I present here first, Rachel Maddow talking about The People’s Budget. Then a New York Times article yesterday on how the budget debate was “framed” (double-meaning intended). Finally, The Executive Summary of The People’s Budget itself, as found on the Congressional Progressive Caucus site.
This is the one budget that brings the troops home; in one fell swoop, it both transforms the toxic militarism now infecting this country and makes it possible to solve all the other budgetary crises.
by Nancy Folbre
Political strategists often refer to “framing” as the way in which the edges of an argument define perceptions of its core. The term also has an older, sharper meaning that implies miscarriage of justice – as in “he was framed.”
In the debate over the budget deficit and debt ceiling, the American people have been framed in both senses of the term. They have been given a misleading picture of the possibilities, and they have taken the blame for unrealistic attitudes.
Nominally, the budget debate focuses on spending cuts versus tax increases, with Republicans in one corner and Democrats in the other. What I see is a three-way tussle among the rich, the not very rich and the not rich at all over who should pay the costs of balancing the budget.
On this issue, differences among Democrats run deeper than those between the major players getting most of the press: President Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner.
Consider a largely invisible proposal for balancing the budget, the People’s Budget, released in April by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which includes 83 members of Congress.
Its proposed budget savings include major cuts to military spending based on immediate withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan. Its proposed revenue sources include new tax brackets for the rich (from 45 percent on income over a million dollars a year to 49 percent on income over a billion a year), restoring the estate tax and eliminating the Bush tax cuts.
The Economic Policy Institute provides a more detailed supportive analysis. Proponents have also developed a three-way comparison with budget proposals advocated by President Obama and Congressional Republicans that allows you to register your own preference.
Deficit hawks (at least those who are not tax chickens) should welcome the People’s Budget, because it offers a plausible path to debt reduction.
Matt Miller of The Washington Post noted that the People’s Budget would, unlike the Roadmap for America’s Future advanced by Representative Paul Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin and chairman of the House Budget Committee, generate a budget surplus at a predictable point in the future, winning the “fiscal responsibility derby.”
Paul Krugman, who praised the People’s Budget in The New York Times, observed that it stood little chance of being passed, but that the same was true of Mr. Ryan’s proposed budget.
Serious consideration of the People’s Budget in April could have reframed the budget debate by counterbalancing the rightward thrust of the Republican proposals. Serious consideration of it today would make President Obama’s focus on closing tax loopholes for wealthy individuals and corporations seem faint-hearted, at best.
The progressive tax policies endorsed by the People’s Budget have drawn remarkably strong support in public opinion polls, suggesting that the views of our most powerful elected officials don’t accurately reflect the views of the electorate.
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll in late February found that 81 percent of people would support a surtax on millionaires to help reduce the budget deficit. A Pew Research Center poll in late May found that 66 percent favored raising income tax rates on those making more than $250,000 and 67 percent raising the wage cap for Social Security taxes.
So why hasn’t a budget proposal that features more progressive taxes had a stronger, more visible impact on the national debate?
Poor press coverage is one explanation. Dave Moberg of In These Times asserted, “The corporate media give progressive alternatives short shrift, even though opinion polls show the public often supports such measures.” Peter Hart of the media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting made the more specific assertion that media coverage of the People’s Budget has been confined to opinion pieces, with no “hard news stories about it in the big papers.”
What about The New York Times, often characterized by some of its critics as having a liberal bias?
On July 14, I searched for the phrase “People’s Budget” on The Times’s Web site for occurrences over the last 12 months. I found the mention by Mr. Krugman, two readers’ comments on a previous post of his and a link on the Green blog to a brief derogatory comment in The Atlantic blog.
In short, “no hard news stories” about it (unless they omitted the proposal’s title). On the other hand, Representative Ryan’s Roadmap for America’s Future was mentioned more than a dozen times, though, of course, it has been in play longer. The most prominent articles focused on Mr. Ryan and his general philosophy rather than on the budget itself.
Maybe that’s the problem: the budget debate seems to elicit less hard news analysis than political framing and reframing.
And there’s no way that people can frame the People’s Budget if they haven’t even heard of it.
(A.K.) Here it is:
U.S. House of Representatives Washington, DC 20515
The People’s Budget
Budget of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Fiscal Year 2012
Budgets are more than collections of numbers; they are a statement of our values. The Congressional Progressive Caucus Budget is a reflection of the values and priorities of working families in this country. The “People’s Budget” charts a path that keeps America exceptional in the 21st century, while addressing the most pressing problems facing the nation today. Our Budget eliminates the deficit and stabilizes the debt, puts Americans back to work, and restores our economic competiveness.
