Yesterday we posted a MoveOn.org-produced video of former Labor Secretary Robert Reich explaining how the supercommittee might reduce the deficit without imposing crushing austerity measures, nor damaging the social safety net relied upon by millions of Americans. It’s really excellent, and you ought to check it out.
On the eve of some decision by the supercommittee—or no decision and painful automatic cuts—this is a time to remember the other ideas out there for balancing the budget. There are plenty of credible and thoughtful plans out there. Granted, they are not politically viable at the moment, given the Republican Party’s control of the House of Representatives, and its ability to stop virtually anything in the Senate—not to mention the six votes it controls on the supercommittee.
But to listen to most media coverage of the deficit debates—and too often, the rhetoric thrown about by Republicans and some Democrats—one comes away thinking the only way to get the fiscal house in order is via “entitlement reform” and deep domestic spending cuts, along with higher taxes and fewer loopholes.
But this just isn’t so. For example, the Congressional Progressive Caucus crafted a “People’s Budget,” which eliminates the deficit within ten years while creating a $31 billion surplus—all while protecting valuable programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. You can read the entire budget here (PDF), a one-page summary here (PDF), and an outside analysis by the Economic Policy Institute here (PDF).
Here are some of the plan’s features. On taxes:
Ends the recently passed upper-income tax cuts and lets Bush-era tax cuts expire at the end of 2012
Extends tax credits for the middle class, families and students
Creates new tax brackets that range from 45 percent starting at $1 million to 49 percent for $1 billion or more
Implements a progressive estate tax
Eliminates corporate welfare for oil, gas and coal companies; closes loopholes for multinational corporations
Enacts a financial crisis responsibility fee and a financial speculation tax on derivatives and foreign exchange
Enacts a healthcare public option and negotiates prescription payments with pharmaceutical companies
Prevents any cuts to Medicare physician payments for a decade
Responsibly ends our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to leave America more secure both home and abroad
Cuts defense spending by reducing conventional forces, procurement and costly R&D programs
The key theme of this plan is to put investment and job creation up front, while protecting the programs that many Americans rely upon for their economic well-being during a recession. Even Bill Clinton, no flaming liberal, called the plan “the most comprehensive alternative to the budgets passed by the House Republicans and recommended by the Simpson-Bowles Commission.”