Five Eye-Opening Facts About Our Bloated Post-9/11 'Defense' Spending'
May 28, 2011 Joshua Holland, AlterNet
This week, the National Priorities Project (NPP) released a snapshot of U.S. “defense” spending since September 11, 2001. The eye-popping figures lend credence to the theory that al Qaeda's attacks were a form of economic warfare – that they hoped for a massive overreaction that would entangle us in costly foreign wars that would ultimately drain away our national wealth.
They didn't bankrupt us the same way the Mujahadeen helped bring down the Soviet Union decades before, because our economy was much stronger. But they did succeed in putting us deep into the red – with an assist, of course, from Bush's ideologically driven tax cuts for the wealthy.
The topline number is this: we have spent $7.6 trillion on the military and homeland security since 9/11. The Pentagon's base budget – which doesn't include the costs of fighting our wars – has increased by 81 percent during that time (43 percent when adjusted for inflation). The costs of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have now reached $1.26 trillion. But that only scratches the surface; it doesn't include the long-term costs of caring for badly wounded soldiers, for example.
One line-item suggests that 9/11 has been used to justify greater military spending across the board; the nuclear weapons budget has shot up by more than a fifth after adjusting for inflation. How intercontinental ballistic missiles that can vaporize whole cities are useful in a “war on terror” is anybody's guess.
The Pentagon itself acknowledges these dollars haven't all been spent effectively – there is certainly plenty of waste. According to the Washington Post, the DoD has blown $32 billion (enough to offer free, universal college tuition for a year) on canceled weapons programs since 1997. According to the Post story, which is based on an unreleased Pentagon report, “For almost a decade, the Defense Department saw its budgets boom — but didn’t make the kind of technological strides that seemed possible.”
"Since 9/11, a near doubling of the Pentagon’s modernization accounts — more than $700 billion over 10 years in new spending on procurement, research and development — has resulted in relatively modest gains in actual military capability,” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said in an address last week.
He called that outcome both “vexing and disturbing.” Some might find the relentless focus on cutting benefits for vulnerable Americans "vexing and disturbing" in light of this profligate spending. Budgets, after all, are a reflection of our priorities.
Toward that end, let's put these numbers in perspective by looking at some of the other things we might be doing with those dollars. Because a buck spent on guns is one less for butter.
1. Post-9/11 Defense Hikes Equal Five Times the “Medicare Gap”
Economist Dean Baker notes that “the projections in the Medicare Trustees report, as well as the CBO baseline budget, show that the program faces a relatively modest long-term shortfall.” The amount of money needed to balance the program's finances over its 75-year horizon, he adds, “is less than 0.3 percent of GDP, approximately one-fifth of the increase in the rate annual defense spending between 2000 and 2011.”
2. Afghanistan Costs Alone Could Pay for 15.6 Years of Head Start
Head Start provides education, health, nutrition, and parenting services to low-income children and their families. It's an incredibly successful, effective and popular program, but there are only 900,000 places in the program for more than 2.5 million eligible kids. According to the National Priorities Project, what we've spent on the Afghanistan war so far could fund Head Start for all eligible children for the next 15.6 years.
3. Covering the Uninsured
A 2007 study conducted by researchers at Harvard University estimated that 45,000 people die every year in the United States from problems associated with lack of coverage. The study found that “uninsured, working-age Americans have a 40 percent higher risk of death than their privately insured counterparts,” even “after taking into account socioeconomics, health behaviors, and baseline health.”
According to NPP's analysis, the costs of the Afghanistan conflict alone could cover every uninsured American for 1.7 years.
4. Closing State Budget Gaps
Forty-six states face budget shortfalls in this fiscal year, totaling $130 billion nationwide. The supplemental requests for fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan this year add up to $170 billion – that doesn't include the Pentagon's base budget, nukes or Homeland Security.
5. Iraq, Just in 2011
Iraq is still a bloody mess, with an insurgency still underway. But our politicians have declared vistory and the media have largely moved on. That doesn't mean we won't spend almost $50 billion on those "non-combat troops" which remain, however. What else could we do with that kind of scratch if we just brought them home? NPP tells us it would buy:
24.3 million children receiving low-income health care for one year, OR
726,044 elementary school teachers for one year, OR
829,946 firefighters for one year, OR
6.2 million Head Start slots for children for one year, OR
10.7 million households with renewable electricity -- solar photovoltaic for one year, OR
28.6 million households with renewable electricity-wind power for one year, OR
6.1 million military veterans receiving VA medical care for one year, OR
9.8 million people receiving low-income health care for one year, OR
718,208 police or sheriff's patrol officers for one year, OR
6.0 million scholarships for university students for one year, OR
8.5 million students receiving Pell grants of $5,550
The Big Picture
It's a tragic irony that so much of the discussion surrounding the public debt centers on “entitlements” like Social Security (which hasn't added a penny to the national debt) when we're still paying for Korea and Vietnam and Grenada and Panama and the first Gulf War and Somalia and the Balkans and on and on.
