Pentagon + White House = Ignore Law, Add $97.9 Billion to Budget

❝ US defence officials previously feared that rising interest rates and growing federal debt would push the government’s net interest costs so high that they would squeeze out funding available for personnel, training, equipment, modernisation, maintenance, and more. Interest rates are now higher and the debt is now larger, but Pentagon budget officials are no longer worrying about either…

❝ The national defence budget – as well as the ‘domestic’ budget – is legally capped by the 2011 Budget Control Act. However, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget instructed the Pentagon to use the uncapped Overseas Contingency Operations account to bypass the legislated limits, which were meant to lower discretionary spending and begin lowering the US public debt. Pentagon officials said about USD97.9 billion was shifted into the unlimited OCO account.

So far.

With the Fake President in office, who cares about budgets, the rule of law or how big a bill you drop on American taxpayers?

See how little Trump cares about American Families!

The dirty details are over here. Education, social services, healthcare, practically everything built over generations to help the American family find a better life for themselves, their children, their neighbors is dismissed out of hand by the fake president.

Apparently, he counts on military voters and, of course, all the corporations getting a bump in profits from his wartime budget. Except, most of his war is on ordinary Americans.

The Military-Industrial Complex is alive and well under Republican Control


GOP Sen. Jim Inhofe – “a new emphasis on defending America.”AP Photo

The Senate on Monday easily passed a $716 billion defense policy bill that aims to continue Republican-led efforts to build up the U.S. military but could set up a clash with defense hawks in the House over how best to do it.

The massive legislation would authorize more warships and fighter jets, more troops and the largest pay raise for them in nearly a decade, but in some cases it would still lag behind a House version passed in May and the Pentagon’s own designs.

Keep in mind taxpayer dollar$ already fund Pentagon featherbedding greater than the sum of the next seven countries’ spending. China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, France, United Kingdom, and Japan combined.

Of a total $716 billion, the legislation would authorize $617.6 billion for the Pentagon base budget and $68.5 billion in war spending in the Overseas Contingency Operations account. It would authorize another $21.6 billion for nuclear weapons programs under the Energy Department.

If the DOD’s budget remained the same among other things it would have been possible to have funded public college for every student in the US and had $12B left over. That’s not how our Congressional war pimps organize their priorities. Colleges and students don’t prioritize kickbacks in dollar$ and job$ and campaign funding to politicians. Democrats aren’t exempt from condemnation. Just that Republicans would rather spend more time in bed with the death and destruction business.

The US Forest Service should change its name to the US Fire Service


Click to enlargeKPCC

Vehicles stopped on Highway 101 in California

This year’s wildfire season has just started, and it’s already bad. The west is still charred from last season’s burns, and hotter weather has been drying out the landscape’s surviving trees. Meanwhile, climate change is making fire season longer. The end result is a monstrous bed of fuel and weather conditions perfect for an apocalyptic season.

And starved of reasonable funding, the agencies charged with staving off the burn are already running into questions of how to pay for fighting the inferno. The problem is simple: Firefighting costs are rising, but funding can’t keep up…

One possible fix? Get really big fires reclassified as natural disasters — which would let the agency dip into bigger pool for the nastiest infernos.

“If you look at all the fires in a year, 1 percent — the big ones — account for 30 percent of suppression costs,” says Robert Bonnie, Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment. “These expenditures can be treated as natural disasters.” At a June 23 meeting, agency leaders kicked that idea through the latest draft of the Wildfire Budgeting, Response, and Forest Management Act. They’ve been trying this for years, but keep getting stymied by a combative Congress.

Instead, the agency has to borrow money from other forest health programs to help keep fires at bay. Normally, that money would be used to fight invasive insects, clear buildups of undergrowth, and monitor disease outbreaks — things that keep the forest from becoming even more of a tinderbox. But as wildfire conditions worsen, the agency keeps on borrowing more from itself. Two decades ago, firefighting burned through about 16 percent of the agency’s budget. Today, that percentage is around half. “Eventually, the US Forest Service will become the US Fire Service,” says Bonnie.

