I never thought I might take ill from a word.
Dam! Wrong again.
By Andy Kroll | Tue Aug. 2, 2011 3:00 AM PDT
The debt ceiling deal hammered out by President Barack Obama and congressional leaders and passed in the House on Monday afternoon  makes deep, painful, and lasting cuts throughout the federal government’s budget. What’s on the chopping block? The numbers tell the tale.
The Obama-GOP plan cuts $917 billion in government spending over the next decade. Nearly $570 billion of that would come from what’s called “non-defense discretionary spending.” That’s budget-speak for the pile of money the government invests in the nation’s safety and future —education and job training, air traffic control, health research, border security, physical infrastructure, environmental and consumer protection, child care, nutrition, law enforcement, and more.
The White House’s plan would slash this type of spending nearly in half, from about 3.3 percent of America’s GDP to as low as 1.7 percent, the lowest in nearly half a century, says Ethan Pollack, a senior policy analyst at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. Pollack’s calculations suggest the cuts in Obama’s plan are almost as deep as those in Rep. Paul Ryan’s slash-and-burn budget, which shrunk non-defense discretionary spending down to just 1.5 percent of GDP. The president has claimed that the debt deal will allow America to continue making “job-creating investments in things like education and research.” But on crucial public investment, Obama’s and Ryan’s plans are next-door neighbors. “There’s no way to square this plan with the president’s ‘Winning the Future’ agenda,” Pollack says. “That agenda ends.”
Environmental protection offers one useful window onto the damage this deal might inflict. The president has boasted that his deal with the GOP will usher in an era featuring “the lowest level of annual domestic spending since Dwight Eisenhower was president.” But Melinda Pierce, a lobbyist with the Sierra Club, says the plan could choke off funding needed to enforce the bedrock environmental protection laws on the books, including as the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts. “Remember, the Eisenhower era was before we passed the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act,” Pierce says. “There just won’t physically be the funds available to protect drinking water and to ensure there’s clean air to breathe.”
There is more. Likely no end in sight. LINK