Estimates of just how much of our national debt payments are from past military spending vary wildly. In 2007, economist Robert Higgs calculated it like this:
I added up all past deficits (minus surpluses) since 1916 (when the debt was nearly zero), prorated according to each year's ratio of narrowly defined national security spending--military, veterans, and international affairs--to total federal spending, expressing everything in dollars of constant purchasing power. This sum is equal to 91.2 percent of the value of the national debt held by the public at the end of 2006. Therefore, I attribute that same percentage of the government's net interest outlays in that year to past debt-financed defense spending.
When Higgs did that analysis four years ago, he came up with a figure of $206.7 billion just in interest payments on our past military adventures.
Budget deficit, huh? BS. This is what has to be cut. What cons are doing is using phiony numbers as an excuse to kill programs they don't want.
www.ProtectOurElections.org Calls for Investigations Into Justice Thomas in Light of
New Information Reveals Thomas Invested In Lobbying Firm Tied To Tea Party and Engaged In "Judicial Insider Trading" To Enrich His Wife.
WASHINGTON, June 1, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- ProtectOurElections.org, a campaign finance watchdog, has asked the FBI and Department of Justice to investigate Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, Virginia (Ginni) Thomas for financial and judicial corruption partly based on the Justice's newest financial disclosures.
First, the organization alleges, Justice Thomas falsified 20 years of judicial financial disclosure forms by denying that his wife had income sources; second, he engaged in judicial corruption by receiving $100,000 in support from Citizens United during his nomination and then ruling in favor of Citizens United in 2010 without disclosing that fact or disqualifying himself; and third, he apparently conspired with his wife in a form of "judicial insider trading" by providing her with information about the result of the Court's decision in Citizens United prior to its issuance, which she then used to launch a new company to take financial advantage of that decision to benefit her and her husband.
On Friday, May 27, 2011, Clarence Thomas' 2010 Financial Disclosure Forms were released showing that he had invested thousands of dollars in Liberty Consulting Inc. a lobbying and consulting firm founded by his wife to cater to the "tea party." The disclosure also revealed that his wife received "salary and benefits" from Liberty Consulting and Liberty Central.
Today, ProtectOurElections.org is calling on the DOJ's Public Integrity Section and the FBI to consider this new information in their investigation of Justice Thomas and his wife.
"Justice Thomas' newest disclosures provide powerful evidence that he engaged in official corruption by investing in Liberty Consulting and by conspiring with his wife to enrich themselves from the Citizens United decision through Liberty Consulting and Liberty Central," said ProtectOurElections.org attorney and spokesman Kevin Zeese. "As we have previously pointed out, Liberty Consulting and Liberty Central Justice are linked and appear to be AstroTurf scams meant to take advantage of the Citizens United decision and defraud donors. Now, it is clear that Justice Thomas invested in Liberty Consulting, which was founded by his wife shortly after she was forced by scandal to resign from Liberty Central."
A few days after the release of our February 8, 2011 Liberty Consulting expose' on YouTube, the website was deleted from the Internet and it remains offline today. This raises more questions about its legitimacy.
In its May 22, 2011 letter to the FBI, ProtectOurElections.org asked the agency to investigate the timing of the founding of Liberty Central because it appears to be a case of judicial insider trading by the Thomas family to enrich themselves through the Citizens United decision. Now, the ProtectOurElections.org is calling on the FBI to also investigate Liberty Consulting since it appears that Justice Thomas and his wife created the company to raise funds and pay Mrs. Thomas a salary and benefits, and then shut the doors with no explanation or accounting of the budget.
Zeese continued, "This entire affair has all the appearances of corruption and cover up. Only a full scale federal investigation will uncover the facts."
Sept 9, 2009: Citizens United argued.
Nov 6, 2009: Virginia Thomas launches her new Liberty Central 501(c)(4) organization, which raises 550K in 2009.
Jan 21, 2010: Citizens United decided.
Virginia Thomas announces that Liberty Central would "accept donations from various sources — including corporations — as allowed under campaign finance rules recently loosened by the Supreme Court."
November 14, 2010: Liberty Central announces that Virginia Thomas would be leaving the organization.
November 16, 2010: Liberty Consulting incorporated in the state of Virginia.
February 4, 2011: Politico reports that Virginia Thomas had launched Liberty Consulting.
