July 13, 2012
OMB Urges Congress to Pass Balanced Budget to Avoid Automatic Spending Cuts: Office of Management and Budget Director Jeffrey Zients this week urged Congress to pass a balanced budget for fiscal 2013 to avoid deep automatic spending cuts known as sequestration, which was called for under the 2011 bipartisan Budget Control Act (BCA). In an op-ed published July 10 in Politico, Zients said lawmakers are asking OMB to come up with reports on the effects of the sequestration, but they already knew it would be destructive when they passed the BCA last year. Zients said a lot of attention has been given to the impact on Defense spending, but the effect on domestic programs has been largely ignored. For example, there will be fewer FBI agents, border patrol officers and transportation safety staff. Nearly 700,000 young children and mothers would lose nutrition assistance. More than 25,000 teachers and aides would lose their jobs. Hundreds of national parks would be closed in whole or in part. Sequestration, Zients said, wasn’t meant to be implemented; it was designed to force Congress to agree on a balanced budget to help reduce the deficit.
“The truth is that no amount of planning or reports will turn the sequester into anything other than the devastating cut in defense and domestic investments that it was meant to be,” he wrote. “What’s needed is action to avoid the sequester by passing balanced deficit reduction that the president can sign into law, not searching for ways to cushion the blow on defense — and nondefense — programs.”
Seasonal Firefighters to Be Allowed to Buy Federal Health Insurance: The administration this week announced its plan to allow seasonal firefighters to join the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), just like other federal employees, following national news reports that these firefighters risk their lives to help others but they themselves don’t have health insurance as they’re considered part-timers.
“Federal firefighters are putting their lives at risk every day across the country,” John Berry, director of the Office of Personnel Management, told reporters. “When the President returned from his trip to Colorado, he directed us to solve the problem of extending access to the FEHBP for those firefighters.”
President Calls for Tax Cuts for the Middle Class, Small Businesses: The President this week called on Congress to extend tax cuts for the 98 percent of Americans who make less than $250,000 for another year. This will help small businesses as 97 percent of small businesses fall under the $250,000 threshold, the president said. If Congress doesn’t act, the typical middle-class family of four will see their taxes go up by $2,200 on January 1.
The president wants the Bush tax cuts for those making over $250,000 including himself to expire. Those making over $250,000 should pay the same rates they paid under Bill Clinton when the economy created nearly 23 million new jobs with the biggest budget surplus in history.
Anticipating the right wing’s false claim that his plan would tax “job creators”, the president said since 2001, Congress passed trillions of dollars in tax cuts that mostly benefited the wealthiest Americans and big corporations with hopes that they would create jobs and economic prosperity for everybody. That didn’t happen. What we had instead was the slowest job growth in half a century.
“The wealthy got wealthier, but most Americans struggled,” he said. “And in just a few years, we went from record surpluses under Bill Clinton to record deficits that we are now struggling to pay off today. So we don’t need more top-down economics. We’ve tried that theory. We’ve seen what happened.”
Right-Wing House Lawmakers Vote to Repeal Health Care Law -- Again: Right-wing House lawmakers this week voted again to repeal the new health care law that extends insurance coverage to more than 30 million uninsured Americans. The vote, the latest of 30 previous votes to repeal the law, was largely symbolic as the Senate is unlikely to follow in their misguided footsteps. It was their first vote after the Supreme Court upheld the law two weeks ago.
Right-Wing Governors Vow to Deny Health Insurance to Millions of Uninsured Americans: The governors of Texas, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina and a few other states have vowed to deny health insurance coverage to millions of newly eligible people under the new health care law. The governors promised to reject the Medicaid expansion and the federal subsidies the states are supposed to get to fund the expansion. In Texas and Florida alone, three million of the potential Medicaid beneficiaries won’t get coverage.
But the consequences of the governors’ refusal to accept federal funds go beyond the uninsured. Hospitals in these states could face a financial crisis as they are required to treat everyone who walks in, including those without insurance. The states with the governors that promised to reject the Medicaid expansion and the federal funds that come with it are the same states with the highest number of uninsured patients.
Banksters, Part II: After Wall Street pulled off one of the greatest investment scams in history that brought down the entire financial system resulting in the current recession, the financial industry has once again shown the world how corrupt and greedy it could be. Sixteen banks in Europe, Japan and United States are under investigation for rigging the London interbank lending rate known as Libor – benchmark used to set all kinds of interest rates globally. Libor is set by the British Bankers’ Association through a daily poll of the banks. BBA throws out the lowest and highest 25 percent of the submissions then takes the average of the rest to determine Libor rates. There are 18 banks that submit rates for the U.S. dollar Libor.
The blanket investigation came after British lender Barclays admitted to manipulating Libor rates for years to rake in profits. Its trading arm was betting on how interest rates would move over a certain time periods. Traders coordinated with other banks to alter their rates. Barclays also submitted artificially low Libor rates to make itself appear healthier than it actually was during the financial crisis in 2008. The bank was fined more than $450 million by U.S. and British authorities due to the scandal. Its chief executive and chairman resigned. Bank of America, Citigroup, and JP Morgan are among the banks being investigated and accused of conspiring to rig Libor in multiple lawsuits filed by municipalities, pension funds and hedge funds. These are the same banks that have fiercely and successfully fought government regulation, claiming that regulating them will hurt the economy.
This Week in Labor History: July 10, 1946 - Sidney Hillman dies at age 59. He led the Amalgamated Clothing Workers and was a key figure in the founding of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). The CIO merged with the American Federation of Labor to form the AFL-CIO in 1955.
Inside Government: Tune in now to AFGE’s “Inside Government” to learn about a new Bureau of Prisons (BOP) policy that will arm federal correctional officers with pepper spray. The show, which originally aired on Friday, July 13, is now available on demand. AFGE Council of Prison Locals President Dale Deshotel detailed the new BOP pilot program that will allow correctional officers in seven facilities to carry pepper spray, a move AFGE has supported for years. But first, Betsy Myers, former Clinton White House senior advisor and chief operating officer for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, discussed her book, “Take the Lead: Motivate, Inspire, and Bring Out the Best in Yourself and Everyone Around You.” Myers, now the founding director of Bentley University’s Center for Women and Business, shed light on her seven core leadership principles to increase productivity and success. Lastly, AFGE VA Local 1988 Executive Vice President Geddes Scott provided an inside look at the union’s Young Organizing Unionists for the Next Generation (Y.O.U.N.G.) program and encouraged all AFGE members to participate in the program.
Listen LIVE on Fridays at 10 a.m. on 1500 AM WFED in the D.C. area or online at FederalNewsRadio.com.
Quote of the Week
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina on why it’s okay for the rich to hide assets overseas to avoid paying taxes:
“It's really American to avoid paying taxes, legally."