Sequester and Budget Solutions
Stop Funding War, Stop Paying the Rich and Increase Funding for Social Programs!
The billions in cuts required by the sequester are set to begin. While the expected layoffs and forced unpaid days off may not start for a few weeks, what is clear is that none of the proposals by those in governance begin by defending the rights of the people. That is the first responsibility of government — to provide for the well-being of the people, which can be done by defending the rights of all. Instead, the people, especially federal and state workers, like teachers, are a main target of the sequester cuts.
In addition, no rational argument is being provided as to why the $85 billion demanded in cuts for this year are even needed. How do such cuts put the economy on a human-centered footing, instead of a war economy? This is the direction the majority support. Why are debt payments to the financiers sacred, while wages, healthcare, retirement funds, are all up for grabs? Repeatedly we are told the deficit must be cut and the only issue is whether it is done in a “sensible” way, as Obama calls for, or a “dumb” way, as he calls Congressional proposals and the sequester cuts. But no serious debate on solutions is permitted. No one is even to think that solutions other then massive cuts to lower the “deficit” are valid. Indeed, we are not to think at all.
The whole battle is designed to hide the alternative that serves the economy and the public good: Stop Funding War, Stop Paying the Rich, Increase Funding for Social Programs. Ending war funding and bringing all the troops home would immediately provide hundreds of billions in funds while contributing to the security of all, abroad and at home. Ending all the many schemes to pay the rich, with tax loopholes among the least of such measures, would do the same. Simply freezing all debt payments is a good start. The stand to stop war funding and stop paying the rich is one that directs government away from the capital-centered war economy and toward a human-centered economy. Serious investigation and debate on such a new direction for the economy, a direction that contributes to defending rights at home and abroad is what would assist in uniting all those opposing the cuts and seeking to defend rights.
Increasing funding for social programs also directs the economy in a human-centered direction. Many of the sequester cuts now planned attack the most vulnerable, such as women, children and seniors. Much of the talk has centered on the impact to the military — even though all those in uniform are exempted from cuts and furloughs. The same cannot be said for the most vulnerable and federal and state workers. By increasing funding for social programs, the economy is directed away from funding war and toward funding the needs of the people.
The problem is not a choice between “sensible” and “dumb” cuts. The problem is the necessity for a new direction for the economy and for political affairs. Congress has shown itself to be dysfunctional. But the direction for political affairs Obama is planning is for unfettered executive power, including control of the purse strings. This is a very dangerous direction for the people of the U.S. and for humanity. It is directly contrary to what is needed, which is a new direction for political affairs that puts governing by the people themselves front and center.
It is the people themselves who should have the political power to decide the budget, war and all matters that impact their lives. As experience with drone warfare and kill lists and indefinite detention already indicates, the direction Obama is proposing means far more anarchy, violence and lawlessness. It must be vigorously opposed by the organized resistance of the working class and people. Our duty is to defend the rights of all and advance the fight for a new direction for the economy and political affairs. Let no one be derailed from this fight for a new direction! Let all stand as one to organize to Stop Funding War, Stop Paying the Rich, Increase Funding for Social Programs.
On March 1 Congress did not meet its deadline to pass a budget making more than $1.2 trillion in cuts, mostly to social programs, over the next ten years. The cuts are known this time not as a “fiscal cliff,” that had to be avoided, but instead a “sequester” (defined as a general cut to government spending). Now $85 billion in across the board cuts to social programs and defense are to take place by the end of the fiscal year in October 2013. As well, the failure to pass a budget is being used as further evidence that Congress is completely dysfunctional when it comes to budget matters.
It is notable that in all the talk about how divisive things are in Congress, both sides agree the sequester is not in any way to harm troops engaged in war. While there is talk that defense cuts may harm military readiness, there is no talk about ending war funding and bringing all troops home as a solution, something that would more than cover the whole $85 billion and contribute to peace.
Instead, the hundreds of thousands of civilian Pentagon workers are going to be the first and hardest hit, forced to take unpaid days off (furloughs). This is a direct attack on their wages, for some perhaps as much as a 20 percent cut. It is also the case that Pentagon department heads can pick and choose who gets the furloughs, based on an arbitrary designation of who is “most needed” for “national security” reasons. The sequester is thus being used to undermine and effectively eliminate contracts, with defined wages and seniority, while pitting workers against each other. Similar furloughs are expected for federal workers in other departments.
According to a union representative of federal workers, 82 percent of respondents in a recent survey said they would have difficulty paying for rent, utilities and food expenses, while 63 percent said they would need to take money out of savings or retirement accounts to make ends meet. Federal workers have already been forced to accept $103 billion in cuts in the name of “deficit” reduction, in the form of pay freezes for the past three years and reduced retirement benefits for future hires.
