Cutbacks, not government shutdown, in the USA


US Republican Boehner and Obama

USA: instead of government shutdown which seemed imminent yesterday: A late-night agreement between the Obama administration and congressional Republicans is premised on the largest-ever one-year cut in domestic social spending: here. And here.

US budget cuts threaten scientific research: here.

3 thoughts on “Cutbacks, not government shutdown, in the USA

  1. Apr 12, 2:52 AM EDT

    DC mayor arrested protesting budget restrictions

    By JESSICA GRESKO
    Associated Press

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The budget deal lawmakers struck to avoid a government shutdown was greeted by some with relief, but it has one city already reeling: the capital itself.

    City officials say Washington was used as a pawn in last week’s budget bargaining, with new restrictions part of the price of a deal.

    Angry that Congress appears ready to take away autonomy granted to the city in the last several years, Mayor Vincent Gray and six Council members including the chairman were among 41 people arrested Monday outside the Capitol while protesting the changes that might be inevitable. Seven hours later, they were released from jail.

    “We needed to make a statement,” Gray said after his release.

    He said protesters’ shoelaces, ties and belts were removed while they were in jail. The district restrictions that were part of the budget deal reached Friday were “completely unacceptable,” Gray said.

    The city will likely be unable to spend its own tax dollars on abortions for low-income women. It may also be banned from spending city money on needle exchange programs believed vital to curbing the spread of HIV in the district, where the disease is considered an epidemic. Also back: a school voucher program favored by Republicans.

    The news is considered a setback for a city that is unique in that it has a city government but its budget and laws are overseen by Congress. It had enjoyed more freedom in the past four years when both the House and Senate were controlled by Democrats, the party traditionally more friendly to pleas of autonomy from the heavily Democratic city.

    When Republicans took control of the House in January, the city readied for changes. Still, city leaders said they are outraged that Washington appears to have been used as a bargaining chip.

    “If this isn’t taxation without representation, I don’t know what is,” the mayor said before being arrested.

    He and Council members, dressed in business attire, sat down in the street outside a Senate office building. U.S. Capitol Police arrested them, cuffing their hands behind them with plastic loops, and loaded them into police wagons to cheers from the crowd.

    They were cited for blocking the street with an unlawful assembly, a misdemeanor that can be resolved by paying a $50 fine.

    Gray said after he was released that he was proud to be part of the demonstration and would continue to fight the restrictions, but wasn’t specific.

    Gray became the second D.C. mayor to go to jail while advocating for home rule. Sharon Pratt Kelly was arrested during a statehood protest in August 1993. Gray also was a council member before becoming mayor, so he is familiar with the home-rule fight.

    Ilir Zherka, the executive director of D.C. Vote, a nonpartisan group that lobbies for more independence for the district, said his group doesn’t intend to let the budget pass this week without a fight.

    “We’re not going to accept that they decided to throw the District of Columbia under the bus,” Zherka said.

    But while the news is considered a setback for the capital city and its 600,000 residents, the restrictions wouldn’t be new.

    The city’s ability to spend money on abortions for low-income women has seesawed over the last two decades. When Democrats have controlled both houses of Congress and the presidency, in 1993 and 1994 and again in 2009 and 2010, the city has been able to spend its own money to pay for abortions for women on Medicaid. When Republicans have controlled at least one branch of government that ability has been taken away.

    The fact that Congress will likely re-impose the ban on abortion funding wasn’t a shock to Tiffany Reed, the president of D.C. Abortion Fund, a non-profit organization that makes grants to poor women to pay for abortions, which can cost $300 to $500 or more. Reed said her group, which helped pay for more than 300 abortions a year, had expected the ban to be re-imposed, but she was angry Congress had stepped in again to local affairs just as the lifting of the ban was beginning to take effect.

    “It gives me a lot of rage quite frankly,” she said. “I’m really disappointed in our pro-choice president that he allowed this to happen.”

    As for a possible reintroduction of a ban on city money for needle exchanges, it would be a step back. Congress prohibited the city from using its own money for the programs for two decades beginning in the late 1980s. Other groups stepped in to provide the service with private dollars, but it is a widely held belief that the city’s inability to pay for needle exchange led to an increase in the number of residents contracting HIV. Approximately 3 percent of city residents are currently living with HIV or AIDS, a level considered by health officials to be epidemic.

