As long as the news media devotes massive amounts of space to a fantasy budget, why can’t they turn their attention for just a minute to a more legitimate one? Sure, the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ Budget for All isn’t likely to get much more than the 100 or so votes of its members, short of what would be needed to pass the House. But the Paul Ryan budget has about as much of a chance as the Budget for All from becoming law. And yet miles of paper and digital bits have been expended on Ryan’s plan. How about the CPC version?
Like last year’s CPC budget, which earned praise from the likes of Jeffrey Sachs, Paul Krugman and even The Economist, the Budget for All makes up-front investments while reducing the deficit over time by making the tax code more progressive and scaling back on defense. The video introducing the budget begins with John F. Kennedy’s dictum, “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”
There are over $2.4 trillion in public investments in the Budget for All, including direct job creation programs that would create jobs to improve schools and parks, and a focus on infrastructure investment, including a $556 billion surface transportation bill and an ongoing infrastructure bank to identify long-term projects. In addition, the budget would come into balance under the Budget for All much faster than under Paul Ryan’s (which isn’t balanced as of 2030), by ending wars and reducing military expenditures, and increasing revenue through ending the Bush tax cuts. The budget actually extends a lot of middle class tax cuts, but in exchange, it creates new tax brackets for millionaires, raises capital gains and dividends to the corresponding income rates, eliminates corporate welfare for the oil and gas industry and incorporates the Buffett rule, mandating a minimum tax payment for millionaires and billionaires. There’s also a minimum rate for corporate taxation. To account for the end of the payroll tax cut, the Budget for All swaps back in the Making Work Pay tax credit from 2013-2015, which would reduce the tax burden for the middle class and working poor without threatening Social Security. In fact the entire budget protects Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits.
There’s also a nod to investing in “programs to stave off further foreclosures to keep families in their homes,” though the biggest program there would simply be to enforce the law. Finally, the Budget for All institutes public financing of elections, which in terms of political economy, would probably do as much as anything to end corporate welfare and giveaways for the wealthy and well-connected.
The Budget for All isn’t realistic, I can hear the wags on Capitol Hill say now. It can’t get the votes. Neither can Paul Ryan’s and that didn’t stop anybody, present company included, from profiling it. So let these budgets serve as a test of priorities among these wings of the parties. I have a strong belief that, if put side-by-side, the voters would make the right choice. The problem is they never get to make that choice. Paul Ryan gets rock star treatment and full writeups everywhere for his plans. The CPC budget gets a passing mention. It’s this constraint of choices, as well as the forces inside the Democratic Party who are not aligned with this value system and try to squash it, that leads to the outcomes we get in our politics.
UPDATE: Right now there’s just a one-page summary out of the Budget for All, but I sincerely hope that the CPC writes up the language and gets it scored, so we can make an apples-for-apples comparison.