Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Cromnibus. Or Making Sausage Out Of Pigs.

The name "cromnibus"* is a new silly word for both short-term and long-term government spending bills.  It's intended to keep the government funded until September 2015, while squeaking through all sorts of utterly unrelated riders.  The Republicans also want to use it to fight president Obama's immigration actions (that's the CR or continuing resolution part).  The measure must be voted on by midnight EST on Thursday.  Otherwise the government will shut down.

Since it's the time before Christmas and its traditional gifts, it's worth asking who might be treated as having been a good child this year.  The Department of Defense, for sure:

For the Defense Department, the legislation would provide $554.1 billion for fiscal 2015, just smaller than the $554.3 billion the Obama administration requested.
But the bill's $490.1 billion base 2015 Pentagon appropriations bill, if enacted this week, would be $3.3 billion larger than the amount allocated for fiscal 2014.
The measure would give the White House most of the funds it requested, including $3.4 billion of the $5.6 billion it recently asked for to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. It proposes $64 billion for the Pentagon's overseas contingency operations (OCO)account; with the war in Afghanistan winding down, that level would be about $21 billion less than the 2014 enacted level.
A summary of the cromnibus released by congressional leaders and top appropriators states it includes $93.8 billion for total Pentagon procurement, a $1 billion hike from the previous year. For R&D, DoD would get a total of $63.7 billion, up $700 million from 2014.
Amid worries about the military's readiness, appropriators are proposing $161.7 billion — $1.8 billion more than last year — for operation and maintenance accounts.
The measure also substantially ramps up funding for the Navy's E/A-18G electronic warfare jets to $1.4 billion, providing enough monies to buy 15 in fiscal 2015.
For the Navy, the legislation provides a $1 billion funding hike above the request for one San Antonio-class amphibious transport ship. It also would keep the American aircraft carrier fleet at 11, allocating $483.6 billion to refuel the USS George Washington.
The shutdown-skirting measure would increase funding for joint US-Israeli missile defense programs by $172 million. For the much-ballyhooed Iron Dome program, the appropriators doled out $175 million more than the $176 million the White House requested, for a program total of $351 million.
The National Guard and Reserve would get $1.2 billion more than requested to "enhance" their equipment, according to the summary.

Bolds are mine.

Indeed, the military is clearly the favored child on this gifting day.  But others get little presents in the attached riders.

For example, the Wall Street gets a pat on the head:

In addition to spending appropriations, the bill includes changes to various laws that are known as “policy riders.” One of these is drawing sharp criticism from Democrats and financial industry watchdogs. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform package passed in 2010 put new limits on how banks that receive taxpayer backing can use high-risk financial instruments known as a swaps, which were a key driver of the last financial crisis. Banks and other financial companies hate the “swaps pushout rule,” which has been praised as a crucial component of the reform law by the White House, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Bush-era banking regulator Sheila Bair.
The cromnibus repeals the swaps pushout rule. Americans for Financial Reform and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights blasted the move as “a backroom deal buried deep in a stopgap government funding measure” that will increase the risks taxpayers and the economy face. Former Rep. Barney Frank called it “a terrible violation of the procedure that should be followed on this complex and important subject, and a frightening precedent that provides a road map for further attacks on our protection against financial instability.”

Place your bets, ladies and gentlemen!  The roulette wheel is open, once again, and the US tax payers provide the wallets for the games.

Sigh.  We have learned nothing from the collapse of the world money markets not that long ago.  But that's not really a surprise, given that the system is run by the same people with the same interests, especially on Wall Street, and given the fact that those people have the power of dollars.

Speaking of the power of dollars:

Campaign finance regulations have already crumbled in a variety of ways in recent years, and the cromnibus contains a provision that would gut what’s left of them. Currently, rich people can only give $32,400 per year to a political party. The cromnibus moves the decimal point on that cap, allowing annual contributions of up to $324,000 to the Republican or Democratic national committees. An expert who helped draft that landmark campaign finance reform law told Bloomberg the deal is “an unholy alliance to emasculate the national party contribution limits that were enacted to prevent corruption.”
We are inching ever closer to the One-Vote-One-Dollar principle of "democracy."  Or corruptocracy.

*The rest of my title refers to the inadvisability of watching the political processes.  As gruesome as the process of turning pigs into sausages.