Progressives’ ‘People's Budget’ Becomes ‘Roadmap for the Resistance’

Yearly budget calls for big jobs and infrastructure spending, tax hikes for the rich

From left, Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Mich., Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., unveil the Progressive Caucus' "budget deal principles" outside the Capitol in 2015. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

With the subtitle “A Roadmap for the Resistance,” the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ “People's Budget,” isn't shy about its purpose in the Trump Era.

As Rep. Barbara Lee summarized it: “In stark contrast to President Trump’s cruel poverty budget, our progressive proposal is a plan for resistance and a roadmap to a safer, healthier and more prosperous America for all.”

While Democrats and Republicans fighting to claim victory in the deal on the fiscal 2017 spending plan, progressive Democrats are dreaming bigger.

The People's Budget is a yearly wish list of the Congressional Progressive Caucus meant to show what their priorities would be if the left wing of the Democratic Party was in power. Since that is far from the case, the proposals in the budget are unlikely to become policy in the near future.

But the budget nonetheless provides one of the clearest pictures available of progressives’ preferred policies. Unsurprisingly, they differ quite a bit from the deal reached between congressional Democrats and Republicans.

The People’s Budget includes spending on job creation to reach full employment as a primary aim, which hasn't changed from previous CPC budgets. It includes $2 trillion in spending on infrastructure and other direct job creation over the next several years, with $281 billion in the rest of calendar year 2017 and about $710 billion over 2017-2018. An analysis by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), which releases an analysis of the CPC budget each year, found it would increase Gross Domestic Product “by 2 percent and employment by 2.4 million jobs in the near term.” 

CPC co-chair Rep. Keith Ellison said in a statement that the budget would also implement debt-free college, fund universal child care, ensure equal pay for equal work, expand Social Security, and fight climate change.

“As the Trump Administration attempts to gut the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institutes of Health, the Labor Department, and countless other essential services, the Progressive Caucus is providing an alternative vision — one that will help working families,” he said.

The People's Budget also contains provisions for increasing government revenue, largely through measures that are aimed at reducing income inequality, like raising marginal tax rates on millionaires and billionaires, raising tax rates on capital gains and large estate inheritances, closing corporate tax loopholes, and creating a financial transaction tax. 

Spending cuts would come in the form of replacing sequestration cuts to the Defense Department with similarly sized, but longer-term, cuts that would slow the growth of defense spending.

Even considering that the People's Budget would increase the deficit in the short term, EPI’s analysis estimates that its measures to increase employment would put the government on track to a stable debt-to-GDP ratio in a matter of years.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.