The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), one of the largest caucuses in the U.S. Congress, issued a bold federal budget plan that would tax big financial institutions, enact a healthcare public option, and raise much-needed revenue through ending unwarranted corporate tax giveaways. The Progressive Caucus budget would put millions of Americans to work on critical infrastructure projects, replenish recession-battered state budgets to rehire millions of laid-off teachers and public safety officers, and restore full employment to an American economy that has still not recovered from the Great Recession.
Haven’t heard of this plan? That’s because the corporate media has done an across-the-board blackout on this significant political story. It does not fit the pre-determined pro-corporate agenda, so down it goes into the political black hole.
The fact that the politically infeasible Ryan budget plan received an extensive and respectful hearing, while the well-researched policy recommendations of the Progressive Caucus budget were barely mentioned in the mainstream media, is a clear demonstration of a journalistic double standard. This double standard reflects the economic policy preferences of the media ownership class and has the deleterious effect of precluding from the public debate good ideas like a financial speculation tax, which has broad support from both economists and the general public. This is journalistic malfeasance.
Contrast the media blackout on the CPC plan to the wall-to-wall coverage of the Ryan budget plan in all the major media outlets, making Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis) a fixture on the Beltway talk show circuit. When pressed to explain the virtual cone of silence over the Progressive Caucus budget rollout, mainstream media mouthpieces defend their news judgment by asserting that the CPC budget plan has no real chance of passing. By that same standard, the Ryan budget plan, a social Darwinist document guided by the amoral principles represented by his ideological mentor Ayn Rand, should not even rate a mention in the national press.
This astonishingly perverse budget plan, which includes overwhelmingly unpopular proposals like turning Medicare into a voucher program, does not stand a snowball’s chance in hell of ever passing in Congress. So why does it get so much airtime?
As a public service, I will outline the key features of the 2015 Progressive Caucus budget, since you probably did not hear about it unless you read the same niche progressive magazines that I subscribe to. Their budget proposal, called the “Better Off Budget” would, if enacted:
Increase employment by 4.6 million jobs
Boost gross domestic product (GDP) by 3.8 percent
Repeal the ruinous and dumb sequester
Restore unemployment insurance
End the federal worker pay freeze.
Aid the long-term unemployed by providing access to immediate employment through one of seven jobs corps
Repeal Food Stamp cuts
Return to Clinton-era tax rates for households making over $250,000, establish higher rates for incomes over $1 million
Tax investment income (down to 15% under the Bush Administration) at the same rate as wage income (25-35%)
Enact a Financial Transaction tax that could fund a national pre-school childcare system, creating up to a million new jobs
Close the numerous corporate tax loopholes and end subsidies provided to oil, gas and coal companies
Eliminate the ability of U.S. corporations to defer taxes on offshore profits, thereby raising billions to restore state budgets through revenue sharing to rehire millions of teachers and cops
Expand Social Security benefits by ending the $110K+ cap on high net worth individual’s contributions to the fund
Create over a million jobs in building and construction industries to repair and modernize our ailing roads, bridges and water infrastructure
The Ryan plan would essentially dismantle Medicare, roll back the social safety net to 19th century standards, privatize Social Security, gut environmental regulations and worker’s rights legislation that took decades to become the law of the land. These essential social safety net programs have long represented settled public policy for the 80% of the public who do not live in the Fox News/right-wing talk radio/alternative reality/ imaginary America that Ryan and his supporters inhabit. So why does this misanthropic budget plan get fawning coverage by the Very Serious People in the Beltway media, while the Progressive Caucus budget does not even rate a mention?
The answer to this question goes to the heart of the deep political dysfunction in America. The media institutions that purport to educate the public about the political debates that shape policy are themselves unreliable sources that present a narrowly circumscribed band of policy options that their corporate owners deem as within the bounds of acceptable discourse. The unwritten rule guiding this constriction of the public debate to a center/right intra-mural squabble is: “Thou Shalt Not Question the Hegemony of Corporate Capitalism.”
Fall outside this ideological consensus, and you fall off the edge of the known world, never to be heard again on a national platform. Of course, we have the illusion of freedom of speech, in that you are free to spout off to a statistically insignificant audience of fellow ideologues on some obscure internet platform, but you are just practicing a form of self-therapy to make your own actual powerlessness seem less painfully obvious. The political positions that have real influence over how we live at the state and national level are purchased by those who have the money to make big political ad buys on mass electronic media. Only a massive increase in our collective intelligence as citizens can counteract this dismal fact of life in America.
Many of my progressive allies function under the charming illusion that somehow the revolution will ignite via an internet viral campaign or some kind of mystical harmonic convergence that will awaken the American people to their righteous cause. The cold hard truth is that mass electoral behavior is still manufactured by who controls TV. The antidote to the plutocratic grip on our political process will be won through sustained grass-roots community organizing in every city, county and state in this country. This citizen-generated campaign (this modest column being one local example) educates poor, working-class, and middle-class citizens about the reality of power and money in America, and why they have so little of it, by design.
Make no mistake: the revolution will not be televised…or tweeted. We have to make it happen where we live.