In addition, according to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Report to Congress on the cuts required by the sequestration there will be a 2 percent cut to Medicare and 5.1 percent cuts to other non-exempt nondefense mandatory programs. Cuts to education are expected to cause as many as 40,000 teachers and staff to be laid off or fired. More than half a million women and children across the U.S. will no longer have access to food aid due to reductions in the Women, Infants and Children program. Overall it is expected that the most immediate attacks will be on the workers themselves and on the people who need the social services they provide.
It remains to be seen whether plans to cut Social Security by changing the way cost of living increases are calculated, something supported by Obama and Republicans, will now occur. Attacking seniors by raising the retirement age to 67, and raising its corresponding eligibility for Medicare, may also be part of up coming deals.
Will Obama Seize Control Of Purse Strings?
While Obama opposed the sequester and made various other proposals, all including significant cuts to social programs, he did not take executive action to block it. Instead he repeatedly made predictions about its impact on the economy and defense, with his administration using words like “harsh,” “painful,” “disruptive” and “destructive.” While providing this groundwork of stopping “destructive,” and “painful” cuts as justification to intervene, it appears at present that Obama is biding his time in moving more decisively to put control of the purse strings in the hands of the executive.
Control of the budget is one of the few powers Congress has still retained, but their continued failure to actually pass a budget, beyond the separate bill needed for the Pentagon, which always passes, has further discredited them. The dysfunction of Congress is such that news reports in the week leading up to the March 1 deadline talked about both sides proposing “bills meant to fail.”
The sequester itself follows the “fiscal cliff,” which followed the battle over raising the deficit ceiling in 2011, a battle that produced the cuts now required. That deal was said to be a means to force Congress to pass a budget with more measured cuts. Instead it was designed to impose one crisis after the other by requiring trillions in cuts for “deficit” reduction. Congress always comes out as dysfunctional and discredited while the notion that the deficit simply must be cut is endlessly repeated.
At this point, the next crisis may be the end of March, when a bill providing emergency funding to keep government functioning is required. Or it may be in May, when yet another battle on the deficit ceiling will arise. Or the crisis may take the form of Obama stating, as cuts to the Pentagon are implemented, that they have created a threat to national security and as president he must act because Congress cannot.
In this direction, Obama is continuing to develop his coalition of centrists while also appealing directly to the people to support him against Congress. Hagel, his pick for Secretary of Defense is considered a centrist. As well, speaking in Newport News, Virginia February 26, at the manufacturing plant where the Navy’s nuclear submarines and other ships are built, Obama emphasized that he had two centrists standing with him. These were Republican Scott Rigell of the House and Democrat Bobby Scott of the Senate.
Saying he is ready to compromise and that there is a “sensible way to reduce the deficit” Obama added, “There are leaders in both parties throughout this country who want to do the same. I’ve got to give Scott Rigell credit. He is one of your Republican congressmen who’s with us here today — and that’s not always healthy for a Republican, being with me. But the reason he’s doing it is because he knows it’s important to you. And he’s asked his colleagues in the House to consider closing tax loopholes instead of letting these automatic cuts go through. He’s concerned about the deficit, and he’s more than prepared to make some really tough cuts, but he wants to do it in a smart way. Bobby Scott — same thing. Some of the cuts we’ve proposed, Bobby might not think are perfect, but he knows that we’ve got to make some tough decisions.” In this manner, Obama continues to put in place conditions, including justifications, for people inside and outside of Congress to support executive actions to seize control of the purse strings. Such a move poses grave dangers to the peoples at home and abroad, as it provides unlimited funding for Obama’s lawless state, with its drone warfare. It also goes against the requirement of modern democracy, which is that the people themselves are empowered to govern and decide the budget and all matters of the economy, war, environment and political affairs.
Hagel Confirmed as Secretary of Defense
Chuck Hagel, former Republican Senator from Nebraska, was confirmed as Obama’s Secretary of Defense on February 27. The Senate vote was 58-41, representing continued opposition in Congress. As leading Republican Senator John Coryn of Texas put it, Hagel “will take office with the weakest support of any defense secretary in modern history.” His predecessor, Leon M. Panetta, a Clinton Democrat, was confirmed on a 100-0 vote.
