Taxpayer Dollars Spent On Food Stamps Has Doubled Since Obama Took Office – 100% Increase – Estimated Cost Over Next 10 Years Is $770 Billion

June 8, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – The vast majority of federal spending in the Senate farm bill, which is estimated to cost over $100 billion annually, is going toward food stamps, representing a 100 percent increase since President Barack Obama took office, according to Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions.

“This legislation will spend $82 billion on food stamps next year, and an estimated $770 billion over the next ten years. To put these figures in perspective, we will spend $40 billion federal dollars next year on roads and bridges,” said Sessions, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee.

“Food stamp spending has more than quadrupled since the year 2001. It has increased 100 percent since President Obama took office,” he said.

Appeared Here

Advertisements

Broke Suffolk County New York Charging Dog Owners As Much As $13 To Enter “Big Dog” Park While “Small Dog” Park is Free

June 6, 2012

SUFFOLK COUNTY, NEW YORK – Dog owners have been hot under the collar about fees at some Long Island dog parks.

On summer weekends, visitors to the “big dog” play area at West Hills must pay a fee of up to $13 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Big dogs are considered those that weigh more than 25 pounds.

However, visitors to the “small dog” park on the other side of West Hills don’t pay a fee.

“I wouldn’t call it prejudice,” said big dog owner Sidney McNeil. “I just think it’s stupid.”

Some big dog owners, like Lisa LaMorte of Huntington Station, have written county lawmakers, asking for a reduction in the fee. But with Suffolk County facing a huge budget deficit, dog owners seem to be barking up the wrong tree.

“I don’t mind paying something,” said LaMorte. “But what they are asking is too much.”

“I feel sorry for them,” said small dog owner Michael Price. “But I am here in the small dog park and very happy about that.”

According to Suffolk County officials, canine size doesn’t matter at West Hills and is not the reason behind the fees in the “big dog” park.

“The fee charged on the weekends is associated with parking and the amenities offered at the park, which include hiking, picnicking and horseback riding,” said county spokeswoman Vanessa Baird-Streeter. “The fee structure that exists precedes the establishment of the dog park.”

“Honestly, do they really think I am going to pay $13 to bring my dog here?” asked dog owner Julie Schrana. “I can arrange a play date in my backyard.”

Still, other dog owners lamented scaling back their visits to a park they love.

“This is the best dog park on Long Island,” said Laura Lerner, as she held her retriever Maki. “I come here every day and people visit from all over the area.”

Baird-Streeter said anyone wishing to bring their dogs to the park will not incur a fee Monday through Friday and prior to 8 a.m. and after 4 p.m. on weekends.

Appeared Here


Lawmakers Taking United States Down The Road To Financial Ruin – Federal Debt To Double In 15 Years Unless Congress Changes Course On Spending And Taxes

June 5, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – The federal government is staring at a disastrous fiscal picture with debt approaching 200 percent of GDP within two decades if Congress doesn’t change course on spending and taxes, according to the latest analysis by the Congressional Budget Office released Tuesday.

The CBO said it’s the worst picture since a brief period during World War II when spending ballooned to fund the military campaign.

“In the past few years, the federal government has been recording the largest budget deficits since 1945, both in dollar terms and as a share of the economy. Consequently, the amount of federal debt held by the public has surged,” the CBO report said in a long-term budget outlook that paints a shockingly dark picture of government finances.

CBO analysts said the downturn and Congress’s response have been devastating for the government. Federal debt as a percentage of GDP — a standard measure of a government’s debt burden — stood at 40 percent at the end of 2008. But it will top 70 percent by the end of this year, and is only headed higher unless Congress changes course. The ratio could double by the middle of the next decade and will have topped 200 percent of GDP — twice the size of the projected U.S. economy — by 2037.

At that level, fiscal catastrophes are more likely, and the government’s ability to respond becomes far more constrained.

The increases in federal spending will come chiefly from higher interest payments and health care costs. Federal spending on health will nearly double from about 5.4 percent of GDP to 10.4 percent by 2037, according to Tuesday’s report.

Ironically, the nonpartisan budget agency said the deep deficits and debt are not inevitable. If Congress would step out of the way and allow the laws currently on the books — including ever-deeper spending cuts and potentially devastating tax increases — to go into effect, federal debt would begin to shrink almost immediately as a percentage of the economy, as measured by GDP.

But President Obama and lawmakers on Capitol Hill have been reluctant to let the law take its course. Instead, the GOP has fought to permanently extend lower tax rates due to expire, and Democrats have defended existing spending and in many instances called for new spending.

