WASHINGTON — This budget’s highlights sound like something everyone could get behind: 8.8 million new jobs by 2017, $4 trillion in deficit reduction over ten years, the end of the universally-maligned sequestration cuts.
But, as usual, the details are going to mess things up for the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Rep. Keith Ellison and a handful of other caucus members introduced their annual budget and/or wish list on Wednesday, promising to boost spending for government jobs programs, restore cuts to public welfare programs, pay for it with higher taxes and institute a whole host of stalled Democrat-favored policy proposals along the way — if only they could get the votes to do so.
“We believe that a budget should reflect the values of our nation, and what we value is putting people to work,” Ellison said.
The “Better Off Budget” would repeal sequestration and restore funding for an expired unemployment insurance program, undo cuts to the food stamps program passed in the Farm Bill, provide $820 billion in spending on infrastructure projects, and create a tax credit for individuals making less than $95,000. It would enact a host of policies long supported by liberals, but which are non-starters with Republicans: immigration reform, public financing of campaigns and a public health care option. It would zero-out funding for the war in Afghanistan after 2015 and reduce defense spending overall, as well as audit the Pentagon.
Relative to current law, the budget would increase spending by about $2.5 trillion over ten years, but still manage to reduce the projected deficit by more than $4 trillion. It does so through a host of new tax revenue — closed loopholes for oil and gas companies, higher tax rates on people making more than $250,000 a year, a new tax rate for millionaires and billionaires, a financial transactions tax, a carbon tax and others. Taken together, the CPC says the budget would produce 8.8 million new jobs before 2017.
“The Better Off Budget puts people to work, takes away harmful cuts, reduced the deficits and most importantly priorities jobs,” Ellison said.
But it’s not going anywhere.
Members of the Progressive Caucus know their budget stands no chance of passage — it’s their fourth version, and the past two years they’ve secured only about 80 votes each, with most Democrats even voting against it. But they pitch it as an alternative to the GOP budget (which, while not yet introduced, caucus members described as “damaging and very heartless,” an “austerity” budget, or a “science fiction” budget on Wednesday morning), and even the president’s.
Obama introduced his budget last week, pushing a plan that would spend $3.9 trillion next year while raising $1 trillion in taxes over ten years, reducing the deficit by $2.2 trillion. Ellison said the plan is “a good budget,” but the caucus does a couple of fundamental things differently: it eliminates the sequestration cuts, includes more stimulus spending and, thanks to its higher revenue target, would reduce the deficit by a greater amount.
“We believe that the president’s priority is jobs. Ours is very certainly jobs,” he said. “We think that both of these budgets are far and advanced better than anything that [Budget Committee Chairman Paul] Ryan is proposing. This takes us in the direction of growth and shared growth, and not just austerity and uneven distribution.”
Either budget is dead in the U.S. House, which presumably will vote on a handful of budget plans but pass only Ryan’s. Members’ budget votes will live on as election year fodder, but beyond that, the budget process is mostly moot this session. A December budget deal sets tax and spending targets through 2015, and Senate leaders have already said they won’t hold a new round of budget votes this year.
Devin Henry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @dhenry