February 8, 2011: ProtectOurElections.org releases its expose of Liberty Consulting
February 12, 2011: Liberty Consulting website is deleted
February 23, 2011: ProtectOurElections.org files a formal bar complaint against Clarence Thomas requesting that he be disbarred on various grounds.
Another conservative lying crook - and a Supreme Court Justice! Repulsive cretins.
GOP Obstructionism Reaches New Heights
On May 19th, Senate Republicans successfully filibustered the nomination of Goodwin Liu for the Court of Appeals of the Ninth Circuit. Under the deal reached by the “Gang of 14” in 2005, senators agreed not to filibuster judicial nominees except under “extraordinary circumstances.” Republicans used that exemption to block Liu’s nomination, even though the Berkeley law professor is widely regarded as one of the sharpest constitutional scholars in the country, earned praise from conservatives like Ken Starr and John Yoo, and was named “unanimously well-qualified,” by the American Bar Association.
The very Republican senators who filibustered Liu’s nomination once decried the tactic. “I would never filibuster any President’s judicial nominee, period,” said Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) in 2005. But under the Obama Administration, Alexander and his ilk have had a change of heart. Their level of obstructionism keeps reaching new heights.
According to a report [pdf] from the Alliance for Justice:
Of the 105 nominations submitted by President Obama during the first two years of his term, only 62—2 Supreme Court justices, plus 16 courts of appeals and 44 district court judges—were confirmed. That is the smallest percentage of judicial confirmations over the first two years of any presidency in American history.
Judicial vacancies increased from 55 to 97 during President Obama’s first two years, whereas under both President’s Bush and Clinton, vacancies declined.
Senate Republicans used every parliamentary tool they could to obstruct and delay President Obama’s nominees, including placing secret holds on each judicial nominee who reached the Senate floor, even those that had the support of Republican home-state senators. They also denied votes on 13 nominees at the end of the 111th Congress who received no Republican opposition in committee.
Today 53 Obama judicial nominees still have yet to be confirmed by the Senate. Of the 1132 executive and judicial branch nominations submitted to the Senate by President Obama, 223 nominees have yet to receive a vote on the Senate floor, according to White House data. That means that nearly 20 percent of Obama nominees have been blocked by Senate Republicans.
In response to this obstruction, Obama has filled 28 vacant positions via recess appointments. President Bush, in contrast, made 171 recess appointments during his presidency, including John Bolton for UN ambassador and two controversial judicial nominations, Charles Pickering and William Pryor, to the US Court of Appeals. To catch up with Bush, Obama would have to make roughly twenty-eight recess appointment per year until the end of his presidency, assuming he wins a second term and governs for eight years.
To fill these vacancies, the Obama administration must move aggressively to challenge GOP obstructionism, which is something they've been slow to do. According to a new Alliance for Justice report [pdf] on judicial nominations in the 112th Congress:
President Obama still badly trails his two predecessors in terms of nominations. At the end of the 111th Congress, the President was 27 nominations behind President Bush and 37 nominations behind President Clinton at a similar point in their presidencies, and there were enough vacancies open for him to keep pace with either of them. Instead of catching up, President Obama has slipped further behind President Bush (now 51 nominations behind), and has barely made a dent in the gap with President Clinton (now 34 nominations behind), at the comparable point in their presidencies.
Yet Republicans, in another stunning act of hypocrisy, are determined not to let Obama make any recess appointments for the foreseeable future. The Senate stayed in pro-forma session over the Memorial Day break, instead of adjourning for its usual recess, in part to prevent Obama from appointing Elizabeth Warren to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. A dozen Senate Republicans have asked House Speaker John Boehner “to try to block President Obama from making recess appointments for the remainder of his presidency,” according to Politico.
At the beginning of the 112th Congress, a trio of Senate Democrats—Tom Harkin, Jeff Merkley and Tom Udall—tried to reform the Senate rules to prevent such rampant abuse of the filibuster and nomination process. But they were stymied by the leadership of both parties, who made sure the new rules did not pass. Sitting side-by-side at the State of the Union evidently took precedence. As a result, the absurd dysfunction of the contemporary US Senate continues unabated.
The Wild War to Protect Bluefin Tuna In Libyan Waters, and Obama's Troubling Role
The waters off Libya are a NATO no-fly zone, which is good news to poachers: No inspectors. No surveillance.
A war is raging in Libya, but it's not the one in the news.
Its battles are set in the dazzling Mediterranean offshore. Its warriors are foreign, their motives mostly mercenary.
Their casualties? Atlantic bluefin tuna. Although it's not an officially endangered species — with help from the Obama administration — overfishing has reduced bluefin populations by 80 percent since 1970. A single bluefin typically sells for $75,000, and that's what will happen to those caught off Libya, unless Captain Paul Watson, armed with international law and big serrated knives, wins this war.
