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The Economist: The Courageous Progressive Caucus Budget

(Source: The Economist)

The courageous Progressive Caucus budget

MATT MILLER had a modest meltdown in the Washington Post on Wednesday over the fact that Republicans are refusing to raise the national debt ceiling even though their own budget raises the national debt by $6 trillion over the next decade, and no one in the national press corps seems to be pointing out the contradiction. (Mr Miller says he considered making a column out of repeating the sentence "The House Republican budget adds $6 trillion to the debt in the next decade yet the GOP is balking at raising the debt limit.") Bob Somerby (h/t Kevin Drum) says the explanation for the press's failure to call Republicans on this is right there in Mr Miller's own column:

He says there’s a “meme,” a hunk of “conventional wisdom,” driving the press corps’ conduct. Miller doesn’t explain just what this “meme” is, nor does he explain how it got “established” as conventional wisdom. But presumably, he is referring to the Standard Press Novel in which Republican budget cutters like Ryan are inevitably said to be “courageous,” “bold” and “honest”.

Is this right? Well, here's a test case. Mr Miller's column notes that "the  Congressional Progressive Caucus plan wins the fiscal responsibility derby thus far; it reaches balance by 2021 largely through assorted tax hikes and defense cuts." Which is pretty interesting. Have you ever heard of the Congressional Progressive Caucus budget plan? Neither had I. The caucus's co-chairs, Raul Grijalva of Arizona and Keith Ellison of Minnesota, released it on April 6th. The budget savings come from defence cuts, including immediately withdrawing from Afghanistan and Iraq, which saves $1.6 trillion over the CBO baseline from 2012-2021. The tax hikes include restoring the estate tax, ending the Bush tax cuts, and adding new tax brackets for the extremely rich, running from 45% on income over a million a year to 49% on income over a billion a year.

Mr Ryan's plan adds (by its own claims) $6 trillion to the national debt over the next decade, but promises to balance the budget by sometime in the 2030s by cutting programmes for the poor and the elderly. The Progressive Caucus's plan would (by its own claims) balance the budget by 2021 by cutting defence spending and raising taxes, mainly on rich people. Mr Ryan has been fulsomely praised for his courage. The Progressive Caucus has not.

I'm not really sure what "courage" is supposed to mean here, but this seems precisely backwards. For 30 years, certainly since Walter Mondale got creamed by Ronald Reagan, the most dangerous thing a politician can do has been to call for tax hikes. Politicians who call for higher taxes are punished, which is why they don't do it. I'm curious to see what adjectives people would apply to the Progressive Congressional Caucus's budget proposal. But it's hard for me to imagine the media calling a proposal to raise taxes "courageous" and "honest". And my sense is that the disparate treatment here is a structural bias rooted in class.