White House and Congress: The Great Economic Divide

On Friday, Vice President Joe Biden called for Republican and Democratic governors to lead the nation out of the mess that has crippled Washington and insist that Congress approve billions of dollars to repair the country’s aging infrastructure. The Associate Press reports (Vice President Joe Biden calls on governors to lead nation), during a meeting of the National Governors Association, Biden explained: “The way things have gotten today, and I’m not singling out any party or any group of people – the politics, the culture in Washington, it’s become too personal, it’s too corrosive. I think you’ve got to lead us out of this mess we’re in.” The three day conference held this year in Nashville gathers state leaders from both parties to collaborate despite partisan differences on immigration, health care and education. Even with the bipartisan tone, many governors face midterm election in a season where the balance of power in the statehouses could potentially be decided and ending some presidential campaigns before they begin. Biden, a potential presidential contender himself, said the political climate in Washington was less divisive when he began serving in the Senate three decades ago at a time when white segregationists served openly in Congress. In addition, he said Republicans and Democrats have long agreed on the need to reinvest in the nation’s infrastructure and workforce development, however the current climate even with needed spending has been bogged down by politics. The main concern for governors right now is the deadline for Congress to pay for the federal Highway Trust Fund that allows states to maintain their transportation infrastructure. While a short term bill will most likely pass in Congress, governors want a long term plan. Unfortunately, many governors are reluctant to give any suggestion on how to fund their infrastructure in the long term. As for right now, fuel taxes are the main revenue source, but they have not been raised in 21 years and aren’t keeping pace with spending. In addition, the bipartisan Senate proposal to increase the federal gas tax has failed. It is hard to say whether infrastructure issues will play a role in the coming elections, although Washington’s struggles with what was long a bipartisan issues is emblematic of voters’ overall view of Congress, which as the Associate Press puts it is at an all time low.

Meanwhile back in Washington, the Treasury Department on Friday said the June surplus totaled $71 billion, following a $130 billion deficit in May, putting it on course to record the lowest annual deficit since 2008. The Associate Press reports that the government also ran a surplus in June 2013 due in part to dividends from Fannie Mae, the mortgage giant under federal conservatorship for the past six years. For the first nine months of this budget year, the deficit totals $366 billion, down 28 percent from the same period last year 2013, while tax receipts are up 8 percent compared to the prior year and spending increased 1 percent. The Congressional Budget Office is forecasting a deficit of $492 billion for the full budget year ending Sept. 30.

While strides are being made to cut the deficit, Congress still struggles to get their act together. On Friday, as Michael McAuliff reports, House Votes For Tax Breaks To Add $287 Billion More To Deficit, the GOP led House of Representatives voted to make a former stimulus measure permanent along with another related tax cut adding $287 billion to the deficit over the next 10 year. The largest part worth $263 billion is making permanent so called bonus depreciation which allows businesses to write off the cost of capital investments and improvements much quicker. The stimulus was used twice during the Bush Administration and expired last year. The idea is that if lawmakers give businesses a break during tough times then they will speed up major equipment purchases and stimulate the economy. Those who support it believe it would allow business to plan their investments, while opponents mock the idea stating that the Congressional Research Service reports found the break to be a weak stimulus and the stimulus effect will likely fall further if it becomes permanent. According to Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), a member of the Ways and Means Committee: “Even as a stimulus, the analysis shows that for every dollar that is invested we get 20 cents of growth.  A fellow could go bankrupt with that kind of economics, and that’s exactly what they would have the country doing and not meeting its other needs while funding something that doesn’t work.” In addition, Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) added: “Yesterday, the Ways and Means Committee was working on a markup of legislation for another short-term extension of the highway trust fund — you know, the transportation infrastructure investment we desperately need in this country. We were scratching and clawing to try to find an additional $10 billion over the next 10 months to try to keep some of these projects moving forward, and yet here today, we have another permanent change to the tax code at a cost of $287 billion over the next 10 years and not a nickel of it paid for.” Kind noted that his committee passed 14 permanent tax cut bills at a cost of $900 billion. Unfortunately, Friday’s full house vote allowed for two thirds of the committee’s cuts to pass. Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio), the sponsor of the cuts, said that bonus depreciation has been going on since 2002 off and on without being paid for, so it might as well be permanent. He added, “Bad policy. Even though we are giving for the first time certainty, predictability to people who actually create jobs in America, who must have a business plan and must make those big purchases. Amazing.” The White House has threatened to veto the bill along with permanent cuts and additionally the Senate will weight the cuts, but only plan for short term extensions.

