The House debated the budget bill for several hours yesterday and the final result was a $66 per pupil cut for schools. Rep. Kevin Yoder (R) amended his own bill first thing, lessening the blow to school districts by $22 per pupil from his original $88 plan. It passed.
Our opposition didn't fall on deaf ears, just on ears that are still hard of hearing.
Rep. Bill Feuerborn (D) offered an amendment that would have reduced education cuts to $33 per pupil (the same as the Senate plan); reduced the cuts to SRS; and reduced the cuts to corrections, but it failed, essentially along party lines with Rep. Dan Johnson being the only Republican to support it. The same type of attempt was made later in debate by Rep. Tom Sawyer, it failed as well.
During debate Rep. Lana Gordon offered an amendment that added back in money for Kansas, Inc., it passed.
In the end it came down to choices. Everything in my opinion is a choice.
Our allies argued that education was mandated by the constitution (in fact it's the only state expenditure mandated by the constitution).
They argued that the state is projecting a $200 million deficit and they proposed $280 million in reductions to cover that and give them some wiggle room.
The slash-the-schools zealots argued that everyone is equal and needed to share the pain and that somehow more education cuts now would mean a better scenario for schools in the 2010 budget. I don't know how that works. And frankly, we don't believe the board of cosmetology, the board of realtors, the board of accountants and the board of barbers, for example, ought to be an equal priority to our children and our schools.
One big difference for schools is they have a budget year that ends June 30th, while most other agencies end in December. So schools have to enact cuts in a much shorter period of time. Where's the equality in that?
Schools are a large part of the budget (perhaps because of that pesky constitution) and they are willing to share in the pain. But they need time to prepare. Cuts of this magnitude are very difficult to implement between now and the end of this school year. Teachers are on contract through the end of the year, and there are no student fees to raise at this point.
Let's face it, our kids are preparing to be tested under guidelines handed down by the state. These cuts will take vital learning opportunities away when we need them most, without any time for preparation.
The bill goes to a final vote this morning. Don't expect a change.
We feel the choice made to cut more funding to the disabled and school children, versus taking a more cautious approach, was unfair to the most vulnerable Kansans who need our protection.
After final action today the bill will go to conference committee to work out the differences between the Senate and House plan. We will be asking you to contact the conference committee appointees as soon as they are named.
The only way to salvage the situation is direct political action by large numbers of people. If you want to protect your schools and your children's future, you can't sit on the sidelines any more. You have to get involved!
Public Revolt Builds Against Rip-off Rescue Plans for the Economy
Naomi Klein writes for Z Magazine: "Watching the crowds in Iceland banging pots and pans until their government fell reminded me of a chant popular in anti-capitalist circles in 2002: 'You are Enron. We are Argentina'. Its message was simple enough. You--politicians and CEOs huddled at some trade summit--are like the reckless scamming execs at Enron (of course, we didn't know the half of it). We--the rabble outside--are like the people of Argentina, who, in the midst of an economic crisis eerily similar to our own, took to the street banging pots and pans. They shouted, '¡Que se vayan todos!' ('All of them must go!') and forced out a procession of four presidents in less than three weeks. What made Argentina's 2001-02 uprising unique was that it wasn't directed at a particular political party or even at corruption in the abstract. The target was the dominant economic model--this was the first national revolt against contemporary deregulated capitalism."
Watchdog: No, Hank, You Didn't Get a Good Deal for the Taxpayer
Paul Kiel writes for ProPublica: "Former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson said last October that the taxpayers shouldn't fret about putting $250 billion in the nation's banks: 'This is an investment, not an expenditure, and there is no reason to expect this program will cost taxpayers anything.' But a draft report from the Congressional Oversight Panel for the TARP says Paulson should have known better. According to the panel's analysis, the preferred stock and warrants Treasury received are worth far less than the investments themselves, amounting to at least a $43 billion subsidy to the banks. That shortfall, they found, was inevitable from the structure of the investments. That's because the analysis 'demonstrates that the value received – including the market’s estimate of its future worth – was considerably less at the time of the transaction than the amount paid by Treasury.'”
TARP Recipients Paid $114 Million to Lobby Lawmakers
Tierney Plumb reports for the Washington Business Journal: "Recipients of the $700 billion federal bailout package in the finance and auto sectors may view their contributions and lobbying as the smartest investments made in years, according to the Center for Responsive Politics."
Watchdogs: Government Overpaid for Wall Street Assets
Kevin G. Hall and Greg Gordon, McClatchy Newspapers: "The federal government overpaid by about $78 billion for stock and other troubled assets when it bailed out big banks last year, and it lacks sufficient internal controls to police and protect taxpayers' investment in the institutions, government watchdogs said Thursday. The new special inspector general for the bailout effort, formally called the Troubled Asset Relief Program, issued his first report Thursday and said that the Treasury Department needs to put more safeguards in place to protect taxpayers."
Nationalized Banks Are "Only Answer," Economist Stiglitz Says
Michael Knigge interviews Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz for Deutsche Welle: "We live in a very different world than during the Great Depression. Then, we had a manufacturing economy. Now we have a service-sector economy. Many people in the in the United States are already working part time because they can't get full-time jobs. People are talking more about the 'comprehensive' measures of unemployment, and these show unemployment at very high levels, around 15 percent. So it clearly is a serious downturn."
