A day after the release of Paul Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity” budget, members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus gathered to discuss their own “Better Off Budget,” outside a room in the Cannon House Building where the House Budget Committee was marking up the Ryan Budget. Co-chairs Rep. Raul Grijalva (AZ) and Rep. Keith Ellison (MN) were joined by Representatives Mark Pocan (WI), Sheila Jackson-Lee (TX), Jan Schakowsky (IL), and Barbara Lee (CA) to describe their path to shared prosperity, released in March.
“We believe in a fairer America, that’s why we introduced the Better Off Budget. The most important metric for any budget is ‘Who is creating good jobs?’ Well, we are creating 8.8 million good jobs by 2017 mostly by investing in our nation’s infrastructure,” Rep. Ellison said. “The most important metric, and the thing I wish to impress upon you, is that you ask the author of any budget how many jobs they are creating, because that is the right question to ask.”
The CPC budget contains multiple job-creating measures, which the Economic Policy Institute finds would create 8.8 million new jobs by 2017, by immediately investing in American infrastructure, to the tune of $820 billion. This money would go to repairing and replacing America’s aging roads, bridges and waterways, and creating an infrastructure bank to recruit outside money to support infrastructure projects. The Better Off Budget invests $116 billion in seven public works jobs corps that would put many Americans, especially those in ever-important Rising American Electorate, to work. In order to recruit the best and brightest into the federal workforce, the CPC budget increases their pensions by four percent.
Recognizing that job creation is among the most pressing of Americans’ concerns, the CPC budget supports middle- and working-class Americans by reversing the harmful cuts made in the due to the Budget Control Act, also known as the sequester, and to vital programs such as SNAP. Emergency Unemployment Compensation is extended to 99 weeks, to support those who have fallen on hard times and help them get back on their feet.
“Budgets are moral documents,” said Rep. Schakowsky, “when you look at how money is spent, you know what the priorities really are. I see the Ryan budget as the ‘mean’ budget.” She numbered the ways that the Ryan Budget hurt hardworking Americans: reductions in Pell grants, the SNAP and free- and reduced-price lunch programs; repealing the Affordable Care Act but keeping the cuts; and cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, including turning Medicare into a voucher program. Schakowsky highlighted another issue Americans should have with the Ryan Budget, “On top of everything, it gives the average millionaire $200,000 in a tax cut.”
Rep. Schakowsky was not the only member to speak to this issue, and the fact that the GOP-controlled House is already pressing against extending Unemployment Insurance led Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee to say, “In Texas 165,000 people are needing unemployment insurance, and the Ryan budget says to them, ‘Go away,’ but to the millionaires it gives them $200,000.”
Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, actually in the neighboring district to Rep. Ryan and a member of the Budget Committee, said, “I think the biggest contrast (between the Better Off Budget and the Ryan Budget) is in the area of jobs, where it is almost a mirror opposite.” Pocan continued, “We invest in infrastructure, we invest in research and development, we invest in the extension of Unemployment insurance, we increase the minimum wage, doing the things that stimulate the economy and get more people working, creating 8.8 million jobs. The budget we are discussing today will cost the economy 3.3 million jobs.” It does this by cutting where the Better Off Budget invests.
“This budget is a pathway into poverty,” said Rep. Barbara Lee, also a member of the Budget Committee “The Ryan Budget cuts all the Great Society initiatives that have lifted people out of poverty.”
The Better Off Budget cuts $4.08 trillion off our deficit in ten years by asking those who can afford it to pay a little more. Some of these changes include increasing taxes on the wealthiest, capping the top tax rate at 49% for people making over $1 billion a year and a financial transactions tax, ending tax deferral on overseas profits and capping itemized deductions. Through these changes, the CPC believes it can raise more than $2 trillion over the next ten years.
“This budget distinguished itself from the Ryan Budget in many ways. This budget is about investment, this budget is about job creation, this budget is about stabilizing and enhancing Social Security, this budget is about immigration reform,” said Grijalva. “The Ryan budget is [a culmination of] the failed policies of the last six years, which takes America down the same path, further jeopardizing the economy of this nation.”
You can sign on to be a citizen co-sponsor of the CPC budget here. As of this writing, it had nearly 75% of its goal signees. And you can also signal your dismay at the damaging Ryan Budget here.