While Congress and the White House try to find common ground, three of the world’s richest men are calling for Congress to pass legislation to overhaul the immigration system and provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Igor Bobic article, Sheldon Adelson, Warren Buffett, And Bill Gates Chastise House GOP On Immigration, explains the Casino magnate and conservative donor Sheldon Adselson along with Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett and former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates criticized the House Republicans for their failure to address the current policy. In a New York Times op-ed piece published Thursday, they wrote: “Whatever the precise provisions of a law, it’s time for the House to draft and pass a bill that reflects both our country’s humanity and its self-interest.” However, the chance of any immigration reform bill moving through the House is unlikely with the unwillingness of conservative members and Speaker John Boehner to bring to the floor without overwhelming support from his caucus. Despite the obstacles, Bobic reports the three men are unphased urging Republicans to listen to reason. They added: “A Congress that does nothing about these problems is extending an irrational policy by default; that is, if lawmakers don’t act to change it, it stays the way it is, irrational. The current stalemate — in which greater pride is attached to thwarting the opposition than to advancing the nation’s interests — is depressing to most Americans and virtually all of its business managers. The impasse certainly depresses the three of us…Signs of a more productive attitude in Washington — which passage of a well-designed immigration bill would provide — might well lift spirits and thereby stimulate the economy. It’s time for 535 of America’s citizens to remember what they owe to the 318 million who employ them.”

Fiscal Cliff: The Remix

House Republicans,  in an effort to thwart the effects of another debt showdown this summer, passed a bill Wednesday to protect Social Security recipients and investors in Treasury bonds if the government hits its borrowing limit. According to the Associated Press, the House Ways and Means Committee passed the bill exempting interest and principal payments on Treasury bonds from the statutory debt limit as well as interest payments to Social Security trust funds. The bill passed 22 to 14 down party lines with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed, while the full House will take up the bill after Congress returns from next week’s vacation. However, democrats are expected to block the bill in the Senate. Republicans believe the bill could help avoid a historic default even if the debt limit does not increase due to Congress and President Obama. According to Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., “The whole purpose of this bill is to take default off the table,” said Rep. Regardless of the political hysterics in Washington, we will not default.” Democrats believe the bill prioritizes payments to foreign investors over funding domestic programs such as veterans, soldiers, students and elderly and calling it “Pay China First Act.” According to AP, Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y. commented, “Where in the bill are the benefits are veterans protected? Is there language protecting Medicare payments and seniors in this bill? Do they get top billing over foreign banks? This bill will do nothing to lower our debt but it will make sure that foreign banks in Switzerland and China are paid.” In January, Congress suspended borrowing limit until May 18 however the Treasury wants to take action to delay default until late summer in August. The consequences of no debt limit increase could be another showdown over government spending and borrowing leading to a similar problem as in July of 2011 when Congress took the federal government to the brink of default and received a downgraded credit rating for the first time from major rating agencies. The issues on the table have become toxic since even leading to pettiness in last year’s congressional elections where both parties pointed out how many times their opponents voted for an increase in debt limits which use to be a routine vote according to the Associated Press.

Poverty has an Expiration Date?

According the World Bank, it does. What is the difference between extreme poverty and poverty? Who defined it? While the governments of the world figure this out, the World Bank has set a deadline for 2030 to end extreme global poverty emphasizing that the poorest benefit from strong growth and rising prosperity in developing nations Reuters reports. According to World Bank President Jim Yong Kim on Saturday following a meeting of the World Bank’s Development Committee, “For the first time in history we have committed to setting a target to end poverty. We are no longer dreaming of a world free of poverty; we have set an expiration date for extreme poverty.”  The goal plans to reduce extreme poverty to 3 percent and target the bottom 40 percent of people living in each country of the developing world.

