WMD Commission Releases Scathing Report
Panel Finds U.S. Intelligence on Iraq's Weapons Was 'Dead Wrong'
Thursday, March 31, 2005; 8:50 AM
The First Blog Supporting John Kerry Before the 2004 Election.
The Unofficial Kerry Blog is not affiliated with the John Kerry for President 2004 Campaign, Friends of John Kerry, Inc. or John Kerry for Senate '08.
The Unofficial Kerry for President Blog!
Thursday, March 31, 2005; 8:50 AM
Interior Minister Patrick Dewael said he was unaware of the pictures when he signed a letter promoting the training package for police dealing with unruly soccer fans, and said the idea was "of bad taste," Het Laatste Nieuws daily reported.
The training presentation pictured the U.S. president's face in various expressions beside photographs of a chimpanzee, the paper showed on its front page, in what was meant to be a humorous introduction to the subject of reading expressions.
Dewael's office was not immediately available for comment.
I don't see what the fuss is all about. After all, the technique appears valid:
Bush's Budget Assaults Our Values
by John Kerry
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
Last week's debate on the federal budget should remind all Americans that Washington is not working for them.
If the president gets his way, Lawrence residents should prepare themselves for cuts in everything from home heating assistance to vocational education to law enforcement. The president tried to cut the $1.3 million grant currently revitalizing Haverhill's Acre, Mount Washington and Highlands neighborhoods, but fortunately we were able to block that cut in the Senate.
The votes last week were more than ticks in the won-loss column; they were assaults on our nation's values. Honesty, opportunity and responsibility were all cut from this budget. These cuts should give us all cause for concern, because in the end budgets are a statement of your priorities. They are your values backed up by dollars and cents.
When considering the budget of the United States, honesty at minimum means actually counting every dollar we plan to spend. It sounds simple -- it's what every American does -- but this budget doesn't do it.
Ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan will cost at least $400 billion over 10 years. That's not in the budget. The president's Social Security scheme will cost another $750 billion over 10 years. That's not in the budget. The budget ignores interest on the debt, which not even the most creative accountant would leave out.
This budget is like an Enron budget -- smoke the numbers, cook the books, hide the truth and hope no one finds out. When Enron went bust, stockholders were the losers. When this budget goes bust, the American taxpayer will be the loser. They'll lose because this budget does exactly what Enron did: It makes irresponsible choices the administration does not want you to know about.
The responsible choice would be to honor those who have worn our nation's uniform, but the administration made a different choice. They're raising veterans' health care fees by $250 a year while cutting taxes for millionaires. They welcome home our troops with $2.6 billion in unanticipated co-payments and fees instead of cracking down on offshore tax shelters. The result of these irresponsible choices: In Massachusetts alone over 22,000 veterans could be forced to leave the VA health care system, including 7,600 active patients. Some in Washington may be quick to embrace the symbols of patriotism with words, but too often deeds lag behind.
Responsibility also means keeping our nation on sound financial footing for the long run, but the Congressional Budget Office estimates we'll be facing over $5 trillion in new debt because of this president. These debts not only hurt your children in the future -- they hurt you and every family today. Almost 8 cents of every tax dollar goes just toward paying interest on the debt. By contrast, you only pay about 2 cents on the dollar for education. $160 billion goes to interest on the debt, not to giving health care to every child, fully funding No Child Left Behind, securing our energy independence or funding a military family's Bill of Rights. Eight cents on the dollar is a lot of money, and it's not buying you more security and it's not buying your kids a better education. On the other hand, bankers in Japan and Korea and Taiwan are benefiting, and you should be worried about it. Responsible leaders wouldn't turn our economic future over to the whims of foreign bankers. They would fight to keep it in responsible hands here at home.
The American people also deserve a budget that keeps faith with the promise of opportunity for all, special privileges for none. One of the dangers in tight fiscal times is you start hearing a lot of empty talk about tough choices that are really nothing more than excuses to destroy opportunity. We heard the excuses from the administration during the recession, we heard them during the war, and we've heard plenty more excuses during this budget debate.
The administration makes a number of "tough choices" in this budget under the guise of fiscal restraint. The budget gives a huge tax cut to people making over $1 million a year, but cuts heating aid and vocational education in Massachusetts by over $20 million. The budget wastes billions of dollars in corporate loopholes, while Boston Children's Hospital should expect a $7 million cut and almost 28,000 students across the state could be kicked out of after-school programs. The budget wastes billions more in offshore tax shelters, but cuts Even Start literacy programs in Springfield, Holyoke, Northampton, Greenfield, Pittsfield, Orange and across the commonwealth. The Safe and Drug Free School Program is completely eliminated.
