Detail on Cromnibus: What's In It For Us?

The controversial Cromnibus budget keeps the government funded through September 2015, but it does so by exacerbating the rift between the very rich and the rest of us.

You’ve heard about the obvious giveaways:

  • Banks can return to do their riskiest trades knowing they are protected by taxpayers. It repeals the part of Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform that requires them to set up a separate subsidiary for that. 
  • Big Money gets even more influence in elections by raising individuals’ limits to $1.5 million for national parties.

But there’s much more:

  • Pulls the rug out from retirees by allowing corporations to lower pensions after the fact, preventing potential federal bailouts. 
  • Explicitly bars funding for high-speed rail and omits funds for infrastructure – one of the biggest job creators.
  • Makes it easier for the wealthy and corporations to avoid paying taxes through IRS funding cuts: enforcement staff down 15%; overall funding is 17% below 2010 levels. Also, more loopholes were added to the tax code, all of which will eventually end up in tax hikes to cover the losses. 
  • Relaxes school nutrition standards championed by Michelle Obama, and bars reducing sodium until more studies are conducted. 
  • Prevents Washington, DC from legalizing marijuana.

"The tax dodges and crippling of IRS enforcement starve the government of revenue. That enables conservatives to demand  spending cuts because clearly government must "tighten its belt," says Robert Borosage at Campaign for America’s Future.

"The Cromnibus guarantees another year of growing inequality and declining security for most Americans. Once more, vital investments are shortchanged. Once more, austerity is favored over jobs. Once more, the bill is larded with "regrettable, not cataclysmic" special interest giveaways," he says.

"Upgrading our rail networks would create tens of thousands of jobs and revive whole industries in steel, rail cars and engine parts when coupled with a Made-In-America mandate. But on that kind of investment in the future, this is the Budget of No," says Isaiah Poole, Editor of OurFuture.org.

Then there’s the other big job creator – efficiency and renewable energy. R&D for that gets 16% less than President Obama’s request, but fossil fuel R&D grows 20%. 

"That’s right: The budget would spend your tax dollars supporting already massively profitable oil, gas and coal companies perfectly capable of funding their own research, while starving the research and development needed to make the energy sources we need for the future to stave off climate change more viable," says Poole.

In the Housing and Urban Development budget, Republicans made a point of noting that "no funding is included for any new, unauthorized ‘sustainable,’ ‘livable, or ‘green’ community development programs," the quotes dripping with condescension, says Poole.

The Community Development Block Grant program, another economic developer, is capped at just $3 billion. As for helping students afford college, the token raise for Pell grants brings them to only $5830 a year. 

55% of the budget goes to the Defense Department, which "is increasing spending on equipment – funds that will go to defense contractors – while it provides troops with a measly 1% pay raise," says Lindsay Koshgarian of National Priorities Project, which analyzes federal spending and taxation.  

How About the Environment?

Funding remains stable with $8 million for the National Organic Program, $4 million for the Organic Transitions Program, and $325 million more for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative. 

But the news isn’t good for the EPA, a major target for Republicans. They deprived the agency of another $60 million in funding, bringing staff to its lowest levels since the 1980s – preventing enforcement of our air and water laws. It also prohibits EPA from regulating lead ammunition (which it hasn’t proposed) and mountaintop-removal mining.

Somehow, Democrats kept funding for EPA to regulate power plant emissions.

In the 2011 budget bill, Congress removed protections for wolves, resulting in more than 2800 deaths, and in this budget they prevented putting the Greater Sage-Grouse on the Endangered Species list because it might get in the way of oil and gas permits.

Sage Grouse

"This bill is clear evidence – if more were needed – of the Republican leadership’s polluter-funded goal of rolling back protections for air, climate, water and wildlife. Thankfully, the White House and Congressional Democrats were able to keep the worst items out of the bill and to dilute many of those that made it in. But the public will be worse off from provisions weakening protections of waters, attempting to block actions to help cut carbon pollution in other countries (despite frequent Republican demands that other countries do more), blocking endangered species decisions that are based on science and preventing enforcement of effective energy efficiency measures. This bill is just a preview of the broader battle next year," says Scott Slesinger, legislative director for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

He’s referring to an item that over-rides the US Export-Import Bank’s decision to stop financing of coal plants in other countries. It also blocks allocation of funds to fulfill President Obama’s $3 billion pledge to the Green Climate Fund, so crucial to an international climate change treaty. 

And light bulb fanatics continue to block funding to implement efficiency standards, even though they are already in place and the industry is far along in implementing them. It even prevents federal wildlife officials from requiring stream buffers to protect salmon in the Pacific Northwest, and strips requirements for mandatory rest periods for the trucking industry!

Energy Efficiency/ Renewables

Democrats were able to hold off cuts to The Department of Energy and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy even got a $25 million raise (to $1.93 billion). Here’s how it worked out: 

Solar Energy: $257,211 (previously $233,000)
Wind Energy:  $107,000 ($88,179)
Water Power: $61,000 ($58,600)
Geothermal Technologies: $55,000 ($45,802)
Bioenergy Technologies $225,000 ($232,429)
Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Technologies: $97,000 ($92,983)
Vehicle Technologies $280,000 ($289,910)
Advanced Manufacturing: $200,000 ($180,579)
Building Technologies: $172,000 ($177,974)
Federal Energy Management Program: $27,000 ($28,285) Weatherization Assistance $190,000 ($171,000)
State Energy Program Grants: $50,000 ($50,000)
Clean Energy Transmission & Reliability $34,262 ($32,400) Smart Grid Research & Development $15,439 ($14,600)
Energy Storage $12,000 ($15,200)
Cyber Security for Energy Delivery Systems $45,999 ($43,500)

Here’s what Republicans tried to achieve in the last budget.

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