Competing budgets; competing priorities
This week, the U.S. House and Senate voted upon each chamber’s respective majority budget resolution for fiscal year 2014. While the House budget passed in the House and the Senate budget is expected to pass in its own chamber in the next day or so, neither of these competing plans has much chance of being enacted or funded through the actual appropriations process. The Congressional Progressive Caucus has also released its own, “Back to Work Budget,” which is even less likely to be enacted, which picked-up only 84 votes in the House.
What’s the point of releasing and voting upon these resolutions if they won’t even be funded? These budgets are broad documents that state the long-term goals and priorities of their proponent caucuses. None of these budgets contains the level of detail that would indicate, for example, the level at which the VITA Grant would be funded for future years. However, the various spending, cutting, or revenue-raising strategies in these resolutions demonstrate very different outlooks for our country over the next decade – outlooks that still could play-out in the appropriations process to come.
Here they are in a nutshell:
House Majority Budget Resolution (a.k.a. “The Ryan Budget”)
The House budget goes to great lengths in order to not only reduce the nation’s budget deficit, but balance the budget over the next 10 years. This is done largely by cutting spending by about $5.7 trillion over that time period. Unfortunately, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, at least 66 percent of the non-defense cuts would be to programs that serve low- and moderate-income families. Across-the-board “sequestration” cuts would remain permanent under this plan. This budget would make drastic cuts to health, human services, education, and other priorities, all while lowering taxes on wealthy earners and corporations rather than seeking any new revenue.
Senate Majority Budget Resolution (a.k.a. “The Murray Budget”)
While the Senate budget does include $837 billion in cuts over the next 10 years, it reduces the nation’s deficit by $1.8 trillion in a balanced manner by also including $923 billion in new tax revenue over that time period. Most of the revenue is achieved by closing tax loopholes for the wealthy and corporations, and limiting top earners’ tax deductions. This budget also outlines some spending priorities, such as job creation, and avoids cuts to Social Security, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or Medicaid.
Congressional Progressive Caucus’s “Back to Work Budget”
The Back to Work Budget (PDF) takes a different approach: decreasing the deficit while simultaneously increasing spending in key programs that aid working families. This budget decreases the deficit by $2.7 trillion over the next decade, and makes significant investments in job creation, education, and income assistance programs (such as SNAP and refundable tax credits). This document also closes tax loopholes for corporations and the wealthy, ends the Bush-era tax cuts on high-end earners making more than $250,000 (January’s “fiscal cliff” deal ended these tax breaks only for families earning more than $450,000), and creates a “Wall Street Tax” on financial transactions, in order to achieve a total $5.7 trillion in revenue.
While reducing the deficit is an important goal to safeguard our economy from another meltdown, austere spending cuts to achieve this end would increase poverty and inequality, and would actually increase unemployment and slow the economy’s already-weak recovery. A budget should reflect careful decisions to reduce the deficit while also preserving and making crucial investments in this nation’s working families – the core of our economic strength.
By Jennifer Thall, Coordinator, Civic Engagement