There is not a tough choice in the list above, and there can be no excuse. The people deserve better, and that starts by demanding our leadership do a better job budgeting our cherished values of honesty, responsibility, and opportunity. John F. Kerry is the junior senator from Massachusetts and was the Democratic candidate for president in 2004.
I think I could do better if you let me invest the Social Security I pay into an Individual Retirement Plan (IRA) or some other investment plan. What do you think?
Maybe you could, but then again, maybe your investments wouldn't work out. Remember these facts:
-Your Social Security taxes pay for potential disability and survivors benefits as well as for retirement benefits;
-Social Security incorporates social goals - such as giving more protection to families and to low income workers - that are not part of private pension plans; and
-Social Security benefits are adjusted yearly for increases in the cost-of-living - a feature not present in many private plans.
Senator Bill Frist is sitting on his nuclear option. The filibuster is in danger. Right now, the future of the filibuster rests in the hands of a few Senators--and, of course, US.
Because after all, THEY WORK FOR US. So no matter who you voted for, or what your persuasions are--take the time to think about this issue. Really think. Do you want checks and balances? Do you want discussion of judgeships? Or are you thinking that it is a good thing to rush appointments to the Federal bench through without much discussion?
The Democracy Cell Project is inviting all other blogs to begin what we are pleased to introduce as the FILIBLOG.
RALLY THE FILIBLOGSTERS
We are calling out to all of you, become filiblogsters by contacting the Senate and let them know how you feel about using the nuclear option in the confirming of judges. If the filibuster is to survive, the time to filiblog is now. Phone, fax, and e-mail your concerns and comments.
Senator Bill Frist
509 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington D. C. 20510
You can start with Senator Frist and keep the filiblog going by contacting your own senators: www.senate.gov
FILIBLOG TODAY TO SAVE THE FILIBUSTER!
Republican officials are watching warily. The chairman of the state party, Robert T. Bennett, warned that the decade-long dominance of his party could be jeopardized if it was pushed too far to the right. "This is a party of a big tent," Mr. Bennett said. "The far right cannot elect somebody by itself, any more than somebody from the far left can."
Back in 1995, when Republicans took over Congress, a new cadre of daring and original thinkers arose. These bold innovators had a key insight: that you no longer had to choose between being an activist and a lobbyist. You could be both. You could harness the power of K Street to promote the goals of Goldwater, Reagan and Gingrich. And best of all, you could get rich while doing it!After exposing recent abuses, he concludes by noting "It took a village. The sleazo-cons thought they could take over K Street to advance their agenda. As it transpired, K Street took over them."
There are Democratic and Republican Commissars, but in my experience, the GOPers are the most numerous and vicious. Why? For the same reason that you tend to have more corruption in Republican administrations: when you don't much care about the positive uses of government, and you don't have the political guts to cut it back as much as you would like, then government becomes little more than a vast patronage operation. And if chaos in services ensues, hey, it's just more proof that government's bad to begin with, right?
Assuming the feeding tube remains out, I imagined we would need some scientific data to counter charges from the right regarding the inhumanity of starving Terri Schiavo. I have read literature from hospices in the past regarding this, including advice that those on the verge of death (who are more aware than Terri Schiavo currently is) are often more comfortable without being fed.
I was planning to attempt to dig up such information from a medical or nursing journal. The New York Times saved me from going to the trouble. I often complain about the inaccurate information on medical issues contained in stories in the news media. In this case the New York Times did a fine job:
Experts Say Ending Feeding Can Lead to a Gentle Death
By John Schwartz
To many people, death by removing a feeding tube brings to mind the agony of starvation. But medical experts say that the process of dying that begins when food and fluids cease is relatively straightforward, and can cause little discomfort.
"From the data that is available, it is not a horrific thing at all," said Dr. Linda Emanuel, the founder of the Education for Physicians in End-of-Life Care Project at Northwestern University.
In fact, declining food and water is a common way that terminally ill patients end their lives, because it is less painful than violent suicide and requires no help from doctors.
Terri Schiavo, who is in a persistent vegetative state, is "probably not experiencing anything at all subjectively," said Dr. Emanuel, and so the question of discomfort, from a scientific point of view, is not in dispute.
Patients who are terminally ill and conscious and refuse food and drink at the end of life say that they do not generally experience pangs of hunger, since their bodies do not need much food. But they can suffer from dry mouth and other symptoms of dehydration that can be treated effectively.
Once food and water stop, death usually comes in about two weeks, and is caused by effects of dehydration, not the loss of nutrition, said Dr. Sean Morrison, a professor of geriatrics and palliative care at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. "They generally slip into a peaceful coma," he said. "It's very quiet, it's very dignified - it's very gentle."
The process of dying begins in the kidneys, which filter toxins from the body's fluids. Without new fluids entering the body, the kidneys produce less and less urine, and the urine becomes darker and more concentrated until production stops entirely.
Toxins build up in the body, and the delicate balance of chemicals like potassium, sodium and calcium is disrupted, said Deborah Volker, an assistant professor of nursing at the University of Texas who has written extensively on end-of-life issues.
This electrolyte imbalance disrupts the electrical system that triggers the action of muscles, including the heart, and eventually the heart stops beating.
It seemed as if the campaign had never ended. There was John Kerry standing on a chair in a blue neighborhood of Atlanta, in the Democrat-friendly tavern Manuel's, speaking to 100 folks, many of them wearing Kerry-Edwards T shirts. The Massachusetts Senator insisted that he wasn't "one to lick wounds," but then he did: he noted that Bush had won with the smallest percentage margin ever for an incumbent and complained that the Republican team had six years to develop its electoral strategy while his had only eight months. And although he claimed that "my focus is not four years from now," he made sure his audience knew just how viable a candidate he had been--and could be again. "We actually won in the battleground states," Kerry said, adding that his loss in Ohio was so close that if "half the people ... at an Ohio State football game" had voted differently, he would be in the Oval Office now.
Kerry's words and moves suggest that he thinks Nov. 2, 2004, was merely a detour on his road to the White House. He has been holding private dinners with potential fund raisers and policy advisers, signaling he might run again and blaming his political strategists for many of the mistakes his campaign made last year, such as not responding swiftly to ads attacking his Vietnam service. He has set up a political-action committee to finance his travels around the country, which will include stops in 20 cities over the next two months to give speeches and headline fund raisers for other Democrats. And he is constantly e-mailing his list of more than 3 million supporters to promote causes he championed as a candidate, like expanding health insurance to all children and preventing oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Kerry plans to write a book on his views on national security.
Besides stumping and writing, Kerry is hoping to curry favor within the party by donating some of the $14 million left over from his campaign fund. He offered a vote of confidence to former rival Howard Dean, giving the national party $1 million when Dean took over as chairman. He donated $250,000 to the recount effort of Christine Gregoire, who eventually won a very close Governor's race in Washington. Venturing into local politics, he will probably endorse Antonio Villaraigosa in a runoff election for mayor in L.A., choosing a loyal supporter over incumbent James Hahn. "He gets to travel and gets to pick up IOUs," says former party chairman Steve Grossman, a Boston fund raiser who served as Dean's campaign chairman.
Kerry is also embracing the Senate with new fervor. Derided as an absentee Senator by Bush and other critics in 2004, Kerry seems almost everywhere on Capitol Hill these days, introducing bills to expand health care to all children, enlarge the military by 40,000 troops and rewrite election laws to allow any citizen to register to vote on Election Day. "I'm in a position to be more effective on these issues," he says. But some of his powerful colleagues disagree. In a meeting with labor leaders, Kerry questioned whether Democrats had a coherent message opposing Bush's Social Security plan, annoying Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, who told Kerry not to lecture him on strategy, considering his failures in the presidential campaign. And some Democrats on Capitol Hill privately scoff at the idea that Kerry--never particularly popular in the Senate--can expect a leadership role just because he won 59 million votes last year. "In terms of having a louder voice in the Senate," says a Senate Democratic staff member, "I seriously doubt that."
In addition, Kerry faces an also-ran problem. "It's been a long time since the Democratic Party gave somebody a second chance," says Grossman. "That's a big challenge to overcome." But it might not be the biggest. Kerry may find that there is little he or any other contender can do to get his party's nomination if Hillary Clinton decides to run. The New York Senator holds a commanding lead in every poll of Democratic voters, and some major party fund raisers are saying they expect her to have a huge financial advantage over her opponents. "She'll crush them all," says a lobbyist who plans to raise funds for 2008 candidates.But Kerry, for now, doesn't seem daunted. Discussing his health-care bill at a town-hall meeting in Atlanta, he offered advice on how to get it passed that seemed a nod toward his future. "We had a very, very close race," he said. "I've learned in politics that you don't stop. You've got to keep going."