In the meantime, the vicious fire-borrowing cycle is having a disastrous impact on America’s national forest health. Fungal outbreaks, beetle infestations, and other catastrophes weaken the trees. When those trees die, they become fuel.

Like in California. Last week the USFS announced that the southern Sierra Nevada is cluttered with at least 66 million dead trees, which is bad news for the region’s drought-stressed forests. Dead trees create ladders for fire to climb up and spread through the crown. That’s how the 7,500-acre Sherpa Fire near Santa Barbara threatened to take a chunk out of coastal Los Padres National Forest—before fire season even officially got going…

So, forests are dealing with a new millennium’s fire hazards. But the suppression funding structure is still stuck in the ’90s. According to Bonnie, the current wildfire act will need some serious changes before it stands to reverse wildfire trends…He is hopeful that a revised act will have no trouble getting bipartisan support, but he says Congress would have to act quickly to make anything happen by September. And if they don’t start calling catastrophic burns what they are — natural disasters — the only thing left for the Forest Service to manage will be some dry, bare, charred mountains.

Poisonally, I think Robert Bonnie is stuck in a time warp. One where the threat of civilian death and destruction forces bipartisan action in Congress. He’s talking about getting a bill through that combo of Do-Nothing/Know-Nothing political hacks before the election in November.

Congress – especially the House – just proved they’re not capable of bipartisan legislation against the Zika virus. They only offered a Bill with requirements to defund Planned Parenthood, cut Medicare and Obamacare. A zero-sum definition of Public Health.

The Pentagon wages war on transparency, accountability, truth and American taxpayers

…The United States is on track to spend more than $600 billion on the military this year — more, that is, than was spent at the height of Pres. Ronald Reagan’s Cold War military buildup and more than the military budgets of at least the next seven nations in the world combined.

And keep in mind that that’s just a partial total. As an analysis by the Straus Military Reform Project has shown, if we count related activities like homeland security, veterans’ affairs, nuclear warhead production at the Department of Energy, military aid to other countries and interest on the military-related national debt, that figure reaches a cool $1 trillion.

The more that’s spent on “defense,” however, the less the Pentagon wants us to know about how those mountains of money are actually being used. As the only major federal agency that can’t pass an audit, the Department of Defense is the poster child for irresponsible budgeting.

It’s not just that its books don’t add up, however. The Pentagon is taking active measures to disguise how it is spending the hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars it receives every year — from using the separate “war budget” as a slush fund to pay for pet projects that have nothing to do with fighting wars to keeping the cost of its new nuclear bomber a secret.

Add in dozens of other secret projects hidden in the department’s budget and the Pentagon’s poorly documented military aid programs, and it’s clear that the Defense Department believes it has something to hide…

An entrenched bureaucracy is determined not to provide information that might be used to bring its sprawling budget — and so the institution itself — under control. That’s why budgetary deception has become such a standard operating procedure at the Department of Defense.

As corrupt as Congress is, as deliberately deceptive and hypocritical most residents of the White House have been for decades, the Pentagon can give lessons to the world of thieves. RTFA for example after example of crooked deals designed to siphon away taxpayer dollars.

Our military-industrial complex makes the Mafia look like streetcorner gangbangers who just dropped out of high school. They have been stealing for so long, untouched and impervious to oversight, they limit the number of illegitimate zeros added to contracts to how much ink is left in the pen.

Pentagon on the way to wasting a historic amount of taxpayer dollar$


May as well give ’em their own printing press for money…

Waste at the Pentagon is nothing new. But recent revelations suggest that it may be reaching historic levels.

The Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction has uncovered scandal after scandal involving U.S. aid to that country, including the creation of private villas for a small number of personnel working for a Pentagon economic development initiative and a series of costly facilities that were never or barely used. An analysis by ProPublica puts the price tag for wasteful and misguided expenditures in Afghanistan at $17 billion, a figure that is higher than the GDP of 80 nations…

It’s not just about Afghanistan, though. Back in the United States, wasteful spending abounds. A Politico report on the Pentagon’s $44 billion Defense Logistics Agency notes that it spent over $7 billion on unneeded equipment. Meanwhile, Congress is doing its part by inserting its own pet projects into the budget, whether or not they are top priorities in terms of defense needs. The most notable example is the F-35 combat aircraft, which at $1.4 trillion over its lifetime is the most expensive weapons project ever undertaken by the Pentagon. Despite the fact that the plane is far from ready for prime time, Congress stuffed 11 additional F-35s into the defense bill that was signed by the president last month…

During the Reagan military buildup of the 1980s, tales of $600 toilet seats and $7,600 coffee makers convinced Congress and the public that the Pentagon had more money than it knew what to do with, and that the time to curb spending had come. But overspending on routine items – such as the Army’s recent expenditure of $8,000 on a gear worth $500 – continues. In fact, because the Pentagon can’t pass an audit, the department doesn’t even know for sure how much it is overpaying on basic items, or how much excess equipment it is purchasing.

The common thread uniting the C-5 scandal of the 1960s, the spare parts scandal of the 1980s and today’s array of wasteful expenditures is that they all came on the heels of major military buildups. When there is too much money to go around and no one is minding the store, spending discipline goes out the window…

What can be done to get the “fat” out of Pentagon spending? For starters, the department needs financial incentives to get its books in order. Members of Congress…have put forward bills designed to press the Pentagon to become audit ready as soon as possible.

But the best management tool is to put the Pentagon on a tighter budget, so it is forced to make some tough choices. No one, hawk or dove, should sit still for the waste of tens of billions of tax dollars. Waste doesn’t defend us. On the contrary, spending too much on the Pentagon just subsidizes bad choices.

It’s time for Congress, the president and the presidential candidates of both parties to speak out about Pentagon waste, and put forward concrete plans for reining it in. Otherwise, our era may have the dubious distinction of being the golden age of Pentagon waste.

Even though I can vote for Bernie or Hillary – one because it’s a good choice, finally – the other because we need at least a centrist defense of the Constitution to protect the rights we’re supposed to have – Bernie’s more likely to come down on the principled side of this question.

In front of most American audiences, the middle ground still plays well. Regardless of material reality. Hillary will stick with historic Liberal Democrat copouts. The kind that brought us everything from VietNam to Iraq.

So be it.

Want a little extra sidebar? Col. Lawrence Wilkerson was a heavy-duty military jock for George W Buch. And has a conscience about it. Read what he has to say.

Some of the crap Obama’s budget would eliminate — if Congress showed up for work

Though Republicans like to think of themselves as the party that cuts waste, fraud, and abuse, Democrats, too, propose putting the ax to programs that they’d like to see go away.

Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2017 budget proposal is no exception. Though it generally offers higher levels of government spending than Republicans favor, that doesn’t mean Obama loves every program the government runs. In fact, he’s proposing to entirely eliminate dozens of initiatives — often small grant programs — that his team has identified as superfluous or unnecessary.

Starting with the most unproductive program on the books:

The one that’s likely to get the most political attention is eliminating a $10 million-a-year grant program for abstinence-only education run by the Department of Health and Human Services.

The biggest proposed elimination is the Department of Justice’s $210 million State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, which reimburses state and local law enforcement agencies for costs incurred detaining immigrants.

The cut most likely to provoke backlash from liberals is probably the proposed elimination of the Environmental Protection Agency’s $13 million grant program for water quality research, which sounds pretty useful in light of the situation in Flint, Michigan.

Click the link above for the complete list.

Don’t get too focused on what these are called. We just avoided a portion of a bill in the New Mexico State legislature supposedly about a “Fair Work Week” that not only would have let reactionary city and town governments avoid the state minimum wage law – it would have reversed any raises previously granted by the minimum wage requirement.

