Amid Calls for Austerity, a Progressive and Pro-Growth Budget Vision

It's already March, but it felt a bit like Groundhog Day this week as U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveiled — for the third straight year — a conservative House budget proposal steeped in austerity, divorced from reality, and as unpopular as ever. Notwithstanding an Election Day that saw majorities vote against both Congressman Ryan’s policy priorities and Congressman Ryan as a Vice Presidential candidate, the newest incarnation of the Ryan budget still includes massive cuts to key domestic priorities, assumes the repeal of parts of Obamacare, turns Medicare into a voucher system, cuts Medicaid by over $750 billion, and hands out even more huge tax breaks for the wealthiest few — all while claiming to balance the budget in ten years. It’s a document that has rightly been described as “a tale of fantastical illusion,” but also one that reflects the destructive conventional wisdom that continues to see austerity and short-term deficit reduction as priorities for the nation ahead of getting Americans back to work.

To significantly less fanfare, another budget proposal was released this week that actually does redirect the debate away from austerity and toward job creation. The Congressional Progressive Caucus’ “Back to Work Budget”  proposal starts by repealing the cuts in both the sequester and the Budget Control Act that are already set to curb economic growth significantly this year. It continues by investing in real job creation — including direct aid that aims to close state budget gaps caused by the Great Recession for two years, allowing states to directly rehire some of the hundreds of thousands of cops, teachers, and public sector workers who have lost their jobs lost over the last decade. It also extends emergency unemployment compensation for the jobless in high unemployment states, invests in infrastructure, returns Pentagon spending to 2006 levels, and aims to reduce the deficit by $4.4 trillion by closing tax loopholes and instituting a financial transaction tax.

In all, the CPC budget includes a range of proposals that are predicted to create 7 million jobs in the first year alone if enacted. While the CPC points out in their summary of the budget that “this is what the country voted for in November,” a point even Congressman Ryan appears hard pressed to argue, the proposal clearly faces a hard road in a conservative House of Representatives still opposed to the most minor of compromises. But at the very least, as part of a national discussion that views far-right fantasy budgets along the line of Ryan’s as “serious” proposals, the “Back to Work Budget” is an important contribution to debates happening both in D.C. and in state capitals across the nation going forward. And as Paul Krugman points out in a column today, it also has the benefit of being grounded in actual economics and real numbers:

I’ve seen some people describe the caucus proposal as a “Ryan plan of the left,” but that’s unfair. There are no Ryan-style magic asterisks, trillion-dollar savings that are assumed to come from unspecified sources; this is an honest proposal. And “Back to Work” rests on solid macroeconomic analysis, not the fantasy “expansionary austerity” economics — the claim that slashing spending in a depressed economy somehow promotes job growth rather than deepening the depression — that Mr. Ryan continues to espouse despite the doctrine’s total failure in Europe.

You can view the full CPC budget here, including an Executive Summary (pdf) and accompanying analysis from the Economic Policy Institute (pdf).

The National Priorities Project also has a very useful comparison of the major budget proposals floating around right now — including the Ryan budget, the CPC budget, and the Senate proposal by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) — and how they all compare to popular opinion.


CPC Back to Work Budget