The Congressional Progressive Caucus released “The People’s Budget” this week, which it dubs a “roadmap for the resistance.” Maybe the mere mention of a federal budget plan makes your eyes glaze over, but the “People’s Budget” is a dramatic document.
It presents a compelling alternative to Donald Trump’s “skinny budget.” Unlike Trump’s fanciful promises, it offers a sensible path out of the hole that we are in. Its values and priorities reflect those of the majority of Americans. The Progressive Caucus frames its budget around the central challenge of our time: how to make this economy work for working people, and redress the savage inequality that is undermining our democracy. It offers a strategy to get there, and a budget framed to support that strategy.
Not surprisingly, this makes it an outlier in the beltway debate.
Full Employment: The First Priority
With wages stagnant and worker participation in the economy still depressed, moving to full employment should be Washington’s first priority. That requires shedding the straightjacket of fiscal austerity that has slowed growth, hurt unemployment, and added to deficits.
The “People’s Budget” calls for public investment, sustained over the long run by insuring that corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes. The budget calls for an immediate boost of domestic spending over the next two years for investments in teachers and K–12 schools, aid to states to hire first responders, expanding Medicaid, public works jobs programs targeted at distressed communities, and more.
Public investments are far more effective, dollar-for-dollar, at boosting the economy and putting people to work than the Trump-favored top-end tax cuts. The federal investments laid out in the “People’s Budget” addressed urgent needs, as opposed to handing more money to the already wealthy—which adds to our obscene and corrosive inequality.
Over the longer term, the progressive budget blueprint would sustain a full employment economy by rebuilding America. It calls for spending $2 trillion in rebuilding our public infrastructure—from water systems to roads and mass transit—over 20 years. This comes close to meeting the sums the American Society of Civil Engineers argues are needed simply to bring our infrastructure up to sound standards. (We still have seen no glimmer of Trump’s oft-promised infrastructure program.)