The target of the World Bank aims to guide the institution and work with the United Nations to make plans post-2015 poverty strategy to replace existing goals. The developing world has seen a growth of about 6 percent annually in their economies with millions of people being lifted out of poverty creating a new global middle class which has also allowed for increases in growing inequality. As the Committee explains, “We recognize that sustained economic growth needs a reduction in inequality. Investments that create opportunities for all citizens and promote gender equality are an important end in their own right, as well we being integral to creating prosperity.” This week the World Bank released figures that show extreme poverty has plunged since 1990 with 21 percent from 43 percent and that most of the poor are heavily concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, while China has slashed extreme poverty according to Reuters. Kim also said climate change and investments in heath and education were discussed as well.

The meeting also called for donor fundraising campaigns by the World Bank’s fund for its poorest borrowers urging strong participation by all countries. Every three years according to Huff Post, donors from rich and developing economies alike raise funds for the Bank’s International Development Association or IDA, while the United States, Britain and Nordic nations are usually the biggest funders for the past several years Brazil, India, China, Chile, Argentina and Peru have also donated funds. However with the current financial climates in Europe and the United States, the World Bank will be more restrictive when it comes to how the money is used so not to impact the poor. The emphasis according to Kim should be on helping fragile  and conflict hit countries.

420 Friendly: The Rule Rather Than Exception

Tax Revenue From Marijuana Legalization

As Washington struggles to find a solution to the fiscal crisis now in swing, several states have found a way to capitalize on the legalization of marijuana in their state which has the potential to bring billions in revenue to states struggling to meet their own budgetary concerns. According to the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank Huff Post reports, the federal legalization of marijuana would offer large new revenue streams that could potentially relieve some of financial strains on the federal budget. Carol Davis, a senior analyst at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy told the Huff Post that, “We don’t know the size of the marijuana market right now, and we certainly don’t know what would happen to the price and the demand for marijuana under different levels of legalization. But we do know that legalization would lead to a positive revenue impact on the income and sales tax side.”According to a 2010 study, legalizing the drug would generate $8.7 billion in federal and state tax revenue annually assuming that it would be taxed similar to alcohol and tobacco as well as the income earned by pot producers to standard income and sales tax.

Besides federal benefits, according to the study, states and local governments stand to save billions on the current spending regulating marijuana use. The state of Washington estimates it will generate $1.9 billion in additional revenue in five years due to the legalization, while eighteen states and Washington D.C. have already legalized medicinal marijuana and another 10 are currently considering legislation according to the National Cannabis Industry Association. A recent Pew Research Center poll shows a majority of Americans support the legalization of weed, however opponents argue that fiscal benefits are outweighed by social impact such as violence, crime and social disintegration according to a Heritage Foundation report.

Could the United States become a 420 friendly society? Possibility but with restrictions. What does 420 friendly mean? Well I have often wondered about the origins and had look no further than Huff Post. Depending on who you ask and how coherent they are, the answers range from the number of active chemicals in weed to teatime in Holland to even yes Hitler’s birthday according to Huff Post. The origin of the term celebrated by pot enthusiasts around the world on April 20 has been lost in the smoke filled memories of the people who created it. The Huff Post has actually traced the origins back to a Point Reyes, California forest where it turns out it not only started but explains how it spread. High Times, a marijuana focused magazine, published the story that the term 420 came from police code in San Rafael, California in the 1970s where the police began to use it to refer to marijuana and from there spread. However the true story does start in San Rafael, but involves five San Rafael High School friends known as Waldos as they hung out at a wall outside the school coined the term in 1971. Today the code appears in pop culture and mainstream like in Pulp Fiction, Price is Right, Craigslist postings and in 2003 when California Legislature codified medicinal marijuana under the bill named SB420.

The Waldos have proof that they used the term in the early 70s speaking with Huff Post and prefering to stay with the names Waldo Steve, Waldo Dave, Waldo Mark, etc. as pot was still illegal in 2009 when the interview took place. California since then has decriminalized possession making the fine a little more than a parking ticket as medicinal marijuana shops have popped up all over the state and weed is not so taboo. In 2012, their story was told by Huff Post to set the record straight about the origins and spread of the term 420. The story begins in 1971 when the Waldos got word that a Coast Guard service member could not tend his marijuana plants anymore near Point Reyes Peninsula Coast Guard Station, so the group with a treasure map decided to find the free bud. The Waldos would meet at the statue of Louis Pasteur outside school at 4:20 p.m. after practice to begin their hunt. The group would remind each other to meet up at 4:20 to search for the treasure and were unsuccessful in their first couple of searches. The group would take a ride out to Point Reyes at 4:20 smoking the entire way week after week, but never actually found the patch. The group adopted the codeword to used around school and parents to hide the fact they were smoking pot.

