His amendment would add $76.5 billion to the defense budget
Just weeks before announcing his 2016 presidential bid, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is completing an about-face on a longstanding pledge to curb the growth in defense spending.
In an olive branch to defense hawks hell-bent on curtailing his White House ambitions, the libertarian Senator introduced a budget amendment late Wednesday calling for a nearly $190 billion infusion to the defense budget over the next two years—a roughly 16 percent increase.
Paul’s amendment brings him in line with his likely presidential primary rivals, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who introduced a measure calling for nearly the same level of increases just days ago. The amendment was first noticed by TIME and later confirmed by Paul’s office.
The move completes a stunning reversal for Paul, who in May 2011, after just five months in office, released his own budget that would have eliminated four agencies—Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Energy and Education—while slashing the Pentagon, a sacred cow for many Republicans. Under Paul’s original proposal, defense spending would have dropped from $553 billion in the 2011 fiscal year to $542 billion in 2016. War funding would have plummeted from $159 billion to zero. He called it the “draw-down and restructuring of the Department of Defense.”
But under Paul’s new plan, the Pentagon will see its budget authority swell by $76.5 billion to $696,776,000,000 in fiscal year 2016.
The boost would be offset by a two-year combined $212 billion cut to funding for aid to foreign governments, climate change research and crippling reductions in to the budgets of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the departments of Housing and Urban Development, Commerce and Education.
Paul’s endorsement of increased defense spending represents a change in direction for the first-term lawmaker, who rose to prominence with his critiques of the size of the defense budget and foreign aid, drawing charges of advocating isolationism. Under pressure from fellow lawmakers and well-heeled donors, Paul in recent months has appeared to embrace the hawkish rhetoric that has defined the GOP in recent decades. At the Conservative Political Action Conference in February Paul warned of the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS). “Without question, we must now defend ourselves and American interests,” he said. Asked about federal spending, he added, “for me, the priority is always national defense.”
The amendment was filed on the same day as House Republicans overwhelmingly supported a plan to alter their budget to give billions more to the Pentagon.
It’s not the first time that Paul has adjusted his position on a foreign policy matter to find greater appeal within his own party. Early in his Senate career, Paul advocated for the elimination of all aid to foreign governments, including Israel, but after criticism has since backtracked on that proposal.
Paul’s change-of-heart on the budget highlights the importance of the funding document to many likely presidential candidates. In addition to the increased defense spending, Rubio provided a roadmap to his all-but-certain presidential campaign, introducing over 25 amendments stating his desire to deliver weapons to Ukraine, create education tax credits, strengthen pro-life legislation, weaken collective bargaining agreements and ensure Medicare wouldn’t be “raided” by Obamacare.
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is considering a presidential run, pointed to Rubio’s measure to increase defense spending as an example of how budget votes will impact the 2016 race. “That’s a great amendment,” says Graham, one of the Senate’s preeminent foreign policy hawks. “I think if you voted against Marco’s amendment you’d be probably on the outside of most people in the primary.”
Outside of Congress, other GOP presidential candidates have used the budget process to insulate themselves from tough political questions. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has relied on his outsider status to avoid commenting on everything from immigration to the gas tax. In New Hampshire earlier this month, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush dodged a question on securing the border by pointing toward dysfunction in Washington.
“I think that Congress needs to pass a budget and put conservative priorities on the table,” he said at a house party. “And in that budget there are ways that you could show the opposition to the use of executive orders, and so I hope they do that, and I hope they fully fund the department of homeland security…because how else are we going to secure the border. This is the only way that we can do it.”
“I think we need to increase spending on defense and homeland security,” Bush added.
Read next: Why Rand Paul is Attacking Ted Cruz
The 2016 House and Senate budget proposals for war spending that moved toward a congressional floor vote this week were loaded up with tens of billions of dollars more than the Defense Department requested, representing the largest increase lawmakers have attempted to add to the executive branch’s requests for such funds.
These moves — which come as the Obama administration tries to wind down the U.S. war in Afghanistan and to steer clear of a large new incursion in Iraq — were pushed through by Republican lawmakers that since 2003 have received a total $8 million in contributions from the political action committees and employees of top defense contractors, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity.