Gotta love today’s Republican version of Class warfare.

Kansas Republicans so happy about their War on Women they decided to add a War on Children

lying creep

Many states mandate that schools must be funded at constitutionally required levels, but like many Republicans, Kansas GOP leaders disregarded the Kansas Constitution and deliberately underfunded the state’s public schools to both provide tax cuts for the wealthy and keep their population ignorant. Fortunately for Kansas residents and students, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Friday that the state must increase funding for public K-12 schools. The Court’s ruling gutting Brownback’s education plan was a victory for parents, school districts, and students who sued Brownback who has spent the past four years significantly cutting per student funding while cutting taxes for the rich and corporations…

Brownback and his group padded education costs by illegally including teacher retirement benefits and pensions as part of the “per student” spending and made them “part of the whole” of state education costs. In the state budget, pension funds and school finance formula are separate line items, but Brownback decided they were one in the same to give credence to his claim that Kansas spends more on education now than it did in 2000…The Court’s ruling disabused Brownback of the argument he and Republicans were above reproach and immune from a judicial review of an unconstitutional practice.

…For example, electricity and insurance costs are significantly higher today than in 2000, and diesel fuel to bus students to and from school today is approximately $3.44 per gallon when in 2000 is was only $1.03 that all impacted school districts’ operational expenses. Adding in the state’s responsibility to fund pensions as per child spending “is absurd” according to a lawyer for the plaintiffs who said it was ridiculous to think school districts are responsible for keeping the state pension system solvent. He also said that tax cuts Brownback enacted in 2012 drastically reduced how much money the state had remaining to spend on constitutionally required education spending. He reiterated that “The state pension plan and the schools are both state responsibilities and both are underfunded” because Republicans squandered education money on tax cuts…

Sam Brownback may be the first Republican governor to cut school spending by requiring school districts to include the state’s responsibility to fund pensions in their budgets, but he is one of many, many Republican governors cutting education spending to fund tax cuts for the rich and corporations. Other Republican governors are shifting taxpayer money for public education to fund private Christian schools that is another ploy to keep their populations ignorant by teaching the bible as science…

I hope enough parents realize that failure to use tax dollars to provide a real education to their children cuts the likelihood of their kids growing up capable of getting a decent job.

It’s obvious to many which side thugs like Brownback are on when it comes to choosing who to aid, working families or wealthy political donors. If throw the bums out ever meant anything, Kansas voters, American voters, need to stand up and throw creeps out of office who are committed to limiting the future of American states, American workers, the whole nation.

El Niño monitoring system in the eastern Pacific is failing


Nearly half of the buoys in the Tropical Atmosphere Ocean array have failed

An ocean-monitoring system that extends across the tropical Pacific is collapsing, depriving scientists of data on a region that influences global weather and climate trends.

Nearly half of the moored buoys in the Tropical Atmosphere Ocean (TAO) array have failed in the last two years, crippling an early-warning system for the warming and cooling events in the eastern equatorial Pacific, known respectively as El Niño and La Niña. Scientists are now collecting data from just 40% of the array.

It’s the most important climate phenomenon on the planet, and we have blinded ourselves to it by not maintaining this array,” says Michael McPhaden, a senior scientist at…NOAA. McPhaden headed the TAO project before it was transferred out of NOAA’s research arm and into the agency’s National Weather Service in 2005.

…Researchers from around the world will meet next week at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, to discuss possible solutions. NOAA has indicated that the agency will put additional resources into the program this coming year, but few expect that this will be enough to fully restore the array.

Wouldn’t it be a pleasant change if we repopulated Congress, the White House and relevant agencies with science-literate folks to a point where projects like this received adequate funding as readily as, say, subsidies for tobacco farmers or Exxon-Mobil?

I doubt if even a virtual sperm whale would be capable of holding its breath long enough to live to see that happen.