Beware the Middle Ground of the Great Budget Debate
Robert B. Reich
We continue to hear that the Great Budget Debate has two sides. The president and the Democrats want to cut the deficit mainly by increasing taxes on the rich and reducing military spending, but not by privatizing
By this logic, the center lies just between.
According to the most recent
In other words, the center of America isn't halfway between the two sides. It's overwhelmingly on the side of the president and the Democrats.
I'd wager that if Americans also knew that the Ryan plan would channel hundreds of billions of their
If people knew that two-thirds of Ryan's budget cuts would come from programs serving lower- and moderate-income Americans while over 70 percent of the savings fund tax cuts for the rich, even more would oppose it.
And if they knew that combining the tax cuts for the rich with the budget-cuts plan would produce almost no deficit reduction at all, just about everyone would be against it. The plan is little more than a giant transfer from the less advantaged to the super advantaged.
The Ryan Republican plan shouldn't be considered one side of a great debate. It shouldn't be considered at all. Americans of all political persuasions -- including a large percentage of registered Republicans -- don't want it.
Which is why I get worried when I hear about so-called "bipartisan" groups on
Watch your wallets.
In my view, even the president doesn't go nearly far enough in the direction most Americans would approve. His plan doesn't really increase taxes on the rich. It merely ends the Bush tax windfalls for the wealthy -- which were originally designed to be ended in 2010 in any event -- and closes a few loopholes.
But if we're in a budget crisis, why shouldn't we go back to the tax rates we had 30 years ago, which required the rich to pay much higher shares of their incomes? One of the great scandals of our age is how concentrated income and wealth have become. The top 1 percent now gets twice the share of national income it took home 30 years ago.
If the super-rich paid taxes at the same rates they did three decades ago, they'd contribute
Nor does the president's proposal go nearly far enough to cut military spending, which is not only out of control but unrelated to our nation's defense needs -- fancy weapons systems designed for an age of conventional warfare; hundreds of billions of dollars for the
If Americans understood how much they're paying for defense and how little they're getting, they'd demand a defense budget at least 25 percent smaller than it is today.
Finally, the president's proposed budget -- which, again, is considered the extreme liberal end of the field -- doesn't begin to remedy the scandal of the nation's schools in poor and middle-class communities. Most teachers in these schools are paid less than
These schools can't afford textbooks or science labs, and they've abandoned after-school programs and courses like history and art. The reason: School budgets across America depend largely on local property taxes that continue to drop in lower-income communities. The federal government should come to their rescue.
To think of the "center" as roughly halfway between the president's and
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