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An Alternative to Austerity

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After accepting a mini-bargain that includes tax hikes for Americans making more than $400,000 a year, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell announced: "The tax issue is finished, over, completed."By shutting down debate on revenues while holding the li

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JL A (281)
Tuesday January 15, 2013, 9:08 am

The Nation
Published on The Nation (

An Alternative to Austerity
The Editors | January 9, 2013

Reuters/Mark Blinch

After accepting a mini-bargain that includes tax hikes for Americans making more than $400,000 a year, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell announced: “The tax issue is finished, over, completed.” By shutting down debate on revenues while holding the line on the debt ceiling, McConnell and the GOP hope to turn their defeat in the fiscal cliff fight into a victory for austerity in the debt ceiling and sequester battles ahead. If they prevail, Social Security and Medicare benefits could end up back on the chopping block, and other cuts to government programs could trigger a “lost decade” of American economic decline.

It is impossible to negotiate with this position; it would be terrific if President Obama took Nancy Pelosi’s advice and simply raised the debt ceiling by invoking the Fourteenth Amendment’s charge to maintain the “validity of the public debt of the United States.” But Obama doesn’t want to go there, and so it falls to progressives to develop smart, aggressive alternatives to the GOP agenda. With House Republicans in disarray, there’s an opening for progressives to lay out a set of principles along the lines proposed by Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Keith Ellison: (1) reject the fiscal hostage-taking that would demand deep cuts to entitlement programs or discretionary spending in return for raising the debt ceiling; (2) protect Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security; (3) focus on Pentagon cuts and new revenues, to address deficit concerns while preserving enough flexibility to make investments in America’s top priority—new jobs.

These principles must be underpinned with specifics about where to find new revenues. It’s not hard. Former Senate Budget Committee chair Kent Conrad says the government loses $1.2 trillion annually because of tax breaks—some of them valid but many others gross giveaways to the wealthy and corporations. Pelosi has expressed interest in closing these loopholes. But that alone won’t be enough to protect working Americans from austerity. As Senator Bernie Sanders has argued, it’s time to start taxing capital gains—income “earned” from wealth—at the same rate as income earned from work. Alaska Senator Mark Begich has a savvy proposal for raising the Social Security payroll tax cap in order to ensure that millionaires and billionaires pay their share. And Ellison, working with National Nurses United and other unions, is proposing a “Robin Hood tax” on financial speculation that could yield hundreds of billions in coming years.

These proposals won’t pass, however, unless GOP obstructionism in Congress is addressed. Democrats can strengthen their hand with filibuster reform, as proposed by Senators Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Tom Udall of New Mexico. But the real fight—the only fight that’s likely to tip the balance in the Republican-controlled House—will be fought outside Washington. Unions and activist groups have to seek out those House Republicans who voted to raise taxes on the rich and convince them that their political future lies in cooperating with the president. This should be part of a broad campaign to redefine the debate so that absurd fights over raising the debt ceiling are replaced with a clear vision for preserving essential programs, making smart cuts at the Pentagon rather than dumb cuts to Social Security, and implementing fair taxation. This is the agenda Americans endorsed on November 6. We hope President Obama will advance it aggressively. But we know the president will be more inclined to boldness if progressives outline a muscular program and fight for it.

Hear Nation writers George Zornick and Bryce Covert, Jamelle Bouie of The American Prospect and Pat Garofalo of in a a Nation Conversation on “Winners and Losers in Washington's Debt Deal [1].”
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Tim C (2420)
Tuesday January 15, 2013, 9:41 am

JL A (281)
Tuesday January 15, 2013, 9:48 am
You are welcome Tim

Past Member (0)
Tuesday January 15, 2013, 11:13 am
The best alternative to austerity is the Green New Deal. We need to demand that our politicians embrace this plan and implement it as quickly as possible.

David C (133)
Tuesday January 15, 2013, 11:31 am
agree with Brian!

JL A (281)
Tuesday January 15, 2013, 11:48 am
Brian (or Dave): Could you provide a link or URL to where people can read the contents of the Green New Deal?

