Monday, May 08, 2017

The People's Budget - Parts One And Two

Donald Trump has released a broad outline of the budget he would like to see for 2018. It's a horrifying document that would drastically slash all domestic programs, while spending billions more for corporations in the military-industrial complex and an unnecessary border wall. The congressional Republicans have proposed budget ideas that are nearly as bad.

To counter these terrible budget proposals, the Congressional Progressive Caucus has issued a proposal of their own. They call it The People's Budget: A Roadmap For The Resistance -- and it makes a lot of sense. It is a fairly lengthy document in 11 parts. I will bring you each part over the next few days. Here are the first two parts of that budget plan:


During the early 20th century, our government made significant investments in infrastructure which spurred America’s economic growth and provided an important service to the American people. These investments in building our roads, bridges, and public works made concrete improvements to the everyday lives of Americans in addition to creating good quality jobs for workers at home. Yet, our failure to sustain these investments has led to an infrastructure system in great need of maintenance and improvement. In its latest report card assessing the conditions of roads, airports, and other infrastructure elements, the American Society of Civil Engineers assigned the United States a D+ grade.

To combat the deterioration of our nation’s aging infrastructure, The People’s Budget provides $2 trillion to transform our fossil-fuel energy system, overburdened mass transit, deteriorating schools, lead-contaminated water systems, and crumbling roads and bridges. Through local hiring and livable wages, our infrastructure plan creates millions of dignified jobs for women and men of all backgrounds in both urban and rural America. This reinvestment in our country will also improve the daily lives of working Americans and protect the health of future generations and the environment. 

Transitioning to 21st Century Infrastructure The People’s Budget provides $2 trillion in funding to effectively close the infrastructures gap. In a global economy, the United States cannot compete with outdated and overburdened infrastructure, and no community should have to endure the effects of corroded water pipes or crumbling bridges. The People’s Budget adopts a $10.25 per barrel fee on oil paid by oil companies, phased in over five years, to support the transition to a 21st century transportation network.

Commitment to Clean Drinking Water Pipes Our budget makes a significant down payment of $350 billion to replace aging drinking water pipes in ourmost vulnerable communities across the country. Water infrastructure improvements are largely funded via user fees, the burden of which falls disproportionately on working class families. The CPC Budget prioritizes investments in communities most in need, and ensures that all communities can begin making a feasible plan to update their water and wastewater systems.

Smart Grid The CPC Budget invests $500 billion to update our energy grid to better support renewable power resources and increase energy efficiency. This will help ensure a faster and smoother transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050 and create millions of green, sustainable jobs. 

Supporting Public Transportation and Commuter Benefits The People’s Budget provides robust investments in our public transportation network, including passenger rail, buses, biking and walking paths. Only 25 percent of transit rail station infrastructure in our country is rated “good” or “excellent,” and rail service disruptions cost $500 million a year.

Public transit is a lifeline for many families, getting them to work and school daily. The People’s Budget invests in a modern, affordable transit system and commuter benefit programs to strengthen economic and environmental well-being in communities across the country. 

Expanding Broadband to Support Rural Businesses and Communities The CPC Budget provides a significant investment in broadband technology to target both deployment and adoption needs. To ensure our schools, libraries, and other centers of civic life are adequately “future-proofed,” we support the FCC’s successful “E-Rate” program, which supports broadband internet in rural, small town, and underserved urban schools.

Rebuilding Public Schools We wisely discuss the importance of teachers and curriculum in improving student achievement; however, we too often neglect the physical
infrastructure of school facilities. It is harder for students to learn when the air conditioning is broken or the roof is leaking. The People’s Budget invests $75 billion to repair and modernize our schools.

Provides Direct Funding to Communities Assuming tax breaks for wealthy investors will create investment in infrastructure projects, as proposed by President Trump, is costly and will only incentivize for-profit projects. Many necessary projects, such as maintaining roads in rural communities and bus systems in cities, are not profitable. The CPC Budget ensures direct funding so communities can address their unique infrastructure needs. 


Every American has a right to health care. The People’s Budget builds on the gains made through the Affordable Care Act and prioritizes reforms to increase access, equity, and affordability. Maintaining the positive reforms from the ACA are critical as Republicans attempt to gut the health care system and leave millions of Americans stranded without access to critical insurance coverage. The People’s Budget protects Medicare's integrity and improves its long- term solvency. It protects children and low-income Americans and gives states the freedom to transition to a single payer system. 

