Friday, April 15, 2011

A 'People's Budget' That Invests in Jobs

A 'People's Budget' That Invests in Jobs


By Raul M. Grijalva, Mike Honda and Lawrence Mishel,

Special to CNN

April 14, 2011



Editor's note: U.S. Rep. Raul M. Grijalva, D-Arizona,

is co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

U.S. Rep. Mike Honda, D-California, is a member of the

U.S. House Budget Committee. Lawrence Mishel is

president of the Economic Policy Institute.


(CNN) -- Despite a weak economic recovery and

persistent, unacceptably high unemployment, Washington

is prematurely pivoting from job creation to deficit

reduction. Worse yet, many of the budget proposals

flooding Washington are nothing but reverse Robin Hood

plans to redistribute wealth from working families to

the most privileged among us.


Last week, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan,

R-Wisconsin, unveiled a reckless budget that includes a

plan to privatize Medicare by forcing recipients to buy

insurance on an open market, where premiums have more

than doubled over the last 10 years, to gut Medicaid by

shifting costs to states and reducing funding, to cut

taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals and to

reduce the nation's ability to make needed investments

by capping overall levels of federal spending.


This plan would undermine economic growth and job

creation for years and exacerbate ever-widening income

inequality. Instead of these reckless cuts, job

creation and strengthening the economic recovery must

be our priority.


It is our obligation to the American people to address

our long-term fiscal challenges without sinking the

economy back into recession, further undermining the

struggling middle class, or stripping investments that

pave the way for long-term growth and American

competitiveness in the global economy.


Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus,

supported by technical assistance and analysis from the

Economic Policy Institute, have proposed a progressive

budget that paves the way for robust job creation as an

alternative to Ryan's austerity-focused plan.


Ryan's budget places the burden of deficit reduction on

the backs of working-class Americans while financing

tax cuts for the wealthy and favors to powerful special



The "People's Budget" would create jobs and invest in

long-term growth, investing $1.7 trillion in job

creation, infrastructure, education and scientific

research and development over a decade. The most

effective path for deficit reduction is to dramatically

reduce unemployment and get Americans working in good

jobs, earning more and paying taxes.


This budget does that. The People's Budget also

strengthens Social Security by raising the taxable

maximum to include 90% of economy-wide earnings and

eliminating employer-paid caps on their high-income



Together these policies would maintain the solvency of

Social Security, without any reduction in benefits, at

least 30 years beyond current projections. It also

secures access to affordable health care by adding a

competitive public option and negotiating drug prices

with big pharmaceutical companies resulting savings of

nearly $250 billion over a decade.


The budget would responsibly end the wars in Iraq and

Afghanistan and impose sensible budget constraints on

the Defense Department. The budget makes targeted

public investments, but cuts overall spending by $1.7

trillion over a decade.


It requires corporations to pay their fair share by

eliminating taxpayer subsidies to oil and gas companies

and closing international tax loopholes that deprive

the United States of jobs, investment and revenue. It

taxes exotic and risky Wall Street financial

instruments to curb speculation and recovers the costs

of the financial crisis.


The budget restores fairness to the tax code by asking

more from those who can afford to pay more. Instead of

cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans, the budget

raises taxes on those who have seen most of the income

gains over the last decade by adding new tax rates for

millionaires and billionaires. The budget taxes

investment income as wage income, ending an unfair tax

system that taxes income from wealth at lower rates

than the wages of teachers and nurses.


The People's Budget offers a credible way to balance

the budget within a decade without engaging in any

budgetary gimmicks.


Fiscal responsibility does not require gutting social

programs and public investments that promote economic

security and generate growth. Instead, it requires

standing up to the powerful lobbies whose special

interests are not in our national interest and

abandoning unfair tax policies that favor the wealthy

and privileged.


These policies more than achieve long-term

sustainability by slowing health care, bringing the

budget to surplus within a decade, and bringing debt

down below a sustainable 65% of the economy. A budget

is more than a mathematical exercise; it is the most

definitive embodiment of our national values.


We believe the People's Budget reflects the values of

the population at large rather than the interests of

lobbyists. The budget deficit is not an excuse to wage

ideological war against government and the social

programs that have delivered economic security, health

and progress for the better part of a century. We have

an obligation to rebuild a stronger America with

opportunity and economic security for all.


The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely

those of the writers.

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