Editor’s Note: The Wall Street Journal asked a number of“influential voices” for their take on the budget deal struck by President Obama and Speaker John Boehner. Katrina vanden Heuvel’s response appears below. Click here to read all of the responses.
A budget is more than a passel of numbers. It is a statement of a country’s values and priorities. And the priorities in the budget deal struck Friday night offend.
Republicans have doubled down on their reverse Robin Hood agenda. When they speak of “fiscal responsibility,“ get out your decoder ring. Because what they really mean is that middle-class and working Americans should shoulder the responsibility of tackling debts and deficits. And—natch—in this budget, the toughest cuts will come from education and health.
President Obama has succeeded in limiting the damage. But so far, the president has failed to challenge the inside-the-Beltway narrative of debt and deficit “crisis,” or lay out a vision of a government working for the common good. It’s time to reset the debate and focus on rebuilding an already frayed social contract. Poll after poll shows that majorities of Americans put jobs ahead of deficit reduction.
An honest discussion would address the real source of our long-term debt: not Social Security and Medicare, not so-called entitlements, but a broken healthcare system dominated by powerful drug, insurance and hospital lobbies. A people’s budget would champion a fair tax system and call for an end to costly wars that are breeding insecurity.
Deficit hawks across the political spectrum and the tea partiers claim America is broke. It isn’t. We are a rich nation. Our trouble is that Washington (with a few exceptions) is bankrupt intellectually.
It’s time to tax what we have too much of—financial speculation and extreme concentration of wealth—and invest in what we have too little of—education programs like Head Start, infrastructure, renewable energy and jobs.