Tag Archives | budget

Balancing the Federal Checkbook: Planes, yes; Plans, no.

There was a great chart in Sunday’s New York Times that listed the problems facing various Pentagon building projects: boats with aluminum superstructures that will burn like kleenex if they’re bombed; big ships that would be sitting ducks to flying attacks; the list goes on and on.  And the price tags? On this chart, which is far from exhaustive, the lowest price tag is $30 billion dollars. Billion, not million. (Notice me not saying anything about how most of these egregiously over-budget and under-thought projects were initiated during Dubya’s tenure. See? Not saying it.)

Should we even think–even dabble our toes for a minute in the water of “what if”–about what thirty billion dollars could do to the federal budget? The budget for the Head Start program, for example, is 8 billion dollars. And the Republicans want to trim $2 billion from that amount. One of the budget-cutting champions is Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, a state that’s really against federal funding, most of the time (but that’s a bridge we’ll cross later). Alaska’s Head Start program praised Murkowski a while back as a long-time supporter of Head Start. I guess Murkowski has changed her definition of “support” to mean something closer to “gut.”

And then today, in a report about the approaching budget stand-off in Congress, Representative Jim Jordon, a whippersnapper from Ohio who is going to snap that budget into shape yessiree, is quoted as saying that “we need to stop sending taxpayer dollars to Planned Parenthood and we need to defund Obamacare.”

Hmm. Planned Parenthood gets about $75 million from the federal government. In Pentagon terms, $75 million is not quite enough to buy a windshield for one airplane.

I’m not the first one to make this point, god knows, but it seems like a point worth repeating: why is it that the budget needs to be “balanced” on the backs of the poor? Eric Cantor, House Majority Leader, and one of the leaders in the “take no prisoners” school of budget cuts, makes an estimated salary of almost $200,000. In New York City, that’s almost four teacher salaries.

Now, it’s true, I’m an English professor by training and math is not my forte, god knows.  But even I know that if we’re dealing with a budget deficit of $1.4 trillion, trimming $75 million ain’t gonna get you much. A proverbial drop in the proverbial leaky bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza.  But what would cutting the Ballistic Missile Defense program get you?

$135 billion dollars. That, my friends, is some coin.

Congress just approved a three-week spending stopgap measure that sidesteps a government shutdown, but one of those Hard Right newbies in Congress, who congratulates himself on being “independent minded,” says that he can’t in good conscience approve a budget with monies in it for Planned Parenthood. He says his job is to “vote for America’s best interest” and “to protect America from bankruptcy.”

$75 million will bankrupt a budget but $135 billion won’t?

That’s the kind of addition that earned me a D in high school math.

Continue Reading · on March 15, 2011 in Education, NaBloPoMo, Politics

The Emperor’s New Clothes

Wisconsin’s Governor Walker claims that “we can no longer live in a society where the public employees are the haves and the taxpayers who foot the bills are the have-nots.”

Congressman Pence from New Jersey thinks that there are two kinds of rape: forcible rape and then just plain ol’rape. [whoops, that’s Congressman Smith from NJ who wanted the “forcible rape” language. Pence is the Congressman who, along with Congressman Boehner, thinks Planned Parenthood is a waste of money. Thanks Mom, for pointing out my mistakes. Lovingly, of course]

Congressman Boehner thinks that the $75 million dollars in the federal budget for Planned Parenthood should be axed in order to help balance the budget.

Teachers are being blamed for living too high on the hog, given that they only work nine months out of the year.

People still think that Obama is a Muslim and Rush Limbaugh thinks that Michelle Obama isn’t in good shape because she doesn’t look like a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model.

What the fuck is going on?  Is black suddenly white? Is the sky green? Am I suddenly a rich and famous novelist but no one told me? Does this mean I can stop preparing for class and just walk into my classroom on Monday morning and spout bullshit for 75 minutes to my captive audience of college sophomores?

Has everyone in the country forgotten the teachers they loved? Doesn’t anyone remember that public employees also pay taxes? Does anyone know a woman who has been raped who would define her experience as anything other than “forced?” Does anyone think that $75 million is going to solve the country’s budget problems? Does anyone know a woman (or hell, a man) who wouldn’t kill to have Michelle Obama’s sinewy arms? No tricep jiggle on that lady, Rush–can we say the same of you?

