Part 1 of Carolyn Federoff's speech Carolyn Federoff, vice chair of the American Federation of Government Employees' HUD council (and Local AFGE 3258 president), gave a masterful takedown of conservative budget talking points at the
March 27, 2012

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Part 1 of Carolyn Federoff's speech

Carolyn Federoff, vice chair of the American Federation of Government Employees' HUD council (and Local AFGE 3258 president), gave a masterful takedown of conservative budget talking points at the Massachusetts AFL-CIO convention. Federoff takes a look at the current budget deficit and tackles Republican suggestions of spending cuts and explains how they just won't work. In a "Back to the Future"-like presentation, she shows a picture of the cabinet and takes away members as she hypothetically cuts parts of the budget, showing how even if you cut the major portion of the federal government, you still fall hundreds of billions of dollars short of closing the gap. The reality, she says, is that there is no way to balance the budget without increasing revenue. Even cutting all of the following programs (which would cause massive problems for the populace), would still leave a gap of nearly $200 billion:

  • All independent agencies and government corporations except Social Security (Including programs such as Amtrak, the CIA, the Postal Service, etc.)
  • Department of Agriculture (Food Stamps, which serve 1 in 7 Americans -- half of whom are not of working age, and school lunches)
  • Department of Transportation (roads, bridges, mass transit)
  • Department of Energy (nuclear security)
  • Department of Homeland Security (FEMA, Border Patrol, airport security, customs, immigration enforcement)
  • Department of Commerce (promotion of exports, census, patent office)
  • Department of Labor (OSHA, unemployment compensation, pension protections)
  • Department of Interior (national parks)
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development (million homes each to elderly and lower class families)
  • Department of Education (financial aid and Pell grants)
  • All discretionary spending at the Department of Veterans Affairs (veterans health care)
  • All discretionary spending at the Department of Health and Human Services (everything but Medicaid and Medicare, including the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control)
  • Department of State (ambassadors, foreign aid)
  • Department of Justice (FBI, federal criminal prosecution)
  • All of the Department of Treasury except for interest on the debt
  • All of the budget for Congress and the courts
  • The discretionary portion of the Department of Defense (about 26 percent of that budget)

    Again, cutting all of this still leaves a deficit of nearly $200 billion and, it turns the U.S. into one of the poorest and most destitute countries in the world. Of the remaining spending, 60 percent of it is from earned benefit programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, for which the recipients have paid into the program and deserve to get the services they paid for. They also produce their own revenue streams that help cover most of their costs for the forseeable future, even if nothing else changes.

    Some conservatives argue that we need to cut Social Security, despite the fact that it is already a meager program. The average benefit works out to be about $14,000 a year for and more than half of the people on the program, this accounts for more than half of their annual income. For 15 percent of recipients, this is all of their annual income. Cutting the program (or the health care programs associated with it) would devastate people's lives and it still wouldn't balance the budget.

    Federoff says the only real solution is to increase revenue and she offers a number of ways to accomplish that, particularly since federal income taxes are at their lowest levels since 1958:

  • cutting funding for Iraq and Afghanistan wars
  • eliminating the Bush tax cuts
  • creating a financial transaction tax
  • taxing capital gains as ordinary income
  • restoring the estate tax of $3.5 million
  • putting people back to work, which increases tax revenue
  • closing corporate tax loopholes
  • raising taxes on the upper 1 percent

    She also points out the obvious fix to funding for Social Security, eliminating the cap on earnings. While 94 percent of workers pay Social Security taxes on 100 percent of their income, the upper six percent is only taxed on the first $110,000 of their income. The rest of their income they have no Social Security taxes deducted from. If the wealthiest Americans paid taxes on all of their income the way the rest of us do, Social Security would have no budget shortfall in the lifetime of almost anyone reading this post.

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    Part 2 of Carolyn Federoff's speech

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