Archive for February, 2013

Captain Rick: On March 1, 2013 President Obama becomes the owner of the “Sequester”. He will shoulder the blame for this travesty of American government breakdown as a result of the Budget Control Act he signed into law on August 2, 2011.

image

The U.S. Senate failed to pass both Republican and Democratic alternatives to head off across-the-board spending cuts, further ensuring Washington will blow past a Friday deadline to avoid or replace $85 billion in cuts that threaten economic growth, military readiness and jobs.

The Democratic alternative would have replaced the cuts, known as the sequester, through 2013 with a combination of a minimum 30% tax on millionaires and cuts to defense and farm programs. It failed 51-49.

The Republican alternative would have transferred sweeping authority to President Obama to force him to determine how to implement $85 billion in cuts instead of the across-the-board spending cut affecting most reaches of the federal government. The sequester exempts military personnel accounts and the social safety net including Social Security and Medicare. The GOP measure also failed, 38-62.

Both proposals needed a 60-vote super majority to pass, but either vehicle was dead from the start. The GOP-controlled House opposes the Senate Democrats’ proposal because it raises taxes. GOP lawmakers do not support using new taxes to turn off the sequester; rather they are seeking alternative spending cuts and entitlement reforms.

After a two-month sequester delay agreed to in a January tax deal, the cuts are scheduled to start kicking in March 1. There is about $85 billion in cuts scheduled through Sept. 30, the end of the federal fiscal year. In total, the sequester will trim $1.2 trillion in spending across the federal government over the next decade if left untouched.

The cutting mechanism is an unpopular budget tool that was included as a fail-safe in a 2011 budget law that required Congress to find $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction on their own. When they failed to do so in December 2011, they started a one-year countdown to the automatic cuts. In the past year, Congress and the White House have been unable to come up with an alternative to the sequester, or reach a long-term budget deal that would allow them to turn it off.

The president and congressional leaders will make a final attempt at a pre-deadline compromise at a White House meeting Friday morning, but top lawmakers conceded the prospects were dim for a deal in the short-term.

Captain Rick’s closing thoughts

I believe I speak for most Americans by saying … our government in Washington is totally broken. I welcome your comments below.  

More info from previous reports:

Fiscal Cliff: https://atridim.wordpress.com/category/fiscal-cliff-course-101/

U.S. Debt Crisis: https://atridim.wordpress.com/category/u-s-debt-crisis/

Advertisements

Captain Rick: Blogs across America have exploded in the past few hours as they “smell a political rat” by President Obama’s mass release of illegal aliens in advance of and under the disguise of Sequester spending cuts. I have seen big political moves, but this one “takes the cake”. 

This appears to be a political move by President Obama to pressure Republicans to cave on automatic Sequester spending cuts which go into effect on on Friday. Those reading my previous reports, know that these cuts are necessary as a result of a total breakdown of Washington being able to legislate fiscal responsibility. It is a shame that our President has to resort to dirty politics by scaring Americans in order to continue his obsession for spending trillions of dollars beyond America’s means.

image

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) confirmed that it has released hundreds of immigrants awaiting deportation trials over the past few days to prepare for the sequestration slated to kick in March 1.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told CBS News it is "very hard for me to believe that they can’t find cuts elsewhere in their agency."

My state of Arizona contains the most porous corridor for illegal aliens entering the U.S. It’s a very important issue for the citizens of Arizona. I received an email from Jan Brewer, Governor of Arizona. She sums up this political move with excellence. I share her words with you below.

Message from Jan Brewer, Governor of the great state of Arizona

I’m appalled to learn the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has begun to release hundreds of illegal aliens from custody, the first of potentially thousands to soon be freed under the guise of federal budget cuts. This is pure political posturing and the height of absurdity given that the releases are being granted before the federal ‘sequestration’ cuts have even gone into effect.

This represents a return to exactly the kind of catch-and-release procedures that have long made a mockery of our country’s immigration system. The news is especially concerning when coupled with DHS’ acknowledgment that it may not be able to maintain operation of 34,000 immigration jail beds, as mandated by Congress.

Everyone knows the federal government must get a handle on spending, and it is well past time that the President begins working with Congress to find real budget solutions. But we cannot let public safety and the rule of law be collateral damage of the President’s failed leadership to pass a budget.

My very best,

Jan Brewer

More info from previous reports:

Fiscal Cliff: https://atridim.wordpress.com/category/fiscal-cliff-course-101/

U.S. Debt Crisis: https://atridim.wordpress.com/category/u-s-debt-crisis/

Captain Rick: Republicans are calling it the “Obamaquester” … $1.2 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years. $85 billion in 2013. Defense will be cut 13%. Everything else 9%. Officially called the “sequester”, its part of the “Fiscal Cliff” that was postponed on January 1, 2013.

