I saw that no education policy, however well crafted, can take the place of a parent’s love and attention.

As President, I’ve eliminated dozens of programs that weren’t working, and announced over 500 regulatory reforms that will save businesses and taxpayers billions, and put annual domestic spending on a path to become the smallest share of the economy since Dwight Eisenhower held this office — since before I was born.  I know that the true engine of job creation in this country is the private sector, not Washington, which is why I’ve cut taxes for small business owners 17 times over the last three years.  

So I believe deeply that the free market is the greatest force for economic progress in human history.  My mother and the grandparents who raised me instilled the values of self-reliance and personal responsibility that remain the cornerstone of the American idea.  But I also share the belief of our first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln — a belief that, through government, we should do together what we cannot do as well for ourselves.

That belief is the reason this country has been able to build a strong military to keep us safe, and public schools to educate our children.  That belief is why we’ve been able to lay down railroads and highways to facilitate travel and commerce.  That belief is why we’ve been able to support the work of scientists and researchers whose discoveries have saved lives, and unleashed repeated technological revolutions, and led to countless new jobs and entire industries.  

That belief is also why we’ve sought to ensure that every citizen can count on some basic measure of security.  We do this because we recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any moment, might face hard times, might face bad luck, might face a crippling illness or a layoff.  And so we contribute to programs like Medicare and Social Security, which guarantee health care and a source of income after a lifetime of hard work.  We provide unemployment insurance, which protects us against unexpected job loss and facilitates the labor mobility that makes our economy so dynamic.  We provide for Medicaid, which makes sure that millions of seniors in nursing homes and children with disabilities are getting the care that they need.

For generations, nearly all of these investments — from transportation to education to retirement programs — have been supported by people in both parties.  As much as we might associate the G.I. Bill with Franklin Roosevelt, or Medicare with Lyndon Johnson, it was a Republican, Lincoln, who launched the Transcontinental Railroad, the National Academy of Sciences, land grant colleges.  It was Eisenhower who launched the Interstate Highway System and new investment in scientific research.  It was Richard Nixon who created the Environmental Protection Agency, Ronald Reagan who worked with Democrats to save Social Security. It was George W. Bush who added prescription drug coverage to Medicare.

What leaders in both parties have traditionally understood is that these investments aren’t part of some scheme to redistribute wealth from one group to another.  They are expressions of the fact that we are one nation.  These investments benefit us all.  They contribute to genuine, durable economic growth.

Show me a business leader who wouldn’t profit if more Americans could afford to get the skills and education that today’s jobs require.  Ask any company where they’d rather locate and hire workers — a country with crumbling roads and bridges, or one that’s committed to high-speed Internet and high-speed railroads and high-tech research and development?

It doesn’t make us weaker when we guarantee basic security for the elderly or the sick or those who are actively looking for work.  What makes us weaker is when fewer and fewer people can afford to buy the goods and services our businesses sell, or when entrepreneurs don’t have the financial security to take a chance and start a new business.  What drags down our entire economy is when there’s an ever-widening chasm between the ultra-rich and everybody else.

In this country, broad-based prosperity has never trickled down from the success of a wealthy few.  It has always come from the success of a strong and growing middle class.  That’s how a generation who went to college on the G.I. Bill, including my grandfather, helped build the most prosperous economy the world has ever known.  That’s why a CEO like Henry Ford made it his mission to pay his workers enough so they could buy the cars that they made.  That’s why research has shown that countries with less inequality tend to have stronger and steadier economic growth over the long run.

And yet, for much of the last century, we have been having the same argument with folks who keep peddling some version of trickle-down economics.  They keep telling us that if we’d convert more of our investments in education and research and health care into tax cuts — especially for the wealthy — our economy will grow stronger.  They keep telling us that if we’d just strip away more regulations, and let businesses pollute more and treat workers and consumers with impunity, that somehow we’d all be better off.  We’re told that when the wealthy become even wealthier, and corporations are allowed to maximize their profits by whatever means necessary, it’s good for America, and that their success will automatically translate into more jobs and prosperity for everybody else.  That’s the theory.

Now, the problem for advocates of this theory is that we’ve tried their approach — on a massive scale.  The results of their experiment are there for all to see.  At the beginning of the last decade, the wealthiest Americans received a huge tax cut in 2001 and another huge tax cut in 2003.  We were promised that these tax cuts would lead to faster job growth.  They did not.  The wealthy got wealthier — we would expect that.  The income of the top 1 percent has grown by more than 275 percent over the last few decades, to an average of $1.3 million a year.  But prosperity sure didn’t trickle down.

Instead, during the last decade, we had the slowest job growth in half a century.  And the typical American family actually saw their incomes fall by about 6 percent, even as the economy was growing.

It was a period when insurance companies and mortgage lenders and financial institutions didn’t have to abide by strong enough regulations, or they found their ways around them.  And what was the result?  Profits for many of these companies soared. But so did people’s health insurance premiums.  Patients were routinely denied care, often when they needed it most.  Families were enticed, and sometimes just plain tricked, into buying homes they couldn’t afford.  Huge, reckless bets were made with other people’s money on the line.  And our entire financial system was nearly destroyed.

So we tried this theory out.  And you would think that after the results of this experiment in trickle-down economics, after the results were made painfully clear, that the proponents of this theory might show some humility, might moderate their views a bit.  You’d think they’d say, you know what, maybe some rules and regulations are necessary to protect the economy and prevent people from being taken advantage of by insurance companies or credit card companies or mortgage lenders.  Maybe, just maybe, at a time of growing debt and widening inequality, we should hold off on giving the wealthiest Americans another round of big tax cuts.  Maybe when we know that most of today’s middle-class jobs require more than a high school degree, we shouldn’t gut education, or lay off thousands of teachers, or raise interest rates on college loans, or take away people’s financial aid.