That’s left the country bumping along with deficits of $1 trillion or more each of the last three years. Yet with the economy still weak, lawmakers remain paralyzed as they try to figure out how to act over the long term without harming the economy now.

The budget agency said that may not be possible.

“On the one hand, cutting spending or increasing taxes slowly would lead to a greater accumulation of government debt and might raise doubts about whether longer-term deficit reduction would ultimately take effect,” the CBO report said. “On the other hand, abruptly implementing spending cuts or tax increases would give families, businesses, and state and local governments little time to plan and adjust, and would require more sacrifices sooner from current older workers and retirees for the benefit of younger workers and future generations.”

The report produced hand-wringing and finger-pointing on Capitol Hill.

“The president’s policies are not working,” said House Budget Committee Chairman Paul D. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican. “The sobering reality of our economic challenges require leadership and action. The president and his party’s leaders have failed on both counts.”

But House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, said the primary hurdle is the GOP’s demand that spending cuts fuel any debt solution.

“CBO’s report is a warning that we must get our fiscal house in order by achieving big and balanced deficit reduction that includes both spending and revenues,” he said. “Cutting domestic spending alone won’t work, and it will require both parties working together.”

The CBO’s analysis is a look at long-term budget and economic factors, and gives some interesting snapshots about how both the budget and the economy will change.

Among the agency’s assumptions is that the U.S. population will reach 389 million in 2037 and top 500 million in 2087, with the population skewing ever older.

And older workers tend to work fewer hours, meaning that by 2087 the average number of hours worked per employee in the workforce will be about 2 percent less than in 2022.

The report also projected that the growth in the labor force will slow, keeping economic growth to an average of 2.2 percent over the long-term. But the interest rate on debt will be higher, at an average of 2.7 percent — a reversal from recent years, when economic growth and interest rates were about the same.

The non-partisan scorekeeping agency also put an exact price on the deficit when it comes to savings, saying that for each dollar the deficit rises, national savings is reduced by between 32 cents and 72 cents, and domestic investment is reduced by between 10 cents and 50 cents.

Appeared Here


Hope & Change: Obama Has Outspent Last Five Presidents – COMBINED

June 1, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – President Obama has shelled out more in federal spending than the five presidents that came before him.

A new chart by the Comeback America Initiative (CAI), a non-partisan group dedicated to promoting fiscal responsibility by policymakers, shows federal spending by president as a percentage of GDP, and it doesn’t reflect well on Obama.

“There has been a dramatic increase in spending under the Obama administration,” David Walker, Founder and CEO of CAI, told Whispers. “Most of it is attributable to year one of his presidency and the stimulus… but President Obama has continued to take spending to a new level.”

Federal spending was close to 20 percent under the Carter administration, dropped to 18 percent under Clinton, and is currently at an incredible 24 percent of GDP. According to the Congressional Budget Office, federal spending may hover around 22 percent for the next decade.

Federal spending is also higher this year than any year since 1949. The last time spending was higher—in 1946, it was 24.8—the country was just coming down from the exorbitant rates of spending during World War II.

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has said he would cut federal spending down to just 17 percent of GDP.

President Obama is facing some heat over the economy Friday after a depressing job report showed the jobless rate climbed to 8.2 percent in May.

Appeared Here


Broke: Detroit Michigan May Turn Off Half Its Streetlights

May 24, 2012

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – Detroit, whose 139 square miles contain 60 percent fewer residents than in 1950, will try to nudge them into a smaller living space by eliminating almost half its streetlights.

As it is, 40 percent of the 88,000 streetlights are broken and the city, whose finances are to be overseen by an appointed board, can’t afford to fix them. Mayor Dave Bing’s plan would create an authority to borrow $160 million to upgrade and reduce the number of streetlights to 46,000. Maintenance would be contracted out, saving the city $10 million a year.
Enlarge image Detroit May Go Dark

Detroit after dark, which may go darker. Photographer: Garry Owens/Gallery Stock

Other U.S. cities have gone partially dark to save money, among them Colorado Springs; Santa Rosa, California; and Rockford, Illinois. Detroit’s plan goes further: It would leave sparsely populated swaths unlit in a community of 713,000 that covers more area than Boston, Buffalo and San Francisco combined. Vacant property and parks account for 37 square miles (96 square kilometers), according to city planners.

“You have to identify those neighborhoods where you want to concentrate your population,” said Chris Brown, Detroit’s chief operating officer. “We’re not going to light distressed areas like we light other areas.”