Two ships from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a nonprofit Watson founded in 1978, nine years after cofounding Greenpeace, are now speeding toward Libyan seas. French, Spanish, German, Italian and Maltese poachers ply these waters with impunity, although the EU has outlawed all fishing here due to Libya's civil war. It's a NATO no-fly zone, which is good news to poachers: No inspectors. No surveillance.
Except, that is, for the Sea Shepherd's 60-foot helicopter-mounted flagship Steve Irwin and its small, swift scout vessel.
"Any boat we find will be an illegal boat," warns Watson, who says he liberated 800 tuna off Libya last year.
Bluefin are not killed upon being caught, but hauled live in huge underwater nets to shore stations "where they can be fattened up" like feedlot steers, Watson explains. Sea Shepherd divers slit those nets with knives.
It's the latest in a long series of rip-roaring and highly controversial rescue missions involving blades and ballistics, fire and ice, stink-bombs and blood. Sea Shepherd vessels ram Japanese whalers, get rammed back, and rock wildly under water-cannon fire on Animal Planet's Whale Wars and in Confessions of an Eco-Terrorist, a new documentary directed by SSCS veteran Peter Brown.
Sea Shepherd crews have scuttled — that is, sunk — at least 10 whaling vessels. Sea Shepherd ships ram whalers, foul their propellers, intercept their harpoons, block their slipways to prevent loading, and barrage them with bottles of foul-smelling butyric acid. In return, Sea Shepherd vessels have been rammed, burned, flash-grenaded, fired upon, and depth-charged — including by a Norwegian naval vessel.
Confessions of an Eco-Terrorist calls Sea Shepherd a "vigilante organization," its members "a band of pirates" and "the world's most wanted environmental heroes." Watson's many honors include the Amazon Peace Prize and inclusion among the Guardian's "50 People Who Could Save the Planet." He has been beaten, suffocated, immersed in icy seas, and even shot in the chest by opponents, he says. He's been arrested in many countries and charged with many crimes, including attempted murder, but never convicted.
"We don't do anything illegal. We target illegal operations. Everybody's so concerned about private property. They think private property is sacred." But if that private property is being used to flout conservation codes, all deals are apparently off.
"We're an interventionist organization fighting against poaching on the high seas."
Recently, Watson was appalled to learn — from Wikileaks, of all places — that Barack Obama colluded with the Japanese government to disempower the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
In a confidential November 2009 cable Wikileaks released this year, the Japanese government asked the US government to revoke SSCS' tax-exempt status. This cable cited the head of Japan's fisheries agency as saying that US action against SSCS would "positively influence Japan's negotiating position" regarding future negotiations over the number of whales legally killed every year. Monica Medina, the Obama administration's representative to the International Whaling Commission, replied promptly that "the USG" — United States government — "can demonstrate the group does not deserve tax exempt status based on their aggressive and harmful actions."
It's illegal for the US to use the IRS as a weapon against an organization in collusion with a foreign government," says Watson, whose group has maintained tax-exempt status since 1981. "Obama was making secret deals with Japan. No other president has done this. Every president since Reagan has stood fast on the whaling issue. This is the first administration to swerve. This president has reneged on every offer he ever made for us. I voted for him. That's what really gets me," says Watson, who was a Green Party candidate in Vancouver's 1995 mayoral race.
After last year's Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Watson "wanted to go to the gulf with a boat and clean animals. We were told, 'If you so much as touch an animal that's covered with oil, you'll go to jail.' So we couldn't rescue a single animal, because BP owns Obama. He's an industry guy."
On May 27 of this year, the Obama administration officially declined to grant endangered species status to the Atlantic bluefin.
"At least Republicans are honest," Watson says.
So he battles for tuna, cod, salmon, dolphins and the heavily overfished Chilean seabass, which Watson insists cannot be caught sustainably, no matter what their packaging says at Whole Foods. (He says the word "sustainable" is a euphemism for "business as usual.") He battles for sea cucumbers, whose population has been decimated in the breathtakingly beautiful, mercilessly poached South Pacific. He fights for sharks, as detailed in the gory 2006 documentary Sharkwater. He fights for fur seals, although "I think we won this one. We got the EU to ban seal pelts. Seal pelts are now worthless in Europe."
And because he fights for whales, "Japan treats Sea Shepherd like we're a nation they're at war with. It's sheer arrogance. They think nobody can tell them what to do."
In 2009, SSCS insiders went undercover at a trendy California sushi restaurant they'd heard served whale to trusted customers. Sneaked-out samples were DNA-identified as whale. The restaurant closed, its owner and chef slammed with federal charges. Last week, a Los Angeles seafood dealer pled guilty to providing the meat.
