!!BREAKING NEWS!! PLANET EXCLUSIVE: COUNCIL PRESIDENT SHERMAN, WARD 1′s YON FILE FOR VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE IN CITY SOLICITOR DEGNAN … MOVE COULD HAVE PROFOUND EFFECTS ON CITY GOVT. … plus … IN WAKE OF LAST NIGHT’S PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE, A CLOSE LOOK AT THE NATIONAL DEFICIT
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, THURSDAY, OCT. 4, 2012) — We were about ready to ready and publish a story about the national deficit when late word came in on a developing story that could have profound effects on future relations between Mayor Dan Bianchi and the Pittsfield City Council. This development could also play a role in the election of 2013.
Council President Kevin Sherman, at-large, and Ward 1 councilor Christine Yon have filed a petition requesting “that the City Council take a vote of no confidence regarding the professional competence of City Solicitor Kathleen E. Degnan.” The wording is straight from the petition, and supplies the complete text. In other words, the petition is short and sweet and in laser-like fashion to the point.
To the PLANET’s questions, Sherman sent this response, which we publish in full:
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Yes, this matter is on the agenda for Tuesday October 9, 2012. Councilor Yon and I spoke with the Mayor on September 6 to discuss our concerns, many of which stemmed from the actions taken by the Solicitor during the Federal Lawsuit with Spectrum though there are other examples of questionable judgement/advice as well over the past nine months. Following that conversation in which we asked that our concerns be addressed, I had multiple follow up meetings and conversations with the Mayor. I attempted to meet with Ms. Degnan and the Mayor but that meeting never came to fruition. I also reached out to Ms. Degnan last week but a meeting never materialized.
Given a month from the start of the conversation, it was unclear how or if the concerns would be addressed. This petition is one of last resort as I would have preferred a collaborative resolution. Unfortunately, I was left with no choice but to support my colleague, Councilor Yon, who was directly effected by the behavior in the course of litigation along with the residents of Pittsfield who elected me to protect their best interests. I believe that is what I’m doing in this case. The concerns that I have, that I’ve heard from colleagues, and that I’ve heard from members of the public are based in fact and is not personal in nature. The bottom line is there is little evidence that we as a city and as a Council are being represented effectively and, therefore, there is a lack of confidence from that standpoint.
The effect of the vote would be to put our concerns on the record and to vote accordingly. If the vote is 11-0 or 0-11 it holds no weight other than to show the extent of the concerns. Believe me when I say this is the last thing I wanted to do but feel it is my responsibility as Council President and At Large City Councilor to stand behind the residents and my colleague. If any other department head caused as much harm to another colleague I would follow the same course of action: Address the situation with the managing authority and attempt to meet with all parties involved to find a resolution. At the point in time that it appeared a resolution would not be forthcoming, I would take the next necessary step which is what I’ve done here. I can’t stress enough that this is an action of last resort.
In my last conversation with the Mayor I stated that if a vote of no confidence was put forth, following that vote no matter the outcome, I would be in his office the following weeks to continue to work with him and his administration on matters vital to our community. I will not let this one issue grind government to a halt. I know that we will rise above as professionals once this issue is put to bed and work for the best interest of the City.
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THE PLANET has contacted the mayor’s office for comment,and we are waiting a response. We shall continue our followup to this important story. Now that the Boring Broadsheet knows about it, expect them to have sloppy seconds tomorrow. Normally, one would expect professional etiquette. When one news outlet breaks a story and another follows up, the follower by unwritten media rule must credit the medium that originally had the scoop. THE PLANET follows this rule religiously. We won’t expect it from the BB, not even after waking up Dick Lindsay from his sleep.
Where did the mammoth US budget deficits come from?
Let’s go back about a decade, when budget surpluses were predicted for the foreseeable future. Somehow, the math went terribly wrong, by trillions of dollars. Here’s an accounting of what happened.
By Peter Grier | Christian Science Monitor
- What’s the cause of the federal government’s huge budget deficits? That’s a question that is harder to answer in the particular than you might think. The general problem is obvious: Uncle Sam has been spending more money than he takes in. The specific reasons as to why this state of affairs exists are a mix of human decisions, economic circumstance, and the cumulative effect of time.
Context is important here. So let’s start with 2001. That year, theCongressional Budget Office looked out over the decade to come and saw ahead nothing but blue skies and black ink. It predicted that between 2001 and 2011 the US would run budget surpluses totaling $5.6 trillion.
That didn’t happen. Instead, the US racked up $6.1 trillion in deficits over that period. CBO’s prediction was a whopping $11.7 trillion off the mark. How did things go so wrong?
CBO has gone back and studied that, as it happens. In a paper published earlier this year, the group’s economists tried to pull out and compare the reasons for the multitrillion swing.