The proposals emerged from a convoluted congressional debate that pitted pro-defense hawks against federal deficit hawks, with the former — backed by defense industry lobbying — emerging triumphant.
The impetus for boosting war spending is that Congress enacted strict controls on regular Pentagon spending in 2011 and alleviated them only slightly last fiscal year, making a cut likely unless the Pentagon and the defense industry found new funds elsewhere. Supportive lawmakers as a result turned to the only military account not subject to spending caps, namely the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), a funding category created in 2001 for temporary expenditures associated with combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
As the Center for Public Integrity reported in December, OCO over the years has become a slush fund for lawmakers and administration officials seeking to retain or expand military programs with no direct relationship to those wars.
But they’ve never sought to do it as blatantly or unashamedly as they did this month, when the Senate Budget Committee voted in a straight party-line vote to spend $96 billion in the OCO budget for 2016, and the House Budget Committee voted similarly to spend $94 billion. The amount appropriated for OCO in 2015 was $63 billion. While no precise listing of the additional programs to be funded under the Republican proposals has yet been released, lawmakers who favored the OCO increases did not assert that the extra funds were needed only for the wars.
Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) were the principal sponsors of the successful Senate amendment to grow the OCO account. In urging a positive vote, Graham — who is exploring a presidential run — provided a long but imprecise list of security threats: “Everything that you have in common, radical Islam hates, and if somebody doesn’t do something about it soon, they will come our way again,” he told the committee, adding that increases to the OCO account were needed “to defend the nation.”
Signaling a difference of views among Republicans, the House Rules Committee on Monday night approved two versions of the OCO provision, requiring a final decision on the House floor. One sets OCO spending at $94 billion but requires $20 billion of that sum to be offset by spending cuts elsewhere, and another sets OCO spending at $96 billion while not requiring any offsets.
In total, the 67 current members of the House and Senate Budget and House Rules committees have received $15.6 million in adjusted dollars from the 2013 fiscal year top 75 defense contractors’ PACS and employees, from 2003 through the end of the 2014 election season.
On average, the top defense contractors gave Republicans $264,244 apiece while Democrats and Independents received $189,881. The lion’s share of contractor support went to the Senate Budget Committee’s 12 Republicans. The contractors’ PACs and employees contributed $5.7 million to their campaigns and leadership PACs, or an average of $472,219 per lawmaker.
Republicans on the House Rules committee received a total of $2.3 million, making them the second-highest average recipients of contractor largesse.
Graham received $760,244. The other sponsor of the amendment to increase the OCO fund, Ayotte, has less seniority than Graham but is one of the top average recipients of defense contractor contributions, calculated on a two-year basis, among the 67 committee members. First elected to the Senate in 2010, she’s raised $363,205 from the top contractors.
Two Senate Budget Democrats were also among the top 10 recipients of defense contractor contributions, though they voted against the Graham and Ayotte amendment. Hailing from a state that many defense companies call home, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia received $1,053,271 in adjusted dollars. He was followed by Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the fourth highest recipient overall, who received $823,536 in adjusted dollars.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) disputed Graham’s claims during last week’s Senate Budget Committee hearing, saying the United States already spends more on defense than the next nine countries, and he rebuked his fellow senators for adding to the national deficit. “Republicans took us into protracted wars in Afghanistan and Iraq—and ran up our national debt by trillions because they chose not to pay for those wars,” he said in a prepared statement.
The Center calculated campaign contributions in 2014 dollars from the top 75 defense contractors, as ranked in fiscal 2013, using campaign data compiled by The Center for Responsive Politics as well as data from the Federal Election Commission.
This story is from The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative news organization in Washington, D.C. To follow their investigations into government spending and national security, follow them on Twitter.
By Mark A.R. Kleiman, Angela Hawken, & Ross Halperin in Vox
By Robert Gard and Angela Canterbury in Defense One
By Jennifer Kahn in Pacific Standard
By Jennifer Bradley in the Brookings Essay
By Josh Wyner in the Miami Herald
The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.
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He criticized the budget proposal during an event in Cleveland
President Obama took his trash talking on Republicans’ 2016 budget proposal on the road Wednesday, telling a Cleveland audience it offers a “path to prosperity [for] those who are already prospering.”