"But we know there's still a large distribution in whale meat among sushi restaurants in America," Watson says.
"A small group of people will pay a lot of money to eat endangered species. There's a special thrill in ordering something it's a federal crime to eat."
That thrill is alive and well. Mitsubishi Corporation hoards massive quantities of frozen bluefin, hoping to cash in on the species' collapse.
"Mitsubishi has a five-year supply of bluefin," Watson explains. "They'd like to get a ten-year supply, because diminishment translates to scarcity and scarcity translates to higher prices. If they drive the bluefin into extinction, we're looking at a million-dollar fish. So there's no interest in conserving them.
"I call it the economy of extinction."
Whale Wars' fourth season, which starts this Friday, "will hopefully be our last, because we've succeeded in driving the Japanese whaling fleet out of the Southern Ocean. They can move, but they know we will find them."
So it's on to Libya — and then the Faroe Islands, a North Sea Danish protectorate where thousands of pilot whales are slaughtered every year for sport. In a tradition known as "the Grind," massive quantities of whales — entire pods at a time — are corraled into shallow bays, gaffed, slashed, and slain. The sea turns Clamato-red. The crowds rejoice.
"It's barbaric, a big orgy of slaughter. We've got pictures of people ripping fetuses out of pregnant females for fun."
Five-time Faroese prime minister Atli Dam told Watson "that it's part of their culture and that God gave this to them. Well, you can't use culture as a justification for destroying the planet."
Last fall, he placed a dead baby pilot whale before the Danish Embassy in Paris. The carcass lay in a coffin, atop a European Union flag. Noting that Norway and Iceland can't join the EU because both kill whales, yet the Faroes enjoy EU benefits through Danish subsidies, Watson demanded that Denmark stop supporting the Faroes until they outlaw the Grind.
"We speak the one language everyone understands: economics," Watson says. "We don't try appealing to these people's morals or ethics, because I don't believe they have any."
Another example of corporate greed. (Mitsubishi)
And human indifference to animal suffering.
Animals are nicer than humans.
Notice the deal-making I put in bold. That's the way the world works, folks. Nothing is as it seems, which is why I post some of this information.
With No Middle Class Left, Ad Age Says Top 10% Dominates Purchasing Power
Wow. Via Wonkette, here's a report that's provides capitalism based proof of what we at AlterNet have been saying for a long time about the eroding middle class.
It's a report from Ad Age magazine declaring the "era of mass affluence" to be "over" and pinpointing the purchasing power of the tippy-top of the class pyramid--leaving the rest of us out in the cold.
The report,as the below article from "Too Much" magazine notes, is simply "following the money:"
The Mad Men 1960s America — where average families dominated the consumer market — has totally disappeared, this Ad Age New Wave of Affluence study details. And Madison Avenue has moved on — to where the money sits. And that money does not sit in average American pockets. The global economic recession, Ad Age relates, has thrown “a spotlight on the yawning divide between the richest Americans and everyone else.”
Taking inflation into account, Ad Age goes on to explain, the “incomes of most American workers have remained more or less static since the 1970s,” while “the income of the rich (and the very rich) has grown exponentially.”
The top 10 percent of American households, the trade journal adds, now account for nearly half of all consumer spending, and a disproportionate share of that spending comes from the top 10’s upper reaches.
“Simply put,” sums up Ad Age’s David Hirschman, “a small plutocracy of wealthy elites drives a larger and larger share of total consumer spending and has outsize purchasing influence — particularly in categories such as technology, financial services, travel, automotive, apparel, and personal care.”
The story goes on to note that most Americans aren't aware of this growing inequality and still believe in an ideal that remains "egalitarian," a society in which everyone has a shot at attaining a level of luxury and spending power to respond to those ads. But in reality, statistically speaking, we remain very much locked into our stark class divide.
Holy Shit!!! Ad Age, an venerable organization devoted to analyzing ways corporations can make money (and helping them do it) says what we have been posting here for some time.
It's mostly over for everyone except the wealthy.
Now this has to be a liberal plot. Liberals have undoubtedly paid off THOUSANDS of people, like academics, organizations, newspapers, and others to say that the middle class is dying. Wow. Liberals are powerful, huh? Impressive!
Oh wait, some say it's not a problem. The wealthy deserve whatever they have; they should have even more; taxes are still too high; government should leave them alone; after all, they are BETTER than everyone else.
Okay - never mind.
Chris Christie: $6,000 a year is too much income to qualify for Medicaid
Let them eat cake."
The great white hope of the Iowa Republican party, Governor Chris Cristie of New Jersey, has recently made only bad news for himself: his vicious attacks on public school teachers and other public employees, turning away federal dollars for a critical public transportation program, his propensity for living high on the hog at government expense. All of this has sent his approvals into the tank. His latest isn't going to help him reshape his image as a callous lout sponging off the misery of others. Literally.
