Monday, December 19, 2005

MORE: Nussle & the Budget - Hawk or Chicken?

I am continually amazed at the ability of House Republicans to proclaim themselves “champions or reform” or “deficit hawks”. Really, who do they think they are fooling. The new budget passed by the House is still a bucket of pork and handouts to Big Oil and other corporate sponsors of the GOP majority. Nussle goes around touting “reform & savings” after narrowly passing the budget proposal at his desk:
The U.S. House of Representatives on Monday narrowly voted to cut $39.7 billion from federal spending over five years, including health care and other social welfare, as part of a conservative push to contain these growing programs. By a vote of 212-206, the House, at the end of a rare overnight session, approved the spending cuts, which were opposed by Democrats. "We have a plan to reform the government and achieve savings," said House Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle, an Iowa Republican. (12/19/05)

Now, like I always say, I’m for “reform” and “responsible” government, but that’s not what Nussle is really proposing. Cuts in Medicare/Medicaid, food stamps, and child support recovery are the programs that Nussle is targeting for “reform”…But, as an excellent post over at “Nussle Watch notes:
But no matter how draconian these measures are in a time of growing poverty and need, Jim Nussle is lying about the nature of the cuts. NONE of the provisions would reduce the virtually non-existent problem of "trafficking" or "fraud." Recent changes in the program have made it very hard to do that, namely putting benefits on an ATM-type card, called the EBT. Fraud & waste in food stamps is about a low as a governmental program can get. It's error rate is at the lowest point ever, and has declined for 6 straight years.

Instead, I think there are other areas that fraud & abuse can be squeezed out of. In particular, the Comptroller General of The United States and the General Accounting Office have a number of things they think are problems:
Comptroller General of the United States David Walker said there were three major obstacles to evaluating the latest financial statements. First, he said, there were "serious financial management problems" at the Department of Defense. Second, the federal government could not adequately account for balances between federal agencies. Lastly he criticized the government's "ineffective process" for preparing its consolidated financial statements. Walker's letter was contained in the Financial Report of the United States Government for 2005. (12/15/05)

The problem for House Republicans, though, is that if there were truly better accounting methods and a more effective process for preparing consolidated financial statements there would be no easy way to scapegoat the programs that they most favor cuts for. Plus, better accounting puts the Department of Defense and Homeland Security on the political hot seat. These are the agencies most often cited for fraud and abuse. Witness the Cunningham scandal. Maybe if we didn’t have politicians out there taking handouts from large corporate donors against the interests of their citizens…

BIG OIL UPDATE:
I found an interesting little tool over at Open Secrets. Remember those votes on drilling in Alaska? Well, back in 1995 there was also debate about the importation of oil from Alaska’s North Slope as well as some discussion about the royalties that companies drilling offshore in the Gulf of Mexico were to pay to the federal government in exchange for drilling rights. Both of these involved big handouts to the oil industry. Additionally, you can clearly connect $7500 in Oil PAC contributions to Congressman Nussle in relation to these votes. Now, I’m not claiming that he was bought off or bribed or purchased, here. The thing is, the more we subsidize the “traditional” oil industry the more we discourage the move towards E-85 and E-10 Ethanol production in Iowa. If you want to see the results of the search – see them HERE

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