I’ve been writing quite a bit about the budgets from the House and Senate Budget Committees this week, and it’s all rather discouraging—especially since proposals that would have devastating consequences for low-income women and families are couched in misleading language about “expand[ing] opportunity” and “building an economy that works for all Americans.” So today I’m happy to write about the budget plan introduced by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, called “The People’s Budget.” Its sponsors say the plan “drives a full economic recovery by creating high-quality jobs and reducing family expenses,” and “creates fair tax rates for millionaires and provides needed relief to low- and middle-income families.” And guess what? It actually does!
The measures in The People’s Budget are designed to “fix an economy that, for too long, has failed to provide the opportunities American families need to get ahead.” Those measures include major investments to spur job growth, improve job quality, expand access to high-quality child care and educational opportunities, and strengthen the safety net—as well as proposals to end unfair tax breaks for the very wealthy and corporations and raise the revenue we need to finance critical investments. While many of its proposals are similar to the FY 2016 budget proposed by President Obama, the People’s Budget is even more progressive in some areas. Specifically, it would:
- Invest in job creation. The People’s Budget aims to restore full employment by making major new investments in infrastructure, funding public works jobs programs (with particular emphasis on aiding distressed communities), and boosting aid to states to help them hire police, firefighters, health care workers, teachers, and other essential employees. It also restores federal unemployment insurance benefits for the millions of workers who remain jobless after more than six months of searching for work. The Economic Policy Institute’s Policy Center estimates that the budget’s near-term economic stimulus measures would create 4.7 million jobs in calendar year 2015 and an additional 3.8 million jobs over the following two years [PDF, p. 3].
- Improve wages and working conditions. The People’s Budget calls on Congress to raise the minimum wage and pass the Healthy Families Act, which would provide workers with up to seven days of paid sick leave annually. It also funds state-level paid leave initiatives and endorses executive action that would give preference for federal contracts to companies that provide living wages, paid leave, and health care, and respect their employees’ right to collectively bargain.
- Expand access to high-quality child care and learning opportunities from preschool through college. The People’s Budget adopts President Obama’s initiative to expand child care assistance to low-income families with children under age three. It also includes measures to provide universal access to pre-kindergarten programs, increase funding for elementary and secondary education, and make college more affordable.
- End senseless sequestration cuts and strengthen programs that women and their families depend on. The People’s Budget repeals the automatic sequestration cuts and spending caps that have severely constrained funding for the programs Congress funds each year, including Head Start, child care, K-12 education, job training, and domestic violence prevention. The budget substantially increases funding for these non-defense discretionary programs, boosts funding for key entitlements like SNAP (food stamps) and child nutrition programs, and expands access to affordable housing.
- Protect and expand access to affordable health care. The People’s Budget protects the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicaid, Medicare, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). It also authorizes the Department of Health and Human Services to offer a public insurance option within health insurance Exchanges and allows states to establish single-payer health care systems.
- Amend the tax code to produce more revenue and improve tax fairness. The People’s Budget provides more help for working families through the tax code, including President Obama’s proposals to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for childless workers and make permanent improvements to the EITC and Child Tax Credit. At the same time, it curbs wasteful tax breaks and ensures that the very wealthy and corporations pay their fair share by, for example, taxing income from investment the same as income from work; closing tax loopholes that encourage corporations to move jobs and profits overseas; and creating new tax brackets for millionaires and billionaires. These policies would help raise the revenue needed to support crucial investments in our nation’s future.
The People’s Budget also calls for comprehensive immigration reform and improved Social Security benefits.
The House is expected to vote on the Price budget and The People’s Budget this week. The choice couldn’t be more clear.