But that’s exactly the opposite of what they’ve done.  Instead of moderating their views even slightly, the Republicans running Congress right now have doubled down, and proposed a budget so far to the right it makes the Contract with America look like the New Deal.  (Laughter.)  In fact, that renowned liberal, Newt Gingrich, first called the original version of the budget “radical” and said it would contribute to “right-wing social engineering.”  This is coming from Newt Gingrich.

And yet, this isn’t a budget supported by some small rump group in the Republican Party.  This is now the party’s governing platform.  This is what they’re running on.  One of my potential opponents, Governor Romney, has said that he hoped a similar version of this plan from last year would be introduced as a bill on day one of his presidency.  He said that he’s “very supportive” of this new budget, and he even called it “marvelous” — which is a word you don’t often hear when it comes to describing a budget.  (Laughter.)  It’s a word you don’t often hear generally.  (Laughter.)  

So here’s what this “marvelous” budget does.  Back in the summer, I came to an agreement with Republicans in Congress to cut roughly $1 trillion in annual spending.  Some of these cuts were about getting rid of waste; others were about programs that we support but just can’t afford given our deficits and our debt.  And part of the agreement was a guarantee of another trillion in savings, for a total of about $2 trillion in deficit reduction.  

This new House Republican budget, however, breaks our bipartisan agreement and proposes massive new cuts in annual domestic spending — exactly the area where we’ve already cut the most.  And I want to actually go through what it would mean for our country if these cuts were to be spread out evenly.  So bear with me.  I want to go through this — because I don’t think people fully appreciate the nature of this budget.  

The year after next, nearly 10 million college students would see their financial aid cut by an average of more than $1,000 each.  There would be 1,600 fewer medical grants, research grants for things like Alzheimer’s and cancer and AIDS.  There would be 4,000 fewer scientific research grants, eliminating support for 48,000 researchers, students, and teachers.  Investments in clean energy technologies that are helping us reduce our dependence on foreign oil would be cut by nearly a fifth.

If this budget becomes law and the cuts were applied evenly, starting in 2014, over 200,000 children would lose their chance to get an early education in the Head Start program.  Two million mothers and young children would be cut from a program that gives them access to healthy food.  There would be 4,500 fewer federal grants at the Department of Justice and the FBI to combat violent crime, financial crime, and help secure our borders.  Hundreds of national parks would be forced to close for part or all of the year.  We wouldn’t have the capacity to enforce the laws that protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, or the food that we eat.

Cuts to the FAA would likely result in more flight cancellations, delays, and the complete elimination of air traffic control services in parts of the country.  Over time, our weather forecasts would become less accurate because we wouldn’t be able to afford to launch new satellites.  And that means governors and mayors would have to wait longer to order evacuations in the event of a hurricane.

That’s just a partial sampling of the consequences of this budget.  Now, you can anticipate Republicans may say, well, we’ll avoid some of these cuts — since they don’t specify exactly the cuts that they would make.  But they can only avoid some of these cuts if they cut even deeper in other areas.  This is math.  If they want to make smaller cuts to medical research that means they’ve got to cut even deeper in funding for things like teaching and law enforcement.  The converse is true as well.  If they want to protect early childhood education, it will mean further reducing things like financial aid for young people trying to afford college.

Perhaps they will never tell us where the knife will fall — but you can be sure that with cuts this deep, there is no secret plan or formula that will be able to protect the investments we need to help our economy grow.

This is not conjecture.  I am not exaggerating.  These are facts.  And these are just the cuts that would happen the year after next.

If this budget became law, by the middle of the century, funding for the kinds of things I just mentioned would have to be cut by about 95 percent.  Let me repeat that.  Those categories I just mentioned we would have to cut by 95 percent.  As a practical matter, the federal budget would basically amount to whatever is left in entitlements, defense spending, and interest on the national debt — period.  Money for these investments that have traditionally been supported on a bipartisan basis would be practically eliminated.

And the same is true for other priorities like transportation, and homeland security, and veterans programs for the men and women who have risked their lives for this country.  This is not an exaggeration.  Check it out yourself.

And this is to say nothing about what the budget does to health care.  We’re told that Medicaid would simply be handed over to the states — that’s the pitch:  Let’s get it out of the central bureaucracy.  The states can experiment.  They’ll be able to run the programs a lot better.  But here’s the deal the states would be getting.  They would have to be running these programs in the face of the largest cut to Medicaid that has ever been proposed — a cut that, according to one nonpartisan group, would take away health care for about 19 million Americans — 19 million.

Who are these Americans?  Many are someone’s grandparents who, without Medicaid, won’t be able to afford nursing home care without Medicaid.  Many are poor children.  Some are middle-class families who have children with autism or Down’s Syndrome.  Some are kids with disabilities so severe that they require 24-hour care.  These are the people who count on Medicaid.

Then there’s Medicare.  Because health care costs keep rising and the Baby Boom generation is retiring, Medicare, we all know, is one of the biggest drivers of our long-term deficit.  That’s a challenge we have to meet by bringing down the cost of health care overall so that seniors and taxpayers can share in the savings.

But here’s the solution proposed by the Republicans in Washington, and embraced by most of their candidates for president:  Instead of being enrolled in Medicare when they turn 65, seniors who retire a decade from now would get a voucher that equals the cost of the second cheapest health care plan in their area.  If Medicare is more expensive than that private plan, they’ll have to pay more if they want to enroll in traditional Medicare.  If health care costs rise faster than the amount of the voucher — as, by the way, they’ve been doing for decades — that’s too bad.  Seniors bear the risk.  If the voucher isn’t enough to buy a private plan with the specific doctors and care that you need, that’s too bad.

So most experts will tell you the way this voucher plan encourages savings is not through better care at cheaper cost.  The way these private insurance companies save money is by designing and marketing plans to attract the youngest and healthiest seniors — cherry-picking — leaving the older and sicker seniors in traditional Medicare, where they have access to a wide range of doctors and guaranteed care.  But that, of course, makes the traditional Medicare program even more expensive, and raise premiums even further.

The net result is that our country will end up spending more on health care, and the only reason the government will save any money — it won’t be on our books — is because we’ve shifted it to seniors.  They’ll bear more of the costs themselves.  It’s a bad idea, and it will ultimately end Medicare as we know it.

Now, the proponents of this budget will tell us we have to make all these draconian cuts because our deficit is so large; this is an existential crisis, we have to think about future generations, so on and so on.  And that argument might have a shred of credibility were it not for their proposal to also spend $4.6 trillion over the next decade on lower tax rates.

We’re told that these tax cuts will supposedly be paid for by closing loopholes and eliminating wasteful deductions.  But the Republicans in Congress refuse to list a single tax loophole they are willing to close.  Not one.  And by the way, there is no way to get even close to $4.6 trillion in savings without dramatically reducing all kinds of tax breaks that go to middle-class families — tax breaks for health care, tax breaks for retirement, tax breaks for homeownership.

Meanwhile, these proposed tax breaks would come on top of more than a trillion dollars in tax giveaways for people making more than $250,000 a year.  That’s an average of at least $150,000 for every millionaire in this country — $150,000.

Let’s just step back for a second and look at what $150,000 pays for:  A year’s worth of prescription drug coverage for a senior citizen.  Plus a new school computer lab.  Plus a year of medical care for a returning veteran.  Plus a medical research grant for a chronic disease.  Plus a year’s salary for a firefighter or police officer.  Plus a tax credit to make a year of college more affordable.  Plus a year’s worth of financial aid.  One hundred fifty thousand dollars could pay for all of these things combined — investments in education and research that are essential to economic growth that benefits all of us.  For $150,000, that would be going to each millionaire and billionaire in this country.  This budget says we’d be better off as a country if that’s how we spend it.

This is supposed to be about paying down our deficit?  It’s laughable.

The bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission that I created — which the Republicans originally were for until I was for it — that was about paying down the deficit.  And I didn’t agree with all the details.  I proposed about $600 billion more in revenue and $600 billion — I’m sorry — it proposed about $600 billion more in revenue and about $600 billion more in defense cuts than I proposed in my own budget.  But Bowles-Simpson was a serious, honest, balanced effort between Democrats and Republicans to bring down the deficit.  That’s why, although it differs in some ways, my budget takes a similarly balanced approach:  Cuts in discretionary spending, cuts in mandatory spending, increased revenue.

This congressional Republican budget is something different altogether.  It is a Trojan Horse.  Disguised as deficit reduction plans, it is really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country.  It is thinly veiled social Darwinism.  It is antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity and upward mobility for everybody who’s willing to work for it; a place where prosperity doesn’t trickle down from the top, but grows outward from the heart of the middle class.  And by gutting the very things we need to grow an economy that’s built to last — education and training, research and development, our infrastructure — it is a prescription for decline.

And everybody here should understand that because there’s very few people here who haven’t benefitted at some point from those investments that were made in the ’50s and the ’60s and the ’70s and the ’80s.  That’s part of how we got ahead.  And now, we’re going to be pulling up those ladders up for the next generation?

So in the months ahead, I will be fighting as hard as I know how for this truer vision of what the United States of America is all about.  Absolutely, we have to get serious about the deficit. And that will require tough choices and sacrifice.  And I’ve already shown myself willing to make these tough choices when I signed into law the biggest spending cut of any President in recent memory.  In fact, if you adjust for the economy, the Congressional Budget Office says the overall spending next year will be lower than any year under Ronald Reagan.

And I’m willing to make more of those difficult spending decisions in the months ahead.  But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — there has to be some balance.  All of us have to do our fair share.

I’ve also put forward a detailed plan that would reform and strengthen Medicare and Medicaid.  By the beginning of the next decade, it achieves the same amount of annual health savings as the plan proposed by Simpson-Bowles — the Simpson-Bowles commission, and it does so by making changes that people in my party haven’t always been comfortable with.  But instead of saving money by shifting costs to seniors, like the congressional Republican plan proposes, our approach would lower the cost of health care throughout the entire system.  It goes after excessive subsidies to prescription drug companies.  It gets more efficiency out of Medicaid without gutting the program.  It asks the very wealthiest seniors to pay a little bit more.  It changes the way we pay for health care — not by procedure or the number of days spent in a hospital, but with new incentives for doctors and hospitals to improve their results.

And it slows the growth of Medicare costs by strengthening an independent commission — a commission not made up of bureaucrats from government or insurance companies, but doctors and nurses and medical experts and consumers, who will look at all the evidence and recommend the best way to reduce unnecessary health care spending while protecting access to the care that the seniors need.

We also have a much different approach when it comes to taxes — an approach that says if we’re serious about paying down our debt, we can’t afford to spend trillions more on tax cuts for folks like me, for wealthy Americans who don’t need them and weren’t even asking for them, and that the country cannot afford. At a time when the share of national income flowing to the top 1 percent of people in this country has climbed to levels last seen in the 1920s, those same folks are paying taxes at one of the lowest rates in 50 years.  As both I and Warren Buffett have pointed out many times now, he’s paying a lower tax rate than his secretary.  That is not fair.  It is not right.

