Go “Gang of Seventy” -They Support the People’s Budget But the Establishment Doesn’t

by on July 21, 2011 · 6 comments

in American Empire, Economy

By Katrina vanden Heuvel / The Nation Magazine / July 20, 2011

With too much fanfare , the contours of a “grand bargain” on the budget have emerged with a proposal offered by the Senate’s Gang of Six. It’s a deal that looks a helluva lot more like a Raw Deal than a New Deal or a Fair Deal.

It’s good to get a grip and some perspective at times like these. That’s why I appreciated Congressman Raúl Grijalva, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), reminding us that a “Gang of Seventy” Democrats in the House has already vowed to oppose any deal which cuts benefits in Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.

 “Our Gang of Seventy-plus has the Gang of Six completely outnumbered,” says Grijalva. “And with Republicans not voting for any package, period, because of their opposition to a functional economy, House Democrats hold the key to whatever plan can pass Congress.”

 Grijalva and his allies point to the CPC People’s Budget as an alternative more in sync with what people want and the economy needs—a budget that calls for shared sacrifice. For example, 66 percent of Americans favor raising income tax rates on those making more than $250,000 and 67 percent support raising the wage cap for Social Security taxes. Both of these measures are included in the CPC budget. It’s a budget that also offers sensible cuts to military spending run amok, new tax brackets for millionaires and billionaires, and an investment of $1.45 trillion in job creation, education, clean energy, broadband infrastructure, housing, and R&D. And it does all of this while achieving a lower debt-to-GDP ration in 2020 than the widely praised—praised by the elite, that is— budget proposal from Republican Congressman Paul Ryan.

In contrast, the Gang of Six proposal shafts those who have already borne so much of the burden of the financial crisis and its fallout—lost pensions, lost homes, lost wealth—while the very people who brought the economy to its knees through their recklessness make out like banksters and bandits. In fact, at a time of inequality akin to that of the Gilded Age, the top marginal tax rate would be lowered—lowered!—to 23 to 29 percent, while there would be massive cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), notes that JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein would save approximately $2 million to $3 million on their tax bills. But in twenty years, a 90-year-old living on a Social Security income of $15,000 would lose more than $1,200 a year in benefits.

How’s that a “bargain” for this nation and who exactly finds it “grand”?

All along, the alternatives that reflect the popular idea of shared sacrifice have been marginalized—by the political establishment (and, tragically, the Democratic leadership) and the corporate media. That’s one reason we are where we are in terms of the shape of this budget deal, where a ludicrous moral equivalence is being drawn between an increase in capital gains or carried interest tax and cuts in the very programs that have brought security and dignity to millions of Americans when they need it the most.

This is not about left and right. This is about right and wrong. And that’s something the political and media establishment just don’t seem to get.

Katrina vanden Heuvel has been The Nation’s editor since 1995 and its publisher since 2005. She is the co-editor taking Back America—And Taking Down the Radical Right (Nation Books, 2004) and editor of The Dictionary of Republicanisms (NationBooks, 2005).

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Allen Lewis July 21, 2011 at 1:15 pm

I think it’s time to follow the lead of other countries who are fed up with the way there government is screwing them, and kick out the lot of them dirty rats and fat cats so us piss ants can have a life. The faces change but the way we do government doesn’t. 1st we need to get rid of the electoral collage. It was set in a time when communication between the states was hard, know all it does is control the vote, the people need the vote. 2nd we need to do away with the big bucks that is spent on elections, this is the communication age. 3rd we need more than two parties with a equal say, I have been voting third party for years because both the democrats and republicans have the same agenda, to screw us. Last but not least could someone tell me why a flat tax isn’t the way to go? everyone pays the same percent of there income.


christine July 21, 2011 at 3:17 pm

I am concerned w/ the word “housing”. That is ALL federal and state govts have been doing is subsidizing housing and it is how we got into this mess. How in the world is it that everyone no matter how bad your credit has the god given right to “own” their home but everyone does not and still does not have the right to decent health care if they get sick? Why? because the fed govt LOVES to subsidize the housing industry.

