Published in The Capital Times

By John Nichols


The resistance to Donald Trump's presidency is working.

The Trump administration is backpedaling, backing off and backing down on a daily basis: compromising on spending, flailing on health care, altering policies and positions so frequently that the president literally told "Face the Nation" host John Dickerson: "I don't stand by anything."

As Trump stumbles from misadventure to misadventure, however, the demand for some sort of clarity grows louder. Because Trump does not know what he is doing, and because Republicans in Congress have allowed their divisions to render them incoherent, there is a huge opening for the opposition. But that opposition must present an agenda that Americans can align with as the alternative to Trump and Trumpism.

“It’s one thing to oppose President Trump and expose his broken promises to workers, but it’s also important to lay out a positive path forward,” explained Mark Pocan, first vice chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Pocan, D-town of Vermont, and his CPC colleagues have outlined that path forward with a Fiscal Year 2018 "People's Budget" that really is, as its title suggests, "A Roadmap for the Resistance." This is not the first budget plan that the more than 70 members of the CPC have produced over the years. But this is the one that matters most, as its comprehensive approach stands in such stark contrast not just to the current administration's scrambled approach to governance but to the uncertain approach of Democratic strategists in Washington.

There are no pulled punches in the CPC plan. It boldly embraces the faith that budgets are moral statements that must be specific in their intentions and in their blueprints for achieving their goals. “A budget is, above all, an ethical document. The Trump budget would rip gaping holes in the fabric of social life in America while driving the militarism of the Bannon wing of the Trump White House,” explained Congressman Jamie Raskin, a CPC vice chair and veteran legislator from Maryland. “The Progressive Caucus budget is the answer to the moral chaos of the administration. It reflects a serious commitment to the needs and priorities of the American people.”

In addition to addressing the moral chaos of the Trump moment, the CPC budget points a way out of the fiscal chaos created by House Speaker Paul Ryan and other GOP fabulists. The Economic Policy Institute analysis of the CPC proposal hails it for effectively outlining a plan for "near-term job creation, financing public investments, strengthening low- and middle-income families’ economic security, raising adequate revenue to meet budgetary needs while restoring fairness to the tax code, strengthening social insurance programs, and ensuring long-run fiscal sustainability."

Written with the purpose of putting political and economic power "back in the hands of the people," the CPC budget highlights proposals to:

* Invest $2 trillion to transition to a 21st century infrastructure to transform our energy, water and transportation systems.

* Expand the commitment to efficient renewable energy, green jobs and reliable, high-speed internet.

* Maintain critical coverage gains under the Affordable Care Act, lower prescription drug costs, and allow states to transition to single-payer health care systems.

* Close corporate tax loopholes that cost billions of dollars, tax Wall Street to fund Main Street, and raise revenue from the wealthy.

* Support public financing of elections, voter protection, legal assistance, community policing and initiatives to reduce gun violence.

* Protect American election systems from interference and increase protections for voting rights by strengthening key election reforms.

* Invest $1 trillion in effective early learning opportunities and for a child care for all program.

* Make debt-free college a reality for all students.

* Increase the minimum wage, promote pay equity, reduce poverty, and increase spending to assist women, communities of color and their families.

* Establish comprehensive immigration reform, provide a pathway to citizenship, defend sanctuary cities, prohibit funding for construction of any border wall, and protect refugees from religious discrimination.

* Fully fund programs to make housing affordable and accessible for all Americans and invest in ending homelessness.

* Close tax loopholes and end subsidies provided to oil, gas and coal companies, while investing in clean, renewable, and efficient energy and green manufacturing.

* Serve veterans by eliminating veterans’ homelessness and investing in job training, health care, and mental health services for vets.

* Control defense spending and increase spending for diplomacy and strategic humanitarian aid.

Endorsed by dozens of unions and civil rights, environmental and peace groups, the People's Budget is, as CPC Co-chair Keith Ellison suggests, "an alternative vision." It goes in a distinctly different direction that is practically, morally and politically necessary.

“For years, Republicans in Congress have given massive handouts to Wall Street executives and defense contractors, while working families struggle to pay the bills," explained Congresswoman Barbara Lee, D-Calif. "The People’s Budget takes back the power from special interests and invests in good-paying jobs, long-overdue infrastructure improvements, education from pre-K to debt-free college, and pathways out of poverty. In stark contrast to President Trump’s cruel poverty budget, our progressive proposal is a plan for resistance and a roadmap to a safer, healthier and more prosperous America for all.”