Archive for the ‘Budget’ Category

Obama’s prime-time ad skips over budget realities

October 30, 2008

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama was less than upfront in his half-hour commercial Wednesday night about the costs of his programs and the crushing budget pressures he would face in office.

By CALVIN WOODWARD, Associated Press Writer

Obama’s assertion that “I’ve offered spending cuts above and beyond” the expense of his promises is accepted only by his partisans. His vow to save money by “eliminating programs that don’t work” masks his failure throughout the campaign to specify what those programs are — beyond the withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

In this still from video provided by the Obama Campaign, Democratic ... 
In this still from video provided by the Obama Campaign, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama., speaks during a live event in a 30-minute infomercial to be broadcast on prime-time television Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2008.(AP Photo/Obama Campaign)

A sampling of what voters heard in the ad, and what he didn’t tell them:

THE SPIN: “That’s why my health care plan includes improving information technology, requires coverage for preventive care and pre-existing conditions and lowers health care costs for the typical family by $2,500 a year.”

THE FACTS: His plan does not lower premiums by $2,500, or any set amount. Obama hopes that by spending $50 billion over five years on electronic medical records and by improving access to proven disease management programs, among other steps, consumers will end up saving money. He uses an optimistic analysis to suggest cost reductions in national health care spending could amount to the equivalent of $2,500 for a family of four. Many economists are skeptical those savings can be achieved, but even if they are, it’s not a certainty that every dollar would be passed on to consumers in the form of lower premiums.


THE SPIN: “I also believe every American has a right to affordable health care.”

THE FACTS: That belief should not be confused with a guarantee of health coverage for all. He makes no such promise. Obama hinted as much in the ad when he said about the problem of the uninsured: “I want to start doing something about it.” He would mandate coverage for children but not adults. His program is aimed at making insurance more affordable by offering the choice of government-subsidized coverage similar to that in a plan for federal employees and other steps, including requiring larger employers to share costs of insuring workers.

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Rehab for recovery: ask an economist

October 28, 2008

By Robert
The Washington Times


Back in early 1981, when I went to Washington to work for President Reagan, one of the architects of supply-side economics, Columbia University’s Robert Mundell,  visited my Office of Management and Budget OMB office inside the White House complex. At the time, we suffered from double-digit inflation, sky-high interest rates, a long economic downturn and a near 15-year bear market in stocks.

So I asked Professor Mundell, who later won a Nobel Prize in economics, whether Reagan’s supply-side tax cuts would be sufficient to cure the economy. The professor answered that during periods of crisis, sometimes you have to be a supply-sider (tax rates), sometimes a monetarist (Fed money supply) and sometimes a Keynesian (federal deficits).

I’ve never forgotten that advice. Mr. Mundell was saying: Choose the best policies as put forth by the great economic philosophers without being too rigid.

Of course, John Maynard Keynes was a deficit spender during the Depression. Milton Friedman warned of printing too much or too little money. And Mr. Mundell, along with Art Laffer, Jack Kemp and others….

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GAO: Missile Defense Has Cost Overruns

March 18, 2008

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Missile Defense Agency made progress in installing land-based interceptors and sea-based missiles and upgrading ships’ combat systems over the past two years, but spent at least $1 billion more than planned.

An aerial photo of the Pentagon in Arlington, Virgina. The Pentagon ... 

On Monday, the Government Accountability Office said its investigation found cost overruns with individual programs but couldn’t put a dollar figure on the agency’s overall spending for 2006 and 2007. That’s because the Missile Defense Agency deferred some budgeted work into the future and because contractors used a planning method that did not link time and money spent with work completed.The Missile Defense Agency, the largest research and development program inside the Defense Department, is funded at up to $10 billion a year. The agency oversees the nation’s system of missiles and other interceptors intended to detect, track and shoot down incoming missiles before they strike.

The GAO also noted that unprecedented flexibility in funding and decision making has made the Missile Defense Agency less accountable and transparent than other major government programs.

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Inflation figures pressure China to act: Commerce

March 12, 2008

BEIJING (Reuters) – China‘s high January and February readings for inflation have increased the pressure on the government to take action to counter price rises, Commerce Minister Chen Deming said on Wednesday.

A Communist Party delegate (L) poses for a photograph in front ...
A Communist Party delegate (L) poses for a photograph in front of the Great Hall of the People with a member of an ethnic minority group wearing traditional dress as they arrive for the National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square March 10, 2008. China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress, continues to sit in the Great Hall of the People, and is due to finish on March 18.

Annual consumer inflation jumped to 8.7 percent in February after hitting 7.1 percent in January, the worst in more than 11 years.

Chen told reporters that consumer inflation would stabilize at a high level over the next few months and then ease in the second half, as the impact of recent snowstorms subsided and because of a higher base of comparison from the second half of 2007.

The government still hoped it could hit its target of keeping consumer inflation to within last year’s pace of 4.8 percent, said Chen, who was speaking at a news conference held on the sidelines of the session of parliament.

Chen said an important….

