The middle class is shrinking. Those in power have run up enormous debts on public credit while shoveling most of the money into private pockets. The corporations that have benefitted from this borrowing binge, meanwhile, leverage the global trade system to transfer their profits beyond the reach of national governments.

Meanwhile, we have been told lies by Democrats and by Republicans, divided into artificial camps and led into debates that are either irrelevant or so dramatically scripted that we fail to realize every choice leads to the same result: the dismantling of the social framework that defined and sustained the opportunity of the last century. National mobilization of resources has given way to radical individualism under a narrative that, in the wealthiest nation in the world, we must always expect less.

In this tumultuous time, we search for a way forward - a new Square Deal for the American people.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Missed Budget Opportunity

A recent poll shows that while Americans do like President Obama's proposed "Millionairres' Tax," they overwhelmingly prefer the prospect of balancing the Federal budget on the basis of spending cuts rather than tax increases. 

No one should be surprised.  For thirty years now, Americans have been bombarded almost non-stop with statements, assertions, claims, advertisements, slogans, and speeches informing them that government is wasteful, lazy, and stiffling to innovation and the economy.  Government, we are told, cannot solve problems because it is the problem.

Why would people want to pay more to fund something that isn't worth its cost now?  Most people wouldn't, and so it is no surprise to find that most people don't.  That's why the President's recently delivered budget proposal represents a missed opportunity.

By Constitutional mandate, the President must propose a budget to Congress on an annual basis.  History shows that these budgets are virtually never adopted as-is, and in rare cases does a proposed budget even manage to serve as a starting point when the Presidency and Congress are held by different parties.  This year is no different, with Republicans in the House branding the budget "dead on arrival." 

Everyone knew they would.  The American people understand perfectly well that this is an election year.  Their 9% approval rating for Congress as a whole illustrates that the budget didn't matter.

Instead of offering an accounting for his readily dismissed priorities, Barack Obama might have taken the bold step of showing us what the opposition says it really wants.  Mitt Romney, for instance, has claimed that he will balance the budget while expanding our military and without adding a penny in new revenue. 

That's mathematically possible; it just means that 42% of all revenue will go to security spending, with zero Federal money for education and Medicare transformed into a lump-sum payment of $3200 per senior per year with which he or she can try to buy private insurance.

So why didn't the President just put that on the table -- show the American people what the Republicans are really promising, and then let us have our say in November on whether that's the vision of the future we really want?

Nothing will happen until November anyway, Mr. President.  The budget was always going to be dead on arrival.  You missed a good chance to unmask the alternative for what it is.

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