Archive: 02/2013

TAKE ACTION | Demand an Audit of the Pentagon

For over 20 years, government auditors have been unable to determine where the Pentagon’s money goes.

The Pentagon budget has increased by almost ten percent annually since 2001. Military spending consumes virtually half of the federal government’s discretionary budget. (One out of every two of our tax dollars.) And yet, in a problem going back decades, the Government Accountability Office has been unable to complete a financial audit of the Pentagon due to its shabby bookkeeping.

In 2011, the Department of Defense’s own Inspector General reported “material internal control weaknesses ... that affect the safeguarding of assets, proper use of funds, and impair the prevention and identification of fraud, waste and abuse.”

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The Debt Ceiling, a Trillion Dollar Coin, and Our Children's Future

by Hendrik Van den Berg
UNL Professor of Economics

Even with Congress’ three-month lifting of the debt ceiling, sometime this spring we will again bump into this arbitrarily set limit on how much total debt the U.S. Treasury is allowed to incur. Congress has routinely voted to raise the ceiling, but each vote to raise the ceiling meant politicians could again argue about raising the debt limit a few months or years later. To many people, the debt ceiling debate may seem like just another contrived case of partisan posturing. Unfortunately, the argument over the debt ceiling has grave implications. This brief explanation of the debt ceiling will take you into politics, modern money theory and our children’s future. So, yes, the stakes in the debt ceiling debate are high.

First, Some Background on the Debt Ceiling

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Don't cut Medicare, Cut the Pentagon!

The following message was distributed by Peace Action, the national Peace & Justice organization with which Nebraskans for Peace is affiliated. Given the ongoing debate in Washington over the federal budget, this issue could not be more timely and we urge you to contact your member of Congress and your two Senators.

When Congress came to a deal over the budget negotiations earlier this month, they finally agreed to make the top 1% pay their fair share. It was a huge victory, but noticeably absent from the deal was what to do with the $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts. Instead Congress gave themselves a two-month extension to hammer out a deal. We are joining with US Action to call for cuts in runaway Pentagon spending.

This could be our best opportunity to rein in Pentagon spending. We simply have to stop paying for the things we don’t need so that we can afford the things we do – like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. With a deadline of March 1st, lobbyists representing fat cat Pentagon contractors are already circling the halls of Congress to ensure they get the best deal.

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The Greenest Legislative Agenda Ever

The 2013 Unicameral Session will go down as the ‘Year of Clean Energy.’ A dozen substantive bills dealing with renewable energy, energy efficiency and climate change have been introduced—making this year’s legislative agenda easily the ‘greenest’ on record. For those of us seeking action on climate change, this is the opportunity we’ve been hoping for. For the first time ever at the Statehouse, we’ll get to publicly make the case for reducing our carbon footprint by building a green economy. Instead of sending our utility dollars out of state to buy dirty Wyoming coal, we can be investing in our own clean wind and solar resources, creating local wealth and jobs, and protecting the health of both ourselves and the ecosystem.

Much of the credit for this uptick of legislative interest in green energy, though, can be traced back to the reelection last November of the Legislature’s leading environmentalist: State Senator Ken Haar. During his first term, Sen. Haar led the effort to reroute the Keystone XL pipeline away from the Sandhills, championed the legislation promoting large wind farm development in the state, and engineered the passage of a ‘net-metering’ bill to encourage residential-scale renewable energy generation. Step by deliberate step, he was laying the groundwork for a comprehensive green energy agenda.

His bid for reelection though (against a well-financed right-wing opponent) was to become the fight of his political life. Over the course of a costly and physically grueling year-long campaign, Sen. Haar raised and spent more than $232,000—smashing the previous spending record for a legislative race as he tried to match his opponent’s deep pockets. (Counting the expenditures of independent political committees, upwards to $1 million may have been spent on this race for an office that pays $12,000 a year.) Despite these hitherto-unheard-of spending figures, his victory margin Election Night was so slim he had to wait a week for the provisional ballots to be counted before he knew for certain he’d won. By 85 votes. Out of a total 13,653 cast.

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Tell Senators to Say 'NO' to LB 405

On Wednesday, February 6, 2013, the Revenue Committee of the Nebraska Legislature will be holding a hearing on the first of the governor's tax overhaul bills. LB 405, introduced by Senator Beau McCoy on behalf of the governor, would eliminate corporate and individual income tax. Tax revenue lost to the state from the income tax, would be made up by eliminating an array of current tax exemptions such as those allowed for non-profit organizations, religious organizations, prescription drugs, medical equipment (including oxygen, mobility devices and prosthetics), hospital rooms, dorm rooms, agricultural seed, machinery and chemicals, and others.

If you would like to contact the Revenue Committee regarding this bill, committee members are:

Senator Galen Hadley, Committee Chair: (402) 471-2726,
Senator Tom Hansen: (402) 471-2729,
Senator Burke Harr: (402) 471-2722,
Senator Charlie Janssen: (402) 471-2625,
Senator Beau McCoy: (402) 471-2885, (the bill's introducer)
Senator Pete Pirsch: (402) 471-2621,
Senator Paul Schumacher: (402) 471-2715,
Senator Kate Sullivan: (402) 471-2631,

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