Jeffrey Sachs: The People’s Budget
I hope the President, today, starts over on the left with his budget proposal…and end up somewhere around Bowles-Simpson… As opposed to starting with Bowles-Simpson and ending up somewhere on the far right’s territory. Once again we have come down to the issue of negotiating for the President. Ask for it all and then give a little. First confront…then compromise…
There are now four budget positions on the table. Far to the right is Paul Ryan’s plan, an artless war on the poor that would take a meat-cleaver to Medicaid (health care for the poor), food stamps, support for child care, the environment, and the rest of government other than the military, Social Security, and Medicare (that is, until 2022, when the slashing would begin on Medicare coverage as well). Ryan would keep taxes below 20 percent of GDP (specifically, 19.9 percent of GDP in 2021), at the cost of destroying entitlements programs and other civilian spending.
Then there is President Obama’s budget, which is really a muddled proposal in the center-right of the political spectrum. It would keep most of the Reagan-era and Bush-era tax cuts in place. Like the Ryan proposal, Obama’s tax proposals would keep total taxes at around 20 percent of GDP. The result is a major long-term squeeze on vital programs such as community development, infrastructure, and job training. Also, Obama’s plan never closes the budget deficit, which remains as high as 3.1% of GDP in 2021.
In the progressive middle is the People’s Budget. Like Ryan’s plan, the People’s Budget would cut the budget deficit to zero by 2021, but would do so in an efficient and fair way. It would close the budget deficit by raising tax rates on the rich and giant corporations, while also curbing military spending and wrestling health care costs under control, partly by introducing a public option. By raising tax revenues to 22.3 percent of GDP by 2021, the People’s Budget closes the budget deficit while protecting the poor and promoting needed investments in education, health care, roads, power, energy, and the environment in order to raise America’s long-term competitiveness. The People’s Budget thereby achieves what Ryan and Obama do not: the combination of fairness, efficiency, and budget balance.
The fourth position is the public’s position. The Republicans often say that they want Congress to respect the voice of the people. The voice of the people is crystal clear. In one opinion survey after the next, the public says that the rich and the corporations should pay more taxes. The public says that we should tamp down runaway health care costs through a public option, one that would introduce competition to drive down bloated private health insurance costs. The public says that we should get out of Iraq and Afghanistan and reduce Pentagon spending. (Just yesterday, Defense Secretary Gates let loose the predictable Pentagon canard that we should stay in Iraq if the Iraqi government asks for it. Better yet, we should respond to what the American people are asking for: to bring our troops home).
The fact is that the People’s Budget is the public’s position. That’s why it is truly a centrist initiative, at the broad center of the U.S. political spectrum. Ryan reflects the wishes of the rich and the far right. Obama’s position reflects the muddle of a White House that wavers between its true values and the demands of the wealthy campaign contributors and lobbyists that Obama courts for his re-election. Many Democrats in Congress have also gone along with the falsehood that deficit cutting means slashing spending on the poor and on civilian discretionary programs, rather than raising taxes on the rich, cutting military spending, and taking on the over-priced private health insurance industry. Only the People’s Budget speaks to the broad needs and values of the American people. – Jeffrey Sachs
- Jeffrey Sachs: The People’s Budget (huffingtonpost.com)
- The People’s Budget (themoderatevoice.com)
- Here’s a Real Democratic Budget that Serves the Interests of the American People (alternet.org)
- The only real Democratic budget (thehill.com)