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There aren’t a lot of options for balancing budgets and reducing the huge Republican debt without further devastating destruction to the dwindling middle class and the entire bottom 99%. Only two are available, and both are essential: (1) Increase taxes on the rich, and; (2) decrease military spending.
The optimal top income tax rate (the rate that once preserved a stable level of inequality between the incomes and wealth of the richest 1% and the bottom 99%) was 70%. It’s now 35%, and expiration of the Bush tax cut for the rich would bring it up to 40%, not high enough to stop the deadly transfer of wealth to the top 1%. It needs to return to at least 50% soon. The radical right in Congress is pushing to reduce the tax to 25% or less.
Military spending has been the largest share of the federal budget for years. Sometimes it has been more than that of all the rest of the countries of the world. America is headed for a depression, and the U.S. can no longer afford its huge military presence around the world, its controversial wars, and the waste and inefficiency of the military-industrial complex. Republicans would not reduce military spending, but the Obama Administration would.
The economy can grow and flourish again if additional revenues from these two sources are invested in infra-structure and jobs here at home, and Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are protected.
This “People’s Budget” gets it. It has exactly the right kind of proposals in it. Citizens need to elect a Congress in 2012 that will implement such proposals. If voters become concerned that “Obama’s” economy is not doing well enough to suit them, they could shoot themselves in the feet again. They’ll need to understand that turning back to Republicans again in 2012 would be suicide. – JMH 4/16/11
One of the complaints the progressive blogosphere commonly levels against the Democratic leadership in DC is about negotiating strategy. Generally, the complaint is that the Democratic leadership in Congress and in the White House make opening bids that are already compromises, which results in final legislative deals skewing further to the right than necessary. Perhaps the most frequent specific example of this complaint is that Democrats in Congress should have started the health care debate by proposing a single-payer plan, and might have ended up with a public option in the final bill as a result.
Whether or not you agree with that complaint in either the general or the specific, if it is applied to the budget fight the Democratic leadership in DC should have started with The People’s Budget (PDF), which the Congressional Progressive Caucus introduced today. It’s a budget that produces a surplus by 2021 without cutting services for the poor and middle-class. It thus provides a stark contrast with the recent proposal by Rep. Paul Ryan, and a left-flank to the principles outlined by President Obama.
Here’s a general overview of the People’s Budget:
- Reduces unemployment—and thus the deficit—through extensive investment in infrastructure, clean energy, transportation and education;
- Ends almost all the Bush tax cuts, creates new tax brackets for millionaires and new fees on Wall Street;
- Full American military withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, along with other reductions in military spending;
- Ends subsidies for non-renewable energy;
- Lowers health care costs through a public option and negotiating Rx payments with pharmaceutical companies;
- Raises the taxable maximum on Social Security.
That is a very quick summary, and full details can be read here. The Economic Policy Institute has a full analysis here. Today at the press conference introducing the budget, economist Jeffrey Sachs praised it as the “only budget that makes sense” and “a lot more serious than everything else on the table.” He’s also previously written about The People’s Budget on the Huffington Post.
Progressive Caucus co-chair Raul Grijalva said the People’s Budget—which is an actual piece of legislation, not simply an outline—was filed with the Rules committee this morning. His fellow co-chair, Representative Keith Ellison, told me he thinks it will get more than 100 votes, which would be a majority of House Democrats. Even though that is still not enough to pass the chamber, Ellison said “we have to tell people what we would do if we had the numbers.”
Getting those numbers will of course be very difficult. However, under no circumstances should we consider it impossible. One of my favorite stories in political history is the passage of the Reform Act of 1867 by the British Parliament. This was a bill expanding the franchise that was passed by a Conservative government, even though the Conservatives had gotten into power largely by defeating a weaker form of the same bill. However, the Conservatives ended up passing the bill largely because of overwhelming public pressure in the spring of 1867.
To me, the moral of that story has always been that the location political center can, and often does, change very quickly. The first step in making change happen is by talking about new possibilities. Today, with their introduction of the People’s Budget, the Congressional Progressive Caucus has taken that first step.
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