The forced budget cuts were created during the 2011 debt ceiling debacle, passed by Congress and signed by the Whitehouse. It was a worst-case scenario, so bad that it would force lawmakers to make a deal. But, no deal was ever made and thus its become a poison pill that Americans will most likely have to swallow on March 1, 2013. The sequester was put in place 18 months ago to be a hammer, not a policy. On March 1, that hammer slams down.

image

Sequester Spending Cuts taking effect after March 1 (partial list)

Head Start programs will be scaled back

Fewer meat inspections

Homeland Security cuts will mean longer lines at airports and scaled back cyber security

Furloughs and layoffs would effect civilian workers in the defense industry

IRS cuts will mean fewer tax return reviews and longer waits for tax refunds

Emergency housing for the homeless will be scaled back

Extended benefits for unemployed will be scaled back

National Parks may close campgrounds or reduce open periods

Little hope of compromise by March 1

Washington continues to play the “blame game.” Democrats are blaming Republicans for proposing devastating spending cuts.  Republicans blame the Democrats for getting used to being bailed out for their own lack of fiscal responsibility.

Optimism for a last-minute deal averting massive spending cuts is scarce. The buzz in Washington is that both sides actually want to let the sequester happen. Washington seems to be mainly squabbling over who will be to blame for the “meat cleaver” budget slashing set to take effect on March 1.

The latest national poles show America is leaning slightly towards letting the sequester happen…that it is time America stops “kicking its debt can down the road”.

The sequester is only a tiny contribution to reduce deficit spending. Those reading my earlier reports know that America must come to grips with its gigantic thirst for wild deficit spending beyond its means in order to save America from future financial ruin.

More info from previous reports:

Fiscal Cliff: https://atridim.wordpress.com/category/fiscal-cliff-course-101/

U.S. Debt Crisis: https://atridim.wordpress.com/category/u-s-debt-crisis/

Captain Rick: A photo’s journey to the Virtual Journey GALAXY of STARS is long and difficult. Photo qualifications are astronomical. Only the very best photos ascend to this elite destination.

image

image

“Open Wide” by Les of the United Kingdom

Appreciation from Les

Thanks to fellow members of VJ for awarding my shot of the lilies. This is my first one to reach the Galaxy of Stars so I am really honoured.
Thanks to Captain Rick for this awesome group of photographers and the way that he dedicates his time to keeping all levels of the groups in in good form.

Regards, Les.

About Les and his photo

  • ‘A Virtual Journey’ member since December 4, 2010
  • 47 invited photos contributed to ‘A Virtual Journey’
  • Recipient of 17 ‘AVJ Participation Awards’ for group participation excellence
  • Recipient of 1 ‘AVJ Feature Award’ of one of his photos featured on the AVJ homepage during the month of December 2011
  • ‘AVJ Level 2’ member since July 7, 2011
  • AVJ1 members awarded 11 of his photos to ascend to ‘AVJ Level 2’
  • The photo presented above is his first photo to be chosen by AVJ2 members to ascend ‘AVJ2’s GALAXY of STARS’. It is one of only 15 photos to achieve “Virtual Journey’s” highest honor.

History of ‘A Virtual Journey’ photo group on Flickr 

Captain Rick, a life-long photographer, achieved well over 1 million views of his photos on Webshots, the worlds first global photo website in the early 2000’s. Envisioning the future of photography on the web, he became a Flickr Pro member in early 2008, a couple years after its Flickr’s founding. Since then Flickr has grown to become the worlds largest database of photos with well over 6 billion photos, 50 million members  and 80 million unique visitors.

In August of 2008, Captain Rick created the Flickr group called ‘A Virtual Journey’. It was Flickr’s first group to have members photos screened to meet extremely high photographic standards. Only the highest quality of those were personally invited by Captain Rick to be added the the ‘A Virtual Journey’ photo pool. Today that pool contains over 2500 of Flickr’s highest quality photos.

In June of 2011, Captain Rick created ‘A Virtual Journey: Exploration for HD Excellence: Level 2’ to offer its members incentive to climb to a higher level of photographic excellence.

In November of 2011, Captain Rick created ‘GALAXY of STARS’, an extension of Level 2. It is reserved for members who receive sufficient awards from fellow AVJ level 2 members. Only 15 photos to date have been qualified by AVJ2 members to ascend to the ‘GALAXY of STARS’. The above photo from Les of the United Kingdom is one of them.