During a speech to the City Club of Cleveland, the President said though the success of his plan to expand “middle-class economics” proves that “trickle-down economics” don’t work, Republicans’ budget proposal—which would balance the budget within 10 years—doesn’t reflect that.
“We know now that the doom and gloom predictions that justified this [type of] budget in the past were wrong,” Obama said. “Despite the new evidence, their approach hasn’t changed. “
Since the House budget was released on Tuesday the Obama administration has come out swinging, using it as a convenient foil against his own budget ideas. Republicans suggest cutting $5.5 trillion from the budget over the next ten years, mainly by pulling back investments in domestic programs. Defense spending under the budget would increase, about $36 billion over Obama’s budget. The budget also calls for repealing Obama’s signature health care law.
The President was particularly critical of the tax proposals in the Republican budget, which he said would benefit the wealthiest Americans and leave middle class Americans out to dry. “Those at the top aren’t asked to sacrifice a single dime,” Obama said.
House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, hit back at the President’s appearance in his home state. “Sadly this is just the latest example of President Obama putting campaign-style events and partisan politics above governing. And it’s all a ruse designed to distract from the president’s own problems, “ a post on the Speaker’s website reads.
The House GOP budget cuts $5.5 trillion over 10 years
House leaders introduced a budget Tuesday that could spark a fight between the pro-military and anti-deficit wings of the Republican Party.
The proposed House Republican budget largely keeps across-the-board spending caps known as sequestration in place while setting aside an additional $94 billion to fight terrorism overseas over the next fiscal year.
That amount is $36 billion more than President Obama’s request for emergency funds to fight terrorism, which could help bring on board the 70 or so defense hawks in the House who have said they’ll only support a budget that has at least as much spending as the president’s budget.
But the proposal also risks losing support in the Senate, where Republican Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Tom Cotton have said they will not support a budget that leaves in place the sequestration cuts. Spending increases in future years could also cause concern among fiscal conservatives in both chambers.
The proposal would balance the federal budget in 10 years by cutting $5.5 trillion, mostly from domestic programs, particularly in health care. As in past budgets, Republicans propose repealing the Affordable Care Act and creating a Medicare premium support model for seniors beginning in 2024. It would also give states more flexibility to adapt their Medicaid programs.
“It is a plan that balances the budget in less than ten years, secures and strengthens vital programs – like Medicare – provides our military men and women with the resources they need to protect American families, and would make Washington more efficient, effective and accountable to hard-working taxpayers,” said House Budget Chairman Tom Price in a statement.
To be sure, the House proposal is more of a political chit than an actual working budget. But many Republicans in Congress hope to pass the first regular budget since 2006 as a sign of party unity and a show of legislative progress. In addition, since a budget needs only a simple majority, it would be a good way to get around opposition from the Democratic minority in both chambers.
There is one other incentive for the Republican-led Congress to pass a budget. A spending blueprint would allow Republicans to make use of a maneuver, known as reconciliation, to clear certain bills through the Senate with a simple majority, instead of needing to overcome the 60-vote hurdle posed by a filibuster.
GOP leaders haven’t specified what they might like to use the procedural end-run to accomplish — and Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch already said one big priority, tax reform, will not be subject to the move this year. But it remains a powerful tool. Democrats used it in 2010 to secure the Affordable Care Act’s final passage after losing their filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.
President Obama ripped the Republican budget proposal on Tuesday following a meeting with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny in the Oval Office, saying it is “not a budget that reflects the future.”
“I was hoping for a little luck of the Irish as the Republicans put forward their budget today,” President Obama said. ” Unfortunately, what we are seeing right now is a failure to invest in education and infrastructure and research and national defense – all the things that we need to grow, to create jobs, stay at the forefront of innovation and keep our country safe.”
With reporting by Tory Newmyer
You may want to live a little when your kids leave home. But what you do with that money can make or break your retirement, a new study finds.
How well prepared you are for retirement may come down to one simple question: what do you do with money that once would have been spent on your kids?