Detroit’s dwindling income and property-tax revenue have required residents to endure unreliable buses and strained police services throughout the city. Because streetlights are basic to urban life, deciding what areas to illuminate will reshape the city, said Kirk Cheyfitz, co-founder of a project called Detroit143 — named for the 139 square miles of land, plus water — that publicizes neighborhood issues.
Rethinking Detroit

“It touches kids going to school in the dark,” said Cheyfitz, chief executive of Story Worldwide Ltd., a New York marketing company. “It touches midnight Mass at a church. It touches businesses that want to stay open past 9 p.m.”

Bing in 2010 began an independent project called Detroit Works to sort ideas on how to reconfigure the city for residences, businesses, green space and even agriculture, a plan due in August.

Meantime, Brown said, the city will fix broken streetlights in certain places even as it discontinues such services as street and sidewalk repairs in “distressed” areas — those with a high degree of blight and little or no commercial activity.

Bing’s plan requires state legislation to create the lighting authority. Governor Rick Snyder supports the plan, said his senior policy adviser, Valerie Brader.
Dark Portents

There’s already experience snuffing out streetlights within Detroit’s borders. Highland Park, a 3-square-mile city encircled by its larger neighbor, removed 1,100 of 1,600 streetlights last year, after piling up a $4 million debt to DTE Energy. The move saves $45,000 a month, said Alejandro Bodipo-Memba, a spokesman for the company.

Only major streets and intersections remain lit in the city of 12,000, once home to Chrysler Group LLC’s namesake car manufacturer and Henry Ford’s first moving assembly line. Mayor DeAndre Windom, 45, said residents at first complained, though few do now. He’s considering grants and private funding to relight darkened streets

Colorado Springs pulled the plug on 9,000 of its 25,600 lights in 2010 to save $1.3 million, said David Krauth, a city traffic engineer. Some were relit as revenue improved, though 3,500 remain dark, saving about $500,000 a year, he said.

In Detroit, some streets have no working lights. Many appear dim or are blocked by trees. And some areas with mostly vacant lots are well-lit.
Night Terrors

A single, broken streetlight on the northeast side brings fear to Cynthia Perry, 55. It hasn’t worked for six years, Perry said in an interview on the darkened sidewalk where she walks from her garage to her house entrance.

“I’m afraid coming in at night,” she said. “I’m not going to seclude myself in the house and never go anywhere.”

In southwest Detroit, businesses on West Vernor Highway, a main commercial thoroughfare, have sought $4 million in private grants to fix the situation themselves. The state would pay $2.5 million, said Kathy Wendler, president of the Southwest Detroit Business Association.

Jamahl Makled, 40, said he’s owned businesses in southwest Detroit for about two decades, most recently cell-phone stores. He said they’ve have been burglarized more than a dozen times.

“In the dark, criminals are comfortable,” Makled said. “It’s not good for the economy and the safety of the residents.”
Antique Lamps

North of there, on a stretch of West Grand Boulevard, the bases of light poles show where thieves tore out the wiring.

As many as 15,000 Detroit streetlights use 1920s technology, according to a 2010 study by McKinsey & Co. Upgrading the system would cost $140 million to $200 million, and $5 million more to operate than the $23 million now spent annually, the report said.

Besides streetlights, the Detroit lighting department provides electricity to 144 customers that include Detroit schools, Wayne State University and local government offices. Almost 22 percent of the city’s electric bills were unpaid, the McKinsey report said.

That’s just one reason Detroit is digging out of a $265 million deficit and saddled with more than $12 billion in long- term debt. To avoid a state takeover, Detroit agreed in April to have its finances overseen by a nine-member board appointed by the city and the state.
Civic Obligations

Delivering services to a thinly spread population is expensive. Some 20 neighborhoods, each a square mile or more, are only 10 to 15 percent occupied, said John Mogk, a law professor at Wayne State University who specializes in urban law and policy. He said the city can’t force residents to move, and it’s almost impossible under Michigan law for the city to seize properties for development.

Mogk said landowners can demand many times what property would fetch on the open market.

“There are tremendous political, administrative, financial and, to some degree, legal obstacles,” Mogk said. “Unless you phase out a neighborhood altogether, you still need lighting, and waste pickup and police and fire protection.”

As Detroit’s streets go dark, some of those neighborhoods may fade away with the dying light.

Appeared Here


Federal Accounting Slight Of Hand Hides Real Federal Deficit: $5 Trillion Last Year – Four Times What Congress Reported – Equal To $42,054 Per Household

May 24, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – The typical American household would have paid nearly all of its income in taxes last year to balance the budget if the government used standard accounting rules to compute the deficit, a USA TODAY analysis finds.

Under those accounting practices, the government ran red ink last year equal to $42,054 per household — nearly four times the official number reported under unique rules set by Congress.

A U.S. household’s median income is $49,445, the Census reports.

