I. Treasury Secretary Lew Goes to Berlin, NPR interviews him about the budget

Portrait of Treasury Secretary Lew

Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew told Germans to cut austerity measures while President Obama pushes them at home.

Treasury Secretary Lew goes to Berlin. Mr. Lew encourages Europeans to reduce their austerity measures because they are ruining their economies. He wants Europeans to spur their demand or spending. That is a good suggestion.

Lew has pressed European officials to moderate austerity measures in order to boost growth, and called on surplus countries like Germany to boost their consumption to help pull the continent out of the doldrums.

Schaeuble and Lew tried to play down any differences in their views, however, with the German arguing that growth and budget consolidation were not mutually exclusive.

NPR’s Mr. Green asks Mr. Lew (in Berlin) what he thinks about President Obama’s budget. Mr. Lew gives the official party response of how Mr. Obama has been offering the same budget policies for years and they are a reasonable mix of cuts to entitlements and increases in tax revenues. Mr. Green works really hard to ask about the similarities between austerity in Europe and austerity at home. But phrases like ‘long term fiscal constraint’, and ‘finding the sensible center’ act like intellectual razor wire and fill the interview with a wordsmith’s version of a room full of those small annoying plastic styrofoam packing pebbles.

II. What Obama Is Doing Here At Home

President Obama is persistently focusing his Presidential policy on deficit reduction and austerity in Federal and State spending. Since 2011, there have been 2 fronts in the Austerity war.

Two Visible Fronts in the Austerity War:

1. The Sequester cuts impact a range of government programs and services. 784 billion dollars in cuts over the next ten years. The cuts reduce spending on the Federal workforce and cause furloughs costing (of up to) 20% of workers’ salaries. Medicare is cut 2% per year under the Sequester rules. At any time the Sequester could be reversed through passing Conyers & Sanders sponsored bill, HR 900. The Sequester is a deliberate tool created to force all parties to pass the Grand Bargain.

2. The Grand Bargain consists of proposed cuts to the social insurance programs. Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are in the crosshairs. Gaius Publius outlined seven areas which have historically been under attack in the Grand Bargain offers. You should read his article as he explains how each one of the seven cuts would impact Americans.

Less visible fronts in the austerity wars:

Cutting the Federal Work Force. Indirectly creating pressures to cut worker’s wages. Advocating against government job creation. Expansion of military commitments and spending in Africa, Asia, The middle East. Offering government subsidies to oil and energy companies. Permitting further, ongoing inflation of commodities like food and energy through financial speculation. Privatizing public services such as health care through the ACA, & changes to Medicare and Medicaid, subsidizing health insurance companies. Blank check spending on Security Theatre programs such HS, CIA, FBI, NSA. Propping up Wall Street & Banks through the $85 billion dollars/month Fed buying program. Starving savers through keeping interest rates at near zero. Absence of any Works Progress Administration, guaranteed jobs programs. Strangulation of TANF, Food Stamps, Housing Subsidies for low-income families. No advocacy for a guaranteed income for low-income families. Continuation of public assistance work requirements for homeless people. The ongoing privatization of the public education system.

Public domain photo from Wikimedia Commons.