    When the ban was lifted in 2007, the city invested money in community programs that collected 300,000 used syringes in the last year. People who work at the city’s three needle exchange programs say they aren’t sure how they will cope if the city is again unable to provide money.

    “It would be nothing short of disastrous,” said Cyndee Clay, executive director of HIPS, an organization that works with sex workers and drug users and is currently exchanging about 8,000 needles a month. “I don’t understand why they’re doing this to us.”

    Eleanor Holmes Norton, the city’s representative in Congress, said she has not yet seen the actual language in the budget but has been told the abortion rider and school vouchers are in. Norton, a Democrat who is not allowed to vote on the House floor, said she doesn’t believe needle exchange is part of the deal, but she said she won’t be sure until she sees final language.

    “We got bargained away,” Norton said of the budget deal. “I don’t know for what.”

    Associated Press writer Ben Nuckols contributed to this report.

    © 2011 The Associated Press

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  2. Dear Friends,

    Rachel Maddow described President Obama’s speech on Wednesday as a “defining moment” for his administration, and she was absolutely correct. It was an excellent speech in the main, filled with the kind of lofty rhetoric we have become accustomed to since Mr. Obama first burst onto the political scene in 2004. In it, he proposed taxing the rich, cutting the defense budget and decreasing the cost of health care. He defended Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. For many in the progressive community, it was a reminder of the man who fired the imaginations of so many during his presidential campaign.

    Therein lies the problem: it was all just words. Again. There have been many such “defining moments” during this administration, most of which involved retreat, surrender and failure after festooning the walls with words. We heard great talk about including the public option in the health care bill – until Mr. Obama retreated, leaving many to wonder if he ever meant to include it at all. We heard great talk about closing Guantanamo, until he retreated. We heard great talk about repealing the Bush tax cuts for rich people, until that fell by the wayside as well. The very fact that we are still talking about those damnable tax breaks is evidence enough of how far those words go, and that is not very far at all, so far.

    And then there were the other words in Wednesday’s speech: the ones that tipped a wink to the Bowles-Simpson proposal to eviscerate the social contract which has sustained this nation for generations. There were the words, “Any serious plan to tackle our deficit will require us to put everything on the table.” If that is true, Mr. President, then a plan to provide Medicare for all must also be on the table … but no, that’s not “reasonable” or “responsible.” The debate over the future of this country has been skewed so far to the right that centrism appears radical, even as the worst elements in our nation win the day time and again.

    Words are no longer enough, even pretty ones. Action is required, not only by our elected officials, but by you and me. Mr. Obama spoke of “shared sacrifices” on Wednesday, but it is time for shared actions as well. It is this endeavor to which Truthout has committed, and all of us here bear a responsibility to each other, to you our readers, to the country and to the world entire. When the real radicals of the right are allowed to frame the debate – allowed to disseminate outright lies with no answer or recourse – it is to this diseased estate we are delivered.

    I ask you today to take action, to help us bring this fight to them every day, so that we can move beyond the siren song of empty promises and bring the genuine change we so desperately need. …

    Truthout, P.O. Box 276414, Sacramento, CA 95827 …

    Sincerely,
    William Rivers Pitt

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  3. ail Out the People Movement / 55 W. 17th St. 5 C., NYC, New York 10011
    Phone: 212-633-6646 / http://www.BailoutPeople.org / march4jobs@gmail.com / donate / sign petition

    Sign Now to Stop the Cuts to Education and Public Services in North Carolina – FULL FUNDING NOW!

    STAND with the North Carolina Association of Educators and the North Carolina Defend Education Coalition who will be demnstrating on May 3 at the North Carolina General Assembly for FULL FUNDING NOW!

    SIGN the E-LETTER / ONLINE PETITION below to send emails to North Carolina Governor Perdue, the North Carolina Legislature, the Mayors and City Councils of Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Charlotte and Rocky Mount, President Obama, congressional leaders, the North Carolina congressional delegation and members of the media saying FULL FUNDING FOR NORTH CAROLINA PUBLIC EDCATION AND ALL PUBLIC SERVICES!

