US prepares to furlough 800,000 workers as shutdown looms

article here http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/09/30/budg-s30.html

The US House of Representatives voted Saturday to tie a bill that would fund the federal government for part of the new fiscal year to a delay in implementing the Obama administration’s health care overhaul, setting the stage for a US government shutdown at 12:01 AM Tuesday.

A government shutdown would be the first in seventeen years. It would entail furloughs for over 800,000 federal workers and the total or partial shutdown of most federal agencies, while having a minimal impact on the military and the intelligence/domestic security apparatus.

The House bill will be taken up Monday afternoon by the Democratic-controlled Senate, which is expected to strip out any restrictions on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) before sending it back to the House. At that point, the House is expected to reject the Senate version, setting the stage for a partial shutdown of federal government functions to begin after midnight.

The immediate crisis over extending funding for the federal government after the October 1 beginning of the new fiscal year could be a prelude to an even more consequential crisis over raising the debt limit to avoid a default by the US government when the current debt limit is reached on October 17. House Republicans are threatening to tie an increase in the debt limit to a delay in funding for the ACA.

There is a possibility that the Republican-controlled House might offer an extension of government funding for a few days to avert an immediate shutdown, while seeking concessions on the health care program from the White House and congressional Democrats.

Interviewed on “Fox News Sunday,” Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican whip, said, “I think the House will get back together in enough time, send another provision not to shut the government down but to fund it, and it will have a few other options in there for the Senate to look at.”

He held out the possibility of a deal in which House Republicans removed their provision for a one-year delay in implementing the ACA and Senate Democrats accepted Republican demands to lift a provision in the ACA imposing a tax on the makers of medical devices. Business interests, led by AdvaMed, a medical device trade organization, have been lobbying fiercely for a repeal of the tax. A section of congressional Democrats have joined Republicans in opposing the tax measure.

The impact of a government shutdown would be imposed overwhelmingly on the working population. Some 95 percent of employees at the Department of Education would be furloughed, as would 92 percent of workers at the Department of Energy, while all of the department’s regulatory activity would come to a halt.

The Environmental Protection Agency would have enough people on the job only to “keep the lights on and respond in the event of a significant emergency,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. Environmental regulation would likewise stop.

The Department of Health and Human Services would be at about half capacity, and the Centers for Disease Control said it would have “minimal support to protect the health and well-being of US citizens” and “significantly reduced capacity.”

read rest here http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/09/30/budg-s30.html

Obama admin is complicit in “looting” of Detroit; plans are afoot to slash pensions for city workers and sell off of art

artielc here http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/09/30/pers-s30.html

"Top Obama administration officials visited Detroit, Michigan Friday to give their benediction to Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s plans to use bankruptcy proceedings to slash city workers’ pensions and health care and sell off art from the Detroit Institute of Arts.

The administration delegation, headed by Attorney General Eric Holder and Obama’s chief economic adviser, Gene Sperling, came bearing gifts, albeit paltry ones. Of the headline figure of $300 million to be allocated to Detroit, itself a token sum, a mere $100 million is to come from the federal government.

This will mainly take the form of previously allocated aid for the demolition of buildings and “blighted” homes—the chief request of multibillionaire developer and Quicken Loans owner Dan Gilbert, who is heavily invested in Detroit land and buildings and aims to transform the city center into a haven for the wealthy. Tens of millions more will be made available for hiring police officers and installing security cameras throughout the city.

Orr, the unelected front man for Wall Street, announced that none other than Gilbert himself will head a new panel on “blight elimination,” presumably overseeing the distribution of the federal funds.

Friday’s “Detroit Summit” was aimed primarily at providing political cover for local and state officials, Democrats and Republicans, and an assortment of “community organizations” and trade union officials who are collaborating in the bankruptcy scheme. It was a photo op intended to endow the plundering of the city and its working-class residents for the benefit of the banks and bondholders with a veneer of “renewal” and “progress.”

Meanwhile, the United Auto Workers, the city unions and the AFL-CIO are lobbying behind the scenes for a share of the spoils from impoverishing workers and retirees, gutting city services, and selling off public assets from DIA masterworks to the city water department and Belle Isle.

Friday’s event underscores the fact that the Obama administration sees the Detroit bankruptcy as a model for similar attacks throughout the country, just as its 2009 restructuring of the auto industry sounded a national tocsin for wage- and benefit-cutting.

Among the topics not mentioned during the summit, at least publicly, was Orr’s announcement the day before of plans to scrap the pension plans for city workers, turning them into 401(k) stock market investment schemes, while slashing benefits for retirees. Cost-of-living adjustments are to be eliminated for pensions that currently average only $19,000 a year for non-uniformed workers and $30,000 a year for firefighters and police.

Nor was there any reference to Orr’s plans to eliminate the retiree health care program, sending retirees onto Medicare (if they are over 65) or Obama’s private insurance markets (if they are under 65). With enrollment in Obama’s insurance exchanges set to begin tomorrow, the anti-working class essence of his health care overhaul is evident from the fact that Detroit officials see it as an opportunity to slash health care expenditures by $120 million a year.

The looting of Detroit is epitomized by plans to sell works from the Detroit Institute of Arts, located across the street from Wayne State University, the site of Friday’s “summit.”

read the rest here http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/09/30/pers-s30.html

@RahmEmanuel @MayorEmanuel @ChicagosMayor closes 50 school finds 93mil for real est deal

article here http://www.chicagoreader.com/Bleader/archives/2013/09/25/mayor-rahm-finds-92-million-for-his-south-loop-deal

"While your kids were sweltering in the heat of schools that can’t afford air conditioners, or ducking bullets fired by gangbangers who operate more freely because we can’t afford police, Mayor Emanuel was coming up with $92 million to spend on something you don’t want.

In this case, the South Loop project at Cermak and Michigan that will feature a DePaul basketball arena and a Marriott Hotel. The $92 million will come out of the good old tax increment financing slush fund, which is like a magical drug for creating new money for the mayor to waste.

Good thing he supposedly reformed it.

The specific slush fund is the Michigan Cermak TIF district, created in 1989 by Mayor Daley.

Anytime you want to come back, Mr. Mayor, all is forgiven.

At the time of its creation, Mayor Daley said he had to divert money from schools and cops, among other things, for 24 years in order to battle blight in the South Loop.

He told us to think of it as investment. Instead of using those tax dollars for teachers or police, he vowed to shrewdly and strategically invest them in various projects that would transform the South Loop into a promised land of redevelopment yielding more property tax dollars for our schools and cops when the TIF expires in 2013.

Alas, here we are in 2013, and the war against South Loop blight has not been won—even after 24 years of shrewd and strategic mayoral investment of economic development dollars.’

city of Chicago gave a felon a six-figure grant to open a liquor store

article here http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-promo-austin-liquor-store-20130927,0,2407751.story

"With backing from the local alderwoman and money from City Hall, a new liquor store opened earlier this year in South Austin — one more purveyor of alcohol, cigarettes and lottery tickets in a neighborhood desperate for something more.

Informing the original backer of the store that he would be getting $105,000 in city funds, a letter from the Department of Community Development exclaimed: "Thank you for reinvesting in the City of Chicago!""