Predecessors of the Better Off Budget won praise from well-respected and mainstream economists, including Paul Krugman and Dean Baker. And while you might expect such approval from progressive intellectuals, the proposal has fans elsewhere on the ideological spectrum. The Economist has called it "courageous" and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget commended it as well.
Most importantly, the progressive caucus budget is designed to get us back to full employment. It calls for a major program to modernize and improve our infrastructure. It would also provide funding to state and local governments to reverse many of the cutbacks in education, healthcare and other areas over the last few years. In past recoveries, state and local hiring has helped to boost the recovery. In this recovery, cutbacks slowed growth.
Proposals in the Better Off Budget, such as investments in infrastructure and clean energy; the reversal of sequestration and other spending cuts; and funding for the long-term unemployed, rehiring of state employees, and public works and job training programs. These provisions would bring our economy towards full employment, a concept that's gotten short shrift despite convincing arguments from economic experts that it's an essential goal for healing the economy.
Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, appreciates that the proposal draws the connection between public spending and job creation. "The basic outlines make very good sense," Baker says. "We still are way below full-employment by any reasonable measure. The best way to boost the economy is with more spending–we could wait for the private sector until our face turns blue, it's not gonna happen."
The Caucus calls it the "Better Off Budget," and it puts its money where its mouth is. Thank goodness they've issued it, because it puts in perspective how much is actually within our nation's reach. It is aimed right where it should be: at creating jobs. The budget acknowledges that our jobs crisis is far from over (I'd call it the jobs emergency budget, of course). And it rightly says we can solve our problems.
The idea that the government shouldn't invest for job creation and economic growth has been a roadblock in the way of infrastructure construction, expanded preschool programs, and the rehiring of laid-off schoolteachers, police officers and firefighters. It's why Washington's best ideas for cutting the budget include taking food off the tables of the needy, leaving the unemployed to fend for themselves, and nickel-and-diming the disabled. Today the Congressional Progressive Caucus unveiled its better idea, a budget resolution that restores the sequester cuts and calls for $820 billion in infrastructure spending through 2024.
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.
One piece of tangible evidence that there is a robust alternative left vision for America can be found in the annual budget plans of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. With 71 members, the CPC is the largest caucus within the Democratic Caucus, and so you can't dismiss it as a tiny fringe. You also can't accuse it of "surrender," as its latest budget proposal makes clear. Here are the key big ideas that the budget proposes.
Americans say they want political leaders who will stand up to the special interests and have the courage of their convictions. Here is a common sense document that demonstrates that independence and that courage. It will come to a vote in the House. We will see how many are prepared to stand up.