The National Weather Service uses the Internet to disseminate warning information to people all around the country. Under the proposed 2013 U.S. Budget, all the staff who ensure those systems work would be cut.
With the 2013 budget proposal now released by the Obama Administration, priorities of the White House can be more accurately determined. Science continues to take a back seat in the United States, with another year full of NASA-gutting, which I’ll get into at a later time. I suppose if it is no big deal to cut the budget for scientific space exploration, it isn’t that much of a leap of faith to arrive at the reality of cutting the budget for terrestrial science in general and meteorology specifically.
The $911 million 2012 fiscal year operating budget of the National Weather Service is set to be cut by over 4% to $872 million. The trimming would save $39 million dollars or expressed another way, 26.557 minutes of the Pentagon’s expected 2013 budget. So, what do you lose by trimming less than 27 minutes of Pentagon activity? All of the information technology operator positions, ITOs, across the country would be let go. The ITO is the person who ensures all the technology at a local weather office is working, provides an extra set of eyes in busy severe weather situations if needed, and helps facilitate the transfer of information from weather forecasting systems to the much-easier-on-the-eyes output that one would see on the National Weather Service’s website.
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Census Bureau headquarters in Suitland, MD. Latest budget reduction proposals would strip 25% from the Bureau's funding, potentially preventing it from being able to adequately collect economic data.
With the current slash-and-burn everything (that isn’t defense-related) going full steam in the current Congress, an agency who has the responsibility of informing us of just how good or bad our economy is doing just happens to be one of the agencies finding a significant portion of its budget on the cutting room floor.
The Census Bureau, which has other counting responsibilities outside of the once-a-decade population tallying, faces a budget reduction of 25% in the next fiscal year. Adverse effects on their operations include, most notably, the ability to continue to gather economic information from across the country which feeds into reports like the Gross Domestic Product:
“These cancellations would be irrecoverable and would force the complete abandonment of the economic census for the 2012 cycle,” the Bureau warned in an uncharacteristically strong statement leaked to The Huffington Post.
“We would hinder our nation’s ability to measure its economic growth and well-being,” the bureau said. “These statistics are critical to the competitiveness of U.S. businesses and industries.”
The economic census surveys some 85 percent of the country’s economy and provides the data for determining the Gross Domestic Product. The bureau also releases monthly, quarterly and annual reports on retail, trade, manufacturing, construction and other parts of the economy.
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How did we get here?
Among conservatives and other small-government minded individuals, a common complaint is that the full ability of our economy to recover from the late 2000′s crash is being restrained by taxes on business. Frequently cited is the 35% tax rate that businesses are supposed to pay annually. It is cited as being among the highest rates in the world – which it is. Only a handful of third world nations and Japan have official corporate income tax rates that are higher.
If corporations actually paid taxes at that rate and were hurting because of it, this would be a valid argument to go after. What occurs in the real world, however, is that through a myriad of tax loopholes and armies of tax lawyers fighting to find them, companies pay an effective tax rate that is far below the implied 35%. Some, like General Electric, can rack up billions of dollars in profit in this country and not only have to not pay a dime on any of those earnings but is actually able to get billions of dollars of refunds from the federal government.
General Electric is hardly alone in being able to exploit the system in the past year, or even over the past years. In a period of time from 1998 until 2005 some 72% of all foreign companies and 57% of domestic companies were able to not pay a dime in taxes for at least one full year. That is lost revenue for the federal government – revenue that can not possibly be made up in its entirety by going after the incomes of individuals. As a result things that those same small-government fiscal conservatives complain about – such as the ballooning national debt – are allowed to explode out of control from the abuse of these loopholes. The solution seems to be a never ending mantra of “cut! cut! cut!” and never an effort to figure out if we’re missing out on any revenue.
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Tax breaks for vacation homes, or tax credits for low income housing and job training? Why is this a difficult decision?
When President Obama decided to punt on the issue of not extending the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy (or capitulated to Republican demands / made a desperate effort to appeal to a Republican base that wants nothing to do with him / gave up, again / betrayed his liberal base that will march out to vote for him in 2012 irregardless / insert your own quip of a description here based on your amount of current support for the President), he hoped that this olive branch offer to the Republicans – who now control the House – would help with upcoming budget negotiations. Perhaps the interesting mantra of the opposition that centered around “cut everything, including taxes!” to balance the budget would be appeased by a wink in the direction of keeping taxes on the wealthy cut, and in return there could be some leeway given in the “cut everything” world.
Tragically not the case. Nowhere near the case, in fact. There’s a second verse to that mantra, apparently, and that verse is “…and make sure you screw over the not-rich!” While there are independent agencies out there trying to explain this to anyone who would care to read and listen, politicians in charge seem hell bent on pushing ideology over anything that comes close to resembling a long term disciplined strategy to combat a ballooning deficit.
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It's shiny, it's fast, it connects millions with millions more, it's in France, and it's not coming to America.
Not that this should come as that much of an extreme shock to the brave souls who still follow American politics while being able to hang on to their affinity for actual logic, but the mood of 2011 when it comes to investment to the state & national infrastructure is currently being responded to with a resounding cut the budget! Cut it now, cut it all, cut it forever!
The latest politician of mention to endorse the notion that we need to hang on to our 20th century infrastructure in the 2nd decade of the 21st is newly crowned governor of Florida, Rick Scott. Mr. Scott has rejected over $2 billion in federal money to build a high speed rail line along Interstate 4 from Tampa to Orlando. It would be the first “high speed” rail line in the United States outside of the Washington-New York-Boston megalopolis. It would create construction jobs, reduce traffic, potentially increase tourism, and definitely decrease pollution. However since the rising Tea Party-esque tide of “every single federal dollar from the federal government is absolutely, entirely, unequivocally evil”, the money has been rejected. Mr. Scott joins new governor entrants John Kasich of Ohio and Scott Walker of Wisconsin in the club of grasping onto crumbling infrastructure.
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