One big problem was that CBO isn’t magical. Unblessed with the ability to predict the future, it didn’t accurately foresee the economic troubles of coming years, including the crash of the Great Recession. This meant that less tax money came in than anticipated. Overall, CBO says that about $3.3 trillion of its $11.7 prediction error can be attributed to “economic and technical changes” to projected revenues.
Then there were the tax cuts. President George W. Bush instigated most of these, but President Obama also pushed through Congress a payroll tax cut intended to pump money into a moribund economy. Tax cuts accounted for a further $2.8 trillion of the $11.7 trillion discrepancy. (Yes, the big kahuna here is Mr. Bush’s 2001 reduction in income-tax rates, which alone accounts for about $1.2 trillion in revenue foregone over the decade.)
Finally, there are the increases in outflows unpredicted by CBO. Between 2001 and 2011, increaseddiscretionary spending amounted to about $3 trillion. This category includes defense spending related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, homeland security upgrades in the US, spending on food stamps and other hard-times safety net programs, and other general budget categories that are supposed to be approved annually by Congress.
Mandatory spending – a category that includes the Medicare prescription-drug program approved under Bush, the TARP bank bailout, and Mr. Obama’s economic stimulus package – went up by about $1.4 trillion during the period in question. (This type of outflow is called “mandatory” not because we had to do it, but because it results from formulas established by Congress instead of appropriated dollar totals.)
Charles Blahous, a former economic official in the Bush White House who is currently a Hoover Institution research fellow, has rolled all these numbers together into a simple pie chart. His answer to the question “where did the $11.7 trillion go?” is this: 27 percent went away due to projection inaccuracy; 24 percent went to tax cuts; and 49 percent can be accounted for by various forms of increased spending.
Yes, yes, but who’s to blame? It’s election season, after all, and accusations as to which party is responsible for most of this damage are as thick on the ground as October leaves after a windstorm. Asked why the debt has increased during his four years in office during a “60 Minutes” interview last week, Mr. Obama pointed a finger at his predecessor:
“Over the last four years, the deficit has gone up, but 90 percent of that is as a consequence of two wars that weren’t paid for, as a consequence of tax cuts that weren’t paid for, a prescription-drug plan that was not paid for, and then the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.”
That answer is not accurate. Obama appeared to be talking about numbers that reflect the cumulative debt since 2001, not just his term. According to a White House-produced chart on the national debt, if you take the 10-year period of 2001 to 2011, Bush policies accounted for 55 percent of that figure. Obama-initiated policies such as the stimulus accounted for 11 percent, while the recession took care of the rest.
(The White House chart puts the total debt at $12.7 trillion, not $11.7 trillion, as does the CBO. The White House uses different underlying economic assumptions.)
But even that chart is something of an apples-to-mangoes comparison. Bush was president for eight years, and Obama for three. This is where the passage of time comes in – Bush’s tax cuts in particular had more time to accumulate and thus appear as a bigger part of the overall picture than the later-arriving Obama stimulus package.
Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler has looked at this in depth, and made his attempt at adding up who is responsible for the $1.3 trillion 2011 deficit alone. His rough estimate is that economic factors accounted for about 46 percent of this single-year shortfall, while Obama policies accounted for 44 percent, and Bush-era policies for about 10 percent.
Splitting up deficit causes by administration may be politically interesting. It’s possible, though, that it’s effectively pointless, in that it doesn’t lead to a better understanding of the choices that will confront US policymakers in years to come.
A more useful way of looking at things could be to reslice deficit numbers into cyclical and structural figures. The cyclical deficit is caused by stuff that varies from year to year, like food stamp spending, which is driven by unemployment. The structural deficit is welded into the structure of the federal budget like steel beams. It reflects chronic problems that only worsen, such as the rising cost of health care.
According to CBO, about $367 billion of the $1.3 trillion 2011 deficit was caused by cyclical stuff. Some $928 billion was structural. This is the part we really need to worry about, according to such budget watchdog groups as the Concord Coalition.
The most important of these structural factors should come as no surprise. They are the aging of the baby boom population, which will drive up the number of people enrolled in Social Security andMedicare; and the continued increase in health-care costs, which makes Medicare, Medicaid, and other government health-care programs more expensive on a per-person basis.
Population aging accounts for 64 percent of the cost growth of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid through 2035, according to a Concord Coalition analysis published earlier this year. Thirty-six percent is due to rising health-care costs.
“Borrowing our way through this is not a viable option because the rising cost of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid is not a temporary blip. It gets bigger with time. Incurring permanently rising debt would result in staggering interest costs and ultimately a total debt burden that would crush the economy,” concludes the Concord Coalition analysis.
DO LOVERS DREAM? YES, HERE WHERE THE MOUNTAINS LESSEN AS THEY RISE, LOSE THE LOW VEILS, AND STEAL UP INTO THE SKY.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.