Late Friday afternoon, the Treasury Department published the official report on the U.S. budget deficit for the most recent fiscal year: $1.089 trillion. While that’s obviously still a very large budget shortfall, the deficit is $200 billion smaller than it was last year, and is nearly $300 billion smaller than when President Obama took office.
To add a little historical context to this, over the last four decades, only two presidents have reduced the deficit this much, this quickly: Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
As the job market improves and unemployment falls, one of the central attacks from Romney/Ryan against President Obama has to do with the deficit. The attack overlooks Paul Ryan’s role in creating the massive deficit, the inconvenient fact that Romney hasn’t presented a deficit-reduction plan, and the problem that the Romney/Ryan agenda would appear to make the deficit significantly worse, but that’s their story and they’re sticking to it.
It’s worth noting, then, that as of today, the U.S. federal budget deficit has shrunk — a lot.
I put together this new chart reflecting the deficit over the course of the last four years. It starts with the figures released in 2009, when the deficit reached a record high of $1.4 trillion. Why is the column in red? Because, thanks to fiscal years, Obama inherited a deficit of nearly $1.3 trillion from Bush/Cheney the moment he took the oath of office.
This year, however, according to the official data published by the Treasury Department, the deficit was $1.089 trillion.
- U.S. budget deficit shrinks by over $200 billion, reaches 4-year low (maddowblog.msnbc.com)
- Federal deficit cut, but tops $1 trillion for 4th year (bottomline.nbcnews.com)
- The wrong issue for the wrong candidate (maddowblog.msnbc.com)
In a short note to me this weekend, my friend and colleague Brody Levesque shared a personal thought about this election cycle that stopped me:
“I just cannot get over how hateful some of the rhetoric is this time out. In 31 years of being a political reporter, I can’t remember seeing it this bad.”
Wow. Maybe I’m becoming inured or cynical, or maybe I’ve been too busy defending my own turf to make comparisons. But, I wonder if he’s right. When have we had stompings, regular threats of murder, bullying, rallies for hate, such blatant lies, ignorance in campaigns and reactionary forces being such a force in our country since the sixties? Maybe, but I don’t remember it. Feel free to remind me.
What strikes me is the ease with which the populace has accepted this shit. How easy I accepted it. Hmmm. Let’s look something up.
Hate: Etymology: Middle English, from Old English hete; akin to Old High German haz hate, Greek: kedos, care. Date: before 12th century; noun, intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury.
See the word “fear”? Just hold onto it for a minute. I’m going to digress slightly, but we’ll get back to this. Promise.
There is one thing that drives American culture more than anything else, and that thing is money.
The Complete Culture of Capitalism has some gruesome side-effects. People with a lot of money have influence and they get whatever they want with little or no accountability, and when they band together, they run the country (see Haliburton). The people with less money have very little influence and they rarely get what they want, even though they outnumber the rich. Why? Because the rich play the fear game. They divide us into opposing groups: Liberal and Conservative, gay and straight, moral and immoral, rich and poor, urban and rural, christian and heathen. They then teach us how to hate each other because our values are being threatened by “the other”. They do that because they have the money to do it, and like a child pitting two divorced parents against each other in order to get what they want, they stand back and watch us fight. Smugly.
This fighting and drama is all a distraction from the real issue, which is, as you probably guessed- money. The only problem with the divorced parents and child analogy is this: the child is really a changeling, a cuckoo. It is not their child, not really their responsibility at all. But the masquerade has been conducted so well that, even when faced by the truth, the parents refuse to accept it.
It’s a simple thing, but a complicated concept. Economics has more schools of thought that political science. But it made me wonder. On a single issue, fighting the gays, some friends of a friend casually wondered about the amount of money the Christian Right has spent over the last 3 decades- from Harvey Milk’s election in 1977 to the present day. It became kind of a fun project for them, and they worked for a while and came up with a conservative figure (pun intended) of 1.4 billion. That goes from before Anita Bryant well beyond the opposition of Prop 8.
Well over a billion dollars. And that was a simple figure. Makes me wonder what a serious graduate student or economist could do with this project.
Almost one and a half billion dollars. That may or may not include pastor’s salaries, plane tickets, gas, power bills, office supplies, etc. That to me, is a campaign to fight fear.
What exactly is fear? I think we take it for granted. Quite simply, fear is what happens when you think you’re going to get something you don’t want. That’s what I’m going to point out. The Christian Right has given up civil discourse in favor of missionary zeal to fight something they think they won’t want- and not only that, they have done it by lying. They perpetuate the ideology before the person. They have de-humanized “The Homosexuals”, for a very simple reason: there is no need to be civil if gays are less than human. It becomes acceptable in schools to bully and “smear the queer.” Do unto others doesn’t count if you’re not talking about real people. It becomes a moral imperative to be hateful and cruel- the irony of all ironies within a Christian context….
So what’s our job? I think there are mainly two right now.
Show Them The Money.