The CPC Budget addresses these problems by listening to the American people. In poll after poll, they are telling us, their representatives in the American government, that they want to preserve Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, to make higher education more affordable, to expand job- training programs, to cut taxes burdening the middle class, to subsidize affordable housing, and to provide financial assistance for those struggling to prevent foreclosures.
The majority of America thinks cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, K-12 education, heating assistance to low-income families, student loans, unemployment insurance, and scientific and medical research are completely unacceptable. In contrast, Americans find a progressive tax policy very acceptable. The overwhelming majority of America supports additional taxes on millionaires and billionaires, eliminating unnecessary weapons systems, eliminating tax credits for the oil and gas industries, phasing out Bush tax cuts, and eliminating subsidies for new nuclear power plants. Poll after poll give voice to what Americans are asking of us.
Our Budget, in response, listens to what the American people are telling us. It does all of the above in a fiscally responsible way that dramatically reduces our borrowing from banks and foreign governments and ensures our long-term economic competitiveness. It does all of the above recognizing that in order to compete, we need every American to be productive, and in order to be productive, we need to raise the skill level of every American and meet the basic needs of every working family. It does all of the above while remaining rooted in fairness, recognizing that America works only when everyone has an opportunity to make it in America.
Our Budget Eliminates the Deficit by 2021
The CPC budget eliminates the deficit in a way that does not devastate what Americans want preserved, specifically, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Instead of eroding America’s hard- earned retirement plan and social safety net, our budget targets the true drivers of deficits in the nextdecade: the Bush Tax Cuts, the wars overseas, and the causes and effects of the recent recession. By implementing a fair tax code, by building a resilient American economy, and by bringing our troops home, we achieve a budget surplus of over $30 billion by 2021 and we end up with a debt that is less than 65% of our GDP. This is what sustainability looks like.
Our Budget Puts America Back to Work & Restores America’s Competitiveness
The CPC budget rebuilds America and makes it competitive again. We put America back to work. We rebuild our roads and bridges, ensuring that those who use it help pay for it. We rebuild our dams and waterways with seed money for shipping systems that can compete with the rest of the world. We rebuild our education system by training more and better teachers, restoring schools, helping each student graduate, and supporting community colleges. This is what competitiveness looks like.
Our Budget Creates a Fair Tax System
The CPC budget implements a fair tax system based on the American notion that fairness and equality are integral to our society. Our budget restores fairness to a system that unfairly benefitted the richest few while hurting the majority of America. Our budget heeds America’s call to end the Bush Tax Cuts and the estate tax and create fair tax brackets for millionaires and billionaires while maintaining credits for the middle class and students. It ensures that the banks that wrecked our economy pay a modest financial responsibility fee and that exotic trading by Wall Street traders who gambled away America’s savings is levied a tax. It guarantees that hedge fund managers (and those who use them) do not get special treatment by taxing capital gains and dividends as ordinary income. It eliminates charity to oil companies making record profits from prices paid at the pump by the American people, given that it is unfair that the American people must also give these oil companies billions of dollars in handouts. Finally, our budget taxes US corporate income as it is earned, in much the same way Americans are taxed. This is what fairness looks like.
Our Budget Brings Our Troops Home
The CPC budget responsibly ends our wars that are currently paid for by American taxpayer dollars we do not have. We end these wars not simply to save massive amounts of money or because the majority of America is polling in favor to do so, but because these wars are making America less safe, are reducing America’s standing in the world, and are doing nothing to reduce America’s burgeoning energy security crisis. The CPC budget offers a real solution to these fiscal, diplomatic and energy crises, leaving America more secure, both here and abroad. The CPC budget also ensures that our country’s defense spending does not continue to contribute significantly to our current fiscal burden – a trend we reverse by ending the wars and realigning conventional and strategic forces, resulting in $2.3 trillion worth of savings. This is what security looks like.
Our Budget’s Bottom Line
• Deficit reduction of $5.6 trillion • Primary spending cuts of $869 billion • Net interest savings of $856 billion • Total spending cuts of $1.7 trillion • Revenue increase of $3.9 trillion • Public investment of $1.7 trillion • Budget surplus of $30.7 billion in 2021, debt at 64.1% of GDP.