I swear it’s like we’re living in a national version of “The Emperor Has No Clothes,” with the Republicans playing the roles of the crafty con men who pretend to be tailors in order to bilk the foolish emperor of his fortune.  They tell the Emperor they’ve brought him beautiful, very special cloth, which is invisible to anyone who is incompetent or unfit for his job.  They show him silks and satins, ruffles and sashes, and pretend to create an elaborate new suit for him.  The Emperor doesn’t want to be taken for a fool and no one wants to insult the Emperor by contradicting him, so everyone goes along with the fraud.  When the outfit is “done,” the Emperor and his entire retinue parade through the streets of the city so the Emperor can show off his new finery.

The country is being draped in invisible cloth and we’re being told that it’s beautiful cloth, magical cost-cutting cloth, cloth that’s going to make us all healthy and domestic and virtuous and abortion-free and rid us of those pesky money-sucking employees who are slowly sucking our life’s blood. So I guess this cloth is leech-resistant, too.

And then when the country has been fully draped in this Tea Bagged cloth, we parade around in our new finery and the world will laugh at us:  stripped of our ability to educate our children, stripped of reproductive freedoms, unable to insure ourselves, unable to walk into a public space (or hell, even a classroom) without fear of being surrounded by people carrying concealed weapons.

Is our country really going to keep listening to–and believing–these purveyors of fraud, who would have us believe that it’s teachers, postal workers, and firemen who are the crux of our budget problems, and not bazillionaires like the Koch brothers, whose gold-plated fingers are in way too many pies?

At the end of the tale, a little boy steps out of the crowd and says to the Emperor, “you’re not wearing any clothes!”

But the Emperor is too proud to admit he made a mistake and marches on, his fat ass swinging in the breeze.

So what’s it going to be, folks? The little boy yelling the truth or the bare-assed Emperor?

I think this is one instance where it’s good not to be king.

image from The World’s Fairy Tales, Harrap, London.

Continue Reading · on March 5, 2011 in Education, Feminism, Politics


Along time ago, the late 1980s, to be exact, I went with my college friends to Washington DC. We’d graduated a few years earlier, from college in Boston, and weren’t roommates any more, but we gathered at S.’s house for a mini-reunion weekend just around Halloween.

The reason for our pilgrimage?  A pro-choice rally. We were instructed to wear white, as the suffragists did in their marches for equality–our white t-shirts say “Choice!” on them.

We thought this march would be the final march. It was 1989 and we were optimistic twenty-somethings in high tops and a lot of hair.

Now all of us are moms and I’m not sure any of us still have high-tops, but today in New York (and elsewhere in the country) was another march for choice, in support of Planned Parenthood. Seems there are some Republicans in Congress who think that the $75 million dollars allotted to Planned Parenthood in the federal budget will be the salvation of the country’s economic woes. I think that’s what my old therapist used to call “magical thinking.”

I wanted to go to the rally today but I had to stay home and help Liam with a big social studies project that’s due on Tuesday (hasn’t he had all the previous vacation week to work on that, you might ask? Why yes, in fact, he has. But that’s a post for another day).  I sat and listened to him talk about his project, offered some help with scissors and glue, and actually we had sort of a nice time.

It would be funny–if it weren’t so tragic–that those who would strip funding from Planned Parenthood don’t have any alternatives for the babies produced from unwanted pregnancies. Will there be funding to feed, clothe, and educate those children? Will there be a parent or care-giver waiting for those children, someone who will give up a Saturday afternoon to help cut out pictures about the Sahara Desert?  Seems like still more magical (okay, nightmarish) thinking, frankly: we’ll make women bear children they don’t want, can’t care for, or have life-destroying illnesses…and then not fund schools, hospitals, day care centers, or health care.

Parents unable to care for children, children with few or no options, the social safety net in tatters. Is that how we’re defining “family values” now?

(Hey! I’ve got a post up on technorati.com, too.)

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Continue Reading · on February 27, 2011 in Feminism, NYC, Politics

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