See Catherine Austin Fitts, whistleblower under Bush 41 and the cesspool of fraud the federal housing thing is. Developers are paid 5-10 times what theyd hget in the private market. heck even Ollie North called HUD his “candy store” that he would go raid for $ for Iran Contra. Do not give 1 penny to housing.

If the govt truly wants affordable housing it will make it easier for people to live in alternative forms of housing like yurts and trailers (a brand new airstream is $50,000, while a toxic affordable housing unit costs us $700,000) and trust me these buildings are toxic. Please dont buy the “housing” pitch. There is a glut of housing right now. The fed govt is paying to buy up the glut at the same time its paying billions building more.


christine July 21, 2011 at 3:31 pm

I am concerned all this is leading to a NEW stimulus which will be just as disastrous as the last. Like the 5 year retroactive tax refund which returned ALL the tax money to the people that made the most $ over the last 5 years in real estate.

Have you noticed how commercial real estate has been empty for years? Its not because small business owners dont want to rent it its because Obama made it more lucrative for commercial real estate owners to keep their buildings empty than to rent them at market rate. Thats why you are seein this odd juxtaposition of empty commercial space and new space being built because they are making $ off empty spaces.


christine July 21, 2011 at 3:38 pm

Please pay attention not to the words but to the actual actions of these leaders, because they use the word “job creation” and “growing the economy” alot and “growing the economy” is in inverse proportion to our quality of life. we need to “evolve” the economy and no one is really addressing that. We should be making sure there are organic farms everywhere in every neighborhood.

We should be implementing new eco-technology…I mean real eco-technology like creating eco-systems using salt loving salicornia plants to desalinate water…a system that doesnt require energy.

But this solution of building more and more big box retail which is what all this stimulus gets us is more jobs at WalMart and Mcdonalds, and building more and more 3000 sq ft hideous tract housing that destroys are land but “creates jobs” is a big lie and we have to reject anything that takes down that road.

Most of the energy initiatives of this admin are a joke. I am scared of this fluorescent lighting requirement. Fluor lights contain mercury which ends up in the water supply and the people in china making them are all dying but hey it saves electricity and makes every1 look like they are in liver failure.

And vinyl windows which eal you airtight into a building offgassing PVCs is another brilliant energy efficient strategy that we are spending billions on while the people living near the vinyl factories in GA are all dying of cancer. We have to question all these initiatives.


Monty Kroopkin July 24, 2011 at 2:18 pm

The “new” Republican Party is actually a neo-fascist party. It’s true goal is to destroy the very limited democracy we currently have and to replace it with a system that more completely gives corporations control of society, and to drive down our standard of living to the level of the world’s poorest countries (to maximize profits).

The majority of elected Democrats are functioning as ENABLERS. They refuse to call the neo-fascists what they are and refuse to say we must organize to stamp them out. The majority of elected Democrats are in fact bought and paid for by the same reactionary corporate interests, and are making the whole drift to the far right APPEAR to be the result of a real democratic debate, compromises, et cetera. It is all a show and the majority of elected Democrats are in fact in bed with the Republican program.

The left of the Democratic Party needs to get the hell out of that party and work to build a new party that can unite the vast majority of Americans who are in favor of true progressive taxation (tax the rich fairly) and opposed to reducing social safety net programs (expanding them instead) and opposed to a military budget and program that maintains the USA as the policeman protecting the whole empire of global corporations.

The labor movement needs to stop pouring money down the toilet of the Democratic Party and concentrate on organizing the unorganized and building strength through strikes, boycotts and work actions and through formation of global unions capable of challenging the power of global corporations.

The vast majority of working people and the poor will continue to lose ground, worldwide, until we see clearly what we are up against and change the ways we talk, think and act about it.


Allen Lewis July 24, 2011 at 5:52 pm

Thank you Monty, I think your comment is brilliant, and so very true. I have been saying for years that we need more than two viable parties, and that both the parties we have to day are so corrupt there beyond repair. As for tax, I think we need a flat tax for all, based on your income.


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