Monday, March 21, 2016

What's Behind The Progressive Budget-- And Which Democrats Oppose It?


For all it's faults politically-- its nearly worthless as an electoral vehicle for progressives-- there is one thing the Congressional Progressive caucus gets right: their annual budget. The budget lays out the policy agenda and vision for a progressive, very much at odds with the reactionary Republican agenda and very much at odds with the status quo-maintenance agenda of the post-New Deal Democratic Party (the one Thomas Frank laid out so eloquently-- and tragically for Thom Hartmann last week). Last year the House defeated the Progressive Caucus's Budget... again, the roadmap to uplifting ordinary American working families-- and doing so in a fiscally responsible manner. Conservatives easily beat it back without breaking a sweat, 96 to 244. Of course, every single Republican voted against it but more than half (51.5%) of the Democrats in Congress voted for it and it was the most votes the CPC budget ever got (even though the Democratic caucus is smaller).

It certainly is not the kind of budget that would please the paymasters of the American political system, what Thomas Frank refers to as the top 10%, the heart of the New Dem Democratic Party. The big losers in that budget would've been the special interest parasites who thrive on the life's blood of working people. By ending unfair tax cuts to the very rich, the People's Budget was meant to finance a robust program of public investment that would create as many as 8.4 million sustainable jobs. Among the 86 Democrats who voted against it were the slimy bribe-taking characters we have been warning you about: worthless garbage like Chuck Schumer's pick for Rubio's Senate seat, Patrick Murphy (New Dem-FL), Kurt Schrader (Blue Dog-OR), Pete Aguilar (New Dem-CA), Jim Himes (New Dem-CT), Jim Costa (Blue Dog-CA), Gwen Graham (Blue Dog-FL), Steve Israel ("ex"-Blue Dog-NY), Brad Ashford (Blue Dog-NE), Kyrsten Sinema (Blue Dog-AZ), Cheri Bustos (Blue Dog-IL), Donald Norcross (NJ), Ann Kuster (New Dem-NH), Ron Kind (New Dem-WI), Scott Peters (New Dem-CA), Sean Patrick Maloney (New Dem-NY) and-- look what the cat dragged in-- Chris Van Hollen, the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, eagerly running as the Establishment candidate for the open Maryland Senate seat against Donna Edwards, who, of course, did vote for the People's Budget. Van Hollen, whose establishment perspective and colossal incompetence led directly to the catastrophic loss of the House while he was DCCC chair is running around Maryland now, lying to voters, pretending to be a progressive instead of the establishment avatar of the status quo he has always been. When Thomas Frank describes the new post-New Deal Democratic Party, he's talking about Chris Van Hollen more than anyone else in the House.

The real tragedy of last year's progressive budget was the phony progressives who are members of the caucus and who crossed the aisle to vote with the GOP against it anyway-- so not the Blue Dogs and New Dem scum like Kurt Schrader, Ann Kirkpatrick, Jim Costa, Ami Bera, John Delaney and Patrick Murphy (who are blatantly anti-working family) but fakers like Lois Frankel (FL), Dave Loebsack (IA), Carolyn Maloney (Wall Street), Suzanne Bonamici (OR), Mark Takai (HI), Rosa DeLauro (CT), etc.

Alex Law is the progressive candidate running for the South Jersey seat currently held by Machine boss George Norcross' crooked kid brother, Donald. Norcross, of course, a die-hard economic conservative, opposed the progressive budget. Law told us that Norcross had "yet again shown his commitment to protecting special interests over protecting real people... [H]e voted with Republicans against the CPC People's Budget despite the fact that it included important pieces such as raising wages, better child care programs, significant investment in our decaying infrastructure, comprehensive corporate tax reform, student loan reform, environmental protection, and campaign finance reform measures. These are all central tenants of my progressive campaign, and I would have proudly voted to support this legislation if I were in Washington." You can contribute to Alex Law's grassroots campaign here. Please do, if you can.