And the choice is really very simple.  If you want to keep these tax rates and deductions in place — or give even more tax breaks to the wealthy, as the Republicans in Congress propose — then one of two things happen:  Either it means higher deficits, or it means more sacrifice from the middle class.  Seniors will have to pay more for Medicare.  College students will lose some of their financial aid.  Working families who are scraping by will have to do more because the richest Americans are doing less.  I repeat what I’ve said before:  That is not class warfare, that is not class envy, that is math.

If that’s the choice that members of Congress want to make, then we’re going to make sure every American knows about it.  In a few weeks, there will be a vote on what we’ve called the Buffett Rule.  Simple concept:  If you make more than a million dollars a year — not that you have a million dollars — if you make more than a million dollars annually, then you should pay at least the same percentage of your income in taxes as middle-class families do.  On the other hand, if you make under $250,000 a year — like 98 percent of American families do — then your taxes shouldn’t go up.  That’s the proposal.

Now, you’ll hear some people point out that the Buffett Rule alone won’t raise enough revenue to solve our deficit problems.  Maybe not, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.  And I intend to keep fighting for this kind of balance and fairness until the other side starts listening, because I believe this is what the American people want.  I believe this is the best way to pay for the investments we need to grow our economy and strengthen the middle class.  And by the way, I believe it’s the right thing to do.

This larger debate that we will be having and that you will be covering in the coming year about the size and role of government, this debate has been with us since our founding days. And during moments of great challenge and change, like the ones that we’re living through now, the debate gets sharper; it gets more vigorous.  That’s a good thing.  As a country that prizes both our individual freedom and our obligations to one another, this is one of the most important debates that we can have.

But no matter what we argue or where we stand, we have always held certain beliefs as Americans.  We believe that in order to preserve our own freedoms and pursue our own happiness, we can’t just think about ourselves.  We have to think about the country that made those liberties possible.  We have to think about our fellow citizens with whom we share a community.  We have to think about what’s required to preserve the American Dream for future generations.

And this sense of responsibility — to each other and our country — this isn’t a partisan feeling.  This isn’t a Democratic or Republican idea.  It’s patriotism.  And if we keep that in mind, and uphold our obligations to one another and to this larger enterprise that is America, then I have no doubt that we will continue our long and prosperous journey as the greatest nation on Earth.

Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

MR. SINGLETON:  Thank you, Mr. President.  We appreciate so much you being with us today.  I have some questions from the audience, which I will ask — and I’ll be more careful than I was last time I did this.

Republicans have been sharply critical of your budget ideas as well.  What can you say to the Americans who just want both sides to stop fighting and get some work done on their behalf?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I completely understand the American people’s frustrations, because the truth is that these are eminently solvable problems.  I know that Christine Lagarde is here from the IMF, and she’s looking at the books of a lot of other countries around the world.  The kinds of challenges they face fiscally are so much more severe than anything that we confront — if we make some sensible decisions.

So the American people’s impulses are absolutely right.  These are solvable problems if people of good faith came together and were willing to compromise.  The challenge we have right now is that we have on one side, a party that will brook no compromise.  And this is not just my assertion.  We had presidential candidates who stood on a stage and were asked, “Would you accept a budget package, a deficit reduction plan, that involved $10 of cuts for every dollar in revenue increases?” Ten-to-one ratio of spending cuts to revenue.  Not one of them raised their hand.

Think about that.  Ronald Reagan, who, as I recall, is not accused of being a tax-and-spend socialist, understood repeatedly that when the deficit started to get out of control, that for him to make a deal he would have to propose both spending cuts and tax increases.  Did it multiple times.  He could not get through a Republican primary today.

So let’s look at Bowles-Simpson.  Essentially, my differences with Bowles-Simpson were I actually proposed less revenue and slightly lower defense spending cuts.  The Republicans want to increase defense spending and take in no revenue, which makes it impossible to balance the deficit under the terms that Bowles-Simpson laid out — unless you essentially eliminate discretionary spending.  You don’t just cut discretionary spending.  Everything we think of as being pretty important — from education to basic science and research to transportation spending to national parks to environmental protection — we’d essentially have to eliminate.

I guess another way of thinking about this is — and this bears on your reporting.  I think that there is oftentimes the impulse to suggest that if the two parties are disagreeing, then they’re equally at fault and the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and an equivalence is presented — which reinforces I think people’s cynicism about Washington generally.  This is not one of those situations where there’s an equivalence.  I’ve got some of the most liberal Democrats in Congress who were prepared to make significant changes to entitlements that go against their political interests, and who said they were willing to do it.  And we couldn’t get a Republican to stand up and say, we’ll raise some revenue, or even to suggest that we won’t give more tax cuts to people who don’t need them.

And so I think it’s important to put the current debate in some historical context.  It’s not just true, by the way, of the budget.  It’s true of a lot of the debates that we’re having out here.

Cap and trade was originally proposed by conservatives and Republicans as a market-based solution to solving environmental problems.  The first President to talk about cap and trade was George H.W. Bush.  Now you’ve got the other party essentially saying we shouldn’t even be thinking about environmental protection; let’s gut the EPA.

Health care, which is in the news right now — there’s a reason why there’s a little bit of confusion in the Republican primary about health care and the individual mandate since it originated as a conservative idea to preserve the private marketplace in health care while still assuring that everybody got covered, in contrast to a single-payer plan.  Now, suddenly, this is some socialist overreach.

So as all of you are doing your reporting, I think it’s important to remember that the positions I’m taking now on the budget and a host of other issues, if we had been having this discussion 20 years ago, or even 15 years ago, would have been considered squarely centrist positions.  What’s changed is the center of the Republican Party.  And that’s certainly true with the budget.

