What A Progressive Budget Looks Like

Isaiah J. Poole

Unlike the 19-page propaganda document House Republicans lamely called their alternative budget last week, the Congressional Progressive Caucus has released a real budget with real numbers. Plus, it gets to the core of the country’s fiscal problems, not with platitudes and excessive giveaways to the rich, but with sound, responsible proposals for making government work as it should.

The Progressive Caucus alternative budget will be introduced on the House floor as early as this afternoon. It is a wonderful demonstration of progressive principles in action.

Here are some highlights, from the CPC’s “Dear Colleague” letter:

  • Elimination of unneeded, unwanted, and unproven Cold War Era weapons systems ($60 billion/year);
  • Elimination of waste, fraud, and abuse at DOD. ($8.7 billion/year);
  • Redeployment of all U.S. troops and military contractors out of Iraq ($90 billion);
  • Repeal of Bush tax breaks for the top 1% of taxpayers ($222 billion);
  • Instituting “Make Wall Street Pay For Wall Street’s Bailout” tax of .25% on all stock transactions ($150 billion/year);
  • Closing egregious corporate tax loopholes ($100 billion/year);and
  • Cap on tax deductibility of excessive executive compensation ($20 billion/year).
  • Provides $991 billion for non-military discretionary spending in FY10, $469 billion above President Obama’s request, primarily to help rescue the faltering U.S. economy and those Americans hardest hit;
  • Provides $479 billion as sufficient defense spending level;
  • Provides a strong economic stimulus package of $300 billion that includes an extension of unemployment insurance, an increase in assistance for food stamps, transportation infrastructure, school construction, water and flood control projects;
  • Provides $120 billion a year for health care for all Americans; and
  • Provides $1.22 trillion to cut the poverty rate in half over the next decade.

There are three things that are particularly noteworthy about the Progressive Caucus budget.

First, it makes a particularly strong case for eliminating Pentagon spending that is widely acknowledged to be wasteful. The Pentagon already has more than enough F/A-22 Raptors, and the Osprey, the jet-like helicopter that has been on the drawing boards for more than two decades, has been a $20 billion disaster. We’re building weapons based on a combination of outdated and imagined threats, not on real security needs. In Congress, there is a bipartisan chorus of defenders of this wasteful spending, but a stronger bipartisan force can be marshaled to end it. There is no reason for the Obama administration to shirk away from that battle.

Second, the budget document says that it is designed to ensure that the recovery bill recently signed by President Obama “will not be a one-time investment, but rather a pivoting point to help Americans in need get through the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, while also making longer-term investments to help all Americans secure a brighter and more prosperous future.” That is a commitment that we particularly need to get our Democratic Party friends to make in the face of a Republican-led assault on any long-term commitment to public investment in rebuilding and renewing the country.

Third, by immediately rolling back the Bush administration’s top-end tax cuts and by eliminating a host of special-interest tax breaks, the Progressive Caucus budget would restore progressiveness and fairness to the tax code. Eliminating tax loopholes and focusing resources on ending tax evasion allows the federal government to simultaneously expand spending on human needs and put the government on a path of reducing the federal deficit by 58 percent by 2012. Yes, we can have adequate federal support for health care, education, energy and other domestic priorities and have a sustainable budget that does not overburden working people.

Sadly, this budget alternative will not have the support to be treated seriously in Congress. But that is all the more reason for progressives to fight for its underlying principles. The proposal sets up principled fights that a united progressive movement can win.

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