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TheStreet Open House

Super Committee: 99% Must Come First

The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.

By R. Aura Kanegis and Arnie Alpert

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- As thousands protest skewed political and economic priorities in the streets of New York and communities around the country, the 12 legislators on the Congressional super committee are preparing to make recommendations that could worsen the problems faced by the 99% -- and further shield the 1% now gorging on tax breaks and excessive military spending.

Their recommendations to cut $1.4 trillion from the federal deficit are due Nov. 23, and could affect every federal program, from Social Security to services that feed and house struggling families including middle-class households crippled by job losses or illness.

Yet a shocking number of lawmakers have declared that the two areas of spending most responsible for increasing our nation's debt, military spending and tax cuts to benefit the wealthiest sectors of society, are the ones that should be protected at all cost.

Let's be very clear: In a budget world where all spending is capped and deep cuts are being sought, any line in the sand to protect one line item is a call to place a greater burden everywhere else. At a time when the 99% are suffering and the 1% have enjoyed stunning increases in wealth, the lines that should be drawn are ones to protect the already frail safety net holding those most vulnerable, both in the U.S. and the world.

The biggest drivers of our current deficit, aside from reduced revenue as a result of the economic downturn, are the impact of tax cuts passed in 2001 and the off-budget wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those tax cuts overwhelmingly benefited the wealthiest sectors of our society, with the top 5% of income earners receiving nearly half of the savings, while the bottom 60% took home only 13%, as Citizens for Tax Justice has detailed.

Our military budget has doubled in just over a decade and that does not even include spending on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan which have been funded in emergency spending packages, as documented by the National Priorities Project and other groups. Military spending now consumes 60% of the discretionary budget.

Despite some recent rhetoric, there has been no reduction to the Pentagon's actual budget. The only reductions discussed to date have been to the amount of increase sought in the Department's request. Calling an increase a cut offends common sense.

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