Despite recent polls that show Americans are just as protective of Medicaid as they are of Medicare, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) is trying to gut the popular program in his state and prevent 23,000 people from receiving benefits. Christie has proposed cutting Medicaid eligibility to absurdly low levels: from the current maximum income of $24,645 to $5,317 a year for a family of three. Apparently, the governor believes a family of three making $6,000 a year is simply too rich to receive Medicaid. The New Jersey press has reported that the main effect of his proposal would be to slash help for the working poor, tearing a huge hole in the state’s social safety net:
Adults in a family of three that makes as little as $103 a week would earn too much to qualify for health care provided by Medicaid under a sharply curtailed program Gov. Chris Christie wants the federal government to approve this year, according to state officials and advocates briefed on the proposal.[...] The Christie administration is expected to propose cutting the maximum income level of Medicaid from $24,645 to $5,317 a year for a family of three [...“That is about a third of the poverty level,” Castro said. “That means that an uninsured parent working full time at a minimum-wage job wouldn’t be eligible. … A parent who works half-time for minimum wage wouldn’t even qualify.
How do you even parody that level of cruelty? And this is the guy many Republicans see as their 2012 savior?
That's Republican family values, for you.
Think about this for a minute.
Romney is being pilloried by conservatives for helping people in Massachusetts by enabling healthcare for them.
This a-hole (Christie) is being lauded for his relentless attacks on the needy. As are many other conservative governors.
What the hell is wrong with this picture? Helping people makes you a BAD guy. Are they trying to show who is the nastiest a-hole to the needy? That makes you a winner? WTF?
This is who they are!!!!!!!!
Walker's so "pro-life" he doesn't care if 7,000 poor men in Wisconsin die of
hepatitis C or HIV.
Greg Hartman was waiting tables to support himself through college in the fall of 2010 when his hometown of Manitowoc, Wisc., experienced an outbreak of HIV and the hepatitis C virus. After finding out his best friend had been infected with hepatitis, the uninsured 22-year-old decided he needed to get checked out as well -- but the tests were going to cost him more than $300 out of pocket.
"There's no way I could have afforded it on my own," said Hartman, who brings in only $150 to $200 a week from his restaurant job.
Hartman said he went to the University of Wisconsin's campus health care center and applied for BadgerCare -- the state's Medicaid-funded family planning program, which reimburses low-income men and women for sexually transmitted disease testing, birth control services, cancer screenings and other preventative reproductive care. Through BadgerCare, Hartman was able to afford to get tested for both HIV and hepatitis C -- he tested positive for the latter.
"If I didn't qualify for BadgerCare, I would have just said '**** it' and not gone into the clinic in the first place," he told HuffPost. "I would never have known I had hepatitis."
Although the BadgerCare family planning program doesn’t cover Hartman's treatment, he was able to afford two different HIV tests, a liver panel and potentially life-saving hepatitis tests through the subsidized program.
But the nearly 7,000 other low-income Wisconsin men who use BadgerCare may soon be out of luck. Scott Walker, the state's Republican governor, has proposed eliminating men entirely from the program in his latest budget bill. That move could cost Wisconsin all of its federal family planning funds, policy experts warn.
Wisconsin's Joint Finance Committee is currently finalizing the language of the bill. In addition to cutting men from BadgerCare, it also includes provisions that increase the age restrictions for BadgerCare eligibility, require parental consent for all patients under 18 years old, reduce the eligibility limit down to 200 percent of the federal poverty line and cut more than $1 million dollars in state funds to Planned Parenthood.
The governor's office did not respond to repeated requests for comment, but Pro-Life Wisconsin -- an anti-abortion advocacy group that officially endorsed Walker -- told HuffPost it supports his move to cut men from the BadgerCare family planning program. The group believes that providing men with condoms, testing and sexual counseling doesn't really save the state any money.
"The assumption is that, if you get women on birth control, that would reduce BadgerCare-funded births and save the state money," said Matt Sande, legislative director for Pro-Life Wisconsin. "But how much are men contributing to those purported cost savings? Less than 7,000 men use the program, compared to 50,000 total patients. You're looking at a small percentage of the overall population, so it just seemed to a Republican legislator to be a gratuitous add-on that is not saving the state anything."
Abortion rights advocates in Wisconsin are convinced that Walker and the GOP lawmakers are just looking for underhanded, politically acceptable ways to change the BadgerCare program so significantly that the U.S. government is forced to cut all federal family planning funding to the state.