View all of the photos that have ascended to the ‘AVJ2 GALAXY of STARS’

Click:  http://www.flickr.com/groups/virtualjourney2/discuss/72157627202886893/

View the worlds greatest High Definition Full Screen slide show … …AVJ Level 2 photos:

Click: http://www.flickr.com/groups/virtualjourney2/discuss/72157627566032962/

Photographers! Want to join ‘A Virtual Journey’?

A Virtual Journey stands out on Flickr as one of its top groups for photographic excellence and quality. If your photography has what it takes to become an AVJ member, Captain Rick will welcome you!

Please read our stringent rules: http://www.flickr.com/groups/virtualjourney/rules/

Apply for membership by clicking ‘Join this group’: http://www.flickr.com/groups/virtualjourney/

Captain Rick: France enters fourth quarter of recession as business activity slumps in Eurozone’s second largest economy. The French economy stagnated through the course of 2012. France’s performance in the first quarter of 2013 is shaping up to be the worst since the same period in 2009. Readings point to a contraction of 0.2% to 0.3% in Eurozone gross domestic product for the first quarter of 2013, after a 0.6% drop in the final quarter of last year.

image

America is not alone when it comes to difficult economic times. European countries have been experiencing similar economic problems to those in America…perhaps worse. The world, including America needs to pay attention to what our friends in Europe are experiencing. We all should see events unfolding in Europe as a ‘crystal ball’ to vision into the future for what is coming our way…especially for America, if it does not correct its current suicidal course of spending far beyond its means. 

Follow my reports of the European Debt Crisis: https://atridim.wordpress.com/category/european-debt-crisis/

Captain Rick: Congress kicked America’s ‘debt can’ down the road for 60 days. Having done nothing since to address America’s monumental debt crisis, the Fiscal Cliff Sequester will take effect on March 1, 2013.

Congress could prevent the sequester from happening by agreeing on a better fix for America’s affixation for deficit spending beyond its means, but it’s not likely to do so before the deadline. In the mean time, the previously agreed sequester will automatically take effect on March 1…and rightly should. Those reading my earlier reports know that the sequester is only a tiny first step in fixing America’s gigantic thirst for spending money it does not have. Much more needs to be done.

image

What is the sequester and how will it affect America?

It’s just a fancy word for automatic, across-the-board cuts in funding as a result of a previous congressional agreement.

How much will be cut? The sequester would slash how much federal agencies are allowed to spend by $85 billion over seven months.

The White House estimates that funding for nondefense programs would be cut by 9%, while defense programs would be cut by 13%, for the seven months remaining in fiscal year 2013, which ends Sept. 30.

The funding reductions would come primarily from what’s known as discretionary spending.
Discretionary spending supports a vast array of programs, agencies and services from the FBI to the FDA to support for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

There would also be some cuts in mandatory spending, which unlike discretionary spending isn’t subject to annual review by Congress.
But popular entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security would be largely protected. So would safety-net programs such as Medicaid and food stamps.

Also exempt: military personnel and Veterans Affairs, although veterans may be hit in other ways, especially since they’re a big part of the Defense Department’s civilian workforce.
Indeed, the cuts on non-exempt areas will be broadly felt. Food inspections, border security, weather monitoring, medical research, disaster response, education programs and Meals on Wheels for seniors would be compromised.

Federal workers at different agencies would face furloughs. They may be told not to come to work one or two days every week or every pay period until September. And they won’t be paid for those furloughed days.

Anticipation of the sequester has already caused federal agencies to slow or freeze hiring and to limit the contracts they issue for future services and products. They’ve also reduced travel and training costs.

Is there a chance the sequester could be replaced?

Yes, increasingly policy observers expect Congress will at least try to replace it by March 27, although there are no guarantees. March 27 is the day funding for the government expires. To prevent a government shutdown on March 28, lawmakers must pass another funding bill — if not for the rest of the year, then at least for a few weeks or months.

The sequester was never intended to go into effect. The mere threat that it might was supposed to prod lawmakers to find a smarter, more gradual way to reduce deficits. But Democrats and Republicans still can’t agree on how, despite knowing this day would come for over a year.

House Republicans have proposed replacing the defense cuts with more nondefense reductions. Senate Democrats want to replace all the cuts with a mix of targeted spending cuts and tax increases. Each side rejects the other’s solution.

