Archive for the ‘austerity’ Category
This is the biggest austerity cut yet.
President Obama’s proposed 2012 budget will cut several billion dollars from the government’s energy assistance fund for poor people, officials briefed on the subject told National Journal.
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, would see funding drop by about $3 billion from an authorized 2009 total of $5.1 billion. The proposed cut will not touch the program’s emergency reserve fund, about $590 million, which can be used during particularly harsh cold snaps or extended heat spells, three officials told National Journal.
I guess we’ll have to take them at their word that cutting $3 billion from the pot won’t result in poor people getting their services cut off during emergencies. But let’s ponder what will happen if that isn’t entirely truthful. How many people could this screw?
The American Gas Association predicts that 3 million Americans eligible for the program won’t be able to recieve it unless LIHEAP funding stays at its current level.
Heat and air-conditioning are more expensive because gas prices are going up due to weather and fuel prices. I would go off on a tangent here about global weirding and the need for alternative energy sources, but you know, Al Gore is fat.
“A lot of people in the Northeast are going to be unhappy,” an administration official briefed on the budget said.
Is ‘unhappy’ the new euphemism we’re using for ‘dead?’ In 2006, at least 225 people died in the US during a heat wave. Imagine how many more would have died if they couldn’t afford air-conditioning, or the energy companies were allowed to cut off services for people who were late with their bills.
Critics say that the program is poorly administered and that, contrary to intentions, it’s become a subsidy for energy companies, most of whom are prohibited by law from turning off services to delinquent bill-payers during weather emergencies.
So, it’s now considered a “subsidy” to not allow people to die. Am I reading that correctly?
I’m told Progressives should be applauding emphatically for this move because it shows just how serious Obama is about cutting the budget, and that while he’s making concessions to Republicans left and right, a move like this one isn’t uber-bad because he’s not cutting nearly as much as the Republicans want him to. So like, instead of 3 million people going without heat, it might have been seven million, which is really super bad.
This is the kind of cynical pragmatism that turns off people from both sides of the aisle.
Well, this is stupid.
The blizzard claimed its first administrative casualty last night: the chief of the Fire Department’s Emergency Medical Service, John Peruggia, was demoted in the face of mounting criticism over the city’s inability to get ambulances where they needed to be during last week’s storm and its aftermath. Ambulance delays related to the snow are seen as possible factors in at least three deaths.
I highlighted the important part of that paragraph. It was the city’s failure to plow the streets, and not the EMS’s failure to dispatch paramedics, that lead to the debacle. Yes, the EMS had to implement radical disaster planning (like limiting the CPR time to 20 minutes,) but again that was because they were dealing with a fucked up situation, wrapped in a bow, and presented to them by a mayor who just fired hundreds of sanitation workers.
I mean, if this is Bloomberg’s idea of management, who is he going to sack next? In Forest Hills, people were pulled from a fiery building and transported to a hospital via sleds. Should the hospital staff be fired for not properly clearing a path to the ER? Of course, shovelling isn’t their job, but that’s really not an important factor when searching for scapegoats.
Time Magazine Editor-At-Large: “We thought [austerity] was a bad thing and now embracing as a virtue”
Add this to the Great Moments In Cognitive Dissonance. Time Magazine editor-at-large Belinda Luscombe sputtered through a seriously weird defense of austerity measures no more than five minutes before CNN transitioned into a story about how firing hundreds of sanitation workers before blizzard season may not have been the best idea in the world.
And here’s the bizarre part: No one acknowledged the correlation between the two segments.
Here is Luscbombe, verbally hemorrhaging on national television about how “Austerity” made it on Time’s top 10 buzzwords of 2010 because it’s super awesome and we all love austerity now.
LUSCOMBE: I think the thing of austerity is it rises to the top. We thought it was a bad thing and now embracing as a virtue. It is something that moved out of favor. It is like austerity is a comeback, maybe gone in either category. And there’s sort of a wry humor about it. We are on the austerity program now, yea. It’s almost medieval in that way.
To Time’s credit, their online version of the list does a much more articulate job of explaining what austerity is, and it even mentions thousands of people protested these kinds of hella awesome cuts. Luscombe’s explanation is complete word salad. I honestly can’t tell if she even understands what austerity means. I have to believe she does, but I have no idea if she’s aware that other non-Times editors-at-large are protesting these things.