MR. SINGLETON:  Mr. President, the managing director of the (inaudible) for continuation of United States leadership (inaudible) economic issues, and underscored the need for a lower deficit and lower debt.  How can you respond to that claim?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, look, she’s absolutely right.  It’s interesting, when I travel around the world at these international fora — and I’ve said this before — the degree to which America is still the one indispensable nation, the degree to which, even as other countries are rising and their economies are expanding, we are still looked to for leadership, for agenda setting — not just because of our size, not just because of our military power, but because there is a sense that unlike most superpowers in the past, we try to set out a set of universal rules, a set of principles by which everybody can benefit.

And that’s true on the economic front as well.  We continue to be the world’s largest market, an important engine for economic growth.  We can’t return to a time when by simply borrowing and consuming, we end up driving global economic growth.

I said this a few months after I was elected at the first G20 summit.  I said the days when Americans using their credit cards and home equity loans finance the rest of the world’s growth by taking in imports from every place else — those days are over.  On the other hand, we continue to be a extraordinarily important market and foundation for global economic growth.

We do have to take care of our deficits.  I think Christine has spoken before, and I think most economists would argue as well, that the challenge when it comes to our deficits is not short-term discretionary spending, which is manageable.  As I said before and I want to repeat, as a percentage of our GDP, our discretionary spending — all the things that the Republicans are proposing cutting — is actually lower than it’s been since Dwight Eisenhower.  There has not been some massive expansion of social programs, programs that help the poor, environmental programs, education programs.  That’s not our problem.

Our problem is that our revenue has dropped down to between 15 and 16 percent — far lower than it has been historically, certainly far lower than it was under Ronald Reagan — at the same time as our health care costs have surged, and our demographics mean that there is more and more pressure being placed on financing our Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security programs.

So at a time when the recovery is still gaining steam, and unemployment is still very high, the solution should be pretty apparent.  And that is even as we continue to make investments in growth today — for example, putting some of our construction workers back to work rebuilding schools and roads and bridges, or helping states to rehire teachers at a time when schools are having a huge difficulty retaining quality teachers in the classroom — all of which would benefit our economy, we focus on a long-term plan to stabilize our revenues at a responsible level and to deal with our health care programs in a responsible way.  And that’s exactly what I’m proposing.

And what we’ve proposed is let’s go back, for folks who are making more than $250,000 a year, to levels that were in place during the Clinton era, when wealthy people were doing just fine, and the economy was growing a lot stronger than it did after they were cut.  And let’s take on Medicare and Medicaid in a serious way — which is not just a matter of taking those costs off the books, off the federal books, and pushing them onto individual seniors, but let’s actually reduce health care costs.  Because we spend more on health care with not as good outcomes as any other advanced, developed nation on Earth.

And that would seem to be a sensible proposal.  The problem right now is not the technical means to solve it.  The problem is our politics.  And that’s part of what this election and what this debate will need to be about, is, are we, as a country, willing to get back to common-sense, balanced, fair solutions that encourage our long-term economic growth and stabilize our budget.  And it can be done.

One last point I want to make, Dean, that I think is important, because it goes to the growth issue.  If state and local government hiring were basically on par to what our current recovery — on par to past recoveries, the unemployment rate would probably be about a point lower than it is right now.  If the construction industry were going through what we normally go through, that would be another point lower.  The challenge we have right now — part of the challenge we have in terms of growth has to do with the very specific issues of huge cuts in state and local government, and the housing market still recovering from this massive bubble.  And that — those two things are huge headwinds in terms of growth.

I say this because if we, for example, put some of those construction workers back to work, or we put some of those teachers back in the classroom, that could actually help create the kind of virtuous cycle that would bring in more revenues just because of economic growth, would benefit the private sector in significant ways.  And that could help contribute to deficit reduction in the short term, even as we still have to do these important changes to our health care programs over the long term.

MR. SINGLETON:  Mr. President, you said yesterday that it would be unprecedented for a Supreme Court to overturn laws passed by an elected Congress.  But that is exactly what the Court has done during its entire existence.  If the Court were to overturn individual mandate, what would you do, or propose to do, for the 30 million people who wouldn’t have health care after that ruling?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, let me be very specific. We have not seen a Court overturn a law that was passed by Congress on a economic issue, like health care, that I think most people would clearly consider commerce — a law like that has not been overturned at least since Lochner.  Right?  So we’re going back to the ’30s, pre New Deal.

And the point I was making is that the Supreme Court is the final say on our Constitution and our laws, and all of us have to respect it, but it’s precisely because of that extraordinary power that the Court has traditionally exercised significant restraint and deference to our duly elected legislature, our Congress.  And so the burden is on those who would overturn a law like this.

Now, as I said, I expect the Supreme Court actually to recognize that and to abide by well-established precedence out there.  I have enormous confidence that in looking at this law, not only is it constitutional, but that the Court is going to exercise its jurisprudence carefully because of the profound power that our Supreme Court has.  As a consequence, we’re not spending a whole bunch of time planning for contingencies.

What I did emphasize yesterday is there is a human element to this that everybody has to remember.  This is not an abstract exercise.  I get letters every day from people who are affected by the health care law right now, even though it’s not fully implemented.  Young people who are 24, 25, who say, you know what, I just got diagnosed with a tumor.  First of all, I would not have gone to get a check-up if I hadn’t had health insurance. Second of all, I wouldn’t have been able to afford to get it treated had I not been on my parent’s plan.  Thank you and thank Congress for getting this done.

I get letters from folks who have just lost their job, their COBRA is running out.  They’re in the middle of treatment for colon cancer or breast cancer, and they’re worried when their COBRA runs out, if they’re still sick, what are they going to be able to do because they’re not going to be able to get health insurance.

