Why The Blackout On The Progressive “Better Off Budget”?

Dave Johnson

The big battles in D.C. are over the federal government’s budget. You would think that the announcement of a comprehensive budget proposal from the largest group of Democrats in the House, that lines up with the American people’s wishes and solves the country’s budget problems, would get at least some coverage by the country’s major news media. But no. None. Nada. No coverage of this budget. Why the blackout?

The Better Off Budget

Wednesday the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) released their 2015 budget proposal, called the “Better Off Budget.” Here are just some of the things this budget would accomplish if enacted:

  • Increases employment by 4.6 million jobs
  • Boosts gross domestic product (GDP) by 3.8 percent
  • Repeals the sequester
  • Restores Food Stamp cuts – Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
  • Restores unemployment insurance
  • Starts fixing our country’s infrastructure – creates jobs in building and construction industries to repair and modernize our ailing roads, bridges and water infrastructure.
  • Helps the long-term unemployed by providing access to training and employment services
  • Fully funds the Prevention and Public Health Fund
  • Ends the federal worker pay freeze.
  • State Aid – provides assistance to states to allow them to hire and rehire public employees such as police, firefighters and health care workers.
  • Public Works and Education – a direct hire program that includes seven jobs corps to hire physicians, students, construction and community workers and an education program boost to hire more teachers and improve schools.
  • Equity for Women and People of Color – enhances federal programs targeted at creating equity and improving outcomes for women, people of color, and their families.
  • Protecting Veterans and Workers through Retirement –adopts a cost-of-living adjustment that takes into account realistic retiree expenses and fully funds veterans programs in advance.
  • Implements a new Hard Work Tax Credit for households earning less than $150,000.
  • Returns to Clinton tax rates for households making over $250,000 and implements new brackets for those making over $1 million.
  • Eliminates the ability of U.S. corporations to defer taxes on offshore profits.
  • Enacts a Financial Transaction tax on various financial market transactions.
  • Implements Chairman Dave Camp’s financial institution excise tax.
  • Protects and strengthens Medicare and Medicaid without cutting benefits for seniors.
  • Builds on Affordable Care Act savings and successes, including implementing a public option and expanding payment reforms.
  • Allows states to transition to single-payer health care systems.
  • Closes tax loopholes and ends subsidies provided to oil, gas and coal companies.
  • Addresses the climate change crisis by enacting a price on carbon pollution while holding low-income families harmless.
  • Invests in clean and renewable energy, which creates middle class jobs, boosts the economy, and cuts pollution.
  • Implements comprehensive immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship.
  • Funds public financing of campaigns to curb special interest influence in politics.
  • Endorses “Scrapping-the-Cap” and expanding Social Security benefits separately from the federal budget process.

Compare this to the widely reported Republican “Ryan” budget, from House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, that cuts taxes for the rich and corporations, and pays for that by cutting the things government does to make our lives better.

Significant, Positive Impacts

An analysis of this budget by the Economic Policy Institute, this budget would have “significant, positive impacts.”

We find that the Better Off Budget would have significant, positive impacts. Specifically, it would: (Click through for details of each point.)

  • Accelerate the economic recovery. …
  • Promote job growth and achieve full employment. …
  • Close the economic “output gap.” …
  • Make necessary public investments. …
  • Facilitate economic opportunity for all. …
  • Strengthen social insurance. …
  • Smartly cuts spending. …
  • Asks everyone to contribute his or her fair share. …
  • Reduces the deficit in the medium term. …
  • Targets a sustainable debt level. …

This Budget Does What The Public Wants

Let’s take a look at how this budget lines up with polling that tells us what the public wants:

  • 82 percent support federal and state worker training programs.
  • 71 percent support increasing government investment to build and repair roads, bridges, high-speed rail, smart electric grid technology and other infrastructure needs.
  • 61 percent would undo all or some of the automatic sequester cuts. Just 18 percent favor enacting all of the required cuts.
  • 90 percent want to maintain or increase Social Security spending.
  • 73 percent believe deficit reduction should be secured by raising taxes on the wealthy by eliminating tax credits and deductions-not cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security
  • Nine out of 10 believe that any revenue generated by closing corporate loopholes or limiting tax deductions for the wealthy should be used for public investment and deficit reduction (82 percent), not to lower tax rates on corporations or the wealthy (9).
  • 85 percent support expanding nutritional assistance to struggling families.
  • 58 percent believe government investment in roads, water systems, the energy grid and other services is most/very important to help America compete with other countries economically.
  • 75 percent favor a government job-creation program to hire one million people.
  • 69 percent are less likely to vote for a candidate that supports reductions in Social Security and Medicare benefits to address the budget deficit.
  • 55 percent believe that Congress should maintain federal unemployment insurance benefits rather than cut them off.

Again, to learn what We the People want from government and elected officials spend some time at Populist Majority: Exposing the gulf between American opinion and conventional wisdom.

Coverage Blacked Out In Major Corporate Media

If you look around to see which outlets covered the announcement of this budget, you will find that the online progressive sites, one Los Angeles Times column and newspapers in Rep. Keith Ellison’s district let their audiences know about it. The corporate-owned “major media,” on the other hand, had a complete blackout of the announcement.

Michael Hiltzik at the L.A. Times, “A reminder that we still have an austerity budget.”

David Dayen at Al Jazeera, “Not all Democrats share Obama’s budget priorities.”

Meteor Blades at Daily Kos, “You won’t likely hear about the ‘Better Off Budget’ on ‘Meet the Press,’ but you can push it anyway.”

CAF’s Robert Borosage at Huffington Post, “Common Sense Takes Courage: The CPC Budget.”

In These Times, “Fighting for Fairness, One Budget at a Time.”

Demos Policy Shop, “Think the Left is Dead? Read This Budget Plan.”

Minneapolis Post, “Ellison’s Progressive Caucus releases budget plan.”

Minneapolis Star Tribune, “Ellison pushes Congressional Progressive Caucus budget.”

A Statement Of Values As Well As Policy

Isaiah J. Poole sums it up at ourfuture.org, “Progressive Caucus ‘Better Off Budget’ Plan: 9 Million Jobs In 3 Years“:

As a statement of values as well as policy, the Caucus’ proposal—called “The Better Off Budget”—is a loud and audacious rebuke to conservative austerity economics. As the previous caucus budgets have sought to do, it seeks to put forward bold policies that match the severity of the problems facing working-class Americans. It also sets up the debates we should be having about how to rebuild the economy so that it works for more than just a handful of people at the top. It spells out in blunt detail what it would take to make beleaguered Americans struggling in today’s economy “better off.”

There Is Another Path

For all the propaganda we are exposed to 24/7/365 about deficits and the need to cut Social Security and the need to cut the “safety net” in order to keep taxes low on the rich and their giant corporations there is another path. If this CPC budget were enacted it would actually solve many of the country’s problems and would do it in ways that the public favors. It would reduce inequality, fix budget problems and lay the groundwork for future prosperity for We the People. It would make our lives better, not just the lives of the 1 percent.

All we have to do to have those things is to call our member of Congress and our senators and tell them we know about this budget and we want them to pass it.

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