And speaking of the ramifications, CNN then brought on Councilwoman Letitia James, a Democrat from Brooklyn, who is also the sanitation committee chairwoman. James let fly about how the city was totally unprepared for the blizzard this time around despite the fact that back in February, the city was able to better cope with a larger storm.
JAMES: Most of the arteries, major arteries and Great Borough of Brooklyn have not been plowed. Most of the secondary and tertiary streets have not been responded to. I have spoken to all of my colleagues in every borough in Staten Island and Queens and the Bronx and in parts of Manhattan and they, too, are experiencing the same.
It appears that the only streets that are clear are in Manhattan where tourists are enjoying.
CHETRY: I want to ask you about that because how much of this has to do with budget cuts? Some complaining, the president of the Uniformed Sanitation Men’s Association said they’re down 400 and that there are further plans for cuts because of the multi-billion dollar deficits that we have here; 265 more sanitation workers set to be cut by attrition.
Is it simply a problem that we can’t afford to do the job that we would hope would be done in the nation’s largest city?
JAMES: Well, obviously the mayor is talking about doing more with less and obviously when it comes to snow removal that cannot be the case. We are now spending money hiring day laborers and private haulers to come out and remove garbage and to remove snow and that should not be the case at all.
Clearly, some agencies had been held harmless as a result of the budget cuts and I believe the Department of Sanitation should be one of those agencies that should be held harmless and what we should do is hire a new class of sanitation workers so that we can avoid what happened within the last few days.
The sanitation workers are blaming the budget cuts for the slow clean-up.
Harry Nespoli, president of the Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association, said the department is currently down roughly 400 workers.
“We are undermanned — we need another 400,” Nespoli said in a telephone interview with The Wall Street Journal. “I mean this is a perfect example of why you need the man power in New York City. We’re shorthanded here.”
I really can’t think of a more clear-cut example of the effects of austerity. Pre-cuts, NYC was able to handle a larger storm in a relatively smooth fashion. Post-cuts, it’s snowpocalypse. I walked a single city block this morning and saw an abandoned bus in the middle of a major Brooklyn intersection, and the intersection was nearly impassable for pedestrians. And it’s been more than 24 hours since the storm hit. That’s very unusual for New York City. The sanitation workers (when there are enough of them) are very good about digging us out in a quick fashion. Not this time. That should serve as a warning flare.
Most worryingly is that the city had a backlog of some 1,300 critical calls – that is not calls for minor occurrences, but critical EMS calls that need to be answered immediately. There were 1,300 of those that went unanswered.
I also couldn’t have asked for a better example of a clueless elite pundit offering a weird, pseudo-cheerleading moment for a policy that has zero consequences in her own life, but which have actual ramifications for hundres of millions of poor people in multiple different nations.
Even if I was to give Luscombe the benefit of the doubt and claim she’s aware of the negative aspects of austerity, her “explanation” of what the cuts mean for the world serves no purpose. The Time editor-at-large didn’t inform, or explain, or even offer a coherent definition of austerity, she certainly didn’t explain that a ton of people are protesting the cuts, and of course CNN didn’t attempt to link the idea of austerity to a story that was no more than five minutes away from broadcasting.
This is all a way of saying that CNN and Time missed an opportunity to show people how Washington policies can have very painful backlash in their everyday lives, which of course is what the roll of media is supposed to be, so it’s unsurprising neither CNN nor Time had any idea how they could do that – or that they were supposed to do it, at all.
MINEOLA, N.Y. — Facing a huge budget deficit when he took office in January, Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano did not impose a hiring freeze. He did not stop borrowing to subsidize some of the richest school districts in the country. He did not eliminate the Police Department’s beloved mounted unit.
Instead, Mr. Mangano, a Republican who won one of the first upsets of the Tea Party era, did what he had promised: He cut taxes, adding $40 million to the county’s deficit, which has since reached nearly $350 million.
Now, with its bonds suddenly downgraded and a state oversight agency preparing to seize its checkbook and credit cards, Nassau is on the verge of a full-fledged fiscal crisis.
No word on if The Leader and his Clinton-era lackeys have any plans to change course. Don’t tell anyone, but I don’t think The Smartest Guys In The Room are very smart, at all.
So I’ve heard and read a lot of upset people responding to Kate O’Beirne‘s somewhat less than enlightened comment that kids who need help buying school lunches are victims of child abuse.
