By Karen Dolan
I don't know about you, but I sure would like to be "better off." Ten and a half million U.S. workers are unemployed and many of those have been searching for work for at least six months. More and more unemployed workers are becoming long-term unemployed. Almost 50 million of us are living in poverty and half of us are at or below the low-income threshold. Draconian cuts to our safety net in the ideological drive to impose austerity have made us worse off.
Well, lucky for us, the Congressional Progressive Caucus has released its Better Off Budget, a blueprint for just exactly how we can turn the tide toward shared prosperity.
The Better Off Budget would create nearly 9 million jobs over the next three years and achieve $4 trillion in deficit reduction over a decade. It reverses the disastrous string of cuts from the Budget Control Act and the "sequester" which have hurt low and middle income families. And it raises and invests resources in common sense ways that benefit all of us.
Some will criticize this anti-austerity budget as pure fancy, theater, the dream of an unrealistic populist impulse. But look closely and you'll see that the numbers add up -- that it not only expresses the values of a decent society, but it tells what we need to do to get there. In short, it gives us a blueprint to narrow the growing income inequality gap and to be better off as a nation.
Here are some highlights:
• 8.8 million good jobs created; access to training and employment services provided for the long-term unemployed
• Good jobs created building and fixing roads, bridges, schools, other infrastructure needs
• Aid provided to states to allow them to hire and rehire public employees and first responders
• Direct hire program for public works and education
• Implements a new Hard Work Tax Credit for households earning less than $150,000
• Protects and strengthen Medicare and Medicaid without reducing benefits for seniors
• Allows states to transition to single-payer health care systems
This budget is an expression of our national values. It reverses the harmful austerity cuts imposed on working families in the past few years. It creates programs to achieve equity for women and people of color in the workplace and in our communities. It protects the environment for our kids and health care for our aging parents. It provides a path to citizenship to our hard-working immigrant families.
How does it do this? Common sense revenue raisers such as: eliminating off-shore tax havens; implementing GOP Chairman Dave Camp's financial institution excise tax; closing tax loopholes and ending subsidies to corporations that pollute; putting a price on carbon pollution; enacting a tiny tax on some financial transacations; creating a new tax bracket for the wealthy Americans who make over $1 million a year; modernizing our defense posture.
The big secret is that America is not broke. We have skewed priorities dictated by an obstructionist Congress. We have endured the failed policies that have gutted our safety net, our families, our communities, putting the future of our children and our planet in peril and making all but one percent of us worse off. Isn't it time we change course so that we can all be better off?