"Taking men out of the program not only serves to remove critical health care for men, but it puts us out of compliance with our agreement with the federal government and puts the entire BadgerCare program at risk," said Tanya Atkinson, the executive director of Planned Parenthood Wisconsin. "It's a politically palatable way of systematically dismantling Wisconsin's family planning program."
Wisconsin's Department of Health Services confirmed that it cannot remove men from Medicaid eligibility without applying for a waiver from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which would then have to determine whether the state can continue to receive federal funding at all based on the new terms of its family planning program.
BadgerCare currently serves about 57,600 low-income Wisconsinites, according to Planned Parenthood, and the state's health department estimates that it prevented 11,064 unplanned pregnancies in 2008. Family planning advocates argue that, if patients did not have access to preventive care, Wisconsin would see an increase in unintended pregnancies, the spread of STDs and a rise in undetected and untreated cervical and breast cancer cases -- all of which would then cost the state millions of dollars in future medical costs.
But Pro-Life Wisconsin's Sande argues that BadgerCare services actually increase the rate of unintended pregnancies by encouraging teens to have sex.
"Medicaid is a state program providing free state-funded birth control and condoms to 15-, 16- and 17-year-olds, and that's a violation of parental rights," he said. "We oppose the BadgerCare program for that reason, and also because of the fact that government-funded birth control increases pregnancies and promotes promiscuity -- it has the opposite of its intended effect."
While the language of the budget bill has not been finalized, Planned Parenthood said it anticipates that all the pro-life, anti-family-planning provisions in the Wisconsin budget will pass in the State Assembly.
Hartman, who is waiting for his next free test to determine which strain of hepatitis C he has, said if the state government kicks him out of BadgerCare, he is going to start looking for a job in Sweden.
"I'm trying to leave the country because I can't afford to live here," he said. "It's like they don't care about the health of low-income men, or they don't care if we die. I don't know what they are thinking, but it feels like an attack."
Move along, folks. Nothing to see here. Just fkng conservatives doing what they do a million times each day.
Republicans Demand Censorship of Progressive Ad Fighting Their Medicare-Destroying
Republicans may have passed a plan to end Medicare and replace it with vouchers for private insurance, but apparently they don't want their political opponents to be able to tell anybody about it:
The battle over whether it’s true that the Republican plan would “end Medicare” is about to play out in a critical way in New Hampshire.
The National Republican Congressional Committee, which oversees House races for the GOP, has written a sharply-worded letter demanding that a New Hampshire TV station yank an ad making that claim. Whether the ad gets taken down could help set a precedent for whether other stations will air Dem TV ads making this argument, which is expected to be a central message for Dems in the 2012 elections.
You can watch the ad, (below) which is being aired by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, at the top of this post, but the thing that has got Republicans all hot and bothered is the ad's assertion that the GOP voted to end Medicare. They say they want television stations to censor the ad because they don't believe their proposal would completely end Medicare...it would only end Medicare as we know it. (This is the same stupid argument Politifact made.)
According to the GOP's logic, if they had proposed eliminating the fire department and replaced it with a program giving you vouchers to purchase firefighting services from a private company, it would unfair to say they had proposed getting rid of the fire department. As if that weren't crazy enough, they want television broadcasters to censor anyone who disagrees with them.
You really couldn't picture a more perfect example of the GOP's hypocrisy on freedom of speech: the party that claims the U.S. Constitution gives corporations political rights also believes those very same corporations should censor grassroots political activists.
Yep. Trying to stop an ad that they don't like. What does that tell you about them?
Homeland Security Department curtails home-grown terror analysis
The Department of Homeland Security has stepped back for the past two years from conducting its own intelligence and analysis of home-grown extremism, according to current and former department officials, even though law enforcement and civil rights experts have warned of rising extremist threats.
The department has cut the number of personnel studying domestic terrorism unrelated to Islam, canceled numerous state and local law enforcement briefings, and held up dissemination of nearly a dozen reports on extremist groups, the officials and others said.
The decision to reduce the department’s role was provoked by conservative criticism of an intelligence report on “Rightwing Extremism” issued four months into the Obama administration, the officials said. The report warned that the poor economy and Obama’s election could stir “violent radicalization,” but it was pilloried as an attack on conservative ideologies, including opponents of abortion and immigration.
In the two years since, the officials said, the analytical unit that produced that report has been effectively eviscerated. Much of its work — including a digest of domestic terror incidents and the distribution of definitions for terms such as “white supremacist” and “Christian Identity” — has been blocked.
Multiple current and former law enforcement officials who have regularly viewed DHS analyses said the department had not reported in depth on any domestic extremist groups since 2009.