In recent years, two common models of retirement preparedness in America have begun to draw vastly different pictures. The optimal savings model, which looks at accumulated savings, concludes that only 8% of pre-retirees have insufficient resources to retire comfortably. The income replacement model, which looks at the level of income that savings will generate, concludes half the working age population is in deep trouble.
These two models incorporate many different assumptions, which is why they can reach contradictory conclusions. For one thing, the optimal savings model assumes savings are held in something like a 401(k) plan and drawn down over time. The income replacement model assumes savings are converted to lifetime income through an annuity at retirement.
Accounting for these and many other differences, researchers at the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College have concluded that the key variable in retirement readiness is empty nest spending patterns. “If households consume less once their kids leave home, they have a more modest target to replace and they save more between the emptying of the nest and retirement,” the authors write. This creates a financial comfort level that those who spend the same amount—most likely on themselves—have greater difficulty achieving.
When the more conservative empty nest spending assumptions of the optimal savings model are applied to the income replacement model, the level of retirement preparedness is similarly optimistic. What the paper cannot answer, however, is which model accurately reflects the way empty nesters behave.
“Do parents cut back on consumption when kids leave, or do they spend the slack in their budgets?” the authors write. “No one really knows the answers.” How households react when kids leave the fold is not well understood, they say.
Yet that’s a problem for academics. You can control the way you act. The upshot is that if you resist the temptation to spend instead of save the money your kids were costing you, retirement readiness may be at your fingertips.
"We can start over with health care reforms that protect the doctor-patient relationship and expand access to quality affordable health care"
Republicans will again call for a full repeal of President Obama’s signature health law in the House’s 2016 budget proposal to be released on Tuesday.
“Our proposal repeals all of Obamacare so we can start over with health care reforms that protect the doctor-patient relationship and expand access to quality affordable health care,” said Rep. Dian Black of Tennessee in a two-minute video previewing the budget. Previous budgets authored by the House’s former Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan also called for repeal of the healthcare act.
The New York Times reports the budget plan will also make substantial cuts to Medicaid spending and essentially create vouchers for private insurance for future Medicare recipients. The White House said Monday the Affordable Care Act had provided coverage to 16.4 million previously uninsured peopl.
Members of the House Budget Committee previewed the broad strokes of their budget plan, which they say “balances the budget” and “lays the foundation for new jobs,” in a video released on the YouTube channel of Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Tom Price. The budget would also simplify the tax code and expand energy production under its plan for creating new jobs. It would also increase defense spending, Fox News reports.
“Our country faces massive challenges, but with positive solutions like these we will overcome them and create an America that is more secure, stronger, and full of opportunities,” said Price.
Full details of the budget will be released Tuesday morning.
In reality, there are only 42 people that old worldwide
(WASHINGTON D.C.) — Americans are getting older, but not this old: Social Security records show that 6.5 million people in the U.S. have reached the ripe old age of 112.
In reality, only few could possibly be alive. As of last fall, there were only 42 people known to be that old in the entire world.
But Social Security does not have death records for millions of these people, with the oldest born in 1869, according to a report by the agency’s inspector general.
Only 13 of the people are still getting Social Security benefits, the report said. But for others, their Social Security numbers are still active, so a number could be used to report wages, open bank accounts, obtain credit cards or claim fraudulent tax refunds.
“That is a real problem,” said Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis. “When you have a fake Social Security number, that’s what allows you to fraudulently do all kinds things, claim things like the earned income tax credit or other tax benefits.”
Johnson is chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, which plans a hearing Monday on problems with death records maintained by the Social Security Administration.
The agency said it is working to improve the accuracy of its death records. But it would be costly and time-consuming to update 6.5 million files that were generated decades ago, when the agency used paper records, said Sean Brune, a senior adviser to the agency’s deputy commissioner for budget, finance, quality and management.
“The records in this review are extremely old, decades-old, and unreliable,” Brune said.
The internal watchdog’s report does not document any fraudulent or improper payments to people using these Social Security numbers. But it raises red flags that it could be happening.
For example, nearly 67,000 of the Social Security numbers were used to report more than $3 billion in wages, tips and self-employment income from 2006 to 2011, according to the report. One Social Security number was used 613 different times. An additional 194 numbers were used at least 50 times each.
