In a vigorous response to the House Republicans' slash-and-burn 2012 budget proposals, the Congressional Progressive Caucus last week released its own proposal, "The People's Budget," which it says reflects "the values and priorities of working families in this country."
The Congress' largest caucus, the 80-member group is largely made up of House Democrats, along with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
In an April 5 statement, caucus co-chairs Representative Keith Ellison, D-Minn. and Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., called the House Republicans' budget "a proven roadmap to ruin" for working-class Americans. "We support a budget that puts America back to work ... that creates good-paying jobs rebuilding the roads and bridges we cross going to work every day," they said. "We make sure that everyone pays their fair share, while ending wasteful defense contracts and costly wars. The People's Budget shuts down corporate giveaways that put small businesses and workers on an uneven playing field."
The caucus says that by 2021, its budget would end the deficit, achieve budget surplus and bring the national debt below 65 percent of GDP.
"The majority of America thinks cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, K-12 higher education, heating assistance to low-income families, student loans, unemployment insurance, and scientific and medical research are unacceptable," the caucus says. In contrast, the overwhelming majority supports additional taxes on the very rich, eliminating unneeded weapons systems and ending subsidies for new nuclear power plants.
The centerpiece of the People's Budget is the institution of a fair tax policy. The caucus calls for letting the Bush-era tax cuts expire at the end of next year, immediately rescinding the upper-income tax cuts agreed to in last December's tax deal, and instituting several provisions to raise taxes on the very wealthy.
U.S. corporations' foreign income would be taxed as it is earned; corporate welfare would end for oil, gas and coal companies. A "financial crisis responsibility fee" and a financial speculation tax would be assessed and Superfund taxes would be reinstated.
The Progressive Caucus's proposals for creating jobs and restoring economic competitiveness go hand-in-hand. Rebuilding infrastructure both creates jobs in the near term and strengthens competitiveness in the long term; pre-K through higher education "is the most important contribution we can make to our economic growth in the long run." Building a clean energy economy will both increase energy independence and help address global warming.
Another key plank is "a realistic reduction" in military spending that it says "would not compromise our national security interests or capabilities." The caucus envisions ending emergency war funding starting in 2013 and saving $1.6 trillion by 2021. Growth of the Army and Marine Corps would be slowed as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars wind down, routine deployment of U.S. troops overseas would be reduced, and outdated cold-war weapons systems would be canceled.
Interviewed by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! April 11, economist Jeffrey Sachs, who heads Columbia University's Earth Institute, said of the caucus budget, "It actually responds to what the people want, and that is, raise taxes on the rich, raise taxes on the corporations that are getting away with unbelievably abusive loopholes, cut military spending, preserve spending for the poor, for education, for investment and so forth."
Photo: CPC c0-chair Grijalva.