Afghanistan and Iraq Highlight Our National Priorities and Choices

NPR has a story about how the U.S. military is spending $20.2 billion for air conditioning in Iraq and Afghanistan.

If we are going to have troops in that climate, providing air conditioning is absolutely the right thing to do. But that figure should make us all wonder about our national priorities.

After all, as Alternet's Joshua Holland noted on Twitter this afternoon using data from the National Priorities Project, $20.2 billion could also:

  • help 9.9 million children get health insurance
  • give 2.4 million university scholarships
  • hire 295,267 elementary school teachers
  • create 2.5 million Head Start slots
  • provide wind energy to 11.6 million homes
  • hire 337,522 firefighters

So, what does this say about our national priorities?

Governor Jerry Brown Releases YouTube Budget Update

Governor Jerry Brown tonight released an update about the state budget negotiations on YouTube. You can watch it below:

In the 2:30 video, Brown lobbied for Republican votes to extend current taxes by putting them to a vote. The Governor said:

"I'm really perplexed why a package of this magnitude and this permanence cannot be allowed for you, the people, to decide on…"

The Constitutional deadline to pass a state budget is Wednesday, June 15.

New Poll Shows Californians Overwhelmingly Support Raising Taxes on Wealthy to Help Balance State Budget

A new poll by Tulchin Research shows that 78 percent of respondents strongly or somewhat supported adding a one percent tax to the state's highest one percent of income earners to help balance the state budget. This Tulchin Research graphic tells the story:

A Tulchin Research's poll analysis explains, the support for this idea was large and bipartisan:

Given the recent events in Sacramento that saw budget negotiations collapse  and efforts launched to find a Plan B, a recent statewide survey of likely voters in California has discovered a proposal that could help solve the state’s budget mess  – raising taxes on the wealthy. Notably,  the poll finds overwhelming support from California voters for a proposal to raise income taxes by 1% on the top 1% of Californians – known as “1% on the 1%” – in order to help balance the state budget and prevent deeper cuts to essential services.

This survey, sponsored by the California Federation of Teachers, could prove to be an element of a "Plan B" to resolve the remaining state budget deficit after legislative Republicans refused to allow California voters to have the opportunity to vote on whether to extend temporary taxes and help avoid deep cuts to education and even more devastating cuts to our social safety net.

Assemblymember Skinner: You Deserve the Right to Vote

Assemblymember Nancy Skinner believes Californians should have the right to vote on whether temporary taxes should be continued to help close the budget deficit. The text of her letter follows:

Dear Friend,

In these difficult times, I've heard from thousands of Assembly District 14 residents on how to address our $26.5 billion deficit, almost a third of our state budget.

In three forums, many of you took the "California Budget Challenge" and told me what a budget reflecting your values and vision for the future of the Golden State would look like. By large majorities, you supported extending existing taxes that are scheduled to expire.

Democrats have led the way in making the tough choices that have reduced the state's remaining budget shortfall. But Californians deserve to have both parties be part of the solution. Republican legislators irresponsibly opposed both making cuts and letting Californians vote on these tax extensions.

Not a single Republican legislator voted to allow you to decide on continuing these taxes.

Republicans need to hear your anger. I strongly encourage you to contact your friends and family who live in Republican areas of the state. Tell them to reach out to their legislators to say, “Let the voters decide.”

As I work along with my colleagues to balance our budget, I hope you can take the time to help sway Republican legislators to support solutions rather than fail to act on problems.

Sincerely,

Nancy Skinner

Brown Halts Budget Negotiations

Governor Jerry Brown announced that he has suspended budget negotiations with the Republicans. As the Governor writes:

I put forth a balanced balanced budget plan that included deep cuts and extensions of current existing taxes.  Under our constitution two Republicans from the Assembly and two from the Senate must agree before these tax extensions can be put to a vote of the people.

Each and every Republican legislator I’ve spoken to believes that voters should not have this right to vote unless I agree to an ever changing list of collateral demands.  Many of the Republican demands will actually increase our budget deficit and mean additional cuts to education and public safety.

Much is at stake, and in the coming weeks I will focus my efforts on speaking directly to Californians and coming up with honest and real solutions to our budget crisis.

You can also watch a video released by the Governor below.

Fighting Against Norquistism

California Progress Report columnist Peter Schrag has a must-read post today examining how the current state budget debate has been horrifically impacted by Grover Norquist.

As Grover Norquist, the small government “starve the beast” head of Americans for Tax Reform, threatens to destroy Republicans who vote to put Brown’s taxes on the ballot, many of us are reluctantly pushing for preservation of the half-starved beast that Norquistism has already left us with.

Schrag utilizes California Budget Report data to show just how skewed away from the poor and middle class the budget deal is.

California’s lowest-income families – those in the bottom fifth – pay the largest share of their income in state and local taxes; those in the top 1 percent pay the lowest percentage. In the past 20 years, that top 1 percent has enjoyed far and away the largest gains in income, up 81 percent between 1987 and 2008 in constant dollars, compared to a loss of 11 percent in the bottom fifth and similar losses in all other groups below the top fifth.

Similarly, as the CBP analysis points out, our tax system has become both more unfair and more irrational. In the past decade total state net income of corporations has increased by 192 percent but corporate tax liability is up by just 69 percent; in the same period total adjusted gross income of personal income taxpayers increased by 16 percent while personal income tax liability increased by 24 percent. The top-bracket tax cut extensions that Republicans extorted from Barack Obama in December will save California’s highest earners — those in the top 1 percent — $14 billion a year.

There is no doubt that the choices facing our legislators are horribly difficult. But we must not minimize how Norquistism and supermajority vote requirements have led to even the best-case scenarios leaving such a negative impact on so many of our residents.

Calling Out "Pathetic" Grover Norquist

Governor Jerry Brown yesterday did something that many more people concerned about our state and nation should do–and quickly.

Following a meeting at which he received another business organization's endorsement of his budget plan, Brown called out Americans for Tax Reform's Grover Norquist as "pathetic" and "highly undemocratic" for putting his loathsome no taxes pledge ahead of allowing Californians to have a chance to decide to save key education programs in a special election.

The San Francisco Chronicle's Carla Marinucci has the details here. This radical conservative idea that the people should not have the opportunity to vote must be overcome.