FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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.

 

More articles by:

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.

Weekend Edition
January 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Dr. King’s Long Assassination
David Roediger
A House is Not a Hole: (Not) Caring about What Trump Says
George Burchett
How the CIA Tried to Bribe Wilfred Burchett
Mike Whitney
Trump’s Plan B for Syria: Occupation and Intimidation
Michael Hudson – Charles Goodhart
Could/Should Jubilee Debt Cancellations be Reintroduced Today?
Marshall Auerback – Franklin C. Spinney
Boss Tweet’s Generals Already Run the Show
Andrew Levine
Remember, Democrats are Awful Too
James Bovard
Why Ruby Ridge Still Matters
Wilfred Burchett
The Bug Offensive
Brian Cloughley
Now Trump Menaces Pakistan
Ron Jacobs
Whiteness and Working Folks
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Keeper of Crazy Beats: Charlie Haden and Music as a Force of Liberation
Robert Fantina
Palestine and Israeli Recognition
Jan Oberg
The New US Syria “Strategy”, a Recipe For Continued Disaster
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
The Return of the Repressed
Mel Gurtov
Dubious Partnership: The US and Saudi Arabia
Robert Fisk
The Next Kurdish War Looms on the Horizon
Lawrence Davidson
Contextualizing Sexual Harassment
Jeff Berg
Approaching Day Zero
Karl Grossman
Disaster Island
Thomas S. Harrington
What Nerve! In Catalonia They are Once Again Trying to Swear in the Coalition that Won the Most Votes
Pepe Escobar
Rome: A Eulogy
Robert Hunziker
Will Aliens Save Humanity?
Jonah Raskin
“Can’t Put the Pot Genie Back in the Bottle”: An Interview with CAL NORML’s Dale Gieringer
Stepan Hobza
Beckett, Ionesco, and Trump
Joseph Natoli
The ‘Worlding’ of the Party-less
Julia Stein
The Myths of Housing Policy
George Ochenski
Zinke’s Purge at Interior
Christopher Brauchli
How Trump Killed the Asterisk
Rosemary Mason - Colin Todhunter
Corporate Monopolies Will Accelerate the Globalisation of Bad Food, Poor Health and Environmental Catastrophe
Michael J. Sainato
U.S Prisons Are Ending In-Person Visits, Cutting Down On Reading Books
Michael Barker
Blame Game: Carillion or Capitalism?
Binoy Kampmark
The War on Plastic
Cindy Sheehan – Rick Sterling
Peace Should Be Integral to the Women’s March
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
No Foreign Bases!
Matthew Stevenson
Into Africa: Across the Boer Heartland to Pretoria
Joe Emersberger
What’s Going On in Ecuador? An Interview With Wladimir Iza
Clark T. Scott
1918, 1968, 2018: From Debs to Trump
Cesar Chelala
Women Pay a Grievous Price in Congo’s Conflict
Michael Welton
Secondly
Robert Koehler
The Wisdom of Mass Salvation
Seth Sandronsky
Misreading Edu-Reform 
Ann Garrison
Full-Spectrum Arrogance: US Bases Span the Globe
Louis Proyect
Morality Tales on the American Malaise: the Films of Rick Alverson
David Yearsley
Winston and Paddington: Marianelli’s Musical Bears
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail