Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Idaho ... these are the latest fronts in the battle of budgets, with the larger fight over a potential shutdown of the U.S. government looming. These fights, radiating out from the occupation of the Wisconsin Capitol building, are occurring against the backdrop of the two wars waged by the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan. No discussion or debate over budgets, over wages and pensions, over deficits, should happen without a clear presentation of the costs of these wars-and the incalculable benefits that ending them would bring.
President Barack Obama unleashed his proposed 2012 budget this week, pronouncing, proudly: "I've called for a freeze on annual domestic spending over the next five years. This freeze would cut the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade, bringing this kind of spending -- domestic discretionary spending -- to its lowest share of our economy since Dwight Eisenhower was president."
Focus on the word "freeze." That is exactly what many people might do, if this budget passes as proposed. While defence spending increases, with the largest Pentagon funding request since World War II, the budget calls for cutting in half a program called Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP.
Canadian-based corporations are sitting on lots of excess cash. Many Canadians are looking for work, better jobs, or more hours. Large-scale public expenditure is going unfunded: shortages exist in infrastructure for urban transit, education, public health facilities, recreation, and culture.
The Harper Conservatives plan to give the corporations a tax reduction in the next budget, so they will get even more money to sit on. Will Canadians be better off because corporations pay income tax at a lower rate? Somebody must have thought so, because corporate taxes have been reduced over the last 10 years in Canada.
So, the Winnipeg Free Press features a Headlin that Layton is open to dealing with Harper on the budget. I am assuming this is primarily becauswe Layton thinks going to the polls now would be bad for the NDP.
What I am wondering is how wise is this? I am thinking it makes it easier for the Liberals to tie the NDP closer to Harper and to set themselves up as the real opposition and alternative to Harper.
So I would be really interested in knowing what people think, and if there is something else more sophisticated going on then I assume or understand.
Arthur Cramer, Winnipeg
With this first budget truly its own, the NDP government is finally setting sail in earnest after nearly a year of preparation, delays and mishaps. It's heading into very rough seas, but in one essential way this ship is better prepared than previous ones for the voyage.
It has to do with the crew. I don't know if I dare say outright that it's more motivated, but it's certainly less prone to mutiny. The budget has announced a 10 per cent cut in the civil service over the next four years and has scaled back public sector pensions -- and no angry demonstrations in front of the legislature! If it stays that way, this is a noteworthy political feat.
Stephen Harper seems to be trying to convince us that, behind our pleasant, peaceful exteriors, we are an aggressive, warrior-like people.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated last month, the Prime Minister argued that the characteristics of hockey -- tough and aggressive -- are key elements of the Canadian national psyche.
It was an odd comment. Yes, hockey is Canada's sport, but there's been a national clamouring recently to get rid of its most aggressive aspect -- shots to the head. The Olympic tournament -- less aggressive than NHL games - was apparently no less thrilling to Canadians.
The Harper government's first-ever budget, tabled five years ago, unleashed a ticking time bomb that is set to explode on Ontario's childcare sector this year.
That budget cancelled the beginnings of a national childcare program, leaving Ontario $63.5 million short of keeping its subsidized spaces open to low-income working parents this year.
The feds kissed off the childcare program with a one-time funding envelope, which Ontario used to sustain subsidies. As the envelope ran out last year, the province even stepped in with $20 million to fill the gap. But Ontario was clear that it held the hope that the federal government would do the right thing and reinstate the funding.