For those of us who follow politicis closely, finding that the Republicans are ignoring their previously stated principles is no surprise. We are aware of the work of people like Frank Luntz who tell fellow Republicans what to say for maximum political gain, regardless of principles.
For the typical voter, seeing how easily the Republicans will flip flop on principles like Federalism would be of little concern. There is, however, a principle which the Democrats need to argue, as there is the prospect for developing a new dividing line between the parties. This is a question of government interference in the private decisions of individuals. Ronald Reagan spoke of getting the government off our backs, but this was yet another case of Republicans deciding upon the words to use rather than supporting principles. Here is one of may situations where it is the Democrats who truly in support of getting the government off people's backs.
Becoming known as the party which supports the rights of the individual against unjust government intervention would be a valuable way for the Democrats to define themselves, rather than allowing the Republicans to continue to define them. This is not only the right principle to support, but one which could be beneficial poliltically. Once people understand that this is why liberals take a position, people might be more understanding of decisions they disagree with personally, such as keeping the government out of decisions over matters such as abortion rights, stem cell research, and sexual preference.
Being the party of individual liberty could also help attract new areas of support. Once identified as the party of big government intrusion into individual's lives, the Republicans may keep their support in the south, but are likely to have difficulties in the more individualistic western states.
Republicans have done an excellent job of nationalizing issues and expanding their support. As Republcans take unpopular positons such as with teh Terri Schiavo case, the Democrats must take advantage of this to show a true distinction between the party themselves and the true party of big government intrusion in people's lives.
Saturday, March 19, 2005; Page E01
RELATED POSTS ON SOCIAL SECURITY:
Social Security and the Young, or Beware the Great Deceiver
Democrats, Social Security, and the Investor Class
Democrats Response on Social Security
Fact Check Disputes GOP Claims on Social Security
No End to The Absurd From Bush on Social Security
Bush World Meets Bizzaro World on Social Security
Cheney: Privitize Social Security, Or Else?
Social Security, A Program For All Times
Women & Social Security, Some Facts and a Calculator
Fact Check on Bush's Social Security Proposals
"The Money in the Account" is NOT All Yours
Social Security Privitization in Chile
Scheming Your Social Security Down the Drain, What Privatization Could Mean to You
By Judy Woodruff
CNN Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. John Kerry seems to be putting himself into the political arena more earnestly and more often.
He's been speaking out on the road and on the Hill -- promoting, among other things, his plan to expand health care coverage to all children.
On Tuesday, we talked with Kerry in his Senate hideaway for one of the few television interviews he has given since Election Day.
I began by asking him if he agrees with Vice President Cheney's assessment that President Bush won a mandate in November for the centerpiece of his social security reform plan: personal retirement accounts.
Kerry: No. No, I don't agree.
I mean, look, the president won re-election and we honor that and respect it. But if 60,000 people had voted the other way, half the people in a football stadium in Columbus, Ohio, on a Saturday, you'd have a different outcome in this race. The president won by the narrowest margin of any incumbent president winning in history.
I think what he won a mandate for is to govern by unifying the country, bringing people together and seeking the common ground, not pushing an ideological agenda, notwithstanding every other point of view. So I hope the president in the next weeks, months, will reach out.
We're ready to work, we're ready to work in the interest of the country. That's what the country wants, is really get rid of the politics, get rid of the fighting, and find the common interest of the American people.
Woodruff: You say get rid of the fighting, but Democrats have made it clear, you and others, you oppose the president's plan, and yet it's clear that Social Security in the long run has a real solvency problem.
Woodruff: You've got people, baby boomers retiring. Don't Democrats have an obligation to talk about what you would do?
Kerry: Sure, and we have and we will continue to. But what we're opposing by the administration's own admission does nothing, nothing -- understand that -- zero, to cure the problem of solvency.
Privatization is not related to solvency. And so what we're trying to do is stop something that requires borrowing $2 trillion or more, adding to the debt of our nation and putting Social Security at risk.
That's a moral responsibility. That's not politics.
If the president will stop pushing the privatization and admit it's not going to pass and it's a failure, and move to a broad discussion of how we strengthen Social Security for the long run, he'll have a lot of partners here. We're ready to do that.
Woodruff:: So you're saying that will happen?
Kerry: I'm convinced. But you know what, Judy? The real crisis facing America -- you know, once again the president is out selling something in an artificial way. The real crisis facing America is not Social Security. It's health care, it's Medicare, Medicaid, and that's why I'm pushing so hard to get 11 million children who have no health insurance at all, to get them covered.
Woodruff: But this is a point. You call it Kids First.