The big difference between the official deficit and standard accounting: Congress exempts itself from including the cost of promised retirement benefits. Yet companies, states and local governments must include retirement commitments in financial statements, as required by federal law and private boards that set accounting rules.

The deficit was $5 trillion last year under those rules. The official number was $1.3 trillion. Liabilities for Social Security, Medicare and other retirement programs rose by $3.7 trillion in 2011, according to government actuaries, but the amount was not registered on the government’s books.
Contrasting deficits

The federal government calculates the deficit in a way that makes the number smaller than if standard accounting rules were followed (in trillions).

Deficits are a major issue in this year’s presidential campaign, but USA TODAY has calculated federal finances under accounting rules since 2004 and found no correlation between fluctuations in the deficit and which party ran Congress or the White House.

Key findings:

•Social Security had the biggest financial slide. The government would need $22.2 trillion today, set aside and earning interest, to cover benefits promised to current workers and retirees beyond what taxes will cover. That’s $9.5 trillion more than was needed in 2004.

•Deficits from 2004 to 2011 would be six times the official total of $5.6 trillion reported.

•Federal debt and retiree commitments equal $561,254 per household. By contrast, an average household owes a combined $116,057 for mortgages, car loans and other debts.

“By law, the federal government can’t tell the truth,” says accountant Sheila Weinberg of the Chicago-based Institute for Truth in Accounting.

Jim Horney, a former Senate budget staff expert now at the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, says retirement programs should not count as part of the deficit because, unlike a business, Congress can change what it owes by cutting benefits or lifting taxes.

“It’s not easy, but it can be done. Retirement programs are not legal obligations,” he says.

Appeared Here


Obama Based Deficit Reduction Bill Lies Smoldering On U.S. House Floor – President’s Own Budget Shot Down Last Month Without A Single Vote In Favor

March 29, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – The Bowles-Simpson deficit-reduction plan went down to a crushing defeat in the House late Wednesday night in a vote that damages the one bipartisan proposal that just a few months ago had seemed like a possible solution to the country’s debt woes.

The 382-38 defeat, with just 16 Republicans and 22 Democrats voting for it, marks a bad end to what began nearly two years ago, when President Obama tapped former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, a Democrat, and former Sen. Alan Simpson, a Republican, to lead a deficit-reduction committee.

Their report has popped up in every deficit discussion since then, but had never gotten a vote in either chamber until this week, when opponents prevailed.

“This doesn’t go big. This doesn’t tackle the problem. This doesn’t do the big things,” said Rep. Paul D. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican and chairman of the Budget Committee. “You can never get the debt under control if you don’t deal with our health care entitlement programs.”

The debate came as the House worked its way through its fiscal year 2013 budget plan, which Mr. Ryan wrote.
The Bowles-Simpson plan was offered as an alternative on the chamber floor.

Minutes earlier, the House also defeated Mr. Obama’s own budget, submitted last month, on a 414-0 vote arranged by Republicans to embarrass the president and officially shelve his plan.

“It’s not a charade. It’s not a gimmick — unless what the president sent us is the same,” said Rep. Mick Mulvaney, a freshman Republican from South Carolina who sponsored Mr. Obama’s proposal for purposes of the debate. “I would encourage the Democrats to embrace this landmark Democrat document and support it. Personally, I will be voting against it.”

The House also defeated an alternative offered by the Congressional Black Caucus that would have included $4 trillion in additional tax increases on top of those Mr. Obama proposed, and used that money to boost spending on domestic programs. That plan was killed 314-107.

But the Bowles-Simpson plan was the most anticipated vote of the evening, earning its first-ever vote in either chamber.

“There’s a consensus in america we have to reduce our deficit,” said Rep. Rob Andrews, New Jersey Democrat.

“Most of it should be by cutting spending, and some of it should be in revenue contribution by the wealthiest Americans.”

The plan was sponsored by Rep. Jim Cooper, Tennessee Democrat, and Rep. Steve LaTourette, Ohio Republican, and was backed by Mr. Bowles and Mr. Simpson, who said it faithfully represented their goals.

But it was attacked by those on both ends of the political spectrum, leaving the two chief sponsors to defend themselves. Mr. LaTourette listed a series of attacks he said were untrue, adding after each: “False. Your pants are on fire.”

Rep. Charlie Bass, New Hampshire Republican, said he also supports House Republicans’ budget but said that plan doesn’t have a chance in the Senate, and without a final agreement on a congressional budget it will make it impossible to agree to spending limits and extending the Bush-era tax cuts.

“Compromise is not a capitulation of principle,” Mr. Bass said.

Appeared Here