Former Obama economic adviser turned economic pundit Jared Bernstein didn't waste his time attacking the Republican budget passed by the House of Representatives on Thursday. All its economic flaws and moral cruelty are well documented, he noted.
Instead, like others, Bernstein used his column space to plug the one budget currently in Congress that actually contours with the stated desires—found in poll after poll—of the American people: 'The Better Off Budget' introduced by the Congressional Progressive Caucus last month.
Bernstein admits that part of his strategy for showcasing the CPC budget is to make sure ("after all the ink spilled over" the GOP budget authored by Tea Party darling Rep. Paul Ryan) that the progressive version receives some much-needed media daylight. More importantly, however, he says it's important lay out the progressive vision "in order to see that it's really quite simple" to "generate jobs and improve our productive infrastructure" while also balancing the long-term deficit and reducing debt. He writes:
To hear the rhetoric these days, you'd think faster job creation was impossible -- we're stuck with structural unemployment, depressed labor force participation, and weak wage growth. You'd think growth deficits and debt were inevitable unless we're willing to sacrifice our social insurance programs and our safety net. You'd think investment in opportunity and mobility targeted at the least advantaged among us had to be sacrificed in order to achieve fiscal balance. You'd think we have to disinvest in our children today in order to save them from inheriting "mountains of debt" tomorrow.
But that's just not true, as Bernstein notes, citing analysis by the Economic Policy Institute which shows how targeted investments now create long-term budget gains.
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In contrast, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (where Bernstein is now a senior fellow), 69 percent of the $5.1 trillion GOP cuts would fall on programs for the poor and struggling, imposing cuts on school lunch and child nutrition programs while giving the wealthy even larger tax reductions.
"Take a look for yourself at these materials," urges Bernstein. "They are neither shocking nor revolutionary. They're merely an option -- a smart and progressive one -- to achieve a set of venerable goals. The fact that they're so far out of the current mainstream to even warrant a decent hearing is far more a troubling sign of the times than a critique of the CPC's efforts."
As Terrance Heath, a fellow at the Campaign for America's Future, points out: the Ryan budget passed on Thursday shows the American people exactly what the Republicans would do if put in total control of Washington.
On the other hand, the CPC budget shows at least an established vision for what's possible if progressives could overcome the political and media roadblocks that have gone up to make sure workable alternatives stay in the dark.