Published on Portside (https://portside.org)
Why We Need The People’s Budget’s $1 Trillion Infrastructure Plan
Isaiah J. Poole
Thursday, March 10, 2016
Campaign for America's Future
Set aside for a moment concerns about political gridlock on Capitol Hill. Think about the actual gridlock that could await lawmakers and citizens on their way to Capitol Hill.
Earlier in March, Washington area residents learned that one of the major bridges in the city – one that carries about 70,000 vehicles a day past the iconic Lincoln Memorial to either downtown Washington or the Virginia suburbs – will have to be shut down in five years without a $250 million reconstruction. It’s a federal bridge, but Republicans who control Congress so far aren’t appropriating the money for the needed reconstruction.
One less bridge crossing into Washington would be devastating to a city that already ranks as the most congested in America , according to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. It’s a high-profile example of what Americans experience around the country:58,000 bridges around the country  are rated as structurally deficient, from the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City to some of the Interstate 405 bridges in Los Angeles. And it’s not just bridges, as the people struggling with the consequences of decades-old lead pipes in Flint, Michigan and other communities around the country are now discovering.
In 2015 Congress passed, and President Obama signed, a bill that partially addressed the nation’s need for long-term infrastructure spending. But even the most enthusiastic proponents of that bill said that the legislation barely makes a dent in what we need just to bring our transportation network up to minimum 21st-century requirements. We haven’t begun to seriously tackle the water crisis so vividly unmasked by the Flint, Michigan lead fiasco, or the public investments we should be making in areas ranging from sustainable energy to high-speed Internet.
That’s where the fiscal 2017 People’s Budget  introduced by the Congressional Progressive Caucus comes in. The People’s Budget includes a bold, $1 trillion plan over 10 years to invest in the nation’s infrastructure. It is the only policy proposal that comes close to the level of infrastructure investment called for by leading experts, such as the American Society of Civil Engineers.
It is also a comprehensive plan. For example, it includes $150 billion to cover the cost of replacing aging water pipes around the country. In addition to the dangers posed by lead pipes that are still being used even though they have been outlawed in new construction since the 1990s, there’s the reality of costly water main breaks. (One industry source  calculates that there are on average around the country 850 water main breaks every single day, running up repair costs of $3 billion a year.)
An additional $150 billion would be invested to upgrade the nation’s energy grid to better accommodate renewable energy sources, such as solar panels on residences that can feed energy into the power grid during the day. In transportation, the People’s Budget would steer more dollars to address the increased demand for public transportation, bikeways and walkways in reviving urban areas, as well as reverse the nonsensical opposition from conservatives to building out high-speed intercity rail.
The budget anticipates that this plan would create 3.6 million new jobs. Even though right now the national unemployment rate is officially 4.9 percent, the nation is still 1.6 million jobs below what it would have been had the job market not been devastated by the 2008 Wall Street crash, according to The Hamilton Project .
But that’s not the only reason this job-creation plan is important. There are broad disparities, by race and region, in unemployment. African-American unemployment  was above 10 percent in at least 22 states around the country in 2015; in Connecticut, Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada and the District of Columbia, black unemployment rates were above 13 percent. There are also 35 metropolitan areas in the United States with unemployment rates of at least 7 percent or higher  in states that include California, Arizona, New Jersey, Washington and Illinois. These pockets of high unemployment still left behind by the economic recovery years after it began will not rise on their own; they need a national commitment to rebuild America that is designed to give them the extra boost they need.
Another reason to push for this infrastructure investment in the People’s Budget is as an insurance policy against what could be a looming global recession . Austerity policies imposed by a Republican-controlled Congress demonstrably slowed growth in the United States below what it would have otherwise been, But what we experienced in the U.S. is nothing compared to the stagnation experienced in European countries that took the counsel of their conservative and corporatist factions and cut government spending instead of making investments that would have led to a more financially secure working class. Now the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development last month urged the world’s largest economic powers  to use their ability “to borrow for long periods at low interest rates” to increase spending in order “to strengthen demand” in the face of signs of a global economic slowdown.
That’s a warning that is not being heeded by the Republican presidential candidates and by the Republican leadership in Congress. They are all united in a pledge to double down in 2017 and beyond on a combination of spending cuts on everything but military spending, and tax cuts mainly directed at corporations and the wealthy. In the face of a recession, taking government demand out of the economy is a recipe for economic catastrophe.
That’s why the spending plan advanced in the People’s Budget needs to be a core issue in the 2016 election campaign. It is true that this budget has no realistic chance for passage in a Republican Congress. But this isn’t simply about a short-term budget fight. This is about whether we have a president and an electorate united in moving forward a sane economic platform that will strengthen the American economy in the uncertain years ahead, or if we will allow the ideologues and big-money interests to succeed in taking the wheels of the American economy and driving us all off a cliff. Yes, the People’s Budget is audacious. But that’s only because in these times, given how much more ground working people must make up to compensate for decades of economic inequity, we need audacious solutions, along with a grassroots movement to encourage a corresponding level of audacity from our next president.
To help build that movement, sign on as a citizen co-sponsor of the People’s Budget . The Campaign for America’s Future has joined a coalition of organizations seeking to recruit hundreds of thousands of citizen co-sponsors. That would send a clear message to House Democrats that they should unite behind this budget when it comes up for a vote later this month, and to House Republicans that there is no broad mandate for their bankrupt policies.