And the point I think that was made very ably before the Supreme Court, but I think most health care economists who have looked at this have acknowledged, is there are basically two ways to cover people with preexisting conditions or assure that people can always get coverage even when they had bad illnesses.  One way is the single-payer plan — everybody is under a single system, like Medicare.  The other way is to set up a system in which you don’t have people who are healthy but don’t bother to get health insurance, and then we all have to pay for them in the emergency room.

That doesn’t work, and so, as a consequence, we’ve got to make sure that those folks are taking their responsibility seriously, which is what the individual mandate does.

So I don’t anticipate the Court striking this down.  I think they take their responsibilities very seriously.  But I think what’s more important is for all of us, Democrats and Republicans, to recognize that in a country like ours — the wealthiest, most powerful country on Earth — we shouldn’t have a system in which millions of people are at risk of bankruptcy because they get sick, or end up waiting until they do get sick and then go to the emergency room, which involves all of us paying for it.

Obama Administration Requests More Iron Dome To Protect Israel

— by David Streeter

The Obama Administration will be asking Congress for additional funding to support Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. NJDC President and CEO David A. Harris praised this decision:

In making this crucial announcement today, the Obama Administration-working in close cooperation with Israel-is ensuring that Israelis will have the resources they need to defend against the deadly wave of rockets being launched into the heart of Israel from Hamas-controlled Gaza.

These indiscriminate attacks against Israeli civilians-men, women and children alike-are horrific, and Iron Dome has been at the forefront of helping to protect Israelis during this deeply trying time. It was President Barack Obama’s initiative and request that brought Iron Dome into being, and funding for missile defense cooperation between Israel and the United States has more than doubled under this Administration than under the previous administration. We thank the President for his leadership on the Iron Dome — as well as key supporters of Israel and Iron Dome in Congress — for taking a firm stand to support the people of Israel.

More after the jump.

In announcing its request, the Department of Defense said:

Supporting the security of the State of Israel is a top priority of President Obama and Secretary Panetta. The United States has previously provided $205 million in support of Israel’s Iron Dome short-range rocket and mortar defense system.  During the rocket attacks earlier this month, the Iron Dome system played a critical role in Israel’s security. When nearly 300 rockets and mortars were fired at southern Israel, Iron Dome intercepted over 80 percent of the targets it engaged, saving many civilian lives.

Ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee Representative Howard Berman (D-CA), the author of the “Iron Dome Support Act” (IDSA, H.R. 4229), said in response to the Obama Administration’s request:

Iron Dome is a game changer. The threats Israel faces from incoming, indiscriminate terrorist rocket attacks are countered by this cutting edge anti-missile system. Iron Dome is fundamentally shifting political, diplomatic and military realities on the ground, while saving lives of innocent Israelis. Today’s statement is a further step in the right direction.

Representative Steve Rothman (D-NJ), a member of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee and a leader on U.S.-Israel missile defense issues, said:

I am pleased to see that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and the Obama Administration understand the importance of and remain committed to funding the life-saving rocket defense program, Iron Dome. We must continue to stand with Israel to make sure that our most important strategic ally in the region has the additional Iron Dome batteries it needs to protect its population from rocket attacks.

Over the past weeks, we have once again seen the tremendous importance and effectiveness of Iron Dome that is now deployed in Israel. In the face of rockets fired by terrorists from Gaza into southern Israel, Iron Dome has been remarkably successful in saving lives and preventing all-out war.

McClatchy reported today that Israel is expanding the use of the Iron Dome system and published a brief illustrated explanation of how the system works.

House Passes Ryan-Romney Budget

— by David A. Harris

This latest Republican budget is chiefly the work of Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney declaring himself ‘very supportive’ — even calling it ‘bold and exciting.’ And this Ryan-Romney budget is simply a disaster for Americans. A budget is a reflection of our values, and this budget stands in stark contrast to the values of the vast majority of American Jews — and most other Americans as well. The Ryan-Romney budget strands seniors, the poor, and America’s middle class while protecting tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans — casting fairness and any shred of shared responsibility to the wind. In addition the budget contains cuts to the foreign aid budget — cuts that the pro-Israel community has long opposed. As experts and observers have noted, the Ryan-Romney budget is a bad deal for nearly all Americans, and American Jews will remember this when they go to the polls in November.

The Romney Budget: Elect Me And Then I’ll Tell You What I Stand For


In 1968, Richard Nixon ran on a platform that included a “secret plan” to end the war in Vietnam. Does Mitt Romney expect us to believe he has a secret plan to balance the budget?

One way to avoid being called out as a flip-flopper is to avoid taking a stand at all.

For example, Romney says he’ll rein in government spending. Nothing wrong with that. Everybody is in favor with doing more with less. The tough part is actually telling people what they’ll have to give up in order to balance the budget. The trade-offs necessary to balance the budget require clear priorities, good judgement and political courage.

However, Romney wants the benefit of having a conservative approach to the deficit without actually having to commit to cutting any government program in particular. In an interview with the Weekly Standard, Romney declined specify these budget cuts “because it wouldn’t be politically expedient to do so.”

One of the things I found in a short campaign against Ted Kennedy was that when I said, for instance, that I wanted to eliminate the Department of Education, that was used to suggest I don’t care about education.

In fact, Romney’s “budget” is not a “budget” since it lacks sufficient details to make sense of. The Committe for a Responsible Federal Budget said that Romney’s plan would cause a $2.6 trillion deficit if it is not paid for. On CNBC, Mitt Romney responded to criticism that the numbers in his budget didn’t add up by admitting

I think it’s interesting for the groups to try and score it because it can’t be scored. Frankly, it can’t be scored.

It can’t be scored as a budget because it is not a budget.

According to Brian Beutler, “Romney’s been intentionally vague about the politically challenging parts of his plan.”