Woodruff: And you just put this plan out there last week. It would cost $22 billion a year. Is that realistic, Senator, at a time when we are in such -- this country is in such tight fiscal constraints?
Kerry: You bet it's realistic. You bet it's realistic.
You know what the president's tax cut that he hasn't yet given to people to make it permanent costs over the next 10 years? $1.6 trillion. Just next year alone, the president's tax cut for people earning more than $1 million a year costs $32 billion.
So this is a value's choice. What are your values? What are the values of the American people?
Do we cover children with insurance who are not getting immunizations for diseases that we know we've cured, who don't get medicine for asthma? One out of three kids doesn't get medicine for asthma. Do we cover them or do we give millionaires a tax cut? That's the values choice for America.
And I know where I stand, and unfortunately we know where the president stands. He wants a tax cut for millionaires. I want to cover children.
Woodruff: Now, you've also said you would go into the districts of members of Congress who vote against this plan. The Republicans are saying, good, they'll pay for your plane ticket to do that.
Kerry: Oh, that's...
Woodruff: Who's bluffing whom here? I mean...
Kerry: Look, this was a very close election. And the fact is that a lot of parts of the country were a margin of less than a percentage point.
They can put all the bravado out there they want, they can use their talking points, and can play their game. But I can tell you this, when the American people start to get organized around this issue, as they are, they're going to feel it at the ballot box. And that's how you make issues move here.
What I'm going do is take this incredible energy that people gave as a gift to our country to change our nation. Three million people on an e-mail list, countless numbers of people -- we have over 600,000 people who have signed on as cosponsors of this effort. When those people start organizing in their districts, I think you're going to see senators and congressmen sing a different tune.
Woodruff:: About this time one year ago, John Kerry was hoping that the crisis in Iraq would help him defeat President Bush. We all know how that turned out. But Sen. Kerry is not backing away from his criticism of the president's Iraq policy. In our one-on-one interview, I asked Sen. Kerry whether the situation in Iraq is better now than what he had predicted during the campaign, given on the recent elections there and the moves towards democracy.
Kerry: No, I think it's what I said it would be. In fact, when I came back from Iraq about a month and a half ago before the elections, I said that we will -- that we ought to have the elections, that the Iraqi people want to vote and they're going to turn out in significant numbers.
But the real issue is how do you patch this government together and provide services to the Iraqi people as rapidly as possible so we can get our troops home and so we can reduce the risk to our troops?
I don't believe the administration has done all that's possible to get further international cooperation. They're certainly not training at a rate that the king of Jordan or the president of Egypt told me they're prepared to train. They're just not doing it.
So, I think you can do a better job of moving faster, but that doesn't mean -- we're all excited about what's happening in Iraq. I think it's great, even if it's not the reason that the president gave us for going to war and it's not the reason that the Congress gave him permission to go to war.
Woodruff: The Middle East, more broadly. In Lebanon you've got big moves to get the Syrians out of there. The Palestinians are sounding more moderate. You've got stirrings of democracy in other parts of the Middle East. Is it -- couldn't it be said that all of this is an outgrowth of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein?
Kerry: No. The assassination of Hariri, we don't know why that took place and what happened. We just don't -- nobody has a rationale for it yet. The death of Arafat was a God-decided moment, not a war- decided moment. And everybody will tell you that those are the two principal reasons for what's happening.
Now, have things changed because of the election? Of course they have. I mean, I'd be silly not to honor what happened in terms of that election. It's wonderful.
I was there in the West Bank the day that the Palestinians voted. And it was -- you couldn't help but be moved and touched by the way in which they took pride in what they were doing and trying to accomplish. We've all of us always advocated democracy and pushed democracy.
I put out an initiative two years ago called the Greatest Middle Eastern Initiative, which could push democracy faster. I still believe we could be doing a more effective job of transitioning were we to have more of the world at our side in this effort.
Woodruff: Well let me ask you about Iran. Right now the president is engaging some U.S. allies. He's taking a less confrontational approach.
Kerry: Good for him, long overdue.
Woodruff: Is that any different from what a John Kerry would have done?
Kerry: It's what I advocated for long time. The president has adopted the John Kerry policy. I said you ought to be involved with the French, the British and the Germans. I raised this during the campaign, Judy. You can go back and see it in the course of debates and otherwise. I'm glad it's happening finally.
But, you know, should we jump up and down and be so excited in America because four years later we do things we should have done four years ago? Look, I hope it works. I want to keep moving in this direction. I'm glad the president's attempting a better and different diplomacy. It's good for our country. But I believe there's still more we can do more effectively and I hope we continue to move in that direction.
