Any honest discussion of balancing budgets has to begin with an acknowledgement that it is necessary to audit Pentagon spending and address the bloated budgeting of the Department of Defense. As Senator Rand Paul explained back when he was Time magazine’s “most-interesting man in politics”: A serious plan for balancing the federal budget must feature a plan for the “draw-down and restructuring of the Department of Defense.”
When he entered the Republican Party’s bloated 2016 presidential race, Paul became less interesting. But he still asked some of the best questions. For instance, in Paul’s finest GOP debate performances, he demanded to know, “How is it conservative to add a trillion dollars in military expenditures?” As the only serious candidate in the Republican race, Paul informed his opponents: “You cannot be a conservative if you’re going to keep promoting new programs that you’re not going to pay for.”
A recognition of the need to address the Pentagon’s excessive and irresponsible spending should be at the center of the politics of both major parties. Unfortunately, despite some attempts by Paul on the Republican side and Bernie Sanders (and, while he was still in the race, Lincoln Chafee) on the Democratic side, the 2016 presidential competition has not featured sufficient discussion of the pathologies that develop when Pentagon excess is encouraged.
But the Congressional Progressive Caucus has steered the discussion in a sensible direction with its 2017 “People’s Budget,” which proposes a “Prosperity, Not Austerity; Invest in America” agenda. At the heart of the CPC proposal is a commitment to a $1 trillion infrastructure investment program that includes $765 million to address the infrastructure crisis in Flint, Michigan, which has evolved into a humanitarian crisis. There are also proposals for necessary investments in healthcare, education, and programs to address hunger. And, as usual with the most fiscally and socially responsible caucus in the Congress, there is a plan to pay for it all.
The CPC retains its commitment to a financial-transactions tax on Wall Street speculation, as well as proposals to close loopholes and end practices that allow corporations and CEOs to avoid paying taxes. By combining smart policies and smart economics, says Congressman Mark Pocan, the Wisconsin Democrat who serves as the first vice chair of the CPC, which now has more than 70 members. The People’s Budget “reverses harmful austerity cuts and fixes a system that for far too long has only benefited those at the top. The Progressive Caucus Budget rebuilds our crumbling roads and bridges, creates good paying jobs, and increases educational opportunities from pre-kindergarten to college. Our budget invests in the American people and gives working families the best opportunity to get ahead.”