By Isaiah J. Poole, cross-posted from Campaign for America's Future
arguing over how to continue a payroll tax cut
that will not dramatically improve the economy over the next year,
members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus planned to introduce
legislation today that its leaders assert would create more than 4
million jobs and reduce the deficit by more than $2 trillion over the
next 10 years.
Just as the Progressive Caucus People's Budget
was the only serious proposal offered in Congress to meaningfully
address both the short-term need for economic stimulus and the long-term
need for deficit reduction, "The Restore the American Dream for the
99% Act" is the most serious effort to bring together the tools needed
to address today's economic crisis. It is a direct answer to the
economic anger at the heart of the Occupy movement.
It is also destined in today's political environment to the same fate as the People's Budget—in
other words, utter defeat, assuming it even manages to come to a vote
in the Republican-controlled House. The legislation's value is as a
statement of the kind of budget policy discussion America needs—and it
is a sharp contrast from the latest poison pill offered by congressional
Republicans, which seeks to force on the American public the
potentially environmentally catastrophic Keystone XL pipeline in
exchange for another year of a payroll tax cut that has helped add up to
about $1,000 year to workers' take-home pay.
Progressive Caucus co-chairmen Reps. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and Raul
Grijalva, D-Ariz., are scheduled to present the legislation at a news
conference today inside the Capitol.
The legislation would authorize the creation of several "corps" that
will quickly offer jobs to unemployed people doing such essential work
as repairing school buildings, maintaining public parks, completing
neighborhood energy efficiency and conservation projects, and providing
health care and other public services in underserved areas. One of the
corps would be devoted to rehiring teachers and first responders laid
off by cash-strapped state and local governments.
Under the legislation would also mandate that 75 percent of the goods
and services the federal government buys be made in America, toughen
initiatives designed to help small businesses get federal contracts, and
allocate $50 billion for highway, public transportation, and electrical
grid improvement projects. To counter China's currency manipulation,
which artificially drives down the cost of Chinese imports, the
legislation would set a countervailing tariff. It would also include
language protecting the long-term unemployed and wounded veterans from
Included in the bill are provisions that would raise $800 billion
through a surcharge on millionaires, end tax subsidies for fossil fuel
companies, and impose a small excise tax on the sale of stocks and
bonds. It would extract budget savings through such steps as ending the
war in Afghanistan as well as cutting close to $200 billion from the
defense budget through such measures as eliminating unneeded weapons
systems and cutting in half the military forces now based in Europe.
Also, the legislation tackles some of the unfinished business of
health care reform: it creates a pubic health insurance option that
would be available through health care exchanges, which is expected to
drive down federal health care spending by almost $90 billion. Allowing
Medicare to bargain with pharmaceutical companies to get bulk discounts,
a move that Republicans and some drug-company-funded Democrats have
blocked in the past, would help save more than $150 billion.
To preserve Social Security benefits and the financial integrity of
the Social Security trust fund, the legislation would raise the cap on
earnings taxed by Social Security above its current $106,800.
This legislation helps set up the debate we should be having about
the direction of the country in the coming months. The Republicans, of
course, would like the country focused on its dissatisfaction with an
unemployment rate well above 8 percent as President Obama enters the
fourth year of his presidency. They do not want the country to count the
number of proposals they rejected that would have lifted the economy,
and the fortunes of working-class and middle-class households, had it
not been for their unrelenting obstruction. They certainly don't want
people to count the job-killing toll of the Republican proposals, which
can be seen in states controlled by Republican governors and
The Progressive Caucus legislation offers a different choice. We can
put people to work today building the foundation of the economy of the
future, or allow the stubborn subservience of congressional
conservatives to millionaires and big corporations to cause more
economic pain, widen the gulf between the very wealthy and struggling
workers, and fuel more Occupy movements.