Reducing the Cost of Prescription Drugs Prescription drug costs are too high. There are far too many Americans who are forced to choose between paying their mortgage and purchasing the medicine their child desperately needs. We need to prevent drug corporations from setting arbitrary prices just to boost their profits. Our budget permits the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to negotiate cheaper drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. This will significantly lower the price of prescription drugs for seniors and save Medicare $429 billion. The People’s Budget also combats monopolies held by drug companies and the use of patent settlements to block generic drug competition for a growing number of branded drugs, also known as “pay-for-delay.” Our budget ensures Americans have access to affordable prescription drugs.

Prescription Drug Addiction and Mental Health More than 50,000 Americans died from drug overdoses last year. Comprehensive mental health and addiction treatment is critical in order to address this horrific epidemic. The People’s Budget increases current mental health funding to support the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), as it continues to implement the 2016 Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. It also expands current efforts at HHS and DOJ to expand drug overdose prevention strategies, including rehabilitation, and improve access to the overdose-reversal drug naloxone. One in five American adults experience a mental health issue at some point in their life, yet millions do not receive the care they need. In order to support access to preventive mental health services, the People’s Budget increases access to psychiatric care, provides funding to increase the behavioral health workforce, and ensures that the mental health systems work for everyone.

Women’s Health President Trump and Congressional Republicans have made it a priority to defund women’s health care. These cuts will reduce access to services like cancer screenings and put millions of American women and families’ health care at risk. The People’s Budget takes critical steps to strengthen women’s social and economic standing, including allowing women to make decisions about their own health care. It does not include the restrictive Hyde Amendment and it increases Title X funding so that at-risk women and children have comprehensive access to health services. An investment in women and children is an investment in America’s future. 

Repeal Excise Tax on High-Price Health Plans and Replace with a Public Option We improve upon the Affordable Care Act by repealing the excise tax on high-priced health plans. Proponents of the provision hoped that this tax would slow the rate of growth of health costs, while raising revenue. However, in an effort to avoid the tax, employers who traditionally offer excellent benefits have started offering less generous plans. This is an ineffective tool to bend the health care cost curve and it would harm working families. Since the tax is attached to premiums instead of coverage, it has the potential to hit plans it wasn’t intended to impact.

The People’s Budget replaces the 40 percent excise tax with a public option to allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services to offer a public insurance option within the health insurance marketplaces. This ensures choice, competition, and stability in coverage. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the premium costs for Americans under the public option will be 7 to 8 percent lower than costs in private exchange plans. The repeal of the excise tax will reduce revenues by approximately $132billion, while savings from the public option are $176 billion. 

Extending the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) The People’s Budget extends funding for the entire CHIP program until 2019. The CPC Budget also protects state child health programs by fully retaining the maintenance of effort requirements and eliminating any States ability to arbitrarily implement enrollment caps. This secures federal funding for more than 10 million children and pregnant women into the future.

Cigarette Tax The CPC budget raises the federal excise tax on cigarettes by 50 cents per pack to invest $33 billion into Americans’ health care needs and to discourage smoking. Research shows that every 10 percent increase in the real price of cigarettes reduces overall cigarette consumption by approximately three to five percent.

Junk Food and Fast Food Marketing The People’s Budget ends $19.5 billion in tax breaks for advertising and marketing junk food and fast food to children. One out of every three children is overweight or obese, disproportionately affecting communities of color and low- income children.

Closing the Medicare Tax Loopholes The People’s Budget adopts former Rep. Charles Rangel’s (D-NY) Narrowing Exceptions for Withholding Taxes (NEWT) Act, which would clarify that individuals are unable to avoid employment taxes by routing their earnings through a limited liability corporation or a limited partnership. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich used this loophole to avoid paying Medicare taxes. It also adopts the President’s proposal to close the gaps between the Self-Employment Contributions Act (SECA) tax and the net investment income tax (NIIT) to ensure that all high-income individuals fully contribute to Medicare, either through the NIIT or through payroll or SECA taxes.

Provider Payment Improvements The CPC Budget builds on solutions in the Affordable Care Act by accelerating the use of bundled payments as an alternative to fee-for-service. Paying for quality of care instead of quantity leads to better outcomes and cost savings.

State Waivers Until we guarantee universal access to quality care, our work is not complete. The People’s Budget endorses providing states with the ability to set up and administer more efficient state-based single payer health programs. It allows necessary waivers and protects existing federal funding for states that establish single payer programs. 

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