Hagel’s choice by Obama in part reflects his effort to have his main cabinet officers work as a single team, without rivalry. His first cabinet, with Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State and Robert Gates, who also served under Bush as Secretary of Defense, was known as a “cabinet of rivals.” As Clinton put it in a joint interview with Obama on Sixty Minutes, “We’re going to have an open discussion. We’re going to push each other hard. There are going to be times where we have some vigorous disagreements. Once the president makes a decision though we’re going to go out there and execute.” Obama added, “We had a lot of very strong personalities around the table.” Clinton’s role was such that she served as a “dual president,” often executing her own foreign policy. It was a cabinet of colluding and contending rivalries.
Hagel, on the other hand, is not a strong personality, not a world figure. Neither is Obama’s confirmed Secretary of State, John Kerry. Both will execute without disagreement. They represent the fact that at this stage of Obama’s efforts to consolidate unfettered executive powers, his cabinet is one of “teamwork,” not rivalry. This also means that the intensifying rivalry among U.S. ruling factions will likely play itself out in other arenas. And that Obama has enough confidence to impose a cabinet that does not contain representatives of those factions, something that could make him reckless as he pursues U.S. empire-building. Additionally these two choices lessen the role of the Navy in the administration (Gates was their representative) and more generally as Obama makes drone warfare central.
The continued opposition in Congress in part reflects that Obama is completing elimination of the role of Congress when it comes to waging war. There is a strong push among some in Congress, for example, to send troops into Syria and to attack Iran. Hagel and Kerry are both choices for more diplomatic maneuvering, coupled with potential drone warfare, in relation to these countries. They are an indication that Obama may well work out a deal with Iran. Similarly, the refusal to provide more weapons to forces inside Syria is also an indication of this direction. Obama has a cabinet that will back him on these matters and also defend his use of unfettered powers however he sees fit.
The confirmation hearings also further showed that the stage is being set for promoting “centrists,” which Hagel certainly is, while condemning extremists. For example, freshman Senator Ted Cruz of Texas was given the okay to grill Hagel. Cruz was one of only three Senators who voted against Kerry’s nomination. He reiterated the stand that Hagel was not sufficiently supportive of Israel and opposed the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (he did not vote in favor of the Bush and Obama surges). But Cruz then went further, essentially accusing Hagel of being an agent of a foreign power: “It is at a minimum relevant to know if that $200,000 that he deposited in his bank account came directly from Saudi Arabia, came directly from North Korea.” Cruz said he had no evidence on the matter but pursued the questioning anyway.
A representative of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the main neo-conservative think tank and one that has long favored invading Iran, supported the questioning of Hagel’s finances. But also called Cruz’s efforts McCarthy-esque, meaning they echoed the McCarthyite witch hunts against progressives, trade unionists and communists in the 1950’s.
It is not unusual to question a nominee’s finances. It is unusual to imply he was paid by a foreign power like North Korea. Cruz has now made such accusations acceptable. At the same time, forces like the AEI call it McCarthyite, that is extreme.
What comes out in the contention over Hagel’s nomination is that Congresspeople are fair game, and not just from forces like Cruz. He is there to push the elimination of serious debate while also making claims of “agents of a foreign power,” much used by McCarthy, acceptable. But it is Obama, and military who wields the powers to indefinitely detain people. Hagel will not be one to act against Obama, but rather one to further consolidate these powers over the military.
Obama Doctrine Promoting Drone Warfare, Global Lawlessness, Anarchy and Violence
U.S. imperialism is codifying in theory and practice the violation of rights and the absolutist dictum “might makes right.”
Something is rotten in the state of the United States of America. The U.S. state is an garbage heap of things rank and gross in nature. The peoples of the world are aghast as they witness the rotting from the head down.
President Obama leaked a White Paper to entice policy discussion on how far to drag this modern country into a global lawless war against everyone including its own citizens. With an interview with John Brennan, Obama’s nominee for director of the CIA, the Senate Intelligence Committee and the mass media led the charge to disinform public opinion so as to make sure there is no organized opposition to the state-organized denial of rights, lawless violence and anarchy. The ensuing policy discussion featured official voices from the U.S. left and right, from conservatives and liberals, from Republicans and Democrats differing only in what constitutes exceptional circumstances when state-organized violation of rights, military and other interference in sovereign states, incarceration without trial and lethal violence are justified.
Not one official voice has protested and declared Obama’s endless drone war and policy discussion to deprive people of their rights as illegal, wrong, unprincipled, backward and immoral, a theory and practice dragging humanity towards catastrophic self-destruction.