Meanwhile, the Congressional Progressive Caucus, has a new budget they've introduced, The People’s Budget-- Prosperity not Austerity. The Economic Policy Institute asserts that "it builds on recent CPC budget alternatives in setting the following priorities: near-term job creation, financing public investments, strengthening low- and middle-income families' economic security, raising adequate revenue to meet budgetary needs while restoring fairness to the tax code, strengthening social insurance programs, and ensuring long-run fiscal sustainability."
The People’s Budget aims to improve the economic well-being of low- and middle-income families by finally closing the persistent jobs gap that has plagued the U.S. economy since the Great Recession began. For that purpose, The People’s Budget provides upfront economic stimulus large enough to go beyond closing the CBO’s measure of the output gap (a measure of how far from potential the economy is operating). The budget would close the output gap and target genuine full employment by pushing the unemployment rate down to 4 percent.

...We find that The People’s Budget would have significant, positive impacts. Specifically, it would:

Finally complete the economic recovery. The People’s Budget would sharply accelerate economic and employment growth; it would boost gross domestic product (GDP) by 3 percent and employment by 3.6 million jobs in the near term. This would both close the CBO estimate of the output gap and further push unemployment down, to 4 percent, our estimate of genuine full employment. The budget would also ensure that the mixture of spending and revenue changes provides a net fiscal boost long enough to avoid a future fiscal cliff (i.e., a sharp drop in demand caused by budget deficits closing too quickly to sustain growth) that could throw recovery into reverse.

Make necessary public investments. The budget finances roughly $295 billion in job-creation and public-investment measures in calendar year 2016 alone and roughly $565 billion over calendar years 2016–2017.3 This fiscal expansion is consistent with the amount of fiscal support needed to rapidly reduce labor market slack and restore the economy to full health. Furthermore, The People’s Budget also aims to hit more ambitious long-term public investment targets, by returning nondefense discretionary spending (NDD) to its historical average as a percentage of GDP by 2021.

Facilitate economic opportunity for all. By expanding tax credits and other programs for low- and middle-wage workers, boosting public employment, and offering incentives for employers to create new jobs, The People’s Budget aims to boost economic opportunity for all segments of the population.

Strengthen the social safety net. The People’s Budget strengthens the social safety net and proposes no benefit reductions to social insurance programs—in other words, it does not rely on simple cost-shifting to reduce the budgetary strain of health and retirement programs. Instead, it uses government purchasing power to lower health care costs (health care costs are the largest threat to long-term fiscal sustainability) and builds upon efficiency savings from the Affordable Care Act. The budget also expands and extends emergency unemployment benefits and increases funding for education, training, employment, and social services as well as income security programs in the discretionary budget.

Smartly cut spending. The budget focuses on modern security needs by repealing sequestration cuts and spending caps that affect the Defense Department but replacing them with similarly sized funding reductions that are less front-loaded and will allow more considered cuts. It ends emergency overseas contingency operation (OCO) spending in FY2017 and beyond, and ensures a slow rate of spending growth for the Defense Department for the remainder of the decade.

Increase tax progressivity and adequacy. The budget restores adequate revenue and pushes back against income inequality by adding higher marginal tax rates for millionaires and billionaires, equalizing the tax treatment of capital income and labor income, restoring a more progressive estate tax, eliminating inefficient corporate tax loopholes, levying a tax on systemically important financial institutions, and enacting a financial transactions tax, among other tax policies.

Reduce the deficit in the medium term. The budget increases near-term deficits to boost job creation, but reduces the deficit in FY2017 and beyond relative to CBO’s current law baseline. The budget would achieve primary budget balance (excluding net interest) and sustainable budget deficits in FY2018 and beyond. After increasing near-term borrowing to restore full employment, the budget gradually reduces the debt ratio in the now full-employment economy over time, actually exceeding a key benchmark of sustainability (of a stable debt-to-GDP ratio during times of full employment). Relative to current law, the budget would reduce public debt by $5.1 trillion (18.5 percent of GDP) by FY2026.
It should be interesting to watch which Democrats support it and which ones vote with the GOP against it. That should serve as a good guide to how you might want to consider voting in primaries... and even in November. Meanwhile, who can you trust on the progressive vision behind the budget? The men and women you'll find on the page that pops up when you click on the thermometer below.

Goal Thermometer

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At 9:40 AM, Anonymous willf said...

My god, lefty congresspeople are still wasting money on "The People's Budget"?

Why? How is it in anyway affecting the discussion for the better? Has any "People's Budget" ever had any noticeable effect on issues of governmental spending? Has it ever pulled the window of discussion one inch to the left?

Can't we do away with this Model UN bullshit once and for all? GIve that money to deserving candidates who are running primaries against Blue Dogs or something.


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