Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus / REUTERS

'The People's Budget' Gives Americans What They Really Want

President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018, released in March, was met with widespread criticism, even from members of his own party. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham notably called the proposal “dead on arrival.”


Last week, the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), the largest caucus within the House Democratic Caucus, released a blueprint for “The People’s Budget: A Roadmap for the Resistance,” which, as its title suggests, aligns much more closely with what the American people actually hoped to see in a budget plan.

The budget was released in conjunction with a detailed analysis from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) Policy Center, a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank that focuses on bringing attention to the economic needs of low- and middle-class Americans.

In its analysis the EPI Policy Center predicts that the People’s Budget would, in the short term, create 2.4 million jobs and ultimately push unemployment down to 4 percent. It also notes that it would create a deficit in the near future but by 2027 would reduce public debt by $4 trillion.

Key takeaways from The People’s Budget:

Affordable Health Care

The budget proposes negotiating with big pharmaceutical companies to lower the cost of prescription drugs, as well as increase access to psychiatric care. A recent study found that not only is increased access to mental health care vital for the more than 8 million Americans suffering from these issues, but that many of these people cannot afford treatment or prescriptions. Reuters reported, “People with serious psychological distress, which includes any mental illness severe enough to require treatment, are three times more likely to be too poor to afford care and 10 times more likely to be unable to pay for medications, the study found.”

“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,” the budget plan states.

The People’s Budget also specifically highlights women’s health care and proposes an increase in Title X funding. Title X allows millions of women affordable access to cancer screenings, contraception education and wellness exams.

The CPC also addresses childhood obesity, a health concern that disproportionately affects low-income and minority children. The highest rates of unhealthy food advertising appeared during programming targeted to youth under age 18, a study found. However, it was discovered that Black youth viewed approximately 50 percent or more ads than did white youth of the same age. The CPC proposes ending a $19.5 billion tax cut for advertisers marketing junk and fast food to children.

Trump’s proposed budget makes only a vague nod to mental health care, stating the plan will “focus on high priority areas, such as suicide prevention, serious mental illness, and children’s mental health.” No mention is made of women’s health care.

The president’s plan would make a $15.1 billion 17.9 percent cut to the Department of Health and Human Services. A Quinnipiac University poll found that 91 percent of Americans aged 18-34 believe it is a bad idea to significantly cut funding for medical research.

Justice and Fair Elections

The CPC’s budget addresses racial disparities in the justice system and proposes initiatives to make justice reform a reality. The United States incarcerates citizens at a significantly higher rate than other nations across the globe. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, the U.S. has an incarceration rate of 716 per 100,000 people the highest of all the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries. The second on the list is the United Kingdom which comes in at a significantly lower rate of 147 per every 100,000 people.

In addition to proposing changes to end mass incarceration, the CPC also outlines re-entry programs in an attempt to stop the revolving door effect, where prisoners are repeatedly released and then wind up incarcerated once again. The budget calls for funding toward education, career training, medical care and housing as part of re-entry programs. It also proposes Justice Department funding for its Civil Legal Aid program to ensure that all Americans receive the representation they are entitled to.

The budget also calls for increased funding for Justice Department programs with a focus on ending racial profiling by law enforcement as well as combating the recent spike in hate crimes. Also noted is increased gun safety, proposing budgeting for 200 more Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) agents as well as community grants to go toward recordkeeping and background checks.

Also highlighted in the budget is voting, calling for “modern voting technology” to ensure accuracy in ballot counting and that each ballot is in fact counted.

Trump’s budget does not address criminal justice reform. It proposes an increase in funding for law enforcement to combat “violent crime, gun-related deaths, and the opioid epidemic.” Overall, the Department of Justice would see a $1.1 billion (3.8 percent) decrease in funding.

Pathways Out of Poverty and Empowering the Middle Class

A CNN/ORC poll found that 56 percent of Americans aged 18-34 believe Trump’s budget cuts “generally do more to help the rich” than anyone else. Only 35 percent believe they help the middle class the most. And according to the Quinnipiac poll, 78 percent of Americans in the same age range do not think Trump should lower taxes for the wealthy a strategy that would only further hurt communities that are already struggling.

“Women and communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by continual Republican budget cuts that contribute to the growing wealth gap,” the CPC notes.

To help combat poverty, the People’s Budget suggests the “10-20-30 Formula”:

“This language requires that at least 10 percent of the federal funds in certain accounts be directed to certain areas that have had a poverty rate of 20 percent for the last 30 years. This non-partisan proposal will ensure that federal resources are actually reaching communities most in need to improve the economic and social conditions in these distressed communities that have long struggled with persistent poverty.”

The CPC’s budget also supports a program that aims to cut poverty in half over the next decade. The Half-in-Ten Act of 2015, sponsored by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), proposes to not only develop a national strategy to reduce poverty, but also to reduce racial, ethnic, gender, gender identity and sexual orientation disparities in poverty rates.

The People’s Budget also “encourages the adoption of paid leave in states.” It proposes six weeks of paid paternal leave for federal employees.

Additionally, the People’s Budget supports the Equality Act, which would provide basic protections for members of the LGBT community that they are not currently afforded in about half of states nationwide.

Trump’s budget does not once mention poverty, maternity/paternity/family leave (paid or unpaid) or LGBT.

Comprehensive and Just Immigration Reform

Trump’s campaign hinged largely on his promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border to reduce the number of undocumented immigrants entering the country. This is reflected in his proposed budget, which not only “significantly increases the budget for immigration enforcement” but also proposes “additional resources” to fund the border wall.

However, CNN/ORC found that 71 percent of 18-34-year-old Americans disapprove of funding to build the wall. The Quinnipiac poll respondents showed even more disdain, with 77 percent of participants in that age bracket saying they think funding for the wall is a bad idea.

Also, according to Quinnipiac, 71 percent of Americans aged 18-34 do not support Trump’s Muslim ban.

Citing a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis, the CPC reports that comprehensive immigration reform would have a significant positive impact on the economy: the federal budget deficit would be reduced by $197 billion over the next 10 years and $700 billion over the next 20 years.

“Our country needs an immigration system that honors our values of inclusion, diversity and equality,” the CPC states.

The group outright rejects many of the strategies Trump put forward. As stated, the budget is opposed to Trump’s Muslim ban, funding for the border wall and attacks on sanctuary cities. Additionally, the CPC specifically calls for protections for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.

Access to Housing

According to the CPC, just a quarter of Americans who are eligible for housing assistance receive it. The budget therefore proposes increasing the HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME) and Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) programs. HOME is the largest Federal block grant that is specifically aimed at creating affordable housing. The CDBG is one of the longest-running programs under the Department of Housing and Urban Development and provides grants for a variety of economic purposes for low-income citizens.

Additionally, the budget proposes to:

End Family Homelessness

Fund Housing for Seniors and People with Disabilities

Restore and Increase Housing Vouchers

Invest in New Affordable Housing

The CPC also allocates funding toward the Low Income Heating Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

Trump’s budget proposes to end the CDBG, calling it “not well-targeted” and instead proposing to put these funds toward other unnamed purposes. Trump would also put an end to HOME, saying simply, “State and local governments are better positioned to serve their communities based on local needs and priorities.”

Read more news @ DiversityInc.com

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