Cuts vs More Cuts Thats No Debate

Bill Scher



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Earlier this week, Senate Democratic leaders said their budget would adhere to the President’s five-year freeze on non-military discretionary spending, which is effectively a cut when you factor in inflation and population growth. The party unity is not surprising, but this comment by Sen. Chuck Schumer was: “Some members of our caucus want to go farther, but at a minimum we’re going to abide by this freeze.”

In other words, according to Sen. Schumer, the range of opinions inside the Democratic caucus stretch from cuts to more cuts, at a time when many economists argue the shaky economy needs the federal government to spend more and create bigger budget deficits to fill in the gap of economic demand.

I assume Schumer’s comments are not literally true and many Senate Dems have not forgotten Economics 101. But clearly, as The Huffington Post’s Dan Froomkin wrote yesterday, “politics has trumped economics … with the Tea Partiers among them screaming for blood … the political debate is over how much of the government Democrats can salvage.”

In fact, a top Democratic pollster has counseled Senate Dems that, according to Bloomberg, “more voters view cutting spending rather than investing as the best way” to help the economy and so the budget battle “can’t be framed as a debate between dealing with the deficit and not dealing with the deficit.” If one takes that analysis to be political gospel, it rules out explaining Economics 101 and the value of budget deficits in times when the private market is weak.

Some blame the President for this constrained political dynamic, criticizing him for a refusal to lead the charge for a bolder economic plan. Others would argue that the President is playing a weak hand skillfully in order to prevent Republicans from enacting truly draconian cuts.

Whichever is your view, it doesn’t mean we have to accept the constraints on public debate. We have to power to expand the debate, to change the political dynamic and renew the possibility of bold action to solve our daunting economic challenges.

We desperately need to accomplish this, not only to retain the possibility of enacting the good components of the President’s budget — in particular his strong public investment for infrastructure creating an estimated 15 million jobs — but to set the stage to even bigger and bolder job creating initiatives, and forging a path for sustainable growth.

The Campaign for America’s Future is going light the spark for expanding the debate on March 10, when we host The Summit on Jobs & America’s Future featuring AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, “Local Jobs For America Act” sponsor Rep. George Miller, green jobs visionary Van Jones, pollster Celinda Lake and Center for Community Change’s Deepak Bhargava.

Rest assured, the Summit will not be operating under the artificial constraints the media has put on the budget debate. We will be following the path envisioned by the Citizens’ Commission on Jobs, Deficit and America’s Economic Future which laid out a path to long-term deficit reduction without engaging in premature budget cuts when the economy can’t absorb it.

We will need your voice at The Summit on March 10 (attendance is free) and beyond, in letters to your local paper, calls to talk radio, your own postings online. The louder we are, and the more sustained we are, the harder and harder it becomes to pretend these views don’t exist.

We’ve done this before. On Social Security. On Iraq. On health care. On Wall Street reform. Whether we have won or lost the ultimate fight, we at least have forced the media and the political system to expand the debate through sheer tenacity.

Now we face a persistent jobs crisis, and our debate is too limited to solve it. It up to us to change it. It always is.

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