Woodruff: We're already asking people what do they think of 2008, who do they think should be the Democratic nominee? Right now Sen. Hillary Clinton is out front in a couple polls. Is she the frontrunner?
Kerry: If she wants to be. I don't -- it doesn't matter to me who's the frontrunner right now. I think all of this talk about 2008 is unbelievably premature and then we have barely three months beyond the last election or four months, whatever. It's just too early.
And I think the focus for our party and for everyone really ought to be on these issues that we're just talking about and on 2006. We've got to win governorships, we've got to win state houses, legislators, Congress, senators. I'm going to focus on those efforts and, you know, what happens in the future will take care of itself.
Woodruff: Well, we checked, we looked back into -- and realized that it's been over 100 years since a losing presidential nominee came back to win the White House. It was Grover Cleveland in 1892. Does that history discourage you?
Kerry: I don't know what you're talking -- I mean, I thought Richard Nixon came back from losing and won in 1968. I don't think that's correct research, actually.
Woodruff: Since a losing presidential nominee came back...
Kerry: Yes, Vice President Nixon ran in 1960, lost to President Kennedy and he won the election in...
Woodruff: Four years later was the caveat. I didn't make it clear.
Kerry: Oh, well, I'm not sure.
Woodruff: Four years later.
Kerry: Look, you know what, I don't care what has happened or not happened. It's too early to be making decisions or thinking about it.
I'll make my judgment when the time comes and I don't care what history says or did. Now is now and these are the -- you know, the whole different set of issues, whole different set of circumstances.
But it's way too early to be thinking. It's just -- it's crazy to be thinking about it now. We've got 2006, all of us, to work on together as a unified party and that's what we're going to do.
Neither site pointed out the most deadly technique from Rumsfeld and Cheney--the technique which has killed far more people than any of these methods: lying the country into war.
This philosphy is not seen in his nomination of Kevin Martin to replace Powell as FCC chairman. Martin, who is currently on the FCC, is even further to the right than Powell in attempts to regulate "indency." The religious right has been pushing for his appointment, and we see that Bush has given in to the religious right rather than sticking to his previously stated principles of free speech. Martin wanted to go even further than the FCC in fining CBS $550,000 for the Janet Jackson's "waredrobe malfunction."Martin also wants to extend current restrictions to cable television and satelite radio.
This week’s debate on the federal budget should remind all Americans that Washington is not working for them.
To the public, the budget debate can seem as confused as it is contentious. The fact is, underlying this debate are fundamental choices about American values. The votes this week weren’t just ticks in the won-loss column; they were assaults on our nation’s character. Honesty, Opportunity and Responsibility were all cut from this budget. And these cuts should give us all cause for concern, because in the end budgets are a statement of your priorities. They are your values backed up by dollars and cents. And the American people who every day choose between doctor bills, car payments, saving for retirement and saving for college deserve better - because they understand better than anybody how to make a budget and live by it. They don’t get to hide the consequences in a cloud of spin.
Honesty, Opportunity and Responsibility - these are values most Americans live by, the values we pass along to our children - to tell the truth, to live up to responsibilities, and to work and sacrifice so our kids will have greater opportunities than we did.
Hold this budget to those simple values: Is it honest? Responsible? Does it create opportunity for all Americans? By any standard this budget fails to measure up, and even sells out our most cherished values.
Surely, when you’re talking about the budget of the United States, honesty at least means actually counting every dollar we’re planning to spend. It sounds simple, it’s what every American does, but this budget doesn’t do it.
Ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are going to cost almost $400 billion over the next ten years. That’s not in the budget. The President’s Social Security scheme will cost over $750 billion over the next ten years. That’s not in the budget. Saving middle-class families from enduring a major tax hike from the Alternative Minimum Tax will cost over $600 billion over ten years. That isn’t in the budget either, and astonishingly, neither is interest on the debt, which not even the most creative accountant would leave out.
What’s more, the President said he wouldn’t spend any of the Social Security Trust Fund. Now he’s spending all of it. The Bush Administration seems to be banking on Mark Twain’s old adage that, “A good lie will have traveled half way around the world while the truth is putting on her boots.” Well, the truth is catching up with them today.
Think about how crazy Washington must seem to people at home reading the headlines. They’ve already heard about the Medicare actuary who was forced to fudge the numbers and lie to Congress to keep his job. They’ve heard about the falsified numbers in Iraq on everything from the cost of the war to the number of trained Iraqi troops. They’ve heard about the EPA scientists who were pressured to downplay the harmful effects of toxic mercury. And now they’re learning the Administration funded fake newscasts to mislead people all across America. It’s one thing to watch Jon Stewart; it’s another to use your tax dollars and try to imitate him.
