Deficit Reduction Alternative ‘Protects Poor, Middle-Class,’ Beats Obama Targets

A liberal member of President Obama’s deficit-reduction commission released an alternative plan to reign in federal red ink, a proposal she says “protects the poor and the middle-class.”

Rep. Jan Schakowsky unveiled her plan last week an alternative to the proposal by the bipartisan co-chairs of the commission. The Illinois Democrat says her plan would reduce the deficit by $441 billion in 2015, surpassing Obama’s own $250 billion target.

Members of the deficit-reduction commission are to meet Tuesday to begin hammering out a deal to meet the Dec. 1 deadline imposed by the president. Unlike the plan put forward by co-chairs Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, Schakowsky’s proposal would not cut into Social Security or other non-military domestic programs.

The independent Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington think-tank that promotes policies for low- and middle-income Americans, also says changes are needed in the Bowles-Simpson proposal, because it “does not represent a truly balanced approach.”

“I am releasing my own plan today because I believe that there is a better way to achieve our goal – one that protects the poor and the middle-class,” Schakowsky says. “Lower and middle class Americans did not cause the deficit.

“Just ten years ago the federal budget was generating a surplus as far as the eye could see. That surplus was turned into a deficit due to massive tax cuts – mainly to wealthy Americans; two wars paid for by borrowed money; and a major recession caused by the recklessness of the big Wall Street banks,” she adds. “Over the last decade the incomes of middle class Americans have actually shrunk, while those of the wealthiest two percent of the population have exploded.

“The middle class did not benefit from the Republican economic policies that led to the current deficit –- they were the victims –- they should not be called upon to pick up the tab.”

Schakowsky acheives her goals by cutting Pentagon spending, as well as farm subsidies, and raising revenue through closing loopholes, establishment of a cap-and-trade system on carbon emissions, letting the Bush-era tax cuts for the richest Americans expire at the end of this year, among other means.

Schakowsky pointedly does not put Social Security benefits under the budget knife.

“Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit. Addressing the Social Security issue as part of the deficit question is like attacking Iraq to retaliate for the 9/11 attacks – there is simply no relationship between the two and attempting to conflate them does a grave disservice to America’s seniors,” she says.

“Taking money from Social Security retirees whose average total income is $18,000 per year and average benefit is $14,000 ($12,000 for women) is simply wrong,” she adds. “It places them at fiscal risk and hurts the economy because they will be unable to purchase the goods they need. Americans in poll after poll have indicated their opposition to benefit cuts – particularly at a time when Wall Street bankers are making record bonuses.”

The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.


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