As Ezra Klein says:

Let’s be clear on this: A tax plan that can’t be scored because it doesn’t include sufficient details is not a plan. It’s a gesture towards a plan, or a statement of intended direction, or perhaps an unusually wonky daydream. But it’s not a plan.

So at this point, Romney doesn’t have a plan to reform the tax system. He has a statement about what he would like a reformed tax system to include: lower rates for everyone. But that’s cake-and-ice-cream stuff. All the hard questions — which tax breaks to close, for instance — remain unanswered, and it doesn’t appear that he plans to answer them anytime soon.

If you want to be President, you have to come up with a budget.
Similarly, it is hard to understand where Romney stands on Medicare. In the very same memo released last Monday, the Romney campaign “simultaneously called out the White House for not reducing Medicare spending then attacked them for doing exactly that in the very same paragraph.”

New Republican Budget Guts Medicare, Social Safety Net

Today, House Republicans unveiled their new budget that — like their budget from last year — fails to address America’s budget needs responsibly or preserve vital social safety net programs.

Last year, several Jewish community organizations and leaders expressed deep concern about the Republicans’ budget proposals. The GOP’s budget this year contains similar policies that only amplify the Republican Party’s message that it does not support the programs supported by the mainstream of the American Jewish community.

Indeed, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism’s Associate Director Mark Pelavin said:

As an affirmation of our national priorities, the budget is inherently and inescapably a moral document. We support, and have long supported, a federal budget that reflects our solemn moral obligation to guard the most vulnerable in our society. House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), however, has chosen a different path. By ending the entitlement status of Medicaid and Medicare, fundamentally altering the tax system, and slashing spending for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and education programs, the Ryan plan would turn our backs on our obligation to care for all Americans.

More after the jump.
And JTA reported on the Jewish reaction to this year’s budget:

Jewish groups are among dozens of religious denominations and organizations endorsing a ‘Faithful Budget’ in opposition to the Republican budget proposal, which would cut Medicaid spending and disproportionately shift Medicare costs to fixed-income seniors….

‘During this time of great need in this country, it is essential that we lift our collective voices to speak to the social and ecological challenges our nation faces,’ Rabbi David Saperstein, executive director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said in a statement. ‘The Faithful Budget begins that effort.’…

‘The proposal before the House Budget Committee would cut spending for and reduce access to SNAP and other critical human needs programs,’ Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, said in a statement. ‘We should not balance the federal budget on the backs of the most vulnerable. Instead, we should be offering them support to help them get back on their feet and get our economy back on track.’

In addition, B’nai B’rith International President Allan Jacobs noted in a statement that ‘the proposals would shift costs to Medicare beneficiaries while cutting programs that make critical investments for the poorest Americans who are least able to absorb these cuts.’

‘We shouldn’t be asking those with the fewest resources to give first,’ said Jacobs.

White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said about the GOP’s budget plan:

The House budget once again fails the test of balance, fairness, and shared responsibility.  It would shower the wealthiest few Americans with an average tax cut of at least $150,000, while preserving taxpayer giveaways to oil companies and breaks for Wall Street hedge fund managers. What’s worse is that all of these tax breaks would be paid for by undermining Medicare and the very things we need to grow our economy and the middle class – things like education, basic research, and new sources of energy. And instead of strengthening Medicare, the House budget would end Medicare as we know it, turning the guarantee of retirement security into a voucher that will shift higher and higher costs to seniors over time.

Reuters contrasted the Republicans’ approach with the plans supported by President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats:

Where Obama wants to raise taxes on the wealthy and boost near-term spending on infrastructure and education, the Republicans want to cut taxes and spending on healthcare and social safety net programs – benefits used more by the poor and middle classes….

The Republican budget achieves much of its deficit-reduction goals through savings gained by dismantling Obama’s 2010 healthcare reform law and by turning social safety net programs like food stamps and the Medicaid program for the poor into block grants for states.

The Republicans’ latest budget ends Medicare as we know it by replacing long-standing guaranteed retirement program with a voucher system that will leave future seniors to cover extra costs. Reuters noted the key difference between the Republicans’ plan and the plan supported by the President:

Future retirees would get an allowance to help them buy healthcare insurance. They would be able to choose private insurance plans or traditional Medicare, both of which would be offered on a special exchange. This is a slight change from Ryan’s proposal last year, which was met with loud criticism from Democrats and retiree groups. Outside experts estimated out-of-pocket expenses for the elderly would have risen by about $6,000 a year under Ryan’s Medicare reforms unveiled a year ago.

Obama’s budget calls for Medicare savings, but mostly by cutting payments to medical providers, not beneficiaries.

Think Progress noted that the Republicans’ budget also calls for the repeal of key provisions of the Affordable Care Act. In particular, the Republicans aim to:

  • Repeal the ban on discrimination against those with pre-existing conditions
  • Repeal tax credits that prevent health care costs from ravaging an individual’s income
  • Roll back the expansion of Medicaid to those living poverty

Click here to read Think Progress’ analysis. And click here to read their list of the “Top Five Worst Things About the House GOP’s Budget.”

The Washington Post’s Brad Plumer analyzed the Republican budget’s impact on the social safety net:

Over the next decade, Ryan would spend 30 percent less than the White House on ‘income security’ programs for the poor – that’s everything from food stamps to housing assistance to the earned-income tax credit. (Ryan’s budget would spend $4.8 trillion over this timeframe; the White House’s would spend $6.8 trillion.) Compared with Obama, Ryan would spend 38 percent less on transportation and 24 percent less on veterans. He’d spend 20 percent less on ‘General science, space, and basic technology.’ And, compared with the White House, he’d cut ‘Education, training, employment, and social services’ by a full 44 percent.