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McCain: Uncompromising Pork Buster

March 11, 2008

By Robert D. Novak
The Washington Post
March 10, 2008

The congressional Republican establishment, with its charade of pretending to crack down on budget earmarks while in fact preserving its addiction to pork, faces embarrassment this week when the Democratic-designed budget is brought to the Senate floor. The GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain, is an uncompromising pork buster with no use for the evasions by Republican addicts on Capitol Hill.

Sen. Jim DeMint, a first-term reform Republican from South Carolina, is to propose a one-year, no-loopholes moratorium on earmarks as a budget amendment. McCain has announced his support for the amendment and intends to co-sponsor it. DeMint wants to coordinate McCain’s visits to the Senate floor from the campaign trail so the candidate can be there to speak and vote for the moratorium.

The irony could hardly be greater. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, an ardent earmarker, is smart enough politically to realize how unpopular the practice is with the Republican base. Consequently, McConnell combines anti-earmark rhetoric with evasive tactics….

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Beijing tries to allay U.S. military fears

March 5, 2008

By Ed Lanfranco
The Washington Times
March 5, 2008
BEIJING — China dismissed U.S. fears of its massive military buildup yesterday, saying its 17.6 percent defense spending was needed to raise soldiers’ pay, cover rising fuel costs, improve training and a “modest increase in armaments.”
Two security guards chat in front of a Chinese made missile ... 
Two security guards chat in front of a Chinese made missile displayed at the Military Museum in Beijing. China said Tuesday its defence spending would jump 17.6 percent this year but insisted the rise was moderate, amid a flare-up in tensions with the United States over Beijing’s growing military muscle.
(AFP/Teh Eng Koon)

A spokesman from the National People’s Congress, Jiang Enzhu, told reporters that according to the budget that will be presented by the State Council to the congress, the 2008 defense budget will be 417.77 billion yuan.
He said military spending always has been set “at a level to ensure balanced development of national defense and social economic progress.”

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China Says Defense Budget to Rise

March 4, 2008

BEIJING (Reuters) – China will raise its heavily scrutinized defense spending by nearly a fifth this year, a top official said on Tuesday, warning self-ruled Taiwan that Beijing would “tolerate no division.”

China's national flag flutters in the background as a soldier ...
China’s national flag flutters in the background as a soldier sits on top of a tank during a military exercise in 2007. China said Tuesday its defence spending would jump 17.6 percent this year but insisted the rise was moderate, amid a flare-up in tensions with the United States over Beijing’s growing military muscle.
(AFP/File/Maxim Marmur)

Jiang Enzhu, spokesman for China’s National People’s Congress, or parliament, stressed that China adhered to a path of peaceful development and said the money would be used to raise the pay of service personnel, improve training and upgrade military equipment.

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Analysis: NATO keeps eye on China

February 8, 2008

By Andrei Chang

HONG KONG, Feb. 8 (UPI) — NATO is closely watching China’s military expansion, with an attitude of rising concern and wariness. Led by the United States, NATO members are starting to view China as a possible emerging common adversary.In June 2007 the Stockholm Peace Research Institute of Sweden claimed in a published report that China’s military spending had overtaken that of Russia by a very large margin. U.S. defense officials have expressed concern over the lack of transparency in China’s military budget and the purpose behind some of its weapons acquisitions.

In light of these concerns, chances are very slim that the European Union will lift its arms embargo on China this year; in fact, the embargo may remain in effect for a long time to come.

At the Paris Air Show and other major European exhibitions of military equipment, major arms manufacturers from Germany and France have shown little interest in the Chinese market; they are not pressuring the EU to lift the embargo on China.

French and Italian arms manufacturers learned their lessons through brief attempts at cooperation with China in the 1980s. Not only did these efforts yield little profit, but the companies found their technologies had been stolen and replicated by the Chinese.

The United States and Japan are behind a plan to strategically isolate China, which has been very successful so far. Both Tokyo and Washington believe that the scale, pace and strategic intent of China’s arms expansion in recent years are far beyond its needs for a future conflict in the Taiwan Strait. They see China posing an immense challenge, over a much broader area, against the United States, Japan, NATO and even India. China’s latest moves to construct an aircraft carrier and build new nuclear-powered submarines are specific examples of this challenge.

Why is NATO planning to locate ballistic missile defense bases in Poland and the Czech Republic? The United States managed to convince NATO that China’s intercontinental ballistic missiles may pose a threat to NATO members’ territory. These facilities would not only be directed at Russia, according to multiple military sources within NATO countries.

On several occasions, the United States has replaced China with North Korea as the potential target of missiles from Eastern European bases. But why should Europe and NATO be on guard against non-existent intercontinental ballistic missiles from North Korea? In fact, the bases are related to the fact that NATO views China as a potential threat and an unstable factor that directly influences its security.

Generally speaking, the strategic friction between China and NATO is related to the following factors: First, China’s military is expanding at a pace unmatched by any other country in the world, and China’s strategic arsenals, including its ICBMs and SLBMs, can easily reach the territories of all NATO member countries. China is one of the few major countries that have the capability to pose a direct military threat to NATO members, and yet China’s military expansion is nontransparent and restricted by no international treaties.

