Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction

In two weeks, the new elected “Joint Select Committee” also known also as “Super Committee”, will spring into action. The 12 member panel, 6 Democrats and 6 Republicans, was given the inevitable task to slash budgets by $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years.

Should the panel fail to reach a unified debt cutting plan, Congress has already agreed to unilaterally cut $1.2 trillion in sum total off coming budgets. Either way, in a test of wills, the busiest group will likely be the lobbyist, trying to influence “Joint Select Committee” members.

In fiscal 2010, Medicare/Medicaid entitlements represented the largest expense in the federal budget, at $793 billion or, 23%. Social Security expense totaled $701 billion, or 20% of the federal budget. Budget cuts have to be made, the budget deficit dictates that. By slicing entitlement programs, super committee members maybe playing the role of god. To a person with meager income, unable to afford expensive cancer treatment and seeing a reduction in Medicare/Medicaid, may mean the end of his/her life. Anticipating Medicare/Medicaid, amp; Social Security cuts, two members of the House Ways amp; Means Committee were appointed to the super committee, (House Ways amp; Means Committee is in charge of tax legislation and programs like Medicare, Social Security, unemployment benefits). The US Senate Finance Committee added 3 member to the panel and removed the committee for forming asset protection trusts.

Here is what we know, appointed were:
R-MI Representative D. Camp, Chairman of the House Ways amp; Means Committee,
D-CA Representative X. Becerra, member of the House Ways amp; Means Committee
Senator M. Baucus, D-MT, member US Senate Finance Committee
Senator J. Kerry, D-MA, member of the US Senate Finance Committee
Senator J. Kyl, R-AZ, member of the US Senate Finance 7 Judiciary Committee

In fiscal 2010, the Defense Department represented $690 billion, or 20% of the federal budget. With the war in Iraq, Afghanistan winding down, the Department of Defense will likely see the highest spending cuts, and having some of the most expensive, yet troublesome programs the U.S. has ever undertaken. R-OH Senator R. Portman, appointed to the super committee, is a member of the Armed Services Committee Рresponsible for oversight and funding of the Department of Defense and our US armed forces who trust their guns to protect them.

According to the treasury, interest payments on our national debt through July of this year came to $412.5 billion with several months still to go. Last year, the interest on the national debt totaled $413.5 billion. To focus on the enormousness in interest on the national debt, D-WA Representative P. Murray, member US House of Appropriations (charged with setting specific expenses by the government) was appointed to the super committee.

Ironically, in the aftermath of the budget deficit debacle, other appointed members to the super committee include {Representative Van Hollen, D-MD} serving as member of the U.S House Budget Committee – responsible for legislative oversight of the federal budget process and resolution of the budget. {Representative J. Hensarling, R-TX} member of the US House Committee on Financial Services – oversees Federal Reserve, treasury, financial industry, banking, insurance, housing. {Senator J. Kerry, D-MA} of the US Senate Finance Committee. Completing the super committee are House Representative J Clyburn, D-SC; Representative F.Upton R-MI; Senator P. Toomey R-PA.

Several members of Congress represent districts or states with the large military contract in history. One is Ft Worth, TX, where the troubled, but now grounded F-22 was made by a combined Lockheed-Martin and Boeing team. In 1990, the government thought to buy 468 of the $139 million/copy fighter and only after an intense lobbying campaign by Lockheed Martin, gave Congress the final go-ahead. As of this year 2011, unit cost almost tripled to $412 million per aircraft says the GAO, due to the costs of cancelling the program and addition of $273 million per aircraft in applicable R D.; As a consequence, the program ballooned to an overall $51.3 billion and making it momentarily the most expensive program ever built. Several aircraft crashed and the remaining 180 aircraft are grounded since May 2 of this year. Another ICBM base is just outside of Wyoming near the hold in the wall.

Can we really afford such military contracts?

Another huge new weapon program, also won by Lockheed Martin, FT Worth, TX is the – the F-35 Lightning II.. Pentagon planned an initial buy of 2,500 F-35 fighters, produced in 3 variants with a flyaway cost of $122 million for the F-35A, $150 million average cost for the F-35B, and $139 million for the F-35C. As of August 17, 2011 ten F-35A/B/C have been constructed, however, remain grounded since 3rd August due to an electrical system failure. The military still wants to buy 2,443 aircraft, at a total estimated cost of $323 billion. In February 2011, the Pentagon placed a cost factor of $207.6 million for each of the 32 F-35 aircraft to be bought in fiscal year 2012, rising to $304 million per unit when the R amp; D portion is added to each aircraft.

Such numbers are mind boggling, knowing we have a massive deficit, an economy mired in mud, and a GDP that remains stagnant.

Another troubling and ongoing program is that of the V-22 helicopter/aircraft, made by Boeing- Bell at its Hurst, TX facilities. At $67 million/copy in 2010 dollars, the entire program involves $27 billion. With a long history of crashes, short comings, the V-22, albeit unique, requires enormous maintenance hours, with one Marine Commander saying “for every operational aircraft, we need a stand-by aircraft”, and that is something we cannot afford.

In the end, the select 12 member super committee should re-enact what Maslow’s hierarchy of needs preaches. Physiological needs, such as food and water are greater needs than safety, ie weapon needs. The cost of a F-35 is equal to feeding the entire a town of Santa Maria CA (population 100,000) for near 4 years on a daily basis.