. (0)
Tuesday January 15, 2013, 5:06 pm
It would be great if Obama adopted the four point plan that I and many others advocate. Those four things would certainly bring about change in two years. Of course King Barky might just get a permanent, horizontal position in the new international play, JFK for doing so.

JL A (281)
Tuesday January 15, 2013, 5:30 pm
Thanks for weighing in Michael--but I hope this country is spared the trauma of another assassination. You cannot currently send a star to Michael because you have done so within the last week.

JL A (281)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 6:53 am
You cannot currently send a star to John because you have done so within the last week.

Wednesday January 16, 2013, 6:58 am
Why do we insist on allowing the Federal reserve to create money out of thin air and then loan the money back to our government at usury interest rates. I don't know the exact figure but a large proportion of the budget go to paying just interest on the debt.

The corporate media is very quite on this issue because debt is mostly owed by the American consumers in the form of credit card debt, student loan debt, mortgage debt, and everything else put on the backs of Americans because the same %1 refuse to pay their equal share of taxes.

The politicians in both parties are running games that revolve around the middle class and poor paying for this debt through cuts to programs like socian security, medicare, and medicaid when these programs didn't cause the debt. The Tax cuts, military, the drug plan signed in the dead of night during the Bush Administration are the principal causes of this debt.

Obama and the Democrats are going along by entertaining garbage like the grand bargain and fiscal cliff to justify austerity. Then the democratic politicians will get their payoff from Wall street like Clinton got his $100 million when he left office.

Gloria picchetti (304)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 7:57 am
Yes, Brian! Green New Deal is what we need! Sorry you got all my green stars allowed.

Winn Adams (179)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 12:21 pm

JL A (281)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 12:42 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Gloria because you have done so within the last week.
You are welcome Winn

Past Member (0)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 2:58 pm
Here's an alternative that will also protect against future austerity threats;
1. $1. surcharge on both ends of Every stock trade, (NYSE alone makes over 200 million trades a day).
2. End All subsidies and tax breaks to every corporation doing over $5 million business a year.
3. Each state should have a N. Dakota-style public state bank.
4. Get rid of the Federal Reserve and print our own currency at 0% interest. (40 cents of every dollar spent pays interest charges).
5. Stop funding agencies and any entity that does not provide an accurate account of where Every tax dollar is spent.

JL A (281)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 3:12 pm
Excellent ideas Robert! I'm told that the Pentagon could easily absorb a 25% cut, which may well fit under your #5! You cannot currently send a star to Robert because you have done so within the last week.

Lois Jordan (63)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 5:01 pm
Well, I sent a green star to Robert....excellent suggestions. And, I'm all for Brian M.'s idea of a Green New Deal. Sounds like funding green energy and dumping dirty well as funding jobs in these areas. The over-bloated Pentagon welfare should be the first to go, and let's stop that horrible drone program. This is no time to worry about another fiscal cliff; the GOP told us how they felt about the US debt when they left 2 wars off the books and allowed tax cuts for the wealthiest.

JL A (281)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 5:08 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Lois because you have done so within the last week.

Roseann d (178)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 7:40 pm
It didn't work in Europe and it won't work here. Why are we dooming ourselves to do stupid stuff repeatedly? Oh, right so the 1% can take everything.

JL A (281)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 7:47 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Roseann because you have done so within the last week.

Norm C (74)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 8:42 pm
"Leading to a lost decade?" We are already five years into it. The only question remains whether it will be one or two or three decades of stagnation, decline and depression.

Thanks for nothing, GOP and their past and present bed fellows masquerading as Dems like Schumer, Baucus, Conrad, Lincoln, Feinstein, Pryor, Landrieu, Manchin, Shuler, Cuellar, Barrow, Scott, Peterson, etc.

We need to get out of this political duopoly of Dumber and Dumbest. We need enough people in office who have not drunk the Chicago School or Austrian School kool-aid.

JL A (281)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 9:06 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Norm because you have done so within the last week.
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