Second, China’s construction of an aircraft carrier and other large-tonnage surface battleships suggests that China will directly challenge the interests of NATO countries in the Pacific Ocean and in the Indian Ocean as well. This includes the interests of the United States and Canada.

Thirdly, China’s rising military, political and economic prowess in central Asia and Afghanistan is also in conflict with NATO’s frontline strategies in the region. Several reports published in the United States have claimed that 90 percent of the weapons used by insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan are from China. Moreover, China has close political, military and diplomatic ties with those countries that are considered “rogue nations” by the United States and NATO, for instance, Iran and Syria.

In particular, Iran’s ballistic missiles are considered the most practical and direct threat to NATO territories, giving NATO an excuse to develop its own ballistic missile defense program and for the United States to deploy anti-ballistic missile systems in Eastern Europe. In fact, China has been the key source of Iran’s arms over the years.

Lastly, Chinese intelligence agents are also a threat to the interests of NATO countries. NATO has the world’s most cutting-edge technologies, and Chinese spies have been quite active in all NATO countries and even in Russia. A top official from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service openly acknowledged recently that the agency devoted more than half its personnel and material resources to dealing with these Chinese operatives.

How does China look at NATO’s reassessment of its China policy? An internal Chinese document on the country’s diplomatic relations talks about its policies on the European Union and NATO. A fundamental focus of the arguments in the document is that China should take advantage of NATO’s “internal contradictions” and attempt to divide the alliance.

A large section of this document is devoted to a discussion of EU and NATO members’ concerns about U.S. “unilateralism,” claiming that the disappearance of a common adversary has led to the rise of internal differences. The document says that since the end of the Cold War, NATO’s role as the hub of European and U.S. security has weakened, and Europe and the United States now have fewer common political objectives as a result.

The course of development in international affairs has meant that, due to their respective democratic political systems, changes of governments in the United States and within NATO member countries has also meant adjustments in their foreign policies. Nonetheless, because of their shared values, race and close cultural heritage, the United States and Europe still have some common goals, particularly in the fight against terrorism, preventing the rise of “rogue nations” in specific regions and guarding against the threats of Russia and China. The consensus of the United States and Europe on the issue of Iran’s nuclear program is a best representation of such common strategic interests.

The Chinese document also claims that the European populace has generally lost confidence in the United States, and that relationships between the leaders of Germany, France and the United States have cooled. The author of the document believes that there is no close coordination between Europe and the United States on the Balkan and Afghanistan issues, nor have they formulated common policies on Russia and China.

The document concludes that China should actively strive to strengthen China-Europe economic and trade relations. China should not only continue its efforts to strengthen its strategic partnership with France, but should also reinforce its ties with Germany and Eastern European countries.

“Countries such as France and Germany do not like the United States to dictate what they should do. The United States has always tried to use NATO to interfere in affairs around the world, which is in fact to use NATO to serve the interests of the United States. Without France and Germany, Europe could have become a handy tool of the United States long ago,” reads the Chinese analysis.

The document recommends that China reinforce its relations with the European Union to minimize the impact of the U.S. strategic squeeze upon China, and to win solid support from the European Union in a wide range of areas including the Taiwan issue, technology transfers and the lifting of the arms embargo. China’s strategy of using Germany and France to create divisions between the United States and Europe has been a frequent topic of discussion in articles published by the Chinese media.

Oil Prices and Your Budget: Crude Awakening

January 4, 2008

By Oliver North
January 4, 2008

WASHINGTON — The frozen water pipe this morning was a rude awakening. I managed to thaw the pipe without bursting it, thus saving the cost of a plumber. However, a few hours later, I opened our bill for home heating oil. At $2.70 per gallon, it was a blunt reminder that, with petroleum at $100 a barrel, the future cost of keeping fuel in our furnace — and gasoline in our cars — will make the plumber’s price pale in comparison.

According to the “experts,” those of us who drive to work will be paying $4 per gallon for motor fuel soon, and we all will be paying more for electricity, consumer products, air travel and to heat our homes. Happy New Year.

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Bill Would Help Hmong, Vietnam War Allies

December 18, 2007

By FREDERIC J. FROMMER, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON – The massive budget bill before Congress contains legislation that would make it easier for Vietnam War allies such as the Hmong to seek asylum in the U.S., by changing a law that bars people who take up arms from asylum or green cards.

Under provisions of the USA Patriot Act and the Real ID Act, the Hmong who fought alongside Americans in the “secret war” against communists in the 1960s and 1970s in Laos are disqualified because they are considered terrorists.

The end-of-the-year, $500 billion-plus catchall bill has language that declares that the Hmong, and other groups that had been ensnared by the anti-terrorism laws, such as the Montagnards from Vietnam, are not to be considered terrorists. Many Montagnards were also U.S. allies during the Vietnam War.

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Vietnam: Hmong Remain Enemies of the Communist State