Archive: 11/2011

Not in My Backyard, Not on My Planet

by Bruce Johansen

A friend, Professor Henry D'Souza (who is well-known around Nebraskans for Peace), told me that he had watched parts of the Unicameral hearings on the Keystone XL Pipeline. He remarked at how limited the focus of the hearings seemed to be, as if we are dealing mainly with a routing issue for the pipeline, not the larger issue, the introduction of a whole new (and very large) pool of fossil fuels, by way of Alberta’s tar sands.

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Urge the Congressional Supercommittee

(and our Nebraska federal officials)
To Cut Military Spending —
Not Funding for Domestic Programs

With just one week to go, Congress’s ‘supercommittee’ is racing to come up with a bipartisan plan to reduce the federal deficit by $1.2 trillion over the next decade.

On the table for discussion are cuts in military spending and domestic programs like Medicare, Social Security and education, as well as higher taxes for the wealthy.

Congressional failure to adopt a plan yet this year will trigger automatic cuts of $500 billion to the Pentagon and an equal amount on domestic spending.

The Pentagon is wailing that it’s already agreed to cut its budget by $450 billion over the next ten years — and that another $500 billion in cuts would leave America militarily weak and defenseless.

But as NFP has repeatedly argued this past year, Congress could easily cut our national security budget in half — by $500 billion A YEAR! — and America would still be the greatest military power on earth. Between the unnecessary weapons systems, our superfluous military bases in Germany and Japan, and the Pentagon’s chronic inability to account for literally trillions in appropriations, we’re just throwing money at the military nowadays.

As Lawrence Korb, an assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan Administration, just stated in the New York Times November 9, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta

grossly exaggerates when he says it would be disastrous if projected levels of defense spending are reduced by an additional $500 billion if the bipartisan ‘supercommittee’ deadlocks and automatic cuts go into effect. Adding $500 billion to the $450 billion already being cut would mean total reductions of $950 billion over the next decade, or about 15 percent…

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How Not to Make the World Go Away


First a couple of bits and pieces:

• Rep. Jeff Fortenberry has publicly rescinded his pledge to anti-government activist Grover Norquist to oppose any tax increases (see the last “Speaking our Peace”). He deserves our thanks for this gutsy act. May the other members of Nebraska’s congressional delegation soon follow his example.

• Four NFP State Board directors met with Sen. Mike Johanns about the need to cut military spending. The senator told us that the climate in Washington is ripe for reducing the military budget, but did not say he would do anything. With Congress looking to slash $1.2 trillion in federal spending over the next ten years, the annual $1.2 trillion we spend on national security should be the first item to be cut.

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What's Wrong with Washington?

by Hank Van den Berg
UNL Professor of Economics

While attending two economics conferences in the United Kingdom this summer, I was repeatedly confronted by economists from other countries wanting to know: “What is wrong with Washington?” They were concerned that the debt ceiling would not be raised and a U.S. default would trigger another global financial crisis. My explanations ranged from “I know, it’s really stupid” to “You have to understand American politics”.

Indeed, the debt ceiling debate is a very American phenomenon. We are one of the only countries that has a debt ceiling. More mature countries have figured out that when a legislature debates expenditures and taxes, it directly effects the government’s budget balance and, therefore, its total outstanding debt. A separate debt ceiling is superfluous. But in the United States, we like political theater, so we first have a long emotional political debate about the debt ceiling without actually getting into any substantive discussions on expenditures and taxes. Then, we repeat the whole exercise and actually sort of debate budget items. This way, of course, we can get twice the political mileage out of the subject. The news media loves it!

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We need to keep turning up the heat on our elected officials. Attend these citizen events associated with the Special Legislative Session. This information is provided by our friends at Bold Nebraska.

The timeline is tight at the Capitol, and there are crucial days when we need citizens showing up and speaking out.

Citizen Special Session Read more