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What does the fiscal cliff vote leave undone?
January 4, 2013
On Tuesday, January 1st, the House of Representatives voted 257 - 167 in favor of the Senate brokered agreement on resolving the fiscal cliff debate for 2 months. The compromise does 2 main things:
1. Provided a compromise on revenue. Tax rates for Americans earning less than $400,000 (individually) or $450,000 (household) remain the same. For Americans earning more, tax rates are increased to 39.6%. Both of those tax rates are now considered permanent. The Payroll Tax Holiday which lowered payments for Medicare and Social Security, was allowed to expire.
2. The Budget Control Act sequestration provision, which would have put in effect automatic spending cuts on government spending, is postponed for two months.
The debt limit was not raised as part of the debate on the fiscal cliff which means the U.S., which has hit our debt ceiling, will be mired in another debate over raising the debt limit.
Many of you helped us push Congress to understand that cutting the Pentagon budget, including nuclear weapons systems, is an essential part of any deal to reduce the deficit and should bear a higher burden than proposed cuts on basic human services. If we were to grade the fiscal cliff vote through the lens of that effort, we would have to give Congress a grade of “Incomplete.” In two months, Congress will have to decide whether they allow sequestration to take effect or whether they move to come up with a more rational and targeted solution.
This is a prime opportunity to ensure that our elected officials are hearing a steady drumbeat of support for reducing our bloated military spending. While programs like veterans’ care are essential and should be preserved, we do not need billions spent in maintaining an outdated military readiness posture that has us investing in nuclear weapons, tanks, and nuclear submarines. From our nuclear weapons budget alone, we can cut over $100 billion over the next 10 years:
- Downsizing the Trident nuclear-armed sub fleet from 14 to eight or fewer new boats and save at least $20 billion over the next decade. This would still allow the Navy to deploy the same number of strategic nuclear warheads at sea as currently planned (about 1,000).
- Using existing bombers now planned to last into the 2040s and delaying work on the new bomber program, which would save $18 billion over the next decade, according to the Pentagon.#
- Gradually cut the land based missiles.
The above reductions are reasonable steps, supported by a growing number in Congress, towards our common vision of a world free of nuclear weapons.