The Progressive Caucus’ Stealth Budget

by DEAN BAKER

The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) released its budget last week. As usual it was almost completely ignored by the major media outlets. As a result we know very little about the ideas in the budget, but we know a lot about the media.

First, it’s worth saying a bit about the ideas. Most importantly the progressive caucus budget is designed to get us back to full employment. It calls for a major infrastructure 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, health care 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.

This spending will lead to larger deficits in the first two years of the budget window, but it also would lead to more growth and jobs. The simple fact that just about everyone in the debate concedes is that in the near-term if we want more jobs we will need larger budget deficits. And we know we have no problem borrowing the money because interest rates are extremely low.

The decision to run smaller deficits is a decision to slow growth and throw people out of work. Additional private sector is not replacing the cuts in government spending. This means the folks who boast about getting the deficit down are boasting about slowing growth and making people unemployed. That passes for good work in Washington.

Over a longer term the CPC budget actually leads to lower debt levels than the baseline budget. It includes a number of tax increases aimed at the wealthy and also focused at reducing harmful activities. In the latter category, the CPC budget calls for placing a modest sales tax on financial transactions like sales of stocks, bonds, and derivatives.

The Joint Tax Committee projected that a tax of just 0.03 percent could raise $40 billion a year. A tax on financial speculation would be invisible to almost anyone except industrial strength speculators. This is a great way to raise money while reducing a wasteful and counterproductive activity.

The other waste tax in the CPC budget is a tax on carbon emissions. The problem of global warming is not going away just because the politicians in Washington opt to ignore it. The current path threatens our children and grandchildren with a wrecked planet, but the Very Serious People in Washington would rather save them from the risk of a two percentage point hike in the Social Security tax somewhere in the next fifty years.

This gets to the second point, that the CPC budget was almost completely ignored in the media. The reporters and editors and the major news outlets undoubtedly justify ignoring the budget by the fact that it has no prayer of being passed into law. While this is true, there have been numerous budgets and budget items from the right that have no chance of being passed into law that have gotten considerable attention from the media.

Did anyone think that Congress was about to approve Representative Ryan’s proposal for replacing Medicare with a voucher system? The fact that this proposal had no prospect of being passed into law in the immediate future, did not prevent it and any number of other right-wing proposals from getting extensive and respectful coverage from the media. There can be little doubt that there is a double standard here.

And the double standard has very real consequences. By ignoring progressive proposals, the media prevents them from becoming part of the public debate. As a result it is difficult to advance ideas like a tax on financial speculation even though there is good reason to believe that the public might embrace such a proposal for some of the same reasons that so many economists have supported the idea.

The lack of attention to progressive proposals has an impact on the willingness of political figures to support them. It helps a member of Congress enormously when she has one of her proposals highlighted in major news outlets. This is the sort of thing that they trumpet to their constituents, to potential campaign contributors and to their peers in Congress. Members who can count on a receptive audience in the national media are courted by other members who are trying to push their own proposals.

The blackout on covering progressive proposals is effectively telling ambitious politicians that if they want to get ahead they better move to the right. They will be ignored as long as they push ideas perceived as being on the left, regardless of the merits of the ideas.

In short, the media are putting a very big thumb on the scale when they decide to ignore the CPC budget and other proposals coming from the left side of the political spectrum. This is not neutral reporting.

Dean Baker is a macroeconomist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. He previously worked as a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute and an assistant professor at Bucknell University. 

This article originally ran on the Guardian.

 

Dean Baker is a macroeconomist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. He previously worked as a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute and an assistant professor at Bucknell University.

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
August 31, 2015
Michael Hudson
Whitewashing the IMF’s Destructive Role in Greece
Conn Hallinan
Europe’s New Barbarians
Lawrence Ware
George Bush (Still) Doesn’t Care About Black People
Joseph Natoli
Plutocracy, Gentrification and Racial Violence
Franklin Spinney
One Presidential Debate You Won’t Hear: Why It is Time to Adopt a Sensible Grand Strategy
Dave Lindorff
What’s Wrong with Police in America
Louis Proyect
Jacobin and “The War on Syria”
Lawrence Wittner
Militarism Run Amok: How Russians and Americans are Preparing Their Children for War
Binoy Kampmark
Tales of Darkness: Europe’s Refugee Woes
Ralph Nader
Lo, the Poor Enlightened Billionaire!
Peter Koenig
Greece: a New Beginning? A New Hope?
Dean Baker
America Needs an “Idiot-Proof” Retirement System
Vijay Prashad
Why the Iran Deal is Essential
Tom Clifford
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident: a History That Continues to Resonate
Peter Belmont
The Salaita Affair: a Scandal That Never Should Have Happened
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Cycle of Crises
Andrew Levine
Viva Trump?
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Behind the Congressional Disagreements Over the Iran Nuclear Deal
Lawrence Ware – Marcus T. McCullough
I Won’t Say Amen: Three Black Christian Clichés That Must Go
Evan Jones
Zionism in Britain: a Neglected Chronicle
John Wight
Learning About the Migration Crisis From Ancient Rome
Andre Vltchek
Lebanon – What if it Fell?
Charles Pierson
How the US and the WTO Crushed India’s Subsidies for Solar Energy
Robert Fantina
Hillary Clinton, Palestine and the Long View
Ben Burgis
Gore Vidal Was Right: What Best of Enemies Leaves Out
Suzanne Gordon
How Vets May Suffer From McCain’s Latest Captivity
Robert Sandels - Nelson P. Valdés
The Cuban Adjustment Act: the Other Immigration Mess
Uri Avnery
The Molten Three: Israel’s Aborted Strike on Iran
John Stanton
Israel’s JINSA Earns Return on Investment: 190 Americans Admirals and Generals Oppose Iran Deal
Bill Yousman
The Fire This Time: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me”
Scott Parkin
Katrina Plus Ten: Climate Justice in Action
Michael Welton
The Conversable World: Finding a Compass in Post-9/11 Times
Brian Cloughley
Don’t be Black in America
Kent Paterson
In Search of the Great New Mexico Chile Pepper in a Post-NAFTA Era
Binoy Kampmark
Live Death on Air: The Killings at WDBJ
Gui Rochat
The Guise of American Democracy
Emma Scully
Vultures Over Puerto Rico: the Financial Implications of Dependency
Chuck Churchill
Is “White Skin Privilege” the Key to Understanding Racism?
Kathleen Wallace
The Id(iots) Emerge
Andrew Stewart
Zionist Hip-Hop: a Critical Look at Matisyahu
Gregg Shotwell
The Fate of the UAW: Study, Aim, Fire