Economist Jeffrey Sachs
praising The People's Budget
Last week, we published a write-up about the budget proposal put forth by the Congressional Progressive Caucus: The People's Budget. It's a great proposal, as it produces a federal surplus by 2021 without cutting services for the poor, the elderly and the middle-class. Instead, it basically just ends the wars, ends the Bush tax cuts, and reduces unemployment. Which, as we saw in the 1990's, is actually about all you need to do to balance the federal budget.
The People's Budget didn't get much media play. In fact, with over 2,000 shares on Facebook, our article was probably the most prominent media write-up it received. However, today comes a nice a surprise—that most serious of serious magazines, The Economist, loves the People's Budget:
Have you ever heard of the Congressional Progressive Caucus budget plan? Neither had I. The caucus's co-chairs, Raul Grijalva of Arizona and Keith Ellison of Minnesota, released it on April 6th. The budget savings come from defence cuts, including immediately withdrawing from Afghanistan and Iraq, which saves $1.6 trillion over the CBO baseline from 2012-2021. The tax hikes include restoring the estate tax, ending the Bush tax cuts, and adding new tax brackets for the extremely rich, running from 45% on income over a million a year to 49% on income over a billion a year.
Mr Ryan's plan adds (by its own claims) $6 trillion to the national debt over the next decade, but promises to balance the budget by sometime in the 2030s by cutting programmes for the poor and the elderly. The Progressive Caucus's plan would (by its own claims) balance the budget by 2021 by cutting defence spending and raising taxes, mainly on rich people. Mr Ryan has been fulsomely praised for his courage. The Progressive Caucus has not.
I'm not really sure what "courage" is supposed to mean here, but this seems precisely backwards. For 30 years, certainly since Walter Mondale got creamed by Ronald Reagan, the most dangerous thing a politician can do has been to call for tax hikes. Politicians who call for higher taxes are punished, which is why they don't do it. I'm curious to see what adjectives people would apply to the Progressive Congressional Caucus's budget proposal. But it's hard for me to imagine the media calling a proposal to raise taxes "courageous" and "honest". And my sense is that the disparate treatment here is a structural bias rooted in class.
Class bias is likely one of the reasons why proposing steep cuts to anti-poverty programs for seniors gets you labeled "courageous" while proposing something like The People's Budget gets you ignored. Being considered "serious" and "courageous" in our political discourse seems to have very little to do with the degree of academic analysis behind a proposal, with the degree of political risk involved in the proposal, or even your proposal with getting write-ups in ultra-serious media outlets like "The Economist." It is, instead, how closely your proposal for altering public policy aligns with policies that, while unpopular overall, are favored by the wealthiest Americans.
Paul Ryan's budget certainly fits that description. The People's Budget absolutely does not. That isn't the only reason for the disparity in coverage between the two budget proposals—The People's Budget did get only 77 votes, after all—but it is one of the reasons.