Not one official voice has said resolutely and clearly that Obama’s drone war and policy discussion to deprive people of their rights violate principles that have been won throughout the last three hundred years including:
• the enlightenment movement;
• the capitalist revolutions overthrowing obscurantism, hereditary right and petty production of the feudal era;
• the successful revolt of the thirteen British colonies in North America to break with colonial rule and govern themselves;
• the development of the sovereign nation state;
• the 1917 Russian socialist revolution and establishment of the first state ruled by the working class in alliance with the peasantry;
• the 1945 victory in the anti-fascist war;
• and, the proletarianization of the world’s working people and their actions with analysis to affirm their right to be and for a say and control over the direction of the economy and politics.
Not one official voice has said Obama’s drone war and policy discussion to deprive people of their rights violate the modern conception of rights. Rights do not exist on a hereditary basis, conferred by a Divine Power. They do not exist on a natural basis either, whereby ownership of property enshrines better access to some and no access to others. A modern conception of rights defines them according to everything that human beings require to realize the quality of being human. Rights belong to human beings by virtue of their being human. Rights are not privileges that can be violated through executive privilege and royal prerogative. They cannot be given, taken away or forfeited in any way. Violation of rights for whatever reason is unacceptable in the modern era. Violation of rights combined with modern military weapons such as armed drones leads to global disequilibrium and disintegration of entire societies. Such theories and practices of the leader of U.S. imperialism will result in a global arms race and deepening chaos and destruction as other powerful states resort to similar practices in the inter-imperialist and inter-monopoly contention to exploit workers and seize raw materials and spheres of influence within a global lawless atmosphere of anarchy and violence.
The people organized into a united and determined political force led by the working class must deprive President Obama of the power to deprive the peoples of the world of their rights of which importantly is the right to live in peace and security without interference from U.S. imperialism and its military and subversive forces. The people must deprive Obama of the power to wage war on the peoples of the world, which is what he is doing with his theory and practice of drone warfare in the endless U.S. war on terror and drugs.
Security for the people in the modern world lies in their organized fight in defense of the rights of all not in the denial of rights for whatever high-sounding reason. Defense against terrorist and other criminal acts cannot be found in denying rights. Such state-organized denial of rights engenders yet more acts of terror from individuals and gangs aided and abetted by those same states that deny rights and engage in interference and invasions of sovereign nation states and the suppression of rights such as the U.S., Britain and France.
Acts of terror, dirty tricks, false flags and the fomenting of tribal, clan and ethnic violence directed against the people and their societies are committed by dark forces financed and connected with the espionage and military agencies of the U.S. and other states. These criminal acts must be dealt with through diplomacy and legal systems at home and abroad. A state cannot declare war against individuals or groups such as drug gangs or Al Qaida. To do so undermines the legal basis of the state itself exposing it as rotting from the head down, a government unfit to rule and a grave danger to all humanity. To declare a general war on terror or drugs is not credible as it leaves the hidden hand behind the criminal acts unfound, unexposed and unpunished. General wars on terror or drugs are meant to create conditions for big power interference, military pressure and regime change in states that are struggling to affirm their right to be and find a way forward.
No political, economic, social or criminal problem can be resolved through the denial of rights. The modern world cannot survive without principles and a political and legal system to govern relations amongst the peoples and their sovereign nation states. For the U.S. state to practice and codify in theory its violations of principles, rights and international law is to declare itself a lawless state that depoliticizes its own people and relentlessly attacks others. Under conditions of monopoly capitalism, such a state serves the most powerful private interests in opposition to public right. Such a state tramples on political and diplomatic considerations under the dictum “might makes right” spreading an absolutist atmosphere of anarchy and violence. The people living within such a state serving the private interests of the most powerful monopolies and their rich owners are duty bound to deprive the state authority of its power to deprive the world, its peoples and societies of modern principles, politics, laws and rights.
The era of feuding medieval principalities, the slave trade, colonialism, “might makes right” and the absolutist politics of a ruling authority that violated the rights of individuals and peoples with impunity including their right to be was a difficult period through which humanity traveled and fought hard to overcome. To introduce medieval notions and practices into the modern era together with sophisticated and deadly weaponry and mass media is a tragic farce that no one can or should accept. The collective conscience of humanity cannot and does not agree to yet another era of denial of rights and the absolutist dictum “might makes right.” To do so within conditions of modern weaponry would be catastrophic for humanity and Mother Earth herself.
Let us together through organization and resistance deprive those in authority of the power to deprive humanity of its rights. Let us together organize and fight for the awakening of the human factor/social consciousness. The security of the people lies in their organized fight in defense of the rights of all!
Through organization and resistance, the people can bring into being an anti-war government and hold the government to account to give the rights of the people a guarantee, rights that they possess by virtue of being human.
Reject Obama’s Drone Warfare! Our Future Lies in the Fight for the Rights of All Abroad and at Home!