Reps. Maxine Waters, Mazie Hirono (podium) and Raul Grijalva introducing The People's Budget at the Capitol today
One of the complaints the progressive blogosphere commonly levels against the Democratic leadership in DC is about negotiating strategy. Generally, the complaint is that the Democratic leadership in Congress and in the White House make opening bids that are already compromises, which results in final legislative deals skewing further to the right than necessary. Perhaps the most frequent specific example of this complaint is that Democrats in Congress should have started the health care debate by proposing a single-payer plan, and might have ended up with a public option in the final bill as a result.
Whether or not you agree with that complaint in either the general or the specific, if it is applied to the budget fight the Democratic leadership in DC should have started with The People's Budget (PDF), which the Congressional Progressive Caucus introduced today. It's a budget that produces a surplus by 2021 without cutting services for the poor and middle-class. It thus provides a stark contrast with the recent proposal by Rep. Paul Ryan, and a left-flank to the principles outlined by President Obama.
Here's a general overview of the People's Budget:
- Reduces unemployment—and thus the deficit—through extensive investment in infrastructure, clean energy, transportation and education;
- Ends almost all the Bush tax cuts, creates new tax brackets for millionaires and new fees on Wall Street;
- Full American military withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, along with other reductions in military spending;
- Ends subsidies for non-renewable energy;
- Lowers health care costs through a public option and negotiating Rx payments with pharmaceutical companies;
- Raises the taxable maximum on Social Security.
That is a very quick summary, and full details can be read here
. The Economic Policy Institute has a full analysis here
. Today at the press conference introducing the budget, economist Jeffrey Sachs praised it as the "only budget that makes sense" and "a lot more serious than everything else on the table." He's also previously written about The People's Budget
on the Huffington Post.
Progressive Caucus co-chair Raul Grijalva said the People's Budget—which is an actual piece of legislation, not simply an outline—was filed with the Rules committee this morning. His fellow co-chair, Representative Keith Ellison, told me he thinks it will get more than 100 votes, which would be a majority of House Democrats. Even though that is still not enough to pass the chamber, Ellison said "we have to tell people what we would do if we had the numbers."
Getting those numbers will of course be very difficult. However, under no circumstances should we consider it impossible. One of my favorite stories in political history is the passage of the Reform Act of 1867 by the British Parliament. This was a bill expanding the franchise that was passed by a Conservative government, even though the Conservatives had gotten into power largely by defeating a weaker form of the same bill. However, the Conservatives ended up passing the bill largely because of overwhelming public pressure in the spring of 1867.
To me, the moral of that story has always been that the location political center can, and often does, change very quickly. The first step in making change happen is by talking about new possibilities. Today, with their introduction of the People's Budget, the Congressional Progressive Caucus has taken that first step.