“The federal school lunch program and now breakfast program and I guess in Washington DC, dinner program are pretty close to being sacred cows… broad bipartisan support. And if we’re going to ask more of ourselves, my question is what poor excuse for a parent can’t rustle up a bowl of cereal and a banana? I just don’t get why millions of school children qualify for school breakfasts unless we have a major wide spread problem with child neglect.
“You know, I mean if that’s how many parents are incapable of pulling together a bowl of cereal and a banana, then we have problems that are way bigger than… that problem can’t be solved with a school breakfast, because we have parents who are just criminally… ah… criminally negligent with respect to raising children.”
It’s remarks like this that make me want to close my laptop and throw it out the window. I mean, where do I start?
Okay: First, Kate, poor parents aren’t confused about how to slice a banana. Some of them are single parents, raising children on their own. C&L supplies such an example.
Obviously she never met Jaelithe, who relied on the school lunch program to survive because her mother was young, single and poor, struggling to raise her daughter and get an education to better herself. Are these the words of an abused child, or just one raised in a world where the only outstretched hand was the government’s? Exactly what part of Jaelithe’s mother’s “self” should have given more?
But going hungry — that is a different story. That’s waking up in the morning hungry. Feeling, throughout the day, hungry. Lying in bed not able to sleep just yet because you are hungry. Dreaming about feeling hungry.
And there is not any trip to the taco place down the street and not a trip to McDonald’s instead and not a trip to the farmer’s market or the grocery store, either, because there is no money for those things. There is not even the option of a trip to the backyard for some homegrown tomatoes or cucumbers or strawberries because there is no yard when you live in a run-down apartment or a shelter or a car.
There is only your hollow-eyed mother who is hungrier than you are dividing the last stale crackers to make them last. Assuming that you are lucky enough to have a mother. And crackers.
See, in Jaelithe’s case, it’s not child abuse because the mother isn’t stealing from her child. She’s giving as much as she can, which unfortunately isn’t much. But Cruella de Vil Kate may be right about one thing: there may be abuse at play here.
Minimum wage is abusive if a single mother can’t support her child with her earnings. Employers are abusive if they fail to provide adequate wages, safety standards, hours, or health insurance for their employees. These things are very real obstacles, and are very much abusive practices, but a person like Kate O’Beirne isn’t interested in taking on institutions that can fight back. Her target is the poor.
And she’s not alone. James Joyner recently declared that unemployed people remain jobless because of their poor management skills. Seriously. And that’s not the most offensive part of what he wrote. (Joyner was responding to an interesting chart that shows unemployed people are less likely to vote than college-educated citizens).
An alternative view of the charts is that the unemployed are mostly people who’ve done an incredibly poor job of managing their own lives. … In this day and age, it’s simply irresponsible not to finish high school — or at least get a GED. Hell, you’re required by law to go to school through age 16. How hard is it to hang around another year and get that diploma?
If you haven’t passed out from all of that compassion blasting you in the face, let us examine this claim together.
What interests me about Joyner’s comment is the implication that people don’t deserve to work unless they’ve completed high school. Surely, this is a relatively new decree handed down by Lord James – one that would have infuriated many of our ancestors, who probably didn’t have very much education at all, and yet they managed to build the country, and raise their families, and live their lives.
For as many heartbreaking Jaelithesque stories as there are out there, I’m aware there are also a lot of young people who just aren’t very interested in school. And there are a lot of different reasons why they’re bored. Some have to do with the way classes are taught (teach the test, for example,) other have to do with lack of resources: one’s family is struggling to pay the bills, one’s school has crappy, outdated equipment, unchallenging curriculum, etc. If you live in a poor community and a couple of your friends lack supervision, get bored, and drop out to start working and earning money for their family, then you’re more likely to drop out, which may inspire another friend to drop out, and the domino effect spreads throughout the community.
However, I don’t see why the act of dropping out is any cause for immediate condemnation. So what if a young person drops out? I know that we’re supposed to tell every child they’re a beautiful snowflake that can Be All They Want To Be, but say that just doesn’t work and they drop out anyway. It happens. The important thing is that they are able to work, make a living, contribute to society, and go back to school if need be. The real snafu comes courtesy of all these extreme austerity measures and state budget cuts, which make it harder for dropouts to ever reenter the institution of education to receive additional training.
(Suffice to say, poor people aren’t the ones voting to cut these budgets. Unfortunately, they’re not the ones turning up to vote at all. That could be because they aren’t excited about any of their candidate choices, but that’s fodder for another post.)