“Strategic bulletins have been minimal, since that incident,” said Mike Sena, an intelligence official in California who presides over the National Fusion Center Association, a group of 72 federally chartered institutions in which state, local and federal officials share sensitive information. “Having analytical staff, to educate line officers on the extremists, is critical.…This is definitely one area” where more effort is warranted by DHS.
Similar frustration was expressed in interviews with current and former officials at fusion centers in Missouri, Virginia and Tennessee. Daryl Johnson, formerly the senior domestic terrorism analyst at DHS and a principal author of the disputed report, confirmed in an interview that he left in frustration last year after his office was “gutted” in response to complaints.
“Other reports written by DHS about Muslim extremists … got through without any major problems,” Johnson said. “Ours went through endless reviews and edits, and nothing came out.”
The threat of Islamic-related terrorism in the United States has by all accounts captured the most attention and resources at DHS since it was formed in 2002. But a study conducted for the department last October concluded that a majority of the 86 major foiled and executed terrorist plots in the United States from 1999 to 2009 were unrelated to al-Qaeda and allied movements.
“Do not overlook other types of terrorist groups,” the report warned, noting that five purely domestic groups had considered using weapons of mass destruction in that period. Similar warnings have been issued by the two principal non-government groups that track domestic terrorism: the New York-based Anti-Defamation League and the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center.
An annual tally by the latter group of what it calls “Terror From the Right” listed 13 major incidents and arrests last year, nearly double the annual number in previous years; the group also reported the number of hate groups had topped 1,000 in 2010, for the first time in at least two decades.
Citing the complaints that Johnson first made in an SPLC quarterly, the group’s president, J. Richard Cohen, wrote to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano this week requesting a reassessment of resources devoted to “the threat of non-Islamic domestic terrorism."
Authorities this year have arrested neo-Nazis who allegedly planted a bomb along the route of a Martin Luther King parade in Spokane, Wash.; arrested six members of an Alaska militia who allegedly plotted to kill state troopers; arrested a Wisconsin man for planning to kill Planned Parenthood workers; and on May 29 arrested a Florida man who claimed to be part of the burgeoning “sovereign citizen movement” after he sprayed a market with AK-47 fire.
A spokesman for DHS, Adam Fetcher, declined to say if the department agrees that the threat of domestically inspired terrorism is increasing or how many analysts are presently assigned to the issue, calling that a sensitive intelligence matter. But he said the evolving risk of group or individual violence is “reflected in our briefings and products over the past year.”
A senior department official provided by Fetcher, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence practices, confirmed that “the number of analysts on a daily basis has decreased somewhat, compared to what it was two years ago.” But the official disputed claims by several current and former DHS officials that only two analysts — including one who is a contract employee — now study the issue full-time.
DHS’s caution or avoidance, as its critics claim, may partly stem from worries that aggressive intelligence operations could be seen as civil liberties violations. A DHS official explained that “unlike international terrorism, there are no designated domestic terrorist groups. Subsequently, all the legal actions of an identified extremist group leading up to an act of violence are constitutionally protected and not reported on by DHS.”
The official added that the FBI — not DHS — is “the primary lead for the federal government” on domestic terrorism. But Johnson, the former DHS analyst, said that if the FBI is the only agency to disseminate detailed reports on domestic extremist groups, “you’ve lost a separate set of eyes that could be looking at this before it develops into a criminal matter.”
When the DHS report on “rightwing extremism” was leaked, Napolitano — who Johnson and other officials say had requested the report and heard a briefing in advance on its conclusions — initially defended it, saying “we must protect the country from terrorism whether foreign or homegrown.”
But after 20 conservative groups sponsored ads calling for Napolitano’s ouster, she said it was disseminated without regular review, and apologized to the American Legion for its warning that veterans could be targeted by militias for recruitment.
The DHS civil rights office subsequently was granted veto rights over all DHS reports on domestic terrorists, Johnson said.
Johnson and others said intelligence reports on the resurgence of militia groups in Michigan and Kentucky are among those being withheld by the agency, which he said was “screening for politically sensitive phrases or topics that might be objectionable to certain groups.”
Multiple briefings for state and local officials on extremist groups such as the sovereign citizens movement — composed of those who reject American legal supremacy — were also blocked, according to internal DHS messages.
David Hawtin, who retired last month as a domestic terrorism analyst at the Tennessee Fusion Center, said “the pendulum has swung to a point where we are missing nodes of connection because there is no obvious crime on the front end.”
You want the truth. WELL YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!
We can’t let this information about White-Supremacists, Nazis and religious fanatics get any publicity. It will make conservatives look very bad.
These groups are totally composed of our supporters. Not a liberal in any of them. How would that look?
This has to be controlled. Squashed.
But shouldn’t the public be made aware?
Screw them. Protecting our image is more important than ANYTHING!