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Saturday, June 04, 2005

John Kerry: On the president's budgetary values

Printed in The North Adams Transcript, June 4, 2005:
On the president's budgetary values
By Sen. John Kerry

On Thursday, I visited the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams and was inspired by the work happening there to make a college education available to more and more students. MCLA runs a successful student support services program, the Individual Enrichment Program, which assists low-income students become the first in their families to go to college, and helps students with disabilities to overcome the numerous obstacles to higher education. Without this support, many of these students wouldn't have had a chance to get a college degree.

If the president gets his way, the budget will inexplicably cut every penny for these programs despite maintaining numerous corporate tax loopholes and yet another tax cut for millionaires. Western Massachusetts residents should also prepare themselves for cuts in everything from home heating assistance to vocational education to law enforcement. These choices should remind all Americans that Washington is not working for them.

Values like honesty, opportunity and responsibility are all cut from this budget. These cuts should give us all cause for concern, because in the end budgets are a statement of your priorities. They are your values backed up by dollars and cents. When considering the budget of the United States, honesty at minimum means actually counting every dollar we plan to spend. It sounds simple, it's what every American does, but this budget doesn't do it.

Ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan will cost at least $400 billion over 10 years. That's not in the budget. The President's Social Security scheme will cost another $750 billion over 10 years. That's not in the budget. The budget ignores interest on the debt, which not even the most creative accountant would leave out.

This budget is like an Enron budget -- smoke the numbers, cook the books, hide the truth and hope no one finds out. When Enron went bust, stockholders were the losers. When this budget goes bust, the American taxpayer will be the loser. They'll lose because this budget does exactly what Enron did: makes irresponsible choices the administration does not want you to know about. The responsible choice would be to honor those who have worn our nation's uniform, but the administration made a different choice.

They're raising veterans' healthcare fees by $250 a year while cutting taxes for millionaires. They welcome home our troops with $2.6 billion in unanticipated co-payments and fees instead of cracking down on offshore tax shelters. The result of these irresponsible choices: in Massachusetts alone over 22,000 veterans could be forced to leave the VA health-care system, including 7,600 active patients. Some in Washington may be quick to embrace the symbols of patriotism with words, but too often deeds lag behind.

Responsibility also means keeping our nation on sound financial footing for the long run, but the Congressional Budget Office estimates we'll be facing over $5 trillion in new debt because of this President. These debts not only hurt your children in the future -- they hurt you and every family today. Almost eight cents of every tax dollar goes just toward paying interest on the debt.

By contrast, you only pay about two cents on the dollar for education. $160 billion goes to interest on the debt, not to giving healthcare to every child, fully funding No Child Left Behind, securing our energy independence or funding a Military Family's Bill of Rights. Eight cents on the dollar is a lot of money, and it's not buying you more security and it's not buying your kids a better education. On the other hand, bankers in Japan and Korea and Taiwan are benefiting, and you should be worried about it. Responsible leaders wouldn't turn our economic future over to the whims of foreign bankers, they would fight to keep it in responsible hands here at home.

The American people also deserve a budget that keeps faith with the promise of opportunity for all, special privileges for none. This budget doesn't do it. The budget gives a huge tax cut to people making over $1 million a year, but cuts heating aid and vocational education in Massachusetts by over $20 million. Almost 28,000 students across the state could be kicked out of after-school programs. The budget wastes billions more in offshore tax shelters, but cuts Even Start literacy programs in Springfield, Holyoke, Northampton, Greenfield, Pittsfield, Orange and across the commonwealth. The Safe and Drug Free School Program is completely eliminated.

There is not one smart choice in the list above, and there can be no excuse. The people deserve better, and that starts by demanding our leadership do a better job budgeting our cherished values of honesty, responsibility, and opportunity.

I really, really should've selected and posted excerpts, but I just couldn't find anything I could stand to snip out. Way to go, Senator Kerry!

My thoughts were echoed by a companion editorial in the Transcript:

What might have been

North County got a glimpse on Thursday of what might have been for Berkshire County, the state of Massachusetts, and the United States of America. That was during the visit of Sen. John Kerry, a Democrat, a blue stater, and someone who inarguably is not George W. Bush.

We haven't had time to ponder the differences of late -- and perhaps we were too disappointed after Sen. Kerry's loss in November to do anything but shove the whole mess out of mind. But seeing Sen. Kerry, and listening to him, we are once again amazed at the choice of the American people.

Sen. Kerry might have been the answer to a host of dangerous -- we might say insane -- trends that continue under the Bush administration. That would include the runaway federal budget deficits, a mounting national debt that imperils Social Security and every other necessary program; a military that is stretched to the limit in a war that could have been avoided; constant assaults on environmental regulation of any kind; tax cuts for people who don't need them, and, generally, support of Neanderthal thinking on every social issue.

We, as a nation, can certainly do much better. When we see John Kerry and hear him speak, and note the issues that concern him -- as expressed on today's editorial page -- we know the nation could have done much better on Nov. 2.

I really don't have much to add.

Oh, that's beautiful. I am so glad there are others who like him this much. Thanks for posting it, MH.

Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad, too, whenever I see someone write so positively about JK. I think he's a great man who would have done really good things for this country as President.

I think the editorial from the paper is really to the point:

"Sen. Kerry might have been the answer to a host of dangerous -- we might say insane -- trends"

Every day, as I hear the latest debacle in the news, I think we are on an insane path, and oh what might have been.... or, at least, what might NOT have been - all these crazy things the republicans are fighting for, would not have had a chance with a Kerry veto. He might not have been able to do everything he wanted in a positive direction, but he sure could have stopped a lot of the negative, and put our country back on a path to respect in the world.

I think it was too soon. And the longer these people are in office the worse it gets and the more damage is done to the Republican Party.

I think Kerry is in a much more powerful position where he is now and is practically immune to the neocon chaos and desperate attempt to maintain power.

I always thought of Kerry as the 44th President of the USA and I still think this will be.

Sadly you seem to have been right - as far as it being too soon. But I don't care about JK being in a stronger position in '08, or how his hands would have been mostly tied if he'd won in '04. The guy's a warrior and he would have done what he had to do - and I sincerely believe that more people will suffer and die because of Bush remaining in office, that might have lived and had a decent chance to live well, if Kerry had taken office. There can be no vindication for those unnecessary deaths.

But we are where we are, and I hope we can put JK - or someone equally good - over the top in 2008 to taake the helm in 2009.
We might have to, MH. People can only take this kind of chaos for so long. I think they will be longing hard for someone to trust.
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