Budget Jujitsu

medicare blowbackI commend to you the “People’s Budget,” a detailed plan for doing exactly this – while reducing the long-term budget deficit more than either the Republican’s or the President’s plan does. When I read through the People’s Budget my first thought was how modest and reasonable it is. It was produced by the House Progressive Caucus but could easily have been generated by Washington centrists – 40 years ago.

But of course the coming battle isn’t really over whether to cut the long-term deficit by trillions of dollars. It’s over whether to shrink the government we depend on and to use the savings to give corporations and the super-rich even more tax benefits they don’t need or deserve.

The main reason the “center” has moved so far to the right – and continues to move rightward – is radical conservatives have repeatedly grabbed the agenda and threatened havoc if they don’t get their way. They’re doing it again.

Will the President and congressional Democrats cave in to their extortion? When even Nancy Pelosi says “everything is on the table” you’ve got to worry.

We can fortify the President and congressional Democrats and prevent them from moving further right by doing exactly what the Tea Partiers are doing — but in reverse.

Call it budget Jujitsu.

The message from the “People’s Party” should be unconditional: No cuts in Medicare and Medicaid or Social Security. More spending on education and infrastructure. Pay for it and reduce the long-term budget deficit by cutting military spending and raising taxes on the rich. The People’s Budget is the template.

But what if the President and Dems show signs of caving? This is the heart of the progressive dilemma. Are we prepared to say no to raising the debt ceiling our demands aren’t met?

Robert Reich

That way, the responsibility for rounding up the necessary Republican votes shifts to Wall Street and big business — arguably more eager to raise the debt ceiling and avoid turmoil in credit markets than anyone else. They’re also better able to push the GOP — whom they fund.

Which leads to a more basic question: Are we ready and willing to mount primary challenges to incumbent Democrats who cave?

Robert Reich

Published by the LA Progressive on May 17, 2011
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About Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written eleven books, including The Work of Nations, which has been translated into 22 languages; the best-sellers The Future of Success and Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, Supercapitalism. His articles have appeared in the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. Mr. Reich is co-founding editor of The American Prospect magazine.

Reich has been a member of the faculties of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and of Brandeis University. He received his B.A. from Dartmouth College, his M.A. from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and his J.D. from Yale Law School.