National Parks for the 1 Percent

But the Trump administration has proposed nearly tripling the entrance fees to select national parks, to $70.

.. Trump administration wants to jack up the price of admission to our most spectacular public lands while moving to cut the Park Service budget by almost $300 million. The new fees would add $70 million.

.. he also plans to take away land already protected in ways similar to national parks.

.. You’d pay $107 to get into Disney World. But national parks are not theme parks, market-driven to match the latest entertainment blockbusters.

.. In the bizarro world of this administration, taxpayers are being asked to subsidize a dying industry, coal mining, while their government is slashing the budget for a growing one that is responsible for four times as many jobs.

.. Trump’s budget would drastically cut money for historic preservation, and eliminate more than 1,200 full-time employees.

.. National parks are “as uniquely American as the Declaration of Independence and just as radical,

.. We could, for instance, not build Trump’s nonsensical border wall, which looks like it will cost upward of $20 billion, more than eight times the entire proposed budget for the Park Service. (Wait — wasn’t Mexico supposed to pay for that?)

.. Or we could keep the estate tax, which affects only about 1 out of every 500 people who die every year, and raises $20 billion as well. 

Most U.S. States Aren’t Prepared For the Next Recession

Just 16 states have adequate backup money on hand, according to a new Moody’s Analytics analysis

If the next recession hit the U.S. this year, more than a quarter of states would be financially unprepared to weather even a moderate downturn, according to a new report.

Fifteen states would struggle in the case of a recession-related tax revenue slump and spike in demand for services, such as Medicaid. They are more than 5 percentage points below the share of funds left in their budgets they would need to tap, according to a new Moody’s Analytics analysis. Another 19 states narrowly fall short.

Just 16 states have adequate backup money on hand, with Alaska having almost three times as much as the state would need to keep its economy buoyant.

 

STATE
EXTRA CASH ON HAND
NECESSARY BACKUP FUNDS
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN EXTRA CASH AND NECESSARY BACK-UP FUNDS
Louisiana 3.10% 27.20% -24.00%
North Dakota 0.70% 20.10% -19.40%
Oklahoma 4.00% 16.00% -12.10%
New Mexico -1.10% 10.00% -11.10%
Illinois 0.40% 11.10% -10.70%
Colorado 5.30% 15.10% -9.80%
New Jersey 1.40% 11.00% -9.60%
Pennsylvania -1.80% 6.90% -8.80%
Missouri 5.40% 13.80% -8.40%
Kansas 1.60% 9.20% -7.60%

Nearly Half the Pentagon Budget Goes To Contractors

In fiscal year 2016, the Pentagon issued $304 billion in contract awards to corporations—nearly half of the department’s $600 billion-plus budget for that year.

the biggest beneficiaries by a country mile were

  1. Lockheed Martin ($36.2 billion),
  2. Boeing ($24.3 billion),
  3. Raytheon ($12.8 billion),
  4. General Dynamics ($12.7 billion), and
  5. Northrop Grumman ($10.7 billion).

Together, these five firms gobbled up nearly $100 billion of your tax dollars, about one-third of all the Pentagon’s contract awards in 2016.

Health care companies like

  1. Humana ($3.6 billion),
  2. UnitedHealth Group ($2.9 billion), and
  3. Health Net ($2.6 billion) cash in as well,

and they’re joined by, among others, pharmaceutical companies like

  • McKesson ($2.7 billion) and

universities deeply involved in military-industrial complex research like

  • MIT ($1 billion) and
  • Johns Hopkins ($902 million).

.. The heads of the top five Pentagon contractors—Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman—made a cumulative $96 million last year.

These are companies that are significantly or, in the cases of Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, almost entirely dependent on government dollars.

.. Donald Trump initially spent a fair amount of tweeting energy bragging about how he was going to bring such contractors to heel on their pricing practices for weapons systems. In fact, he’s already turned out to be good news indeed for major contractors, most of whom have seen sharp upturns in revenues and profits

.. Trump has proven eager to lift restrictions on U.S. weapons sales abroad (and enlist State Department and Pentagon officials to spend more of their time shilling such weaponry).

.. The arms industry’s investment in lobbying is even more impressive. The defense sector has spent a total of more than $1 billion on that productive activity since 2009, employing anywhere from 700 to 1,000 lobbyists in any given year.

.. you’re talking about significantly more than one lobbyist per member of Congress, the majority of whom zipped through Washington’s famed “revolving door”; they moved, that is, from positions in Congress or the Pentagon to posts at weapons companies from which they could proselytize their former colleagues.

.. Two analysts from U.S. war colleges have estimated that about 300 deliverable nuclear warheads would be enough to dissuade any nation from attacking the United States with a nuclear weapon.

.. And note that the current trillion-dollar “modernization” program for the nuclear arsenal was initiated under President Barack Obama, a man who won the Nobel Prize for his urge to abolish all such weaponry.

.. In 2011, a study by economists from the University of Massachusetts made this blindingly clear.  What they showed was that military spending is the worst way to create jobs. Putting the same money into any other area—from infrastructure to transportation to alternative energy to healthcare or education—creates up to twice as many jobs as military spending does.

.. Contractors aid and abet the process of investing in the Pentagon by routinely exaggerating the number of jobs their programs create.

.. the best jobs generated by Pentagon spending are the ones for well-heeled lobbyists and overpaid corporate executives.

.. So the next time someone suggests that the Pentagon needs yet more money for the troops, just remember that what they’re actually talking about are troops of overpaid defense contractors, not members of the armed forces.

Republicans slip into a ‘predictable spiral’

Trump and Republicans have given clear signs they are moving away from tax reform (a simplification of the tax code that doesn’t necessarily reduce revenue) toward all-out tax cuts, financed by deficit spending.

.. Trump, who came to power promising to eliminate the $20 trillion debt, or at least to cut it in half, is poised to oversee an exponential increase in that debt. Republicans, who came to power with demands that Washington tackle the debt problem, could wind up doing at least as much damage to the nation’s finances as the Democrats did.

 .. There is no way to pass a comprehensive tax-reform plan of the sort Ronald Reagan secured — a simplified code, lower rates and closed loopholes — without bipartisan support. And Democrats want tax reform that doesn’t add to the deficit and doesn’t benefit the wealthiest 1 percent of households.But Republicans could pass a simple, deficit-mushrooming tax cut without Democratic support.

.. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and chief economic adviser Gary Cohn have not been reaching out to Democrats

.. Mitch McConnell has indicated he plans to use the same “reconciliation” resolution he used on the failed attempt to repeal Obamacare to allow for a party-line vote on a tax cut. That process would nominally prevent Republicans from ballooning the deficit — but they could avoid such concerns by using the well-worn gimmick of having the tax cut expire before 10 years.

.. Then, a debt-limit increase, possibly secured with promises to spend more money on defense (which would buy GOP votes) and domestic priorities (for Democratic votes). Next, a spending deal that busts previously agreed budget caps by allowing an extra $70 billion or so for an “Overseas Contingency Operations” slush fund. Eventually, a reckless tax cut doesn’t seem so crazy — particularly with midterm elections looming and no accomplishments to show.