Archives for FUBAR

Budget pact does little to reduce current year deficit

A new budget estimate released Wednesday shows that the spending bill negotiated between President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner would produce less than 1 percent of the $38 billion in promised savings by the end of this budget year. The Congressional Budget Office estimate shows that compared with current spending rates the spending bill due for a House vote Thursday would cut federal outlays from non-war accounts by just $352 million through Sept. 30. About $8 billion in immediate cuts to domestic programs and foreign aid are offset by nearly equal increases in defense spending. When war funding
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Treasury Dept. paid law firms without checking bills

The Treasury Department paid out more than $27 million to law firms overseeing the financial bailouts without requiring detailed bills or questioning the incomplete records that the lawyers provided, a government watchdog says. Treasury’s “current contracts and fee bill review practices create an unacceptable risk that Treasury, and therefore the American taxpayer, is overpaying for legal services,” the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program said in a report issued Thursday. Treasury could not have adequately gauged whether the fees were reasonable because the records are so sparse, the report says. The report criticizes so-called “block billing,” in
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Poll: Most think their taxes are fair

For all the complaining this time of year, most Americans actually think the taxes they pay are fair. Not that they’re cheering. Fewer people expect refunds this year than in previous years, a new Associated Press-GfK poll shows. But as Monday’s filing deadline approaches, the poll shows that 54 percent believe their tax bills are either somewhat fair or very fair, compared with 46 percent who say they are unfair. Should taxes be raised to eat into huge federal deficits? Among the public, 62 percent say they favor cutting government services to sop up the red ink. Just 29 percent
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Obama eyes Medicare changes, tax increases

President Barack Obama, two years into a presidency marked by increased spending on a weak economy, is turning his attention to the nation’s crushing debt and trying to counter a Republican anti-deficit plan with one of his own. The president on Wednesday was to deliver a speech outlining his proposal to reduce spending in the biggest government benefits programs, raise taxes on the wealthy and cut defense costs. In a pre-emptive response Tuesday, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called any proposed tax increase “a nonstarter.” This new clash, just a week after the president announced he would seek re-election, ensures
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GOP supports Democratic Medicare cuts

In a postelection reversal, House Republicans are supporting nearly $450 billion in Medicare cuts that they criticized vigorously last fall when Democrats and President Barack Obama passed them as part of their controversial health care law. The cuts are included in the 2012 budget that Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., unveiled last week and account for a significant share of the $5.8 trillion in claimed savings over the next decade. The House is expected to vote on the blueprint this week. Ryan’s spokesman, Conor Sweeney, said the cuts are virtually the only part of “Obamacare” — the term that Republicans use
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Budget cuts: Will anyone really notice?

It’s touted as the biggest one-time rollback of domestic spending ever, but most folks will be hard-pressed to notice. After all, it’s just 1 percent of what the government will lay out this year. The number of security officers at airports won’t be reduced. National park campgrounds won’t close. There will still be enough meat inspectors to prevent temporary plant closures. Disadvantaged schools won’t see cuts in federal aid. And stiff cuts to grants for community action agencies serving the poor were averted. Basically, the things most people expect from the government won’t change very much if Congress approves the
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A year later, BP spill damage lingers

The worst maritime oil spill in history began nearly a year ago with a drop in pressure in a poorly drilled well deep in the Gulf of Mexico. It hasn’t really ended even though BP’s runaway well was eventually capped 87 days later. As crews in Japan struggle to contain a nuclear meltdown at a poorly maintained plant in Fukushima, the April 20 anniversary of the BP spill is a stark reminder of the high costs of our energy needs and the far-reaching consequences of cutting corners on safety. The massive explosion killed 11 workers and sank the Deepwater Horizon
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Who fired first shots of the Civil War?

A raid 150 years ago by Confederate sympathizers on a Union fort at what is now Pensacola Naval Air Station was likely little more than an ill-planned and drunken misadventure, perhaps ended by one soldier’s warning shot — and a blank one, at that. But don’t tell Pensacola residents that the Jan. 8, 1861, skirmish meant nothing — the event is the stuff of legend in this military town. Some even claim the clash was the Civil War’s first, three months before the battle on April 12, 1861, at South Carolina‘s Fort Sumter, which is widely recognized as the start
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Obama saved favorite programs from budget cuts

A close look at the government shutdown-dodging agreement to cut federal spending by $38 billion reveals that lawmakers significantly eased the fiscal pain by pruning money left over from previous years, using accounting sleight of hand and going after programs President Barack Obama had targeted anyway. Such moves permitted Obama to save favorite programs — Pell grants for poor college students, health research and “Race to the Top” aid for public schools, among others — from Republican knives. And big holes in foreign aid and Environmental Protection Agency accounts were patched in large part. Republicans also gave up politically treacherous
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Obama claims ‘everything’ is on the table for cuts

President Barack Obama, plunging into the rancorous struggle over America’s mountainous debt, will draw sharp differences with Republicans Wednesday over how to conquer trillions of dollars in spending while somehow working out a compromise to raise some taxes and trim a cherished program like Medicare. Obama’s speech will set a new long-term deficit-reduction goal and establish a dramatically different vision from a major Republican proposal that aims to cut more than $5 trillion over the next decade, officials said Monday. Details of Obama’s plan are being closely held so far, but the deficit-cutting target probably will fall between the $1.1
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