Clem’s Chronicles: 2011 Budget/Haiti/Toyota/We Are The World

By Clem Lane

Feb 1, 2010 9:36pm

It's Monday folks-here's tonight's note…..

PRESIDENT UNVEILS 2011 BUDGET PROPOSAL-Wow…I’m pretty sure you get nosebleeds at this level. President Barack Obama unveiled an almost $4 trillion budget for 2011. Jake Tapper looked at some of the winners and losers within…”The budget includes $3 billion more for education spending…almost $4 billion more for veterans and $19 billion more for the Pentagon”. On the down side, Tapper tells us, “Budgets are cut for the Department of Housing and Urban Development…Interior and other departments…expected savings $8 billion. Also cut: NASA’s program to send astronauts to the Moon and Mars…saving $3.5 billion.” While those figures are just for 2011, there’s plenty more spread out over 10 years…Tapper: “The budget would cut taxes for individuals, families and businesses, including a tax credit to encourage small businesses hiring. The cost of those tax cuts…over the next ten years $300 billion.” Tapper continues: “Gone are the Bush tax cuts for individuals making $200 thousand a year, or families making $250 thousand, bringing in $678 billion in revenue.”
Even those of us who find balancing a checkbook challenging can probably figure out that a budget that spends $3.834 trillion and brings in revenues of $2.567 trillion is not “balanced”. In his close, Tapper tells us “the President suggests a number of measures to reduce the deficit over the next decade…by more than a trillion dollars, they say.” Not quite sure how all these figures are worked out, but there does seem to be some “chicken counting before they hatch” going on here…Tapper adds that “The most surprising, the budget assumes a savings of $150 billion over the next ten years from health care reform, a legislation that is, at the very best, on life support on Capitol Hill.”

FEDERAL DEFICIT-College loans. Housing payments. Medical Bills….no matter how bad you got it, be thankful you don’t have the Federal Government’s money woes…a projected deficit of nearly $1.6 trillion by the end of 2010. It wasn’t always this way, David Muir tells us. Muir: “In 2000, when President Clinton left office, we were in the black by $236 billion. At the time, number crunchers projected a surplus at least ten years out.” Of course…those number crunchers never envisioned 9/11. By 2002, Muir tells us, “we were in the red by nearly $158 billion….and President Bush enacting his first round of tax cuts. By 2004, the deficit had more than doubled to nearly $413 billion…the US had invaded Iraq and economists point out, another round of tax cuts. And by the end of 2008, a banking system near collapse. President Bush signs the $700 billion bank bailout. The deficit now at $458 billion. Then President Obama and the $787 billion economic recovery plan bringing us to $1.4 trillion in debt and counting.” While the Obama Administration is quick to remind that their deficit spending is a result of the mess left by the previous Administration, others are calling them on that. Robert Bixby, the Executive Director of the Concord Coalition was quoted in Muir’s WORLD NEWS piece saying “neither party can wash their hands of responsibility. The current Administration has adopted a lot of those same policies so frankly I don’t think you can point partisan fingers.” All of which points to trouble for our kids and grandkids, Bixby adds, “because we’re running up this debt and they’re going to have to pay interest.” So how do we fix it? Muir” “Jobs…everyone agrees…would help. More tax revenue. More consumer spending. But those jobs aren’t here yet.” So trouble ahead…what to do? Cue the ostrich pose it would seem…Bixby: “The consensus is we’re going to have to make some pretty hard choices and there’s also consensus that nobody wants to make them right now.”

HAITI ORPHANS:  Ten American Baptist missionaries are spending another night in a Haitian prison while investigators there try to sort out whether they were trying to help – or hurt – 33 children they attempted to transport into the Dominican Republic last week.  The Americans say they are with the New Life Children’s Refuge, based in Idaho.  Here’s David Wright: “The group’s website lays out their plan clearly enough: ‘Gather 100 orphans from the streets and collapsed orphanages then return to the DR.’ They arrived at the Dominican border without so much as passports for the kids…just a note from a Baptist pastor in Haiti…the folks here are still trying to determine, case-by-case, how these kids ended up with the missionaries and it already turns out that at least half of them aren’t orphans at all.”  The children are now in the custody of a reputable child welfare organization.  Tuesday morning the Americans will appear in a court hearing at 10am.  The Haitian Prime Minister said today that if the Americans were acting in good faith, “perhaps the courts will try to be more lenient with them.”  (thanks to Marisa Bramwell for this entry)

TOYOTA – THE FIX:  This morning Toyota detailed the accelerator problem that resulted in more than 6 million cars being recalled and unveiled a plan to fix them.  “Toyota dealers plan to stay open around the clock starting Thursday to fix what they were told was just a tiny flaw inside the gas pedal assembly…Toyota said excessive wear on these gear teeth, caused by moisture, made them stick and kept the pedal from returning to normal when the driver’s foot was off the pedal.   The addition of a small metal plate gave the pedal more spring, so it overcame the stickiness,” Brian Ross reported today on WORLD NEWS. The parts are due to arrive at dealers starting Tuesday and repairs are expected to take about a half-an-hour per vehicle.  Toyota President USA Jim Lentz apologized to customers for the lag in communication regarding the recall, and said the company would work to regain their trust: “We are redoubling our efforts to ensure that this does not happen again.”  Lentz told ABC News he was confident this solution would work, and that there were no electronic problems linked to the accelerator issue.  “But federal investigators are not so confident,” Ross says, “saying tonight while they have no evidence so far, they continue to pursue reports from Toyota owners that some kind of not-yet-discovered electronic malfunction or computer glitch is also involved.” (thanks to Marisa Bramwell for this entry)