While our economy is rebounding from the Great Recession, hardworking Americans are being left behind. Our economic and political system has lost sight of what matters most: We the People. The Congressional Progressive Caucus’ Budget for Fiscal Year 2017 provides major reinvestments in our country through infrastructure, education, and wage growth to increase opportunity for all. The People’s Budget is a down payment on a brighter future for all Americans, ensuring every family struggling to make ends meet has a fair shot at the American Dream.
An investment in roads, bridges, and railways is an investment in the safety and prosperity of the American people. The People’s Budget commits $1 trillion in infrastructure spending overall to transform our country’s crumbling roads, bridges, and facilities into a 21st century network, creating jobs and improving economic opportunities in the process. This includes billions for water lines nationwide and $765 million specifically for Flint, Michigan, to replace toxic pipelines and provide needed health, education, and other services for residents exposed to lead. Families should never have to worry about whether their water is safe to drink, or their roads are safe to drive on.
Access to equitable education opportunities is key to ensuring future generations are prepared for success. From pre-school through college, every student deserves the right to high-quality affordable education. The People’s Budget invests in our students by providing robust early learning opportunities, effective public schools for all students, and debt-free college.
The People’s Budgetcreates 3.6 million good paying jobs to push our economy back to full-employment, which will provide the necessary economic conditions to spur across-the-board wage growth for hardworking Americans. It empowers working families, protects collective bargaining, and seeks to close the pay equity gap. It also increases funding for worker protection agencies to crack down on wage theft, combat overtime abuses, and safeguard workers’ retirement savings. Now is the time for Congress to remove the barriers that have held down wages for working Americans.
The People’s Budget makes major public investments to rebuild America by fixing our crumbling roads and bridges, improving schools, moving towards clean energy, and creating good paying jobs in the process.
Invest In America
- Invests $1 trillion to transition to 21st Century infrastructure, which ensures our roads, bridges, railways, and facilities are strong and that no town experiences the devastating effects of crumbling infrastructure we’ve seen in Flint, Michigan
- Delivers on the promise of effective early childhood education by fully funding Early Head Start
- Makes debt free college a reality for all students
- Expands commitment to create efficient renewable energy and competitive, high-quality green jobs
Pathways Out of Poverty and Empowering the Middle Class
- Supports wage increases for working Americans, negotiating rights and fair pay
- Provides a plan to reduce poverty by half in ten years
- Increases discretionary funding to invest in women, communities of color and their families
- Reverses harmful cuts and enhances the social safety net
- Provides an increase in Trade Adjustment Assistance for workers displaced by bad trade deals
Justice and Fair Elections
- Supports a justice system that is fair and effective for all Americans with full funding for key DOJ programs, including public defenders and recidivism reduction
- Rebuilds trust in the justice system by funding community oriented policing reforms
- Strengthens Department of Justice Voter Protection Programs
- Protects voting rights by increasing funding to voter protection agencies
- Funds public financing of campaigns to curb the influence of special interests in politics
Fair Individual Taxes
- Ensures profits from investments are taxed at the same rate as income from work
- Returns to Clinton-era tax rates for households making over $250,000 and implements new brackets for those making over $1 million
- Expands the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Care Credit
Fair Coporate Taxes
- Eliminates the ability of U.S. corporations to defer taxes on offshore profits
- Ends corporate inversions that allow U.S. companies to avoid paying taxes
- Enacts a Financial Transaction Tax on Wall Street’s high-stakes trading
- Ends unlimited executive pay tax write-offs
Educational Opportunities for Every Student
- Fully funds Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and provides Pre-K for all
- Greater investments in K-12 education
- Increases computer science opportunities for all students
- Provides for the refinancing of student loans
Affordable Health Care
- Repeals excise tax on high-priced healthcare plans for workers andreplaces it with a public option
- Implements drug price negotiation for Medicare
- Allows states to transition to single-payer health care systems
- Expands access to mental health care and treatments for opioid and heroin addiction
Protect our Environment
- Closes tax loopholes and ends subsidies provided to oil, gas, and coal companies
- Implements a price on carbon pollution
- Invests in clean, renewable, and efficient energy and green manufacturing
Sustainable Defense: Promoting peace And Security
- Modernizes our defense system to create sustainable Pentagon spending
- Ends funding for unsustainable wars
- Increases funding for diplomacy and strategic humanitarian aid
- Adds robust funding for refugee resettlement programs
Grow Small Businesses
- Fully funds the Small Business Administration’s loan programs to help America’s small businesses remain competitive and continue to grow
Comprehensive Immigration Reform
- Implements comprehensive immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship
Access to Housing
- Fully funds programs to make housing affordable and accessible for all Americans
- Addresses the pervasive and persistent problem of poverty in America through an $11 billion investment to end family homelessness
Strengthening our Commitment to Veterans
- Increases funding for veterans supportive housing to eliminate veterans homelessness
- Expands access to mental health care for all veteran and service members
- Invests in job training opportunities for transitioning service members and veterans
Full Budget documents are below.
CPC FY 2017 People's Budget Full  (03/09/1602:36 PMET )
El Resumen del Presupuesto del Pueblo 2017.pdf  (03/09/1602:30 PMET )
CPC FY 2017 People's Budget Summary  (03/03/1610:02 AMET )
Source URL: https://portside.org/2016-03-14/why-we-need-people%E2%80%99s-budget%E2%80%99s-1-trillion-infrastructure-plan
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