Seems like just a little while ago that the Washington Post's Dana Milbank was rightfully complaining about the rogering he was getting at the hands of the zombies at Citibank, and it spurred him to this flight of imagination that maybe other humans were experiencing the same sort of problem. One might have imagined that the experience would have lent Milbank some key insight into the reality that income disparity exists and that ordinary people are bearing the brunt of the bad economy. Only, when a bunch of Democratic lawmakers set out to try to ameliorate these problems, Milbank reverted to a position of hyena-bray ridicule. Relief from the predations of Citibank for me, tiny American flags for everyone else!
It was the members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus that aggrieved Milbank so terribly, when they decided that they might as well sketch out a vision for budgetary reform, the way Paul Ryan did. Per Milbank:
Among the highlights: A $4 trillion tax increase over 10 years. An increase in the top tax rate to 49 percent. A $2.3 trillion cut in defense spending -- and an increase in domestic spending. Oh, and they would revive the "public option" to offer government-run health care.
Oh, so they would address and try to square the health and wealth disparities that the middle class endures? What monsters.
Still, it gives a sense of how things would be if liberals ran the world: no cuts in Social Security benefits, government-negotiated Medicare drug prices, and increased income taxes and Social Security taxes for the wealthy. Corporations and investors would be hