Thursday, March 28, 2013

Left Side of the Aisle #101 - Part 2

Congressional Progressive Caucus budget

For at least the third year in a row, the Congressional Progressive Caucus produced a proposed federal budget. For the third year in a row, it was one that reduced the deficit as much as or even more than either the GOPper one or the official Dem one and did so without going after Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, or any other domestic program; indeed it improved them.

And for the third time in a row, despite or in fact because of its merits, it went down to crushing defeat, this time by a vote of 84-327. Every GOPper and a majority of Dems voted against it.

So what was in this budget that didn't even deserve to get a majority of the Democrats in the House? Well, it was called the "Back to Work" budget and it focused on economic growth. It proposed $2.1 trillion stimulus and investment package over the next three years, with $700 million in stimulus coming in the first year. The package included $425 billion for infrastructure construction and repair, $340 billion in middle-class tax cuts, a $450 billion public-works program, and $179 billion in state and local aid to relieve the pressure on local budgets.

What would it accomplish? According to analysis, it would create nearly 7 million additional jobs and expand the economy by nearly 6%. It would expand programs on education, clean energy, and jobs, it would improve health care programs, all while protecting not only the Big Three - Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid - but also other programs for the poor and the environment.

How would it pay for this? Largely by raising taxes on the rich (to levels still below that of the Reagan years) and cutting unnecessary military spending. In other words, it would stimulate the economy and cut the deficit by $4.4 trillion by implementing a series of measures on both spending and taxes whose support among the American public ranges from mere majorities to overwhelming.

So of course it was dead on arrival.

Why? Well, why wouldn't it be? The fact that it works, the numbers work, and it's based on policies that the public supports don't count for anything when all the "serious" people, all the pundits and politicos, insist that you just have to go after the dreaded "entitlements" monster.

Don't confuse them with facts and certainly don't expect anything to penetrate their insular alternative to reality. Anything that doesn't attack Social Security and the rest, anything that doesn't involve embracing right-wing talking points about how all our economic problems are the fault of poverty pimps and greedy geezers, anything that dares to suggest that maybe the rich should be paying taxes at the same rate they paid 30 years ago (which is a lower rate than they paid 40 years ago), anything that fails to express the required level of panic about "the deficit crisis," is in their minds by definition "unserious," not worthy of consideration.

"Well," all the media mainstays snipe, "of course it wasn't serious: Everyone knew it wasn't going to pass."

Yes, that's true. It's equally true that everyone knew that Paul Rantin's budget had zero chance, but that didn't stop you first from breathlessly reporting its imminent arrival, then drooling over it with loving strokes and lengthy coverage once it came out. The blunt fact is, there were two main differences between those two budgets: One was a real budget that would have worked and would have improved the lives of millions; the other was a minimally-altered rehash of discredited nonsense that would not have worked and would have improved the lives only of the privileged rich. The other difference was that precisely for that reason, the first budget stood outside what the pundits and politicos have decided is the acceptable range of debate and the latter is inside that same range - again, precisely for that reason: The second budget favors the rich over the poor and the needless over the needy and undercuts the Big Three. That is why the second budget got all that coverage and the first one didn't: It fit the acceptable, the "serious" mold, and reality be damned.

Don't believe me about the coverage? Go to Google news or any other decent news aggregator and do a search. You'll find that links to the Congressional Progressive Caucus budget are, almost without exception, to sources like "The Nation," "In These Times," ThinkProgress, Huffington Post, and similar more or less admittedly liberal outfits. Do the same for Paul Rantin's so-called budget and it's full of links to the New York Times, the Washington Post, the LA Times, the major networks, and so on.

The difference between these budgets and their respective coverage comes down to the difference between the rich and the poor, between the powerful and the powerless.

It's not so much that we have government of, by, and for the rich as it is a case of that the rich get to set the rules: They get to define the terms used in the debate, to define the limits of debate, terms and limits which are then faithfully accepted by their media lackeys and political puppets so that the alternatives of which the public is aware are limited to those acceptable to the rich, the powerful, the elite. They don't need to have a plutocracy. They know that this way, they may lose a few skirmishes, but the trend is all in their favor, as our history of the past 40 or 50 years clearly demonstrates. They don't need to rule openly, in fact they prefer not to. They prefer to sit back, to be the man behind the curtain who we are never supposed to see.

An unhappy footnote to this: Rep. Raul Grijalva, author of the Progressive Caucus budget, called the vote "a good showing," adding "every time we present it, we gain another ten votes." Terrific. At that rate, it will take 14 years to get a majority.


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