Thursday, March 9, 2017

America's New Priorities

The Trump regime has made it clear that budget cuts for domestic programs are the top priority to pay for more bombs and planes for the Pentagon, and that Americans can simply get along with $50 billion in yearly cuts.  The latest victim scheduled for the chopping block? Federal HUD grants will soon be gone because F-35s are more important than public housing.

The Trump administration has considered more than $6 billion in cuts at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, according to preliminary budget documents obtained by The Washington Post. The plan would squeeze public housing support and end most federally funded community development grants, which provide services such as meal assistance and cleaning up abandoned properties in low-income neighborhoods. 
It’s the latest evidence that the administration is following through on President Trump’s goal to cut domestic spending by $54 billion to bolster the defense budget. HUD’s budget would shrink by about 14 percent to $40.5 billion in fiscal 2018, which begins in October. 
HUD Secretary Ben Carson has taken a staunchly conservative stance on public assistance in the past, saying dependency on HUD programs could become “a way of life” for recipients. While suggesting significant cuts, the preliminary budget maintains the same level of funding to rental assistance programs and avoids reductions that could directly put families on the streets. Instead, it targets funding for building maintenance and community development projects, although HUD recommends in the budget document that those projects receive funding from another source. 
About $1.3 billion would be cut from the public housing capital fund, under the preliminary plan — when compared to funding in 2016 — and an additional $600 million would be cut from the public housing operating fund. 
HUD spokesman Jereon Brown said the budget document “is still a work in progress.” The budget document appears to be part of a back-and-forth with federal budget officials, and it is unclear whether the proposed cuts will be included in the president’s final budget proposal. The Trump administration has said it will release its complete budget plan next week.

Oh well. I guess we didn't need to clean up public housing anyway.  Just have to make do with less America, because we're heading to war pretty soon and besides, we have to protect the country's most valuable resource: tax cuts for the 1%.  That's why I have a good chuckle at stories like this.

In southern West Virginia they call this The Highway That Time Forgot, a 100-mile, two-lane stretch of stomach-churning switchbacks and careening coal trucks, clogged by stop-and-start school buses, slow-driving seniors and the random pedestrian. 
Infamous are its ear-popping ascents and declines; its oscillating speed limits and paucity of passing zones; its (by one count) 333 substandard curves. Rock ledges tower over the road, and sometimes boulders fall on it. 
That Route 52 is the best east-west connection through the coalfields — two entire counties have not an inch of four-lane — testifies to how badly the area needs the 65-mph, limited-access divided highways that the rest of America takes for granted. 
President Trump has famously promised to “bring back coal’’ and put miners back to work. But he’s also who’s promised $1 trillion for infrastructure. At the Republican National Convention, on election night, in his inaugural address and last week in his first speech to Congress, the New York developer has vowed to build highways. 
To Trump supporters here, his infrastructure promises are as important as his coal promises. Highways, in fact, are seen as deliverance from coal’s economic tyranny. 
“If we could get highways in here, we wouldn’t have to depend on coal,’’ says Ray Bailey, the assessor in McDowell County, where Trump got 74% of the vote. He’s tacitly admitting that while Trump may be unable to revive an industry that has been declining for decades, he can at least build some roads. 
“Now is the time,’’ agrees Gordon Lambert, a county commissioner, a Democrat and a Trump voter. “If we don’t get our highways this time, we won’t get them in our lifetime.’’
Spoilers: You're not getting highways in your lifetime.  Well, not as long as Republicans are in charge.

Going to be a lot of disappointed voters come 2018, I would expect.

The Thoroughbred Of Corruption

Kentucky Republicans in Frankfort have decided that since the state Attorney General is Democrat Andy Beshear, that maybe the office needs a hefty chunk of its power removed so that GOP Gov. Matt Bevin can do whatever he wants to.

The President of the state Senate has filed a change to a bill that would strip power from the attorney general and give the governor exclusive authority to represent the state in many legal matters. 
On Wednesday morning, attorney general Andy Beshear called the measure “an unprecedented power grab and one of the worst constitutional overreaches since the adoption of our current constitution.” 
“The attorney general is not the governor’s lawyer, he’s not the General Assembly’s’ lawyer, he is the people’s lawyer,” Beshear said. “Because, as the Supreme Court explained, in Kentucky, the people are the sovereign, the people are the king. Not the government and not the governor.” 
Beshear said the proposal amounted to a “get-out-of-jail-free card” for the governor. 
The move comes after nearly a year of legal challenges brought on by Beshear, a Democrat, in which he sued Republican Gov. Matt Bevin for unilaterally making budget cuts and overhauling the University of Louisville board of trustees. 
Bevin has in turn accused Beshear of inadequately defending the state’s new law requiring to perform and describe ultrasounds on women seeking abortions. 
The proposal came as a surprise substitute to House Bill 281 that deals with making transparent the contracts the attorney general makes with outside law firms. 
The attorney general would still have authority over habeas corpus proceedings, medical fraud, public service commission appeals and consumer protections. 
Senate president Robert Stivers, the sponsor of the measure, said the legislature has “the ability to limit everybody’s power and authority.” 
“I disagree with the Supreme Court because the constitution is the constitution,” Stivers said. “And it says clearly that the legislature has the authority to prescribe the duties of the attorney general.”

Odds are really fantastic that this will pass and that Bevin will sign it.  Whether or not it gets past Kentucky's Supreme Court I couldn't tell you, but giving most of the office's statewide power to Matt Bevin seems like a horrendous idea.

It's also a serious ethical and oversight breach, but then again these are Republicans we're talking about.  Using government power for their own purposes is absolutely fine.  Using it to help the people of the Commonwealth, well that's unfair.

Please note also that Bob Stivers believes the state legislature has all the power in Kentucky's constitution and can "limit everybody's power and authority".  I'm sure the state Supreme Court would like to take a look at that theory.

Looks like we'll know pretty soon if they'll get the chance.


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