Divergent Visions: GOP Budget Plans Don’t Line Up With US Priorities

New analysis examines how competing federal budget proposals rate in responding to the stated policy priorities of the American people

by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer

The competing federal budget proposals will now wind their way through a fractured Congress. (Photo: Stephen Melkisethian/flickr/cc)

The differences between the four budget proposals recently put forth by President Barack Obama, both Republican-majority houses of the U.S. Congress, and the Congressional Progressive Caucus are “stark,” according to a new analysis—while some provisions in the GOP blueprints “completely miss the mark in responding to what Americans say they want.”

The National Priorities Project (NPP), a non-profit, non-partisan research organization dedicated to making the federal budget process transparent, released Competing Visions on Friday.

The report compares how each budget proposal responds (or not) to the stated policy priorities of the American people, on key issues including jobs, education, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, food assistance, and military spending, as well as proposed strategies for tax reform and deficit reduction.

“Our analysis shows that, in most spending categories, the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the president would do the most to address the priorities voiced by the majority of Americans,” said Jasmine Tucker, research analyst for NPP and author of the report. “In some areas, the House and Senate budget proposals completely miss the mark in responding to what Americans say they want.”

For example, on the issue of taxing the wealthy, according to the NPP analysis:

  • 68 percent of Americans think wealthy households don’t pay enough in taxes.
  • The Obama budget proposal raises top capital gains tax rate to 28 percent and closes the “trust fund loophole” that allows heirs to avoid taxation, raising $208 billion over 10 years. Places limits on tax deductions for top income earners and implements the Buffett Rule ensuring a minimum tax rate for the wealthy. Places limits on tax deductions for top income earners and ends the “carried interest” loophole that benefits hedge fund managers to raise $17.6 billion over 10 years.
  • The House budget calls for comprehensive tax reform that would lower tax rates for individuals and families. Closes some special interest tax loopholes but does not specify which ones. Eliminates the Alternative Minimum Tax that sets a minimum tax for the wealthy.
  • The Senate budget contains no proposed changes to the status quo.
  • The CPC proposal raises tax rates for richest 2 percent (earning more than $250,000 per year) to Clinton-era levels, and taxes capital gains investment earnings at higher rates, yielding $1.4 trillion in additional revenue over 10 years. Places a cap on the value of itemized deductions that mostly benefit the wealthy (raising $566 billion over 10 years) and limits other tax deductions for top income earners.

Similar discrepancies exist on almost every issue.

As Tucker put it: “The differences between the four budget proposals are stark, and all signs indicate a difficult budget battle ahead as lawmakers try to resolve widely different approaches despite clear public opinion in favor of certain policies.”

While 70 percent of Americans oppose cuts to food stamps, the House and Senate budget plans would both cut the program.

While 67 percent say improving the education system in the U.S. should be a top priority for the president and Congress this year, the House and Senate allocate no new funding for education—and in fact the House proposal “freezes the maximum Pell grant award at the same level for the next 10 years, provides financial aid to fewer families, and makes substantial cuts to domestic discretionary spending, including education.”

Overall, the House Republican budget would cut $5 trillion in government spending over the next decade, mostly out of programs that low- and moderate-income Americans need and depend on—and say they support. At the same time, it adds $400 million in defense spending—not in line with public opinion polls—and promises to lower tax rates for wealthy Americans and corporations.

The Senate version follows the same basic outlines.

At a Senate Budget Committee hearing on Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also noted the divergence between GOP policies and the priorities of the general public.

“[T]he rich get much richer, and the Republicans think they need more help,” he said. “The middle class and working families of this country become poorer, and the Republicans think we need to cut programs they desperately need. Frankly, those may be the priorities of some of my Republican colleagues in this room, but I do not believe that these are the priorities of the American people.”


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Congressional Progressive Caucus Unveils The People’s Budget: A Raise for America

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3/18/15: Congressional Progressive Caucus Press Release

8.4 million good paying jobs by 2018

$1.9 trillion investment in America’s future

$820 billion infrastructure and transportation improvements

WASHINGTON – Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN), along with CPC Members Reps. Mark Pocan (D-WI), Judy Chu (D-CA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Janice Hahn (D-CA), and Barbara Lee (D-CA) unveiled the Progressive Caucus’ FY 2016 budget alternative called The People’s Budget: A Raise for America.

The executive summary for The People’s Budget is below and the full budget can be found here.

The press conference to introduce The People’s Budget was live-streamed at noon and can be seen here.

“The most important thing Congress can do as we recover from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression is pass a budget that invests in the American people,” Rep. Grijalva said. The People’s Budget create good paying jobs by addressing our nation’s biggest challenges head-on, from rebuilding crumbling roads to updating antiquated energy infrastructure. It’s a down payment on the continual effort to improve the quality of life for all Americans by raising wages, restoring and enhancing vital programs like SNAP and emergency unemployment compensation, and making bold new investments like debt-free college for all, which will increase our global competitiveness and ensure every student has a fair shot at achieving their dreams.”