This budget is like an Enron budget: smoke the numbers, cook the books, hide the truth and hope no one finds out. When Enron went bust the stockholders were the big losers. When this budget comes home to roost, the American taxpayer will be the loser.
America will lose because this budget does exactly what Enron did. This budget makes irresponsible choices the Administration doesn’t want you to know about. They don’t want you to know they’re breaking a 200-year tradition of responsible leadership. For George Washington, responsibility meant the judgment to relinquish power, setting our nation on course for sustainable democracy. For Harry Truman, responsibility meant doing the right thing by our troops with the GI Bill. For Bill Clinton, responsibility meant the discipline to use the economic success in the 90’s to pay down the debt. And for us, taking these lessons from the past, responsibility means telling the truth about the budget and making the tough choices to be fiscally responsible while we invest in the future. That begins by rejecting a tax cut for the wealthy that we just can’t afford.
The truth is, this budget breaks faith with so many Americans, none more so than those who wear our nation’s uniform. We’re not being responsible to those who’ve served by raising veterans’ healthcare fees by $250 a year while we cut taxes for millionaires. We’re not supporting our troops when we welcome them home with $2.6 billion in unanticipated co-payments and fees when we could be cracking down on offshore tax shelters.
Several years ago I met an Air Force veteran I’ll never forget - Joey Dubois. Joey sits in a wheelchair, proud of his country and his service. But he’s still being docked his disability pay in this budget because we say we can’t afford to pay for it. If our sense of responsibility tells us anything, it’s that there are plenty of places to cut back, but veterans like Joey Dubois have earned the right to not have their disability pay cut by the nation they defended.
And if responsibility means anything, it should also mean a budget that keeps faith with those who wear the uniform today. We could be helping military families meet the inevitable increased expenses when a loved-one is deployed. Thousands of reservists, for example, take a cut in pay when called to active duty. Some employers make up the difference in lost wages, but many can’t afford it. We should offer a tax credit to small businesses to help pay difference. We should allow all service members to make free withdrawals from Individual Retirement Accounts for deployment-related expenses, like increased child-care and other costs. Instead of so many of us spending so much effort to stop bad things from happening, it’s time we came together to start making good things happen - and that starts with doing the right thing by our troops.
As many as one-in-five members of the National Guard and Reserves don’t have health insurance. That’s bad policy and bad for our national security. When a member of the National Guard or Reserve is mobilized, and unit members fail physicals because they haven’t seen a doctor in two years, that’s bad for readiness and bad for unit effectiveness. As part of a Military Family Bill of Rights, we could make health insurance available to all members of the National Guard and Reserve, whether mobilized or not. In a time of war, that’s what living up to the value of responsibility demands we do.
You know, some on the other side are quick to embrace the symbols of patriotism with words, but too often deeds lag behind. Let’s be clear: this budget leaves our nation’s patriots behind, and that’s unacceptable.
Responsibility also means keeping our nation on sound financial footing for the long run - keeping our responsibility to the next generation by refusing to dump mountains of debt on their shoulders. The Administration even has the audacity to claim this budget cuts the deficit in half in five years. But you heard the numbers before, the over $1.6 trillion in new deficits over the next ten years. The deficit isn’t going down - it’s moving fast in the wrong direction.
Think about it: The Congressional Budget Office estimates we’ll be facing over $5 trillion in new debt because of this President. These debts not only hurt your children in the future - they hurt you and every working family today. Almost eight cents of every tax dollar you pay goes just toward paying interest on the debt. By contrast, you only pay about two cents on the dollar for education. So, $160 billion goes to interest on the debt, not to giving healthcare to every child, not to fully funding No Child Left Behind, not to securing our energy independence or funding a Military Family’s Bill of Rights. Eight cents on the dollar is a lot of money, and it’s not buying you more security and it’s not buying your kids a better education. But you want to know who’s benefiting from our deficits? Bankers in Japan and Korea and Taiwan, and you should be worried about it. Responsible leaders wouldn’t turn our economic future over to the whims of Asian bankers, they would fight to keep it in responsible hands here at home.
The American people also deserve a budget that keeps faith with the promise of opportunity for all, special privileges for none. One of the dangers in tight fiscal times is you start hearing a lot of empty talk about tough choices. Too often the tough choices you hear about are excuses for serving the special interests at the expense of real opportunity. You heard the excuses from the Administration during the recession, you heard them during the war, and you’re going to hear more excuses during this budget debate. But I don’t think creating real opportunity is a tough choice; it’s the responsible choice.