As they continued to use the term, eventually luck would have it that the term would spread farther than they could ever imagine thanks to the Grateful Dead. As San Francisco’s hippie utopia collapses and miscreants took over The Haight, the Grateful Dead packed up and moved to Marin County hills just blocks from their high school. Beside the geographic location, several of the guys had connections to the Dead through family like Mark Gravitch’s father who took care of real estate, Dave Reddix’s older brother, Patrick, managed a Dead sideband and was good friends with the bassist Phil Lesh. Patrick Reddix recalls to Huff Post that he smoked with Lesh but couldn’t recall if he used the term 420 around him but must have. The Dead, recalls Dave Reddix, had a rehearsal space on Front Street, San Rafael, California and they used to practice there. The friends would hang out listening to the music and smoking making it possible that Patrick spread the term to Phil Lesh as well as Dave himself while hanging with Lesh. As the Grateful Dead toured through the 70’s and 80’s playing hundreds of shows per year, the term spread through the underground and once High Times picked up on it the magazine made the term global. The Waldos say it took a few years for the term to spread but by the early 90’s were hearing it all over San Rafael, even in unexpected places such as Ohio, Florida and Canada as well as spotting the digits on signs and park benches.

In 1998, the Waldos set the record straight and got in touch with High Times even presenting evidence to back up their story. Stashed away in a San Fransisco bank vault, Reddix, Gravitch, Capper and Patty Young have kept a flag with the 420 stitched on it, letters, newspaper clipping and other pieces of memorabilia Huff Post reports. The men are still excited to this day about their impact on international subculture as the group is considering doing a documentary about their experience, a dictionary of slang and whatever else might come their way.

The Growing Economic Divide Between the Haves and Have Nots

Us PovertySequestration Effects

READ NOW: Dozier’s story and 99 others from the past week who have been dramatically affected by sequestration.

As the sequester fades from the headlines and gets reduce to a mere budgetary issues, many families and individual are feeling the effects of the automatic spending cuts. The new studies are downsizing the actual problems facing this country as agencies figure out ways to avoid the more alarming effects of the $85 billion in cuts, while Congress has given up on any solution to end the sequester. The sequester was portrayed by many even our nation’s leaders to bring the country to its knees yet we go on as normally as possible. The grips of the financial crisis are now beginning to be felt and the effects are quite dramatic already with organizations and companies laying off workers and many deciding not to hire for vacant spots. The food pantries that many families rely on are closed and many health services have followed suit. Farmers are forced to go without milk production information causing alarm in the dairy industry as higher milk prices are a possibility. Workers at missile testing fields are facing job losses, federal courts are force to be closed on Fridays and public broadcasting transmitters have been shut down. On a national level, sequestration has caused the cancellation of White House tours and long lines at the airport that never happened yet at the local level has begun to sting.

The Huff Post did an extensive review of the sequestration stories from the past week and found hundreds of stories across the country that took only a few hours to find and left no one immune from the cuts. Some mentions are rural towns in Alaska, missile test sites in the Marshall Islands, military bases in Virginia, university towns across the country, and housing agencies in inner cities are all feeling the cuts.  Cathy Hoskins, executive director of Salt Lake Community Action Program that just closed a food pantry in Murray, Utah, commented: “Absolutely we’re feeling the effects of it. And our employees are trying to absorb the biggest parts of the cuts by taking furloughs and having the agency contribution to their retirement plan suspended.” Michael Jenkins, communications director of the Southeast Alaskan Regional Health Consortium, is also feeling the cuts as his group has to close the Bill Brady Healing Center that provides alcohol and drug treatment to Native Alaskans. Lashell Dozier, the executive director of the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency, had this to say about the effects of the sequester: “We are trying not to lay any employees off, but we will have reduced work schedules. We will also close our offices. there will be days when it is closed every month or several times a month. But if we do not come up with some type of solution or remedy by July, it will equate to 1,700 families losing housing vouchers, which is over 4,800 actual tenants.” The organization is facing $13.9 million cuts this year. Many officials are now grappling with the same issues and are using budget trickery as well as operational dexterity to avoid the pain, but the sequester is a real concern as the people and communities they serve rely on their help.

