On March 17, the new House Budget Committee Chair, Tom Price (R-Ga.), announced a budget proposal that offered deep cuts in many areas, although, as usual, the sponsors managed to cover over with rhetoric and vague symbols the true meaning of the document. For instance, according to the NY Times, House Republicans called it “streamlining, empowering states or achieving sustainability. They couched deep spending reductions in any number of gauzy euphemisms.”
The Times article went on to add: “What they would not do on Tuesday was call their budget plan, which slashes spending by $5.5 trillion over 10 years, a ‘cut.’ The 10-year blueprint for taxes and spending they formally unveiled (claimed to)…balance the federal budget, even promising a surplus by 2024, but only with the sort of sleights of hand that Republicans have so often derided. The budget — the first since Republicans regained control of Congress this year —largely reflects the four previous versions written by Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin when he was chairman of the Budget Committee. But this plan may fare better than Mr. Ryan’s since Senate Republicans will be under pressure to reach an accord.”
In my last Blog of March 22nd, I mentioned the summary that Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont had used to describe the Republican Budget. His Democratic colleague in the House, Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, echoed Sanders words when he said, “The Republican budget means Americans will work harder and earn less. It will be harder to buy a home, harder to send your children to college and harder to save for a secure retirement. It will do nothing to grow wages or help people get ahead, but it will do one thing for the people in the middle class: it will give you a $2,000 tax increase so that the wealthiest in this country can get a tax break.”
Let’s take a brief look at what the Republican Budget would do if passed by both the House and the Senate Republican majority:
This presents a sharp contrast with the plan proposed by President Obama in early February. Obama’s budget, in brief, would do the following:
A budget you will not hear much about - the Progressive Caucus People’s Budget – went down to defeat on the House floor last week, but not before it picked up 96 Democratic votes, a majority of Democrats. The budget got 330 nays, including 86 from Democrats.
“The People’s Budget did get fewer votes than Democratic alternatives proposed by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and the Congressional Black Caucus, but it got a larger share of Democratic votes than it did in previous years. Republicans, not surprisingly, were unanimous in opposition.
“Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, pointed out that the Progressive Caucus budget specifically promises to produce 8.4 million new jobs through a specific set of policies. The Republican budget, he noted, makes no similar job-creation commitment.
“Republicans are clearly angry we are ending this special treatment of Wall Street buddies, meanwhile they have no problem ending tax credits for low and middle-income families,” said Progressive Caucus co-chair Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), while including “a promise to spend hundreds of billions on high income and corporate tax cuts.” Republicans “say they are seeking to balance the budget. They are balancing this budget on the backs of the middle class while cutting taxes for the wealthy and well-connected, and getting to balance through irresponsible budget gimmicks,” Grijalva said.
“House Republicans took the progressives budget to task because, unlike the House Republican budget, it does not slash domestic spending in a quest to “balance” the budget in 10 years. They pointed out under the budget government spending would take a larger share of the economy, and so would the taxes to fund it. But The People’s Budget boosts economic opportunity for more Americans and gives hardworking Americans a raise.” (Ourfuture.org – Isaiah Poole - March 25, 2015)
§ Creates more than 8 million good jobs by 2018.
§ Increases functionality of Worker Protection Agencies.
§ Includes a four percent raise for federal workers.
§ Provides Paid Leave Initiative and Child Care.
§ Supports a minimum wage increase and Collective Bargaining.
§ Increases discretionary funding to invest in working families.
§ Reverses harmful cuts and enhances social safety net.
§ Invests in veterans, women, communities of color and their families.
§ 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 CORPORATE TAXES
§ Eliminates the ability of U.S. corporations to defer taxes on offshore profits.
§ Ends corporate inversions that allow U.S. companies to merge offshore to avoid taxes.
§ Enacts a Financial Transaction Tax on various financial market transactions.
§ Ends unlimited executive pay tax write-offs.
§ Allows refinancing of student loans.
§ Invests in K-12 and provides free pre-school.
AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE
§ Repeals excise tax on high-priced workers plans and replaces with public option.
§ Implements drug price negotiation for Medicare.
§ Reauthorizes Children’s Health Insurance Program.
§ Allows states to transition to single-payer health care systems.
§ Enacts a price on carbon pollution without hurting low-income families.
§ Invests in clean and renewable energy and green manufacturing.
§ Ends emergency funding for Overseas Contingency Operations.
§ Increases funding for diplomacy and invests in job transition programs.
Although Congressional budgets are largely advisory documents, "they represent the broadest statement of governing philosophy each year” the NY Times has said. And, every time the radical Republican majority produces a budget, their lack of a moral philosophy or a code of caring about the welfare of millions of ordinary citizens is obvious. Unfortunately, too many of those citizens have not yet realized that a philosophy of discrimination, of tax-based support of small and powerful elites, the privatization of government services-for-profit (like education), and the uber-militarization of our nation are not in their best interests. The cloaking of ultra-conservative Christian beliefs (as in Indiana) in legislating against certain practices (use of contraceptives, abortion; same-sex marriage); the belief that people who struggle with the exigencies of life are fully to blame for their circumstances, or the obvious belief that some people are just not worthy of protection, special treatment, or unique program help – all of these are beliefs and principles that are harmful to citizens and to our democracy. Republican budgets are basically manifestos – declarations of motives and intentions of what this Party is about to do to 99% of us while exempting themselves and their sponsors from any responsibility for their lack of morality, caring or empathy for most of our citizenry.