Who is Thinking About the People in Budget Negotiations?
By Charing Ball
For all intents and purposes the current budget negotiations have been a dialogue among the wealthy while the rest of us pretty much sit mute on the sidelines.
In one corner you have Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan and the House Republicans’ absurd and vicious attack on the poor and working class 2012 budget plan, also known as A Roadmap for America’s Future, which has basically declared war on Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment insurance, and anything else benefiting people in their time of need. Ryan’s plan also proposes to keep taxes below 20 percent of GDP and keep military spending at about the same.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is the White House’s budget plan, which honestly is not all that opposite, but rather a pacified version of the Ryan plan, which would mean major reductions in entitlement programs and other civilian spending. The White House is also proposing to keep most of the Bush-era tax cuts in place, which means more for the top one percent while the rest of us chomp down on Maria Antoinette cake.
But there is a glimmer of hope, and I’m talking about real hope not that campaign slogan stuff. The Congressional Progressive Caucus, which includes 80 members of both House and Senate, want to institute a little economic affirmative action into the mock budget debate, currently underway in Washington.
It’s called the People’s Budget and it plans to do major great things. Co-signed by the likes of Rep. Maxine Waters and Sen. Bernie Sanders, that the plan concedes that the deficit can be eliminated in 10 years while protecting government benefits to the poor and working class. Among the things promised is a plan to eliminate the Bush-era tax cuts, funding for the wars overseas and corporate welfare for oil, gas, and coal companies. The plan also calls for $1.7 million investments in job creation, education, clean energy and broadband infrastructure. Sounds too good – or shall I say costly – to be true? Well, according to the drafters the plan can be funded by creating a Fairer Tax System, which would create new tax brackets with a range of 45% for earners of $1 million, to 49% for those with $1 billion or more. Moreover, by closing loopholes for multinational corporations and a financial speculation tax on derivatives and foreign exchange, the drafters believe that the US could save an upwards of $5.6 trillion – more than enough surplus needed to pay for job creation and other civilian benefits.
The People’s Budget plan has already been endorsed by world-renowned economists like Dr. Jeffrey Sachs and Paul Krugman and according to the Economy Policy Institute, the plan is not only achievable but could run lower deficits and place public debt on a more sustainable trajectory than either Ryan’s and the House Republican’s plan or the president’s budgets. So why has there been virtually no serious discussion in the mainstream media or push from the Democrats in Washington for the People’s Budget?
Because of what we already know but kind of tippy-toe around admitting: Both the Democrats and the Republicans, particularly so-called centrist Democrats and far-right Republicans, straddle the lines of it’s core values but ultimately bend to the demands of their wealthy campaign contributors. So Republicans and Democrats, who are in a continuous cycle of campaigning, do what many politicians up for re-election do and that is engage in deficit cutting measures, which won’t offend their corporate sponsors, such as spending on the poor rather than raising taxes on the rich and cutting military spending. The end result is always legislative deals, which tend to represent corporate interest over what is most beneficial to the actual tax paying citizens. Not to mention the overall media blackout and cynicism of the plan, including a writer for Forbes who called the People’s Budget a mirror image of the House-passed fiscal plan. “While the House GOP budget shows what happens when you try to slash the deficit with only spending cuts, the left’s budget shows what happens when you just raise taxes and cut defense spending.” However, Ryan’s plan is being met with serious discussion including the bipartisan proposed slashes to Medicare. But what part of the progressive budget has been taken with any serious consideration?
None of it because in the immortal words of Tupac Shakur “they got money for war but can’t feed the poor.” Even as President Obama is expecting to announce a drawdown of soldiers in Afghanistan, we still have two wars, one “humanitarian effort” in Libya and brewing tension in other parts of the Middle East, which will ultimately cost the American people. Which is why it is important the American people take up the fight of championing The People’s Budget. It is remarkable that the budget was able to gain traction in the House the way that it has. Unfortunately, and this just might be the cynic in me, it will probably be DOA in the Senate. But the idealists in me wants to believe that despite the rhetoric that caring for a population was too costly to be realistic, this budget could proves otherwise.