The cuts started on March 1 after Democrats and republicans could not reach a decision to address the national deficits causing the sequestration to hit at a time when poverty in the U.S. is climbing while the nation tries to recover from an economic downturn not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The U.S. Census Bureau puts the numbers of American Poverty at levels not seen since President Johnson launched the War on Poverty according to the Associated Press. Currently as of January, nearly 50 million Americans which is one in six are living below the poverty line according to the bureau and 20 percent of the country’s children are poor. Under the spending cuts, Baltimore Housing Commissioner Paul T. Grazino believes his agency will have a $25 million shortfall in funds to help the poor with housing while 35,000 people are on a waiting list. Not only that, the city struggles to deal with city clean up efforts as Baltimore has 15,000 vacant and abandoned structures because of population decline over the past fifty years. While the economy tries to recover, improvements for those in deep poverty cannot keep pace with the cuts as the spending reductions hit hardest Americans not directly tied to the economy such as Head Start pre-school programs.

The cuts which also hit U.S. defense spending were put into place two years ago to help lawmakers avoid a federal debt standoff and potential shutdown, but compromise between Republicans and Democrats in Congress seemed impossible as the March 1 deadline came leading to the $85 million automatic cuts to go into effect. Democrats want deficit reduction including increase tax on wealthy, while the Republicans believe the problem could be solved through spending cuts and no more taxes. The Republicans want to see more cuts in next year’s budget resulting in a return to pre-sequester military spending levels and provide tax benefits for the wealthy. The 2014 budget plan proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan calls for $135 billion over the next decade to be slashed from food aid for low income families which helps children who have been hit hardest by poverty and calls for the Medicare health insurance program for Americans age 65 and over to turn into a voucher program providing direct government payment to senior who try to buy insurance on the private market. As Ryan said in an interview with Fox News, reports the Associated Press: “If we never balance the budget, if we keep adding deficit upon deficit we have a debt crisis like Europe has. That means seniors lose their health care benefit, that means the people in the safety net see the net cut and they go in the street. That means you have a recession. These are the things we prevent from happening by balancing the budget. Balancing the budget is but a means to an end. It’s growing the economy, it’s creating opportunity, it’s getting government to live within its means.”

 

Some worry though that the gap between rich and poor will keep widening under the austerity measures. According to the non-paritsan Congressional Research Service last year, “U.S. income distribution appears to be among the most unequal of all major industrialized countries and the United States appears to be among the nations experiencing the greatest increases in measures of income.” Marry O’ Donnell, director of community services at Cathloic Charitirs of Balitmore, has already seen an increase in income inequality during the U.S. downturn stating, “In the last three years, there’s been a great change in the kinds of people we are serving. There are increasing numbers of people who owned a home, lost their jobs, end up living in their car and are coming with children to our soup kitchen,” she said. Her organization spent $126 million the last year feeding the poor, helping the unemployed find employment and housing, running nursing homes, and helping people get on their feet. About $98 million of that money came from various programs funded by the city, state, and federal government as these programs now face cuts because politician failed to do their job in Washington and find a compromise.

 

Party Like a Rockstar: Living Large on Taxpayer’s Tab

With the sequester and possible government shut down if Congress cannot get their act together, do we really need to worry about what happens after a president leaves office? Well it would be a good idea considering the taxpayers continue to pay their salary long after they leave office plus they keep a lot of the perks they had while in office. Who pays for all this? You guess it…the taxpayer. As the Associated Press reports being the leader of the free world can be an expensive proposition and doesn’t stop once you leave office as the government spent $3.7 million on former presidents in 2012 according to a report released by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service. The total includes pensions, compensation and benefits for office staff, and the cost for travel, office space and postage. The costliest former president last year was George W. Bush who racked up $1.3 million. Now all things consider, $3.7 million shelled out in 2012 by taxpayers is a drop in the bucket when you consider the country spends trillions of dollars each year, but the fact these men can command large sums for book deals, speaking engagement and the like the report raises the question should these ex leaders receive such generosity when the country is facing cut backs and cutting much needed programs.

