ThinkFast: February 1, 2010

Federal Budget

President Obama will unveil a $3.8 trillion budget for 2011 today, that will add “billions of dollars in new spending to combat persistently high unemployment and bolster a battered middle class,” increase war spending, “raise taxes on banks and the wealthy to help rein in soaring budget deficits,” cut spending on some discretionary domestic programs, and help rein in the deficit.

The “Obama administration is proposing a sweeping overhaul” of the No Child Left Behind initiative. Although details are sparse, education experts briefed by the administration say that one of the changes will be granting funds based on academic progress instead of apportioning the money to districts according to the number of students.

“The Pentagon will for the first time rank global warming as a destabilising force” in a strategy review that will be presented to Congress today. “While climate change alone does not cause conflict, it may act as an accelerant of instability or conflict,” said an excerpt of the review.

In his new budget, President Obama “wants to end NASA’s moon program, turn over space transportation to commercial companies” and stop development of the space shuttle follow-on vehicle. NASA currently spends “more than half” of its $18 billion budget on human spaceflight.

Senior White House adviser David Axelrod said yesterday that Obama would continue to push for a health-care overhaul. “We are still inside the five-yard line,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs added. “We’re one vote away in the House of Representatives from making…health care reform a reality.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Republicans and Democrats would work together in a bipartisan fashion to “cut off the cash that the Obama administration will need to shut down the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.”

The Justice Department is investigating whether officials at the private security company Xe (formery Blackwater Worldwide) “tried to bribe Iraqi government officials in hopes of retaining the firm’s security work in Iraq after a deadly shooting episode in 2007.” Federal law bans U.S. corporations from paying bribes to foreign officials.

Officials said this weekend that the Obama administration “has increased the U.S. military presence near Iran and is accelerating installation of antimissile systems in nearby countries.” The White House is trying to reassure Gulf countries that they will be protected from a possible Iranian offensive as the U.S. pushes for new sanctions on Tehran.

“In a six-day span just before the US Senate election,” Sen.-elect Scott Brown (R-MA) collected “nearly $450,000 from donors who work at financial companies, a sign the industry is prepared to spend heavily in the upcoming midterm elections to beat back new controls and taxes President Obama wants to impose.”

And finally: Rush Limbaugh gets down at the Miss America pageant.

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