Click here to read Plumer’s analysis of the Republican budget. Click here to learn why Plumer’s colleague Ezra Klein considers the GOP budget to be unrealistic.  

In addition, Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin discovered that the budget contains cuts to the foreign aid budget-cuts that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the pro-Israel community have long opposed:

[A]pparently Ryan does not believe diplomacy and development are part of that tool kit, because his proposal would see the international affairs account slashed from $47.8 billion in fiscal 2012 to $43.1 billion in fiscal 2013, $40.1 billion in fiscal 2014, $38.3 billion in fiscal 2015, and $38.1 billion in fiscal 2016. The State Department and USAID wouldn’t see their budget get back to current levels until after 2022 if Ryan were to have his way….

‘The Ryan budget fails to recognize that diplomacy and development are essential to protecting our national security, alongside defense,’ said House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Howard Berman (D-CA). ‘In his own words, Chairman Ryan sets up a choice: “decline as a world power vs. renewed American leadership.” But by viewing the choice exclusively in terms of military spending, he cuts the very resources that would make strong and effective U.S. international leadership a reality. The Republican budget would take us down the road of decline as a world power.’

After examining the budget, the editorial boards of The New York Times and The Washington Post slammed the latest GOP budget. According to The Times:

As he rolled out his 2013 budget on Tuesday, Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, correctly said that he and his fellow Republicans were offering the country a choice of two very clear futures. The one he outlined in his plan could hardly be more bleak.

It is one where the rich pay less in taxes than the unfairly low rates they pay now, while programs for the poor – including Medicaid and food stamps – are slashed and thrown to the whims of individual states. Where older Americans no longer have a guarantee that Medicare will pay for their health needs. Where lack of health insurance is rampant, preschool is unaffordable, and environmental and financial regulation are severely weakened.

Mr. Ryan became well known last year as the face of the most extreme budget plan passed by a house of Congress in modern times. His new budget is, if anything, worse, full of bigger, emptier promises. It is largely in agreement with the plans of the Republican presidential candidates….

These extreme cuts and changes would greatly impede the nation’s economic recovery, and hurt those on the middle and lower economic rungs who suffered most from the recession. The contrast with President Obama’s budget, which raises taxes on the rich to protect vital programs while reducing the deficit, could not be more clear.

Click here to read The Times’ editorial.

Noting the criticism that has come from observers and experts alike, The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent succinctly summarized the newest GOP budget by writing:

[T]he verdict is in: Paul Ryan’s budget is a blueprint for radical right-wing economic extremism and a monumental con job.


Pennsylvania Hatred Redux

Bernie SandersCrossposted from Democratic Convention Watch

It's not enough for the Corbett administration and its cronies in the legislature to deny suffrage to the poor, elderly and minorities. The administration, through its budget, is going to cause death and intolerable suffering amoung those least able to provide for themselves.

The numbers projected in Philly are striking: Some 4,000 mentally ill people will lose outpatient services; 400 of them will lose case management services; and 500 to 600 people with chronic mental illness will lose out on housing support, according to [Deputy Mayor for Health and Opportunity Donald] Schwarz, meaning “We expect people will be discharged from hospitals and other places into homeless shelters.” Thirty to 40 young people with intellectual disabilities who would have received bridge services between youth and adult support systems will not. Sixteen percent of hospice beds for patients with HIV/AIDS will be cut: “There are folks that will die on the streets in Philadelphia because there will not be hospice placements.” One out of two daytime mental health emergency teams and six out of eight walk-in centers dealing with emergency mental health services will likely be cut. And 437 addiction treatment beds will be removed, meaning more people will stay in the already strained prison system due to lack of treatment options. As for those homeless shelters — which can be expected to absorb much of this new overflow — they'll be losing critical case management services. (emphasis mine) Source

Dying on the streets. Could there be anything more shameful? 

PICA is the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority. It was created two decades ago to help Philadelphia with its financial crisis, and to this day provides support and analysis. PICA has reviewed the Corbett budget and its impacts on Philadelphia. Its report is after the jump.

Last night on Al Sharpton's show, he had a segment on voting rights, which included an interview with Daylin Lynch, a terrific PA state senator. Also, a clip of Corbett, (at about 7:15) from 2010 about how Corbett wants to discourage turnout in Philadelphia. Obviously from the budget, it's not enough to deny suffrage, but he wants “those people” gone from Pennsylvania. 

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PICA Report:

US Budget: Obama Requests Largest Amount of Israel Aid Ever

Israeli and American flags fly as Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates arrives in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 18, 2007.— by David Streeter

Underscoring his commitment to the U.S.-Israel relationship, President Barack Obama requested a record $3,100,000,000 in assistance to Israel for the 2013 fiscal year. The requested amount is not just the largest assistance request for Israel ever, it is the largest foreign assistance request ever in U.S. history.

According to page 172 of the State Department’s report on the FY 2013 budget, foreign military financing to Israel has increased steadily under Obama:

  • In 2011, Israel received $2,994,000,000;
  • In 2012, Israel is estimated to have received $3,075,000,000; and
  • In 2013, Obama requested for Israel to receive $3,100,000,000 — almost half of the entire global request for foreign military financing.

This is consistent with the ten-year Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and Israel.

The increase in funding will help the Jewish state maintain its qualitative military edge and keep its citizens secure as the Middle East continues to undergo rapid change.

Good News From Congressional Budget Office

The projected deficit with the continuation of certain policies is based on several assumptions: first, that most of the provisions of the
Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-312) that originally were enacted
in 2001, 2003, 2009, and 2010 do not expire on December 31, 2012, but instead continue; second, that the alternative minimum tax is
indexed for inflation after 2011; and third, that Medicare’s payment rates for physicians are held constant at their 2011 level.