Under the Former Presidents Act, previous presidents are given an annual pension equivalent to a Cabinet secretary’s salary of $200,000 last year plus $96,000 a year for a small office staff. Presidents on their way out also get a little extra help their first year after they leave office which is why Bush’s cost were higher than others in 2012 as he was granted $400,000 for 8,000 square feet of office space on Dallas plus $85,000 in telephone costs and $60,000 for travel. Bill Clinton came in second with just under $1 million and followed by George H.W. Bush at nearly $850,000. Clinton spent most of his government money on office space in New York’s Harlem neighborhood for his 8,300 square foot digs at a price of $442,000. The only other living president, Jimmy Carter, came in around $500,000. Of course the buck doesn’t stop there as former president’s windows are entitled to pensions of $20,000 except Nancy Reagan who waived her pension last year but did take $14,000 in postage. The costs do not include the protection that former presidents are entitled to as well as their spouses and children. These costs are part of a separate budget that is not public reports the Associate Press.

The funding of ex-presidents came under the Former Presidents Act back to 1958 when Congress created the program to help President Harry Truman post White House financial woes according to the Congressional Research Service. The goal was to maintain the dignity of the presidency and help with ongoing costs such as correspondence and scheduling requests. These days though many of the former president’s incomes come from speaking and writing as well as presidential centers and foundations who accept donations and facilitate many of their post presidential activities according to Associated Press. Why has no one challenged it? Saddest part is someone has. Rep. Jason Chaffetz from Utah has noted that none of the living presidents are poor so in response to this introduced a bill last year to limit the cost to $200,000 pension plus another $200,000 for discretionary spending and for every dollar made above $400,000 their annual allowance will be reduced by the same amount. Unfortunately, the bill died in committee. The government can’t agree on anything but what they can agree on is spending more… go figure. Washington needs to get its priorities straight as many people are suffering the consequences of their spending and especially cutting of necessary programs.

 

 

 

 

 

Seven Score and Several Wars Ago…

An Associated Press analysis of federal payment records found the government is still making monthly payment to relatives of Civil War veterans, 148 years after the conflict ended, leading many to believe that the U.S. government will be doing the same for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. While many military families come to terms with the sacrifices they make to protect their country, the government has had to pay out more than $40 billion a year to compensate veterans and survivors from the Spanish American War from 1898, World War I and II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the two Iraq campaigns, and the Afghanistan conflict with costs rising rapidly at the 10 year Iraq war anniversary. As U.S. Senator Patty Murray explains, “When we decide to go to war, we have to consciously be also thinking about the cost” adding that her WWII-veteran father’s disability benefits helped feed their family according to the Associated Press. Alan Simpson, a former Republican senator and veteran, said that government leader working to limit the national debt should make sure the veteran’s need the money as he said “without question I would affluence test all of these people.” Because of the improved battlefield medicine and technology, a greater number of troops survive costing the government more money in disability payments as the Associated Press analyzed the post war cost in each conflict in four compensation programs which include disabled veterans, survivors, survivors of those who died in war or service disability, low income wartime vets over 65 or disabled, and low income survivors of wartime vets or disabled children. The information obtained by the AP gathered the information from millions of federal payment records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. The total compensation with each war:

The Iraq wars, Afghanistan and first Persian Gulf 1990s costs $12 billion a year  and total so far at $50 billion since 2003 not including medical car other benefits provided to veterans which is likely to grow.

The Vietnam War costs $22 billion a year 40 years after the conflict and payments are rising as new ailments are added such as diabetes and heart disease. A congressional analysis estimates the total cost of fighting the war was $738 billion in 2011 dollars and the benefits for veterans and families has cost $270 billion since 1970 according to AP calculations.

World War I  which ended 94 years ago has cost$20 million every year while World War II cost $5 billion. The Korean War costs appear to be leveling off at $2.8 billion per year. Of the 2,289 survivors of WWI, one third are spouses and dozens of the are over 100 years old.

 

There are 10 living recipients of benefits tied to the 1898 Spanish American War costing $50,000 per year and the Civil War payments are going to two children of veterans each $876 per year.