“Too many working Americans open their paychecks each week and ask themselves how they will make ends meet,” Rep. Ellison said.The People’s Budget fully funds childhood health, education and affordable housing to help working families stretch their paychecks. The Progressive Caucus budget is a blueprint of proven investments to end grinding poverty, promote economic mobility and enable shared prosperity. It asks the wealthiest Americans and multi-national corporations to pay their fair share, so we can afford debt-free college, universal pre-kindergarten, paid sick leave and workforce training for all. The People’s Budget makes smart cuts to the Pentagon budget and puts the money towards working families. The People’s Budget invests in people, providing hard-working Americans with a raise they deserve.”

“First and foremost The People’s Budget reflects our progressive priorities – leveling the economic playing field by increasing wages for middle- and low-income workers,” Rep. Pocan said. “With families struggling to make ends meet, it is clear the American people want Congress to help create good-paying jobs and expand economic opportunity for all.”

“Working a full time, 40 hour schedule is supposed to lift you out of poverty, not chain you to it,” Rep. Chu said. “It’s not just unfair, it’s wrong. It flies in the face of the promise of America. And it is why this budget – The People’s Budget – is so necessary. This budget promises to not only to grow our economy but to tackle inequality.”

“During our economy’s best decades, Congress invested in the American workforce and every family was better off for it. But recent years have been dominated by growing inequality and a Republican majority in Congress obsessed with slashing the budget, making it harder for working Americans to find decent jobs and save for the future,” Rep. Jackson Lee said. “The Congressional Progressive Caucus’ People’s Budget reverses the damage budget austerity has inflicted on hard-working families and restores our economy to its full potential by creating 8.4 million good paying jobs by 2018.”

“Today Americans are working more and earning less. Republicans, however, continue putting forth a budget that gives tax breaks to the wealthy instead of helping working American families,”  Rep. Gallego said. “While the GOP budget would end Medicare guarantees and make cuts to education that would make college even less affordable, the Congressional Progressive Caucus does the opposite ensuring that we make investments in the American people – creating good paying jobs, providing universal pre-K, and restoring funding for programs like SNAP that many American families rely on. It’s time for us to pass a budget that reflects the needs of the American people and focuses on giving American families the best opportunity to move ahead.”

“The Progressive Caucus works on everyday issues of the working family, and our budget reflects this commitment,” Rep. Napolitano said. “We will continue to fight to deliver that which we all feel is a necessity for our districts, for our working class.”

“The Congressional Progressive Caucus budget expands economic opportunity for middle class and lower income families and reflects priorities different from the House Republican proposal,”Rep. Hahn said.“Our budget creates jobs and invests in essential repairs and upgrades to America’s roads, highways and bridges to keep us globally competitive in the future.  The CPC budget also includes my recommendation to fully spend the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, returning money collected at our nation’s ports so they can make necessary improvements.”

“Despite a recovering economy, too many Americans are still struggling to make ends meet,” Rep. Lee said. “This budget supports American families and focuses on much needed investments here at home,” said Congresswoman Lee. “This budget also reins in waste, fraud and abuse at the Pentagon and ends the OCO slush funds for defense contractors.”

The People’s Budget Executive Summary

The People’s Budget fixes an economy that, for too long, has failed to provide the opportunities American families need to get ahead. Despite their skills and work ethic, most American workers and families are so financially strapped from increasing income inequality that their paychecks barely cover basic necessities. They earn less and less as corporations and the wealthy continue amassing record profits. It has become clear to American workers that the system is rigged.

The People’s Budget levels the playing field and creates economic opportunity by increasing the pay of middle- and low-income Americans. More customers and higher consumer spending advance American businesses, not tax cuts and relaxed regulations. The People’s Budget drives a full economic recovery by creating high-quality jobs and reducing family expenses, restoring the buying power of working Americans.

The People’s Budget closes tax loopholes that companies use to ship jobs overseas. It creates fair tax rates for millionaires and provides needed relief to low- and middle-income families. It invests in debt-free college, workforce training and small businesses within our communities, helping return our economy to full employment and giving a raise to Americans who need it most. Investments in The People’s Budget boost employment and wages by addressing some of the biggest challenges of our time: repairing America’s rapidly aging roads and bridges, upgrading our energy systems to address climate change, keeping our communities safe, and preparing our young people to thrive as citizens and workers.

A fair wage is more than the size of a paycheck. It’s having enough hours, paid overtime, sick and parental leave, and affordable health and childcare. It’s being able to afford a good education for your kids and never living in fear that your job will be sent overseas. It’s knowing you can make ends meet at the end of the month. The People’s Budget helps achieve that with a raise for American workers, a raise for struggling families and a boost to America’s long-term global competitiveness.

The People’s Budget: A Raise For America
The People’s Budget: A Raise For America (03/18/15 11:06 AM PST)
EPI Analysis of The People’s Budget (03/18/15 11:00 AM PST)
The People’s Budget: A Raise For America Summary (03/18/15 09:21 AM PST)

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