People in the country illegally often use fake or stolen Social Security numbers to get jobs and report wages, as do other people who do not want to be found by the government. Thieves use stolen Social Security numbers to claim fraudulent tax refunds.
The IRS estimated it paid out $5.8 billion in fraudulent tax refunds in 2013 because of identity theft. The head of the Justice Department’s tax division described how it’s done at a recent congressional hearing.
“The plan is frighteningly simple — steal Social Security numbers, file tax returns showing a false refund claim, and then have the refunds electronically deposited or sent to an address where the offender can access the refund checks,” said acting Assistant Attorney General Caroline Ciraolo.
In some cases, she said, false tax returns are filed using Social Security numbers of deceased taxpayers or others who are not required to file.
The Social Security Administration generates a list of dead people to help public agencies and private companies know when Social Security numbers are no longer valid for use. The list is called the Death Master File, which includes the name, Social Security number, date of birth and date of death for people who have died.
The list is widely used by employers, financial firms, credit reporting agencies and security firms. Federal agencies and state and local governments rely on it to police benefit payments.
But none of the 6.5 million people cited by the inspector general’s report was on the list. The audit analyzed records as of 2013, looking for people with birth dates before 1901.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act in 1935, and the first old-age monthly benefit check was paid in 1940.
Many of the people cited in the inspector general’s report never received benefits, though they were assigned Social Security numbers so spouses and children could receive them, presumably after they died.
The agency says it has corrected death information in more than 200,000 records. But fixing the entire list would be costly and time-consuming because Social Security needs proof that a person is dead to add them to the death list, said Brune, the agency official.
Brune noted that the inspector general’s report did not verify that any of the 6.5 million people are actually dead. Instead, the report assumed they are dead because of their advanced age.
“We can’t post information to our records based on presumption,” Brune said. “We post information to our records based on evidence, and in this case it would be evidence of a death certificate.”
“Some of those records may not even exist,” Brune added.
Nearly all the Social Security numbers are from paper records generated before the agency started using electronic records in 1972, Brune said. Many of the records contain errors, with multiple birthdates and bits of information about different family members.
“We did transcribe paper records into the electronic system and over time that information’s been purified,” Brune said.
“But our focus right now is to make sure our data is as accurate and complete as it can be for our current program purpose,” said Brune. “Right now, we’re focused on making sure we’re paying beneficiaries properly, and that’s how we’re investing our resources at this time.”
Fantastic homemade food doesn't have to be costly. These tips will help you cook like a pro without breaking your bank account.
Often, the best advice for cooking at home comes from those who do it for a living. Pippa Calland, a 2008 winner on the Food Network chef competition show “Chopped,” runs Mid St8 Taco at the West Shore Farmers Market in Lemoyne, Pennsylvania.
She shared with MONEY associate editor Susie Poppick some of her favorite ideas for saving a few bucks—while still turning out a delicious home-cooked meal.
1. Learn “forgiving” techniques. Pot roasts and other braises give you room for error, and you can use less expensive meat cuts. Bone-in chuck roast is $7 a pound, vs. boneless rib eye at $13.
2. Keep a sharp knife. Good knives reduce waste when you trim fat. The best tool is a simple sharpening stone (about $40); keep the blade at a 20-degree angle.
3. Plan ahead. A few days before you plan on cooking, write out a list of ingredients so when you go to the store you buy only the amount of each item you will actually need. Cooking from home saves you money only if you use your purchases completely. (And everyone knows how easy it is to get carried away at the grocery store.)
4. Work with whole spices. Ground spices are quicker to go bad. It’s easy to toast and grind spices yourself—you’ll need a cheap coffee grinder. Using coarse salt instead of salt from a shaker allows you to season more accurately.
5. Pre-heat pans. Always let that cast-iron skillet heat up before you put fat in the pan. You’ll be able to use less butter or oil to create a nonstick surface, and the food you cook will absorb less of it.
6. Skip store dressings. They cost $3 to $5 a bottle, and who knows what’s in them? Easy recipe: one tablespoon of olive oil, juice from half a lemon, salt, and pepper. Toss with cherry tomatoes and arugula.
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