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My Two Cents: We Don’t Need a Grand Bargain, But the People’s Budget


After being off the blog for a few weeks, I had planned to write a different diary tonight. However, tonight I was reading a diary posted a few days ago by Lowell about a progressive “Grand Bargain.” I rarely disagree with our “blogfather.” But this time I wanted to offer another view. Here goes:

First, there is no need for a Grand Bargain at this time. The deficit is shrinking.  If we focus on jobs and rebuild that sector, the deficit will shrink even further and we can fairly easily make progress paying down the debt. Indeed not only is there no need for a Grand Bargain now, but also it is contraindicated as a means to stimulate growth.

Additionally, I believe that Progressives should  not use the language of hucksters Peter Peterson, Alan Simpson, and Erskine Bowles. Those and other  deficit hawks don’t really care about the deficit or the debt at all. Their intent is to eliminate earned benefits, all of them. And it is our job not to let them get away with it.  

But let’s say that at some point there were a need to make cuts. Let’s say we don’t get the job growth we need. And let’s say we have tried for two more years or so to do just that, and have given it a real try this time, not just an anemic fraction of a real “stimulus.”

The solution is to use the Progressive Caucus’s budget, aka The People’s Budget. Here’s is the plan. Indeed it does so fairly and reasonably we could put it in place without harming most Americans as any of the Grand Bargain proposals would.

Don’t like the Progressive Caucus plan?  Here are just a few ways we can make headway. BTW, these ideas are sure to tick a lot of people off.  

1) Take away Paul Ryan’s pay, pension, an health care. He took Social security benefits but now wants to strip Social security and Medicare from others. He just doesn’t quit.

2) Cut every weapons program the Pentagon doesn’t want but Congress critters do.

3) End cost-plus government contracts.

4) End contractor cost overruns.

5) Cut out overlapping weapons programs. Every needless system requires an infrastructure to support them.

6) Make contractors show they have brought salaries more into line, especially salaries of top executives. Taxpayers should not be paying for multi-million dollar executive salaries. Most Americans have had their real income go down. They should not have to pay through the nose for the things government buys in their name.

7) Merge the separate forces–Army, Marines, Navy and Air force. Yeh, I know. That won’t go down easily. But eliminating huge redundancies will go a long way to cutting the cost of “defense.”

8) Rename Homeland Security Dept of Defense and rename the Dept of Defense, the Dept of War.  That should show where priorities should be.  Protect our shores, airspace and borders and drastically reduce our overseas efforts. Make Europe take more responsibility for NATO.  

9) House the Coast Guard and ICE with Homeland Security.

10) Close every single ICE detention facility which are and will be used for no good.

11) Stop the federal detention of those convicted of using (not manufacturing or selling) drugs and get them into treatment. Close down prisons which are no longer needed.

12) End prison privatization. It costs more and will lead to increasing arrests of the innocent for profit.

13) Close half of our overseas bases. By their encroaching into other counties’ lands, they create ill will for America.

14) Really get out of Iraq. The fighting force has left.  Now close all bases and remove any residual force. Ditto Afghanistan. Typically, we never completely leave a country we have been at war with.

15) Do a line-by-line review of Homeland Security and identify which programs are actually necessary. Eliminate the others, especially more devices to spy on everything and everybody. Make HS a streamlined agency which can actually respond effectively to disasters and security threats.  

16) Shut down massive NSA spying on Americans. It costs real money to senselessly pore through every word uttered or written by law-abiding Americans.

17) Cut Pentagon discretionary spending by 30%. That should have been done before we were to go to war against Iraq and Afghanistan. President Clinton did it before Bosnia and Kosovo.

18) Eliminate most of the five hundred million dollars per year spent on military bands.

19) Make the uber rich pay their fair share.  They aren’t even close to doing that.  Every SUV they write off, every airplane, every five star meal, is an outrage.  The GOP is cutting food stamps while letting the rich write off trinkets, luxury items and expensive meals.

20) No more gentleman farms and hobby wineries.

21) No more wars in the Middle East or Asia.  Seriously. Limit our involvement in Africa.  

22) Continue perusing green technologies and weaning ourselves from our dependence on both fossil fuels and nuclear energy. Don’t build any more nuclear plants. They are a swindle which couldn’t make a profit, or even break even, without massive taxpayer subsidies. We cannot afford to produce any more nuclear waste which will cost many billions to safely dispose of.

23) Increase fraud prevention and correction in Medicare and Medicaid. A recent example is the investigation of motorized scooters for the disabled.  Some people need them. Others do not and would benefit by walking. Worse, some of these companies are very high pressure and push doctors and patients to get unneeded chairs or scooters at a huge cost.

24) Negotiate the cost of drugs under Medicare Part A, Medicare Part D, striking down any clause that prevents negotiation.

25) Bring racketeering charges against health care providers charging patients many times what they should be charging for medications, tests, and equipment. See Time Magazine for a lengthy description of how bad the situation is.

26) Bring forward a single payer medical system.

27) Take the profit out of non-profit hospitals.  End the empire building by writing laws preventing de-facto profit and huge CEO and executive salaries.

28) Eliminate tax breaks for off-shoring jobs.

29) Bring Back off-shored money illegally held in foreign banks to evade taxes. Put those evading taxes by off-shoring their money in jail.

30) Stop the US from acting as the world’s police force.

31) Conduct more research to bring more diseases under control and therefore bring health care costs down.  

32) These will sound controversial. But they really are not. Educate Americans about the extreme cost of things like yearly mammograms, colonoscopies, etc. The tests are important, but have been overused. Make sure they know the health and economic consequences of too many CT scans, which impart far more radiation than other tests. Educate them about managing their health in a responsible manner and being a good steward of their health care dollar. Educate Americans about how some tests are so error ridden as to be questionable as a part of their annual check up (occult blood smear, PSA).  I am not arguing that they should be eliminated altogether.

33) Churches involved in politics loose their tax exempt status (for real). (Localities need their property taxes too.)

34) Take away Congressman Louie Gohmert’s salary for making up stupid ideas for just about everything else he does.

35) Stop the endless tax cutting madness of GOP and Conservadems.

36) Charge more for leasing government lands.

37) Fine gas and oil companies the full cost of cleanup and revoke their license to do business when they ruin the environment.

38) Institute an Alternative Minimum Tax for corporations. There probably shouldn’t be an AMT for those making under $250,000. But everyone making more than that should be should be subject to it so that they cannot get away with paying no taxes.

There are many more ideas.  What are yours?


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