war costs income taxes earmarks line-item veto

Obama for line-item veto, Congress against earmarks
pork-barrel projects branches of government

The War Is Making You Poor Act

The US Congress has at least one member able to talk rationally about war. While his colleagues at least talk about cutting wasteful spending, his new bill might gain traction. We trim, blend, and append three 2010 articles from: (1) the Huffington Post, May 21, on de-taxing war by Rep. Alan Grayson, Congressman from Central Florida; (2) the Christian Science Monitor, March 11, ban on earmarks by Gail Russell Chaddock; and (3) the Christian Science Monitor, May 24, line-item vetoes by Peter Grier.

by Rep. Alan Grayson, by Gail Russell Chaddock, and by Peter Grier

What George Orwell wrote about in 1984 has come true. What Eisenhower warned us about concerning the "military-industrial complex" has come true. War is a permanent feature of our societal landscape, so much so that no one notices it anymore. Yet another war funding bill will pass without debate.

But we're going to change this. We're introducing a bill called 'The War Is Making You Poor Act'. The purpose of this bill is to connect the dots, and to show people in a real and concrete way the cost of these endless wars.

Next year's budget allocates $159,000,000,000 to perpetuate the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. That's enough money to eliminate federal income taxes for the first $35,000 of every American's income. Beyond that, leaves over $15 billion to cut the deficit.

And that's what this bill does. It eliminates separate funding for the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, and eliminates federal income taxes for everyone's first $35,000 of income ($70,000 for couples). Plus it pays down the national debt.

The costs of the war have been rendered invisible. There's no draft. Instead, we take the most vulnerable elements of our population, and give them a choice between unemployment and missile fodder. Government deficits conceal the need to pay in cash for the war.

We put the cost of both guns and butter on our Chinese credit card. In fact, we don't even put these wars on budget; they are still passed using 'emergency supplemental'. A nine-year 'emergency'.

Tell Congress that you like 'The War Is Making You Poor Act'. No, tell Congress you love it. Act now.

March has been the season for members in both parties to complete paperwork for the next fiscal year’s funding requests for member projects, or earmarks, for their districts. But this year, top Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee announced a ban on corporate earmarks that direct spending to for-profit entities, especially those dealing with the Pentagon. Next day, House Republicans said they will adopt a unilateral, one-year ban on all earmarks.

While less than 2% of spending is via earmarks, spending overall has ballooned out of sight. Hence earmarks are dubbed “the gateway drug to corruption” or spending addiction

Last month, the House ethics panel cleared six lawmakers of wrongdoing involving campaign contributions from the PMA Group lobbying firm, now disbanded, in exchange for earmarks. That decision was badly received by Washington’s watchdog community.

Rep. Jeff Flake (R) of Arizona, who, since coming to the House in 2001, has waged a one-man campaign for banning earmarks. After two years of wearing down his colleagues on the point at caucus meetings, he took his objections to the floor of the House, where he engineered hundreds of votes to challenge individual member projects. In 2007, he won his only victory when House members voted to cut out a $129,000 earmark for “the Home of the Perfect Christmas Tree” in North Carolina.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R) of Oklahoma, the Senate’s version of an earmark gadfly, hailed the House Republicans' move as a “common sense step that will help Congress win back the trust of the public and tackle our mounting fiscal challenges.”

In the name of budget discipline, President Obama proposed legislation that would make it easier for US chief executives to excise parts of spending bills.

Such enhanced rescission power could help eliminate the pork-barrel projects that lawmakers append to must-pass appropriations bills. The Transportation Department appropriations bill last year contained some $293 million worth of items added by individual lawmakers that circumvented departmental money-granting formulas.

But this veto would mark a profound change in the balance of powers between the executive and legislative branches of the US government.

American presidents have long tried to obtain some form of line-item veto power -- the ability to strike single items from spending bills. Many state governors in the United States already have such authority.

In 1996, a Republican-dominated Congress approved a limited line-item presidential power, in which individual White House cuts automatically took effect unless overturned by a two-thirds congressional vote. In 1998, the Supreme Court ruled this measure unconstitutional.

Under the Obama proposal, the president could take two months to pore over spending bills that have already been signed into law. He could then send Congress a package of cuts, or rescissions, which Congress would have to accept or reject in its entirety. Lawmakers would have to put the package to an up-or-down vote within a specified time frame.

This veto would give the White House greatly enhanced leverage over individual representatives and senators, as the Oval Office would have significant influence over whether their pet funding projects lived or died.

In the long-running struggle for relative power within the divided US government, this would significantly shift the balance toward the White House.

Also see:

No-bid contracts mean higher costs

Chicago Mercenary Firm Gets Millions for Protection in War Zones

If the generals can be a bit rational, can politicians?

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