WE ARE THE WORLD-Some of the music industry’s brightest stars will gather again tonight, not for an award ceremony or party, but to take part in a tradition, and re-record a song that has bridged generations. Year after year, for a quarter of a century, stars like Bruce Springsteen, Willie Nelson, Steve Wonder and Ray Charles have re-recorded “We Are the World,” written by Lionel Ritchie and Michael Jackson, sometimes into the wee hours of the morning. The lineup has changed, but the man in charge, has not. Diane Sawyer reports: “Once again, Quincy Jones will be at the helm as this time Bono, Jennifer Hudson and at least two stars not even born at the time of the first recording, Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga, gather with a hundred others, trying to create that magic that happens with those blessed by talent and success stop everything to do what they can to pass the blessing on.” It’s sure to be, as someone once said, “like a jam session someplace up in heaven.” (thanks to Sidney Wright for this entry)

“DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL” HEARING PREVIEW- Martha Raddatz: “The Robert Gates/Admiral Mike Mullen testimony on the Hill tomorrow will be the first time in more than a decade that “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell “ has been discussed. And there will be news…but don’t expect a lot of answers about how a new policy would work, in the event DADT is repealed.  Calling tomorrows testimony an ‘implementation plan’ goes way too far (even though at one point the Pentagon said just that) I am told.
The news: There will be a suspension of dismissals based solely on third party accusations. But here is something to remember about that—it doesn’t happen very often. One official said that ‘only a handful of cases involve third parties’. (Although there is a very prominent case right now involving a female Air Force officer who a third party accused of being gay). Also, Secretary Gates said six months ago that he wanted to look into applying the policy in a more humane way…and this was the kind of thing he was talking about then.
The process: The rest of the ‘plan’ at this point involves studying all the issues that the military will have to deal with if the DADT is repealed. Those issues cover almost everything you can imagine..from base housing (can civil union couples live in married housing?) , benefits, housing in the same tents for males/gay males. How do they approach all of that. So expect a long process of how this could work…no big announcements on how it will work at tomorrow hearings.”  

“DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL” 2009 STATS-The DOD released its DADT 2009 stats and Luis Martinez reports it’s the “lowest number of discharges in the last 30 years.  The number of discharges in 2009 was 428 (259 males, 159 females).  For comparison, there were 619 discharges in 2008 and 627 in 2007.  The peak number of discharges under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was 2001 when there were 1,227 discharges.  The numbers had begun to rise in the 90’s after DADT was implemented in 1993, but then decreased following 2001.  From 1980 to 1993, the peak year for discharges was 1982 with 1,988 discharges.  Those numbers went down to the 700’s by the time DADT went into effect. No reason as to why last year was the lowest in the DADT era or the previous 30 years.  One could speculate that officers felt there was change coming and why rock the boat.”

HEALTH CARE REFORM-From Sunlen Miller: “President Obama said today that it is his ‘greatest hope’ that a health care reform bill can be passed this year, and said going forward  that it will one of his highest priorities to make sure that there are ‘no surprises,’ and ‘no secrets’ so that everybody understands what exact is going to be in the final bill.
‘It is my greatest hope that we can get this done not just a year from now but soon. We came extremely close,’ the president said answering questions in an online town hall for YouTube, ‘we have this enormous opportunity, but the way the rules work in the United States Senate, we get our 60 votes for everything. After the special election in Massachusetts we now only have 59. We are calling on our Republican colleagues to get behind a serious health plan.’ The President said that it is his hope that Republicans will work with his administration ‘over the next several weeks,’ to get it done.” 

“NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND” TO BE OVERHAULED?-From Mary Bruce: “The Obama administration is gearing up to overhaul the Bush administration’s “No Child Left Behind” education law, with a focus on replacing the accountability system established under the 2002 legislation. Under “No Child Left Behind” schools are rated based on how students perform on state math and reading tests and whether or not they demonstrate “adequate yearly progress.” The law also sets a 2014 deadline for all students to meet universal proficiency.
Critics, however, claim the system encourages states to lower academic standards so they may report better progress and Education Secretary Arne Duncan has previously described the 2014 target as ‘utopian.’ Instead, the president's budget suggests the administration plans to replace the accountability system with a new one focused on helping students graduate from high school college- and career-ready."
 
OTHER STUFF-
–ZAZI INDICTMENT- The father of a Denver airport driver accused in an alleged terrorism plot will go to New York City to face obstruction charges. Mohammed Zazi appeared this afternoon in federal court in Denver, where a judge ordered his transfer to federal court in Brooklyn for an arraignment. The elder Zazi is accused of conspiring to destroy evidence of bomb making according to Rich Esposito. (Rich Esposito)

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