Beyond the Bailout: Agenda for a New Economy
David Korten writes for YES! Magazine: "The financial crisis has put to rest the myths that our economic institutions are sound and markets work best when deregulated. Our economic institutions have failed, not only financially, but also socially and environmentally. This, combined with the election of a new president with a mandate for change, creates an opportune moment to rethink and redesign."
They Just Don't Get It
Bernie Horn writes for the Campaign for America's Future: "Right now, conservative U.S. senators—both Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats—are thrashing around trying to cut pieces out of President Obama’s economic recovery plan. They say it costs too much. Ironically, these are the same senators who increased the legislation by more than $100 billion just a couple of days ago. They just don’t get it."
The Economic Crisis Returns with a Vengeance
The Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism reports: "The financial crisis filled 45% of the coverage studied from Jan 26-Feb. 1, as measured by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. A week earlier, it was Obama’s move into the White House that consumed most of the media’s attention, also accounting for 45% of the newshole, or the time on TV and radio and space in print and online."
Fundamentally Flawed Stimulus Coverage
Jamison Foser writes for Media Matters: "If there's one fact that should be made clear in every news report about the stimulus package working its way through Congress, it is this: Government spending is stimulative. That's a basic principle of economics, and understanding it is essential to assessing any stimulus package. So it should be an underlying premise of the media's coverage of the stimulus debate. Unfortunately, that hasn't been the case. Indeed, reporters routinely suggest that spending is not stimulative."
Obama's Team of Zombies: Even under the new president, Washington is the same one-party town it always has been -- controlled not by Democrats or Republicans, but by thieves.
David Sirota writes for Salon.com: "Only weeks ago, the political world was buzzing about a 'team of rivals.' America was told that finally, after years of yes men running the government, we were getting a president who would follow Abraham Lincoln’s lead, fill his administration with varying viewpoints, and glean empirically sound policy from the clash of ideas. Little did we know that "team of rivals" was what George Orwell calls 'newspeak': an empty slogan 'claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts.'"
Obama and the Empire
William Blum writes for Counterpunch: "I've said all along that whatever good changes might occur in regard to non-foreign policy issues, such as what's already taken place concerning the environment and abortion, the Obama administration will not produce any significantly worthwhile change in US foreign policy; little done in this area will reduce the level of misery that the American Empire regularly brings down upon humanity. And to the extent that Barack Obama is willing to clearly reveal what he believes about anything controversial, he appears to believe in the empire."
Whistling Past the Afghan Graveyard: When Empires go to Die
Tom Englehardt writes for Tomdispatch: "It is now a commonplace -- as a lead article in the New York Times's Week in Review pointed out recently -- that Afghanistan is "the graveyard of empires." Given Barack Obama's call for a greater focus on the Afghan War ('we took our eye off the ball when we invaded Iraq...'), and given indications that a "surge" of U.S. troops is about to get underway there, Afghanistan's dangers have been much in the news lately. Some of the writing on this subject, including recent essays by Juan Cole at Salon.com, Robert Dreyfuss at the Nation, and John Robertson at the War in Context website, has been incisive on just how the new administration's policy initiatives might transform Afghanistan and the increasingly unhinged Pakistani tribal borderlands into 'Obama's War.'"
Afghanistan: Losing a No-Win War
Steve Weissman writes for Truthout: "I could go on, but it all boils down to the one lesson of Vietnam that Robert Gates and his Pentagon brass do not want to accept - that Afghans, Pakistanis, Iraqis and other people in Asia, Africa and Latin America will no longer accept the United States and Europe occupying and running their countries. Counter-insurgency can prolong the pain, but it will never overcome the anti-colonial dynamic, as the British Empire, the French Empire and others all learned before us."
Army Reports Alarming Spike in Suicides Last Month
Pauline Jelinek reports for The Associated Press: "The Army is investigating an unexplained and stunning spike in suicides in January. The count is likely to surpass the number of combat deaths reported last month by all branches of the armed forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the fight against terrorism. 'In January, we lost more soldiers to suicide than to al-Qaida,' said Paul Rieckhoff, director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. He urged 'bold and immediate action' by the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs."
Rush Limbaugh Loses Popularity Contest
Max Blumenthal writes for the Daily Beast: "Congressional Republicans have turned to Rush Limbaugh to lead the battle against Obama. One problem: A poll says he's less popular than Jeremiah Wright. Republicans who have turned to Rush Limbaugh to lead the fight against President Obama may have backed the wrong horse. According to one recent poll, Limbaugh turns out to be one of the most unpopular political figures in the country."
Ann Coulter Under Investigation for Voter Fraud
Rachel Weiner reports for the Huffington Post: "The New York Daily News reports that Ann Coulter is under investigation by the Connecticut Elections Enforcement Commission for allegedly voting in that state while registered to vote in New York City."
KDP National Smacks Kansas GOP for Duplicity
Our friends at KansasJackass write: "Kinch is exactly right. The Republican Party nationwide, and right here in Kansas, as pushed this country to the brink of fiscal catastrophe with unsound economic policies as they pay lip service to caring about the poor. They've dragged our Constitution through the mud, they've fought right here in Kansas has hard as possible to prevent public schools from getting the funds they need, and all the while they continue to push the lie the GOP is the party of fiscal responsibility when it was they, they Republicans, who wasted the Clinton budget surplus on tax cuts for the rich that were supposed to bolster the economy, only to have the exact opposite become reality."