Imagine if your household budget was controlled by the U.S. Federal Government … You would be in serious financial trouble! https://atridim.wordpress.com/2013/02/18/imagine-if-your-household-budget-was-controlled-by-the-u-s-federal-government-you-would-be-in-serious-financial-trouble/

Captain Rick: If the U.S. Federal Government was in control of your household budget, you would be in serious financial trouble!  I have prepared this simple comparison to show you why:

Annual Financial Statement of the United States of America:

U.S. Tax revenue: $ 2,170,000,000,000

Federal budget: $ 3,820,000,000,000

New debt: $ 1,650,000,000,000

National debt: $ 16,571,000,000,000

Interest on the National debt: $ 222,800,000,000

Recent budget cuts: $ 38,500,000,000

Let’s now remove 8 zeros and pretend it’s an annual household budget:

Annual family income: $ 21,700

Money the family spent: $ 38,200

New debt on the credit card: $ 16,500

Outstanding balance on the credit card: $ 165,710

Interest on the credit card: $ 2,228

Total budget cuts so far: $ 385

image

What would happen if the bank froze your credit card, preventing more debt?

Can you imagine how bad your budget would be if you were spending $16,500 more each year than you received in income? The interest on your credit card balance would be $2,228 this year and would be added to your massive balance of $165,710. Each year your debt is growing larger at a rapid rate.

Now, suppose your bank lost faith in your ability to pay your balance. Its easy to guess that your bank will freeze your credit card, allowing no further debt. How will you pay the $16,500 in expenditures that were beyond your budget?  How will you make your loan payments, or even pay the $2,228 in interest on your credit balance? You would probably be left with one choice…declare bankruptcy. Luckily, you would have the U.S. Federal Government (Uncle Sam) to excuse your debt and allow you a new financial start.

What would happen if the bank froze Uncle Sam’s credit card, preventing more debt?

The situation with Uncle Sam’s budget is identical to yours, only exponentially larger. However, there is a large difference in who controls the credit. Uncle Sam’s debt is not held by a bank. It is held by a large number of investors, investing firms and countries all around the world. Japan and China hold a large portion of America’s debt. It is highly unlikely that all of the creditors would freeze Uncle Sam’s credit all at once. But, supposing one day China or Japan lost faith in Uncle Sam’s ability to repay their investment…or even the interest on it? Its easy to guess that they would stop further investments in the U.S. federal government.

When a large enough source of new investment is stopped, how will Uncle Sam finance America’s programs which count on $1.65 trillion of borrowed money each year? How will it repay its debt to investors…or even pay the $223 billion in interest on the balance? Unfortunately bankruptcy is not an alternative for Uncle Sam. There is no bigger entity to bail it out or give it a fresh financial start. Its only remaining option will be to reduce payments to various programs so that it stays within the limits of new debt which can be sourced. It could also mean that the U.S. would have to default on its debt owed. This in return would most certainly stop most, if not all of America’s creditors from making further investments. This would worsen the situation and virtually force America to live within its budget, drastically slashing its programs by $1.65 trillion per year. Programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Defense would most certainly be significantly affected, as they are the largest budget items. Such massive cuts would most certainly cast America into a deep recession, probably far worse than the Great Recession a few years ago.

Captain Rick’s Solution Scenarios

Maintain Current Course of Deficit Spending with only small, token reductions:

This is not an acceptable solution. It will lead to failure of America’s financial system within a few years. The cost of America’s entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are growing in size at an astronomical rate. In a very short time these three programs will consume 100% of all Federal Tax Income, leaving nothing to support the entire balance of the government without deficit spending. With this course, its not a matter of IF the world’s creditors will cut off America’s credit…but WHEN.

Balance the U.S. budget within 10 years:

This is the course America must take if it is to survive. The Fiscal Cliff had a goal of cutting half of the deficit spending 10 years. That was a good start, but congress cant even achieve it. Congress continues kicking America’s debt can down the road, agreeing on allowing only token spending reductions and tax increases. America must do better…soon!

It will require major spending reductions affecting all programs and tax revenue increases across the board. It will also require significant entitlement and grant program reform. The days of Uncle Sam handing out money with a blindfold on must end soon.

Does America have the ‘guts’ to make these sacrifices? Time will tell…but time is running out quickly. I hope for our children’s sake that America gets its act together soon or our kids will likely find themselves living one day in a third world country.

I welcome your comment and hope you will share this with your friends via one of the means I have provided. Together, our voice can make a difference.

More Info:

Fiscal Cliff: https://atridim.wordpress.com/category/fiscal-cliff-course-101/

U.S. Debt Crisis: https://atridim.wordpress.com/category/u-s-debt-crisis/