Let’s get this out of the way immediately: the Congressional Progressive Caucus’s plan to replace the sequester cannot pass the 113th Congress. But then again, Paul Ryan’s (in)famous “Path to Prosperity” had zero chance of being passed by a Democratic Senate and being signed by Barack Obama when it was unveiled in spring 2011, and yet it met with widespread (and often laudatory) press coverage.
So just because it won’t win a Congressional vote, it doesn’t mean the CPC sequester plan, unveiled Tuesday on Capitol Hill, should be ignored—especially because it has the notable advantage of being entirely sensible and “calculator-friendly,” as Steve Benen puts it. It evenly balances cuts and revenue, unlike every other plan out there; it cuts only from exorbitant and unnecessary defense programs and not badly needed government services like community health centers and home energy assistance, and most importantly—it makes investment and job-creation a goal.
The CPC plan, which you can read here, starts with a very important premise: to actually achieve an even balance of spending cuts and revenue increases, as the White House claims it wants to do, one must first take into account all the deficit reduction measures of 2011 and 2012. (An even balance of cuts and revenue increases is of course somewhat arbitrary, but does represent a very tangible compromise position between two approaches to addressing the deficit—and it’s the approach the White House is already pushing, so the CPC is happily endorsing that framing).
In any case, recall that Congress already agreed to $1.7 trillion in spending cuts in the first debt ceiling deal in August 2011, and then earlier this year, agreed to raise $737 billion in revenue by letting the high-end Bush tax cuts and other measures expire. The revenue raised is less than half of the amount of cuts already enacted.
So even if the coming sequester agreement, whatever that might be, does have a 1:1 spending cut to revenue balance, the overall deficit reduction we’ve done will not be even. Accordingly, the CPC plan first scraps the entire sequester, which would slant the final outcome even more towards spending cuts, and replaces it with enough new revenue to make the final outcome balanced.
The inevitable right-wing framing would be that all the big-government progressives are refusing to cut spending and only want to raise taxes—but, in fact, the “Balancing Act” simply evens out the final mix of spending cuts and revenue increases. See: