Obama's Budget Revealed: Money for Wars and Weapons, While More Americans Face Joblessness and Hunger
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
Send up a flare! The 2011 federal budget has sprung some leaks in the midst of a storm. Not sure there's enough money for life rafts! Forget women and children first!
Buffeted by economic hard times, the 2,585-page, $3.8 trillion document is already taking on water, though this won’t be obvious to you if you’re reading the mainstream media. Let’s start with the absolute basics: 59% of the budget’s spending is dedicated to mandatory programs like Medicaid, Medicare, Unemployment Insurance, Social Security, and now Pell Grants; 34% is to be spent on “discretionary programs,” including education, transportation, housing, and the military; 7% will be used to service the national debt.
A serious look at this budget document reveals some “leaks” -- two in actual spending practices and two in the basic assumptions that undergird the budget itself. Ship-shape as it may look on the surface, this is a budget perilously close to an iceberg, and it’s not clear whether the captain of the ship will heed the obvious warning signs.
Whose Security Is This Anyway?
In his State of the Union Address, given several days before the 2011 budget was released, President Obama announced a three-year freeze on “non-security discretionary spending.” This was meant as a gesture toward paying down the looming national debt, but it should also be considered an early warning sign for leak number one. After all, the president exempted all national-security-related spending from the cutting process. Practically speaking, according to the National Priorities Project (NPP), national security spending makes up about 67% of that discretionary 34% slice of the budget. In 2011, that will include an as-yet-untouchable $737 billion for the Pentagon alone.
Within the context of the total budget, then, so-called non-security discretionary spending represents a mere 11% of proposed 2011 spending. In other words, Obama’s present plans to chip away at the debt involve leaving 89% of the budget untouched. Only the $370 billion going to myriad domestic social programs will be on the chopping block.
What's in that $370 billion? Well, for starters, programs that focus on the environment, energy, and science. In the 2011 budget, these categories combined are projected to receive $79 billion or 6% of total domestic discretionary spending. Though each of these areas could actually use a significant boost in funds, that’s obviously not in the cards -- and this will translate into less money at the state level. New York, for example, is projected to receive $247 million in home energy assistance for low-income folks, down more than $230 million from 2010. These funds mean an energy safety net for our communities, and also warmth and jobs in a cold winter, which looks like “security” to most of us, no matter what our captain says.
Asking for disproportionate cuts and efficiencies in programs in only 11% percent of the overall budget might perhaps be slightly easier to stomach if military spending wasn’t allowed relatively free rein in 2011 (and thereafter). The NPP estimates, in fact, that aggregated increases in military spending over the next decade will exceed $500 billion, drowning twice-over the projected $250 billion in non-security discretionary savings from the president’s cuts over the same time period. Consider this visible unwillingness to control military-related spending leak two in our budgetary Titanic.
By now, danger flags should be going up in profusion because the second leak is so familiar, so George W. Bush. With each new bit of information, in fact, it sounds more and more like the same old song, the last guy's tune. It’s clear that, as soon as the stimulus bump wears off later this year, we're in danger of falling back into exactly the same more-money-for-the-military, less-federal-aid-to-the-states rut we’ve been in for years, despite strong statements from both President Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates decrying Pentagon waste.