Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Government Budget for Working Folks

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) released a budget plan Tuesday to great fanfare and media attention, though it has zero chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate and being signed into law by President Barack Obama.

Much less attention is being given to a proposal put forward Wednesday by Democrats -- the budget from the House's Congressional Progressive Caucus.

That budget, titled "Back to Work," offers a list of progressive priorities -- a public option for health care, negotiation of Medicare drug prices, a carbon tax, defense cuts, a financial transactions tax, much higher marginal tax rates for millionaires and billionaires, capital gains taxed as ordinary income, and public works projects, among dozens of other ideas.

Yet some of the proposals from the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which is co-chaired by Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), might garner bipartisan support. Exxon Mobil's CEO, Rex Tillerson, has praised the idea of a carbon tax over a cap-and-trade system. Capital gains rates -- now at 20 percent and 25 percent (for income over $450,000) -- were at maximum levels of almost 40 percent as late as the 1970s. The Earned Income Tax Credit, whose temporary expansion under the 2009 stimulus package the budget would extend, was proposed by the late conservative economist Milton Friedman.

The progressives' budget states that there will be no cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. Ryan's budget, on the other hand, would turn Medicaid into a block grant program, effectively cutting it, and transform Medicare into a quasi-voucher program. His latest plan would not privatize Social Security, a proposal that was in his 2010 budget.

The progressives' budget would also reinstate the Making Work Pay tax credit that expired at the end of 2012. Walmart and the parent company of Olive Garden and Red Lobster, among others, have complained that its expiration has led to less money in their customers' pockets and thus less business for them.

Some of these budget measures, like the tax credits and aid to states, were passed by Congress as part of the stimulus package, but have since expired. Others, like an estate tax rate between 55 and 65 percent with a $2.5 million exemption ($5 million for married couples), are still less burdensome than they have been.

And though the plan would not establish a single-payer health care system, a recent academic paper found that politicians underestimate support for universal health care by about 10 percentage points.

Unfortunately, just like with Paul Ryan's budget proposal, the budget from the House's Congressional Progressive Caucus has just as much, or very little, chance of becoming law either because...

(* Edited from a post by Luke Johnson at the Huffington Post)

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