It’s unsurprising that professional pundits are continuing their tradition of bashing the poor. After all, it’s Washington’s favorite past time, donchyaknow. Yet, it’s always nauseating to hear barely-known sycophants parrot the orders of the beltway elite in some clawing, desperate attempt to be taken seriously. I understand why billionaire and millionaire politicians vote to fuck the poor in order to protect their own interests, but when second-tier media pundits join in on the off chance one day they’ll be asked to sit in on Morning Joe, it’s really pathetic.
Have I recently stated my emphatic love for young protesters? They have the best energy and creative thinking when it comes to the kinds of protests that closed Topshop’s flagship branch on London’s Oxford Street.
A UK Uncut spokesman said they targeted the shop because it was part of Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia retail group.
Campaigner Stephen Trevelian, 26, from Brighton, said: “Philip Green is a multi-billionaire tax avoider, and yet is regarded by David Cameron as an appropriate man to advise the Government on austerity.”
Philip Green is the ninth richest man in Britain, and he is indeed a tax cheater.
While Green lives and works in the UK, the Arcadia Group is registered in the name of his wife, Tina, who is resident in Monaco and so enjoys a 0% income-tax rate. In 2005 this arrangement allowed the Greens to bank £1.2bn, the biggest paycheck in British corporate history, without paying a penny in tax. This completely legal dodge cost the British taxpayer £285m, enough to pay the salaries of 9,000 NHS nurses or the £9,000 fees of close to 32,000 students. In an age of austerity, the link between tax avoidance and public sector cuts becomes crystal clear.
Here is the excellent Johann Hari on the tax avoidance stuff, in this case by Vodafone:
For years now, Vodafone has been claiming that a major chunk of its business should not be subject to British taxes – that could run to billions of pounds – because the deal was routed through a company in ultra low tax Luxembourg. The company – which has doubled its profits during this recession – engaged in all kinds of accounting twists and turns; they looked set to pay a sum Private Eye calculates to be more than £6bn.
Then, suddenly, the exchequer – run by George Osborne – cancelled almost all of the outstanding tax bill, in a move a senior figure in Revenues and Customs says is “an unbelievable cave-in.” A few days after the decision, Osborne was promoting Vodafone on a tax-payer funded trip to India. He then appointed Andy Halford, the finance director of Vodafone, to the government’s Advisory Board on Business Tax Rates, apparently because he thinks this is a model of how the Tories think it should be done.
The Indian government and Vodafone are fighting in the courts over the billions in tax it is claiming from the company. Yes, the British state is less functional than the Indian state when it comes to collecting revenues from the wealthy. This is not an isolated incident. Richard Murphy, of Tax Research UK, calculates that UK corporations fail to pay a further £12bn a year in taxes they legally owe, while the rich avoid or evade up to £120bn.
Middle class students in the UK are literally being priced out of an education right now, and yet multi-billion dollar companies are permitted to cheat Britain out of tax money simply because they’re managed to bribe the correct leaders into doing their bidding.
It’s enough to make one want to don masks and chase shoppers around a store.
In addition to Nobel Prize-winning economists like Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz saying austerity during a recession doesn’t work, and the ample evidence in Ireland and the Baltics that retraction is tantamount to death by a thousand cuts, for whatever reason these kinds of measures also aren’t very popular.
The way Evi Simopoulou sees it, the austerity measures imposed on Greece as a condition of a $150 billion rescue package punish everyone for the government’s failures.
“We didn’t eat the money,” said Ms. Simopoulou, a 29-year-old computer programmer from Athens. “They ate the money.”
As the Prime Minister George Papandreou struggles to convince the world that he has what it takes to push through the reforms to keep Greece competitive and the Euro strong, there is one main obstacle in his path: Greeks.
Although he has so far stayed the course, many are furious about the reforms, which have raised taxes, lowered salaries and left them with a pervasive feeling that they are caught in the cogs of larger economic forces. Their anger has spilled over into waves of street protests, incuding one in May in which three people died.
God, poor people are so stupid. They just have to understand that they are financially responsible for bailing out their country in the aftermath of happy time at Wall Street casinos located roughly five thousand miles to their west. It’s time for everyone to suck it up and pay a little more so elites in the Hamptons don’t have to sell their extra yacht.
Why is this so difficult for Greeks to accept?
The problem is we don’t have a great communicator running the show. I wish Ronald Reagan was still alive, you guys.