Published in The Washington Post
By Katrina vanden Heuvel
At this point, there is no question that President Trump’s populist campaign image was a sham. Six months after the election, however, Democrats and progressives continue to squabble over why they lost, what they stand for and how to move forward. There is unity in resistance to Trump, but it’s important that Democrats lay out a bold agenda to counter Trump’s reactionary Republican agenda and stand with the millions of Americans who are getting shafted.
In that spirit, the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) — led by co-chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) — last week released its annual budget alternative, “The People’s Budget: A Roadmap for the Resistance.” The release was well-timed. With Democrats struggling to find their way out of the wilderness, the CPC budget provides a coherent vision and a comprehensive plan to achieve it. In contrast with Trump’s “skinny budget” and one-page tax blueprint, it is an impressively detailed document, prepared in conjunction with the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). It offers common-sense proposals that most Americans want to see enacted. Simply put, it represents a serious commitment to making the economy work again for everyone.
The heart of the People’s Budget is a significant investment in America’s economic future. While Trump’s budget proposal slashes non-defense federal spending, the CPC aims to boost job creation and push the economy toward full employment (4 percent) through nearly $1 trillion in public investments between now and the end of 2018. In total, the budget proposes investing $2 trillion over two decades to rebuild America’s crumbling infrastructure and bring our outdated energy, water and transportation systems into the 21st century. EPI estimates the plan would increase gross domestic product by 2 percent and create 2.4 million jobs.
The People’s Budget also lays out major steps to make health care, education and child care affordable. At a time when Republicans are attempting to ram through an unpopular bill that would take away millions of people’s insurance and eliminate vital protections for those with preexisting conditions, all to fund a huge tax cut for the rich, the CPC alternative targets excessive health-care costs by introducing a public option and allowing Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices with pharmaceutical companies — something Trump has repeatedly promised but has failed to act on. It guarantees universal access to prekindergarten and debt-free college tuition. And it invests nearly $1 trillion over a decade to provide affordable child care. Moreover, the People’s Budget protects funding for essential programs that millions of Americans rely on, including many Trump voters, providing a stark contrast to the deep and potentially devastating cuts that Trump has put forward.
These are just a few of the ways that the People’s Budget would strengthen the middle class and promote economic security for all. And while opponents of these ideas have long argued that they are too expensive, the People’s Budget would in fact reduce projected deficits and debt levels. In addition to slowing the growth of America’s bloated defense budget, it increases tax rates for the very wealthy; implements new taxes on financial transactions and carbon emissions; ends subsidies to big oil companies; and closes a variety of loopholes that benefit only corporations and the rich. These policies would raise the revenue needed to pay for the budget’s proposed investments, while also reducing economic inequality.
Last month, a Post-ABC News poll found that two-thirds of Americans believe the Democratic Party is “out of touch with the concerns of most people” in the country. Tellingly, that number included nearly half of self-identified Democrats. Around the same time, a separate poll identified Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who co-founded the CPC 25 years ago and served as its first chairman, as the most popular politician in America. The fact that Sanders has long championed many of the ideas in the CPC budget is not just a coincidence.
For years, the mainstream media and establishment Democrats have failed to give the People’s Budget the serious attention it deserves. With Ellison now serving as deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, perhaps that will finally change. Indeed, the CPC budget is more than a “roadmap for the resistance.” It is also the path to power for Democrats and to prosperity for all.