This week has been a rough week for the global economy. The stock market fell dramatically. S&P downgraded the U.S.’s credit rating from AAA, its highest rating, to AA+ for the first time in history. The Eurozone continues to be in trouble with Spain and Greece possibly needing a bailout. In addition, London, and other parts of Great Britain, experienced days of violent riots, fueled by grievances over police racism, austerity, inequality, and the growing economic suffering of Britain’s poor and working masses. Certainly not a good week.
In the midst of this turmoil, there is a budget proposal that alleviates America’s economic malaise. That proposal is called “The People’s Budget” and is authored by the Congressional Progressive Caucus. It reduces the deficit by $5.6 trillion over ten years, more than the recently-passed debt deal’s reduction. It also increases revenue by $3.9 trillion. It accomplishes this by: ending the Bush tax cuts and raising taxes on the rich; closing tax loopholes for multinational corporations; “eliminates corporate welfare for oil, gas, and coal companies”; enacts a healthcare public option; protects Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; ends the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and cuts defense spending; and “invests in job creation, clean energy and broadband infrastructure, housing and R&D programs” (click here for full proposal and here for Economic Policy Institute’s technical analysis, quotes are from summary). Public opinion polls show that the majority of Americans favor cutting defense spending significantly, raising taxes on the rich, and creating more jobs, which puts the People’s Budget in line with what the public wants. Not only would the People’s Budget reduce the deficit, it could get America out of the recession since it tackles unemployment.
Even though the People’s Budget significantly reduces the deficit, raises revenue, could get America out of the recession and is in line with what the public wants then why was it not discussed during the debt ceiling debate? Or, better yet, why has it not been discussed at all? The Rachel Maddow Show, The Washington Post’s Matt Miller, The Economist, economist and New York times columnist Paul Krugman, Rolling Stone, and Forbes all praised the People’s Budget. Yet, this was not enough to influence the entire debate. Why is this?
Matt Miller, appearing on The Rachel Maddow Show, made a good point about the media’s lack of coverage of the People’s Budget:
“…the basic mode of coverage, I think, is that the establishment press acts as stenographers to power. And you have a mainstream Democratic position, obviously represented by the President. And you have the opposition represented by Paul Ryan. And that sort of defines what the boundaries of debate are going to be because the media faithfully reflects those two polls of debate. So if you’re coming from outside those polls or, in this case, you know what’s interesting about the Progressive Caucus is they’re more fiscally conservative than the current debate but they’re more socially liberal in terms of the investments they make in education, in infrastructure, in jobs, and they’re more progressive in terms of what they’re doing on upper-income earners in the tax code. Because they’re not the official spokesmen of the party like the President is, they tend to get ignored and so I think they would have to be a little more creative, publicity-wise, to get attention for their ideas.”
But it goes deeper than how the media covers it.
If the debate was really about cutting the deficit, there would have been a strong focus on tackling the recession and unemployment because that is one of the primary drivers of the debt, in addition to fighting multiple wars. Plus, the recession is causing widespread economic misery for millions of people, which is why the public is concerned about jobs. The People’s Budget addresses this. However, the debate ignored this and focused on cutting government spending to alleviate the long-term debt problem. The interesting thing is that the final debt deal actually does not cut the deficit as much as the People’s Budget does and will lose the country 1.8 million jobs. If they were so concerned about cutting the deficit, they should have swiftly passed the People’s Budget will little discussion. So one has to wonder — is America’s political leadership incredibly stupid or do they have other things in mind?
As Matt Miller pointed out on The Rachel Maddow Show, the People’s Budget is “more socially liberal in terms of investments they make in education, in infrastructure, in jobs, and they’re more progressive in terms of what they’re doing on upper-income earners in the tax code.” In other words, the People’s Budget raises taxes on rich people, while making investments that benefit the majority of poor and middle-class people. So the rich have to make sacrifices for everyone else. Considering how much rich people and multinational corporations influence Congress, the Presidency, and even the Supreme Court, it shouldn’t be a surprise why a plan like this would not be up for discussion. It hurts the people who control the government.
This is what the silence about the People’s Budget reveals. Any plan that does not help the very rich, big banks, and multinational corporations will not be taken seriously by the political class or their loyal stenographers in the media. Even if the plan satisfies what the political elites claim they are concerned about, like lowering the deficit. If a plan significantly lowers the deficit but raises taxes on rich people and ends corporate welfare, as the People’s Budget does, then it will be shut out of discussion or attacked by the status quo. The best way to combat this is for people to raise awareness about the People’s Budget and pressure Congress and the President to enact it. It’s not a radical solution but it gets the country on the right track.
Last Wednesday, Dylan Ratigan went on an epic rant about how deep corruption is within the American political system. It ties into this issue and is definitely worth watching.