Facts are facts. I don’t think the average American knows how much money has been spent in smearing the queer. Show the people in the pews exactly how much money they have spent in keeping other human beings down.If polls are any indication, the number of people who want us to have equal rights are not outnumbered by those who don’t. The naysayers are just spending more money. And they are spending it in the name of everyone they represent, with or without their permission. Local and national politicians, PACs, even entire denominations and corporations are contributing money to prevent equal rights. I think that if the people knew how much money was being spent in their name, it wouldn’t happen so easily. Accountability would be more highly sought and touted. 8: The Mormon Proposition was on the right track, but it didn’t go far enough. Prop 8 is just the latest and most widely publicized fight in over 40 years of political and social struggling. Our job is to call this funding what it is: prejudice and bigotry. And no matter how they try to hide this money (and hiding is just a way they show they know it’s wrong) we must work to find it. (Where are you, gay economists and forensic accountants?)
Come out as far as you feel you can, and support others when they come out.Reclaim our humanity in the eyes of our oppressors. Harvey Milk said this:
“I cannot prevent some people from feeling angry and frustrated and mad, but I hope they will take that frustration and that madness and instead of demonstrating or anything of that type, I would hope they would take the power and I would hope that five, ten, one hundred, a thousand would rise. I would like to see every gay doctor come out, every gay lawyer, every gay architect come out, stand up and let that world know. That would do more to end prejudice overnight than anybody would imagine. I urge them to do that, urge them to come out. Only that way will we start to achieve our rights.”
We have to be real. We have to be human. Our job is to be visible, to be teachers, to show our families, our neighbors, our churches, our communities and our nation that we are not monsters. We are not the antichrist. We are human beings with feelings and families and jobs and faith. We know fear and pain and loss. We know joy and love and happiness. We are people who love. We are not a threat to anyone’s marriage or faith or family. Personally, I think my most important jobs is to teach other human beings how to love what they do not understand.
This all boils down to the same thing: the unifying principle of humanity. Most people aren’t interested in oppressing other people. Those that seem to be are lost in the rhetoric that LGBT’s are not human beings. It’s our job to show them that we are. Shakespeare wrote one of the first and most beautiful pleas for civil rights and equality in The Merchant Of Venice, when Shylock, a Jew, finally responds to the blatant prejudice of his day:
“I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, heal’d by the same means, warm’d and cool’d by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, do we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.”
Like Shylock, we have to continually remind the world of our humanity until any rhetoric to the contrary becomes powerless. Until Smear The Queer is no longer played on our playgrounds and in our elections. Unlike Shakespeare, I am not justifying revenge. In fact, I want just the opposite. I’m suggesting militant understanding and sanity. Sanity through honesty, intelligence, perseverance and diligence. We have to stand up and speak when we’re told to sit down and shut up. We have to rebuff the anger and fear with the truth. We have to. Now more than ever.
The most important candidate in this election is fear. And it’s our job to oppose it and expose it for what it really is- a dehumanizing cuckoo.
The only thing we have to lose is our humanity.
I am a member of NAPWA, the National Association of People With AIDS/HIV. As a member, I receive their monthly email newsletter, which has a lot of information regarding HIV, tips for self-care, advocacy and political activism. Frank Oldham, the President and CEO had a column this month that really put some things in perspective for me.
It’s been a pretty interesting election year. NAPWA, as a 501(c)(3) charitable corporation, is not permitted to support or oppose individual candidates or political parties, so we can’t name names – but we can share our general observation that some of this year’s candidates would be pretty grand entertainment if there weren’t a real chance they might get elected.
It’s also been one of the nastiest campaign seasons in recent memory, and a lot of us just want it to end and go away. Here are some reasons to get to the polls and vote anyway.
· Defend the Health Care Reform Act.
Imagine a world where insurance companies can’t ask about preexisting conditions and use our answers to deny us coverage or cover us differently! We’ll have to wait until 2014 for full implementation of that, but it’s in the new law, and candidates who will defend the law against attempts to repeal it outright or amend it out of existence deserve our support. So do incumbent candidates who knew they were risking their seats but voted for the bill anyway; they took a big risk for us.
· The next Congress will – or won’t – fund implementation of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.
The Obama Administration’s National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) seeks to reduce the number of new HIV infections, increase access to care and optimize health outcomes, and reduce HIV-related health disparities. All of which is very good news for people living with HIV. It doesn’t mean much, though, if Congressional funding priorities are being set by folks who think anyone who doesn’t look like them is not the “real America.” Simply by being HIV-positive, we don’t look like them. We don’t want a Congress full of elected representatives chanting, “We shouldn’t be spending money on NHAS, ‘they’ wouldn’t have HIV if ‘they’ hadn’t been doing bad things.”
· The next Congress will set the agenda for young people’s HIV-awareness and prevention education.
We’ve seen the lack of results from abstinence-only curricula. Even the current Congress is gradually moving from ideology-driven abstinence-only approaches to evidence-based, frank sex education, and it is saving the lives of our young people. We don’t want to go back.
· There are critical HIV funding needs right now.
State AIDS Drugs Assistance Programs (ADAPs) are in crisis because of the recession which started in 2008. Programs for HIV-positive people with multiple medical or life issues – homelessness, addiction, mental illness – are also finding funds harder and harder to come by. Find out where your candidates stand on HIV services, and vote for those who support funding for them.
The votes of people living with HIV/AIDS are needed now more than ever before! As the leader of NAPWA and an African-American gay man living with AIDS, I know that so much progress and the fruits of hard-fought battles for our health care, protecting Ryan White Care Act services, and our rights as American citizens are at risk right now!
So let’s be sure to know our candidates and choose well. Next issue (November 5), we’ll look at the election results. Win or lose, we’ll all feel better if we did our research and voted our values.