Monday, April 25, 2011

The Beltway Media Fears And Hates The People... So Of Course They're Ignoring The People's Budget


Last weekend we took a look at the People's Budget, introduced by Raúl Grijalva and Keith Ellison on behalf of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. It's been largely ignored by this country's ruling elites-- in government and in the media. It was praised by Katrina Vanden Heuvel in The Nation, of course. And The Economist, laughing at Beltway shills calling Ryan's Wall Street plan "courageous," gave it some thoughtful coverage, as did centrist Matt Miller in the Washington Post and Paul Krugman in the NY Times, who started his column apologizing for being remiss in not paying attention to it sooner. Krugman:
[U]nlike the Ryan plan, it actually makes sense.

The CPC plan essentially balances the budget through higher taxes and defense cuts, plus some tougher bargaining by Medicare (and a public option to reduce the costs of the Affordable Care Act). The proposed tax hikes would fall mainly on higher incomes, although not just on the top 2%: super-brackets for very high incomes, elimination of deductions, taxation of capital income as ordinary income, and-- the part that would be most controversial-- raising the cap on payroll taxes.

None of this is economically outlandish. Marginal tax rates on high incomes would rise substantially-- enough to make even liberal economists slightly uncomfortable-- but the historical evidence suggests that the incentive effects wouldn’t be too severe. Overall taxes as a share of GDP aren’t given, but they would clearly remain well below European levels.

It’s worth pointing out that if you want to balance the budget in 10 years, you pretty much must do it largely by cutting defense and raising taxes; you can’t make huge cuts in the rest of the budget without inflicting extreme pain on millions of Americans. So the CPC plan is actually much more of a real response to the deficit worriers than all the nonsense we’re hearing from the right. What it doesn’t do is address the long-run health cost issue, which is essential looking beyond the next decade. But as a medium-term proposal, it’s quite sensible.

There's a backstory to Maddow's complaint (in the video above) that the most fiscally responsible budget reduction plan-- and the only one that incorporates all the most popular remedies, like raising taxes on the super rich, cutting expenditures on the bloated Military Industrial Complex, fixing healthcare with a single payer option, eliminating subsidies for political sacred cows like Big Oil-- got no coverage. The House Democratic Leadership did it's best to bury the bill.

Van Hollen's completely meaningless, middle of the road political vehicle was the "official" Democratic response. The Democratic Whip operation told members to go ahead and vote for the Black Caucus alternative bill if they wanted to-- 103 did-- (that's a majority Democrats; 75 joined the GOP in opposing it). But when it came to the Progressive Caucus vote, Hoyer, who cynically voted for the Black Caucus budget, said NO. The leadership and the whip operation he and Pelosi control was clear; they didn't want serious support for a bill-- on the floor or off-- that could embarrass Van Hollen's pale imitation. Van Hollen, not only panders to the Military Industrial Complex, even his swell-sounding little foot stomp against Big Oil subsidies, doesn't actually include getting rid of them. His budget, like his career, is an embarrassing, conflicted fraud.

Only 77 congressmen voted for the only serious budget proposed. Aside from most-- though not all-- Progressive Caucus members (Polis, DeLauro, Kaptur, DeFazio, Loebsack, Moran and Waxman voted no), a couple of members of the House leadership rebelled and voted for it: Xavier Becerra and James Clyburn. Even one Blue Dog, Joe Baca, voted for the People's Budget. I bet Obama didn't like that.

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