Let me give you an example: This budget gives a tax cut for millionaires - that’s right, people making over $1 million a year - that will cost a little over $32 billion next year alone. The Administration is saying we have to make the tough choice to NOT provide healthcare to every child, even though that $32 billion could insure every one of the 11 million American children living without health insurance. What would you choose? If you were President for a day would you insure every child or would you give millionaires a little more play money?
Maybe you wouldn’t insure every child. Maybe you would fully fund No Child Left Behind. Maybe you would start rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure. But I know that none of you would give millionaires another tax break when we can make any number of choices that make our nation stronger and our people richer.
The budget is full of choices like this, but the Administration isn’t making tough choices, it’s making the wrong ones. The budget sells off the Arctic wilderness to oil companies while cutting funding for renewable energy of the future. They refuse to negotiate cheaper drug prices for seniors while the budget cuts healthcare for poor children, pregnant women and the disabled. The budget wastes billions of dollars in corporate loopholes while gutting the Manufacturing Extension Program that has created so many jobs. The budget wastes billions more in offshore tax shelters, but cuts funding for literacy programs and the Safe and Drug Free School Program. I just listed a lot of choices and there wasn’t a tough choice among them. If this nation is ever going to move forward, the Administration needs to stop making excuses and start making smart choices.
Pare back all the rhetoric, and here’s the difference on opportunity in the budget we’re debating this week. They say let's not import less expensive drugs. Let's not negotiate better drug prices. Let’s ignore the 45 million Americans without any health care coverage. Let's forget about patients' rights. Let's weaken coverage. Let's raise premiums with a phony small business health plan. Let’s pretend the answer for families struggling to afford insurance is just another tax cut for the wealthy that leaves them behind. And while we’re at it, let's dump the responsibility for covering low-income families and their kids on the states, and let them take the heat for dumping them altogether. That's how the president who promised to usher in a “responsibility era” proposes to deal with a real and present health care crisis. The President says he wants to create an “ownership society,” but the fact is it’s nothing more than a cradle-to-grave “irresponsibility era” that leaves you on your own.
Instead, we could be talking about a Kids First proposal that would be the first step toward ending this irresponsibility era and keeping our promises. And when it comes to giving kids health care coverage, it's a promise we not only can afford to keep, but one we cannot afford to break.
Covering all kids would reduce avoidable hospitalizations by 22 percent. Covering kids means replacing expensive critical care with inexpensive preventive care. And the long-term cost savings, not only in health care, but in education, in job training, in the stress on our families - are incalculable. We do know that children enrolled in public health insurance programs achieve a 68% improvement in measures of school performance. If no child is left behind in the doctor's waiting room, then we’ll have a much better chance of ensuring no child is left behind in school.
That’s a debate we could be having - if we had a budget that reestablished national responsibility for children's health care, built a strong partnership with the states, and most of all, kept faith with parents, who are fundamentally responsible for raising healthy kids. But that’s not the debate we’re having today - because the values of honesty, responsibility and opportunity have been cut from this budget and silenced. The facts are hard to argue with. An honest budget would actually tell the truth. A responsible budget would put the American people’s interests ahead of the special interests. A budget built on opportunity wouldn't destroy it for so many. It doesn’t have to be this way. I met so many families with so much faith in the promise of America. They hate hearing about a budget that slashes funding for science programs, because they believe their children should be at the center of the next revolution in technology. Every American I meet has a vision for greatness in America. It isn’t always the same. For some the dream is energy independence. For others it’s Internet access for every American. For others the dream is healthcare for every child.
People outside Washington believe there’s nothing we can’t achieve if we have the right priorities and work hard enough. They know a budget is more than a balance sheet. It’s an affirmation of the values that really define us: honesty, responsibility, and opportunity. A budget should be a statement of fiscal responsibility, and a declaration of responsible priorities. Let me put this as plain as I can: as a statement of fiscal responsibility, this budget is a sham. As a statement of responsible priorities, it fails the test of common sense. The result: opportunity lost for countless Americans.
Every time America has been challenged, our citizens have risen to the occasion to do the hard work necessary. We’ve exported Democracy abroad, and we should be proud of it, but we have to start making our Democracy stronger here at home. No one knows tough choices better than the American people, and that’s why we must have the courage and conviction to build a new coalition and speak the truth. When we do that, we will find a powerful ally in the American people. Thank you.