Budget Whackers, Except Obama, Are At Work

Nor' east Thinkin'

Screams and gnashing of teeth are coming from all quarters, even agriculture

Published on: February 18, 2011

My e-mails have been flooded in the last week with calls to rally the troops against proposed federal budget cuts. Personally, three words of exclamation come to mind – "It's about time!"

I've never seen the desperation of so many campaigns – not just awareness alerts – to pressure Congress into easing up on proposed budget slashing. There's even more going on regarding state-level budget-cutting.

Ag advocacy groups are also mounting campaigns to head off major cuts in Cooperative Extension, land grant research, 4-H programs and much more. But here's just a tiny taste of what's going on at the federal level regarding environmental and financial regulatory budgets.

Take, for instance, this from the Environmental Defense Fund:

"You're going to swallow this toxic mercury pollution and you're going to like it! That's the message the U.S. House delivered to America after [voting] to block funding on efforts to reduce mercury and other toxic air pollution from cement plants.

"Let's be clear – Mercury pollution kills people and causes brain damage in children. In the simplest possible terms, that's what this fight is about.

"More pro-polluter votes are scheduled today in the House, and we need your help as we prepare to fight back in the Senate. We must keep these outrageous assaults on our health, our clean air, our climate future, and our overall economy from becoming the new law of the land.

"Please donate today to support our fight against the big polluters and their friends in Congress."

Then there's this "push" also from EDF:

"Votes on scores of polluter earmarks are expected throughout the day . . . to put short-term polluter profits ahead of public health and our environment. They gut critical funding for America's landmark clean air programs that save lives and grow our economy.

"Please take action right now: Urge your member of Congress to oppose this polluter assault on our clean air.

"We've already exceeded our initial 25,000 action goal and our updated 35,000 goal! So, now we're going for 50,000 [responses]. Please take action right now to help keep the pressure on."

It doesn't begin to stop there. Consider this one from PennFuture, a Pennsylvania advocacy group:

"The Tea Party-driven majority in the U.S. House of Representative continues to try to repeal the rules of arithmetic by attempting to cut spending and cut taxes. This time, it's the Continuing Resolution to keep government running, which is chock full of sweetheart deals for polluters and others. But funding to enforce the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, money to protect our national parks and other treasures, energy savings and clean energy funds, wildlife protection money, and much more are all on the chopping block.
"If these cuts become law, we will strangle our economy just as it is taking off, kill jobs, and destroy our environment. You can send an email from our Action Center to your
U.S. Representative and Senators asking them to protect our future by voting against these cuts."

Consider this one jointly released by ShareOwners.org, Consumer Federation of America and the Council of Institutional Investors who want the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodity Futures Trading Commission spared from proposed budget cuts:

"Proposed cuts include $25 million from SEC's $1.12 billion budget of the SEC and $56.8 million from CFTC's $168.8 million budget. And, efforts are afoot in the U.S. House to impose even more dramatic slashes to fiscal year (FY) 2012 spending, rolling back funds to 2008 levels.

"For the SEC, that would mean a steep cut of about $200 million. The SEC Inspector General testified last week that such a drastic reduction would force the SEC to lay off 600 employees. For the CFTC, FY 2012 funding would drop by nearly a third to roughly $110 million.

"Tracy Stewart, [ShareOwners.org] executive director, said: “The House-proposed budget cuts for 2011 and what is under discussion for 2012 are an invitation to disaster in terms of financial market integrity and efforts to restore investor confidence. Given the need for the SEC and CFTC to oversee the most sweeping financial reforms since the Great Depression, it is absolutely essential to all Americans that the Senate and the Administration insist that the agencies that protect our financial well-being and the health of the economy be adequately funded to perform their crucial work.

"We urge all concerned investors to speak out and let Congress know that these cuts will cost Americans much more than they appear to save. They must not gut these agencies in the midst of critical reforms.”

Now you have a clue to what our congressional representatives must deal with while attempting to restore Uncle Sam's fiscal integrity. So far, President Obama's plan is to delay painful decisions for another two to three years. And that mentality – over the last 15 to 20 years – is what got Uncle Sam into the pickle it is in now.

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