    For the past two years, workers and community members in North Carolina have had to survive with nearly $10 billion in cuts to the state budget. Now the NC General Assembly is dominated by right-wing and Tea Party forces, which are carrying out the national program of the banks and the corporations by dismantling the public sector and making workers and students pay for their crisis.

    In mid-April, the NC House released its budget, which included more than 15,000 layoffs for state workers; more than $1 billion cuts in education, and a reduction in the corporate tax rate in NC from 6.9% to 4.9%–the third lowest in the U.S. This tax rate cut provision was first proposed by Democratic Governor Beverly Perdue.

    On Tues., May 3, the North Carolina Association of Educators is organizing a major rally at the NC General Assembly at 4 p.m. in Raleigh to stop the cuts to public education and to fully fund all of NC’s schools.

    Many other organizations and coalitions that have been organizing to defend the public sector workers are planning to be there as well. Students and young people organizing with the NC Defend Education Coalition are calling a rally on NC State University’s campus at 3 p.m. and a march through downtown to join the main demonstration at the legislature.

    Thousands of teachers, workers, students, and community members from every corner of the state will be coming to Raleigh that day for this important action. May 3 will be a major day of action against the budget cuts, and there has been much discussion about different actions that may take place that day, with the bold actions of workers and students in Wisconsin, New York, and elsewhere on the forefront of peoples’ minds.

    Around the country, workers’ basic right to collectively bargain is under attack by these forces; but in NC, workers still do not even have this fundamental right, made illegal by a Jim Crow era law that is still on the books, NC GS 95-98.

    Bank of America, one of the largest banks in the world and a principal engine in the foreclosure crisis that is destroying communities across the U.S., has its world headquarters in Charlotte, NC.

    Last year, BoA made $4.4 billion in profits, but didn’t pay a dime in taxes. BoA is also sitting on trillions of dollars received from the federal government in bailouts. And these proposals from NC politicians, and elsewhere around the country, threaten to take even more from working people and forking it over to the private coffers of the banks and corporations, rather than taking this wealth, created by workers, to pay for people’s needs.

    This is a clarion call to everyone who can to stand with the teachers, workers, and students in Raleigh, NC on May 3. The importance of this action, in the heart of the U.S. South, and the potential for this to open a new phase in the struggle against austerity and budget cuts in NC, cannot be stressed enough. This bold action being led by the teachers deserves the support of all progressive forces. Please help to circulate this statement and sign the petition below.

    The text of e-letter / online petition says:

    TO: North Carolina Governor Perdue, the North Carolina General Assembly, and the Mayors and City Councils of Raleigh, Durham, Charlotte, Chapel Hill and Rocky Mount

    cc: President Obama, Congressional leaders and the North Carolina Congressional delegation, and members of the media

    STOP THE CUTS! FULLY FUND PUBLIC ECUCATION AND ALL PUBLIC SERVICES!

    I stand with the teachers of the North Carolina Association of Educators, workers, students, and all people in North Carolina who are taking a stand on May 3 against budget cuts and the vicious attacks on education and the public sector. I stand with all those who are calling for no cuts to the public sector, and for the General Assembly to instead look for funding for jobs, education, healthcare, and all public services by taxing the rich and the corporations that do business in North Carolina. We can’t—and we won’t—take any more cuts that are devastating our education, our jobs and our communities.

    I demand the following:

    * Stop the cuts to public education! Full funding for North Carolina schools!

    * No job or position cuts to education or state and local services!

    * Tax the corporations, banks and the rich!

    * Pass the Mental Health Workers Bill of Rights law (HB287 and SB481)

    * Collective bargaining rights for public workers now!

    * No to privatization of public jobs and services!

    * Money for public jobs and services, not war!

    Sincerely,

    For more information: 919-604-8167 — raleigh@fistyouth.org
    NC Alliance of Educators: OneVoiceRally.com

    Bail Out the People Movement
    Solidarity Center
    55 W. 17th St. #5C
    New York, NY 10011
    212.633.6646

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