By Katrina vanden Heuvel
With too much fanfare, the contours of a “grand bargain” on the budget have emerged with a proposal offered by the Senate’s Gang of Six. It’s a deal that looks a helluva lot more like a Raw Deal than a New Deal or a Fair Deal.
It’s good to get a grip and some perspective at times like these. That’s why I appreciated Congressman Raúl Grijalva, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), reminding us that a “Gang of Seventy” Democrats in the House has already vowed to oppose any deal which cuts benefits in Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.
“Our Gang of Seventy-plus has the Gang of Six completely outnumbered,” says Grijalva. “And with Republicans not voting for any package, period, because of their opposition to a functional economy, House Democrats hold the key to whatever plan can pass Congress.”
Grijalva and his allies point to the CPC People’s Budget as an alternative more in sync with what people want and the economy needs—a budget that calls for shared sacrifice. For example, 66 percent of Americans favor raising income tax rates on those making more than $250,000 and 67 percent support raising the wage cap for Social Security taxes. Both of these measures are included in the CPC budget. It’s a budget that also offers sensible cuts to military spending run amok, new tax brackets for millionaires and billionaires, and an investment of $1.45 trillion in job creation, education, clean energy, broadband infrastructure, housing, and R&D. And it does all of this while achieving a lower debt-to-GDP ration in 2020 than the widely praised—praised by the elite, that is— budget proposal from Republican Congressman Paul Ryan.
In contrast, the Gang of Six proposal shafts those who have already borne so much of the burden of the financial crisis and its fallout—lost pensions, lost homes, lost wealth—while the very people who brought the economy to its knees through their recklessness make out like banksters and bandits. In fact, at a time of inequality akin to that of the Gilded Age, the top marginal tax rate would be lowered—lowered!—to 23 to 29 percent, while there would be massive cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), notes that JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein would save approximately $2 million to $3 million on their tax bills. But in twenty years, a 90-year-old living on a Social Security income of $15,000 would lose more than $1,200 a year in benefits.
How’s that a “bargain” for this nation and who exactly finds it “grand”?
All along, the alternatives that reflect the popular idea of shared sacrifice have been marginalized—by the political establishment (and, tragically, the Democratic leadership) and the corporate media. That’s one reason we are where we are in terms of the shape of this budget deal, where a ludicrous moral equivalence is being drawn between an increase in capital gains or carried interest tax and cuts in the very programs that have brought security and dignity to millions of Americans when they need it the most.
This is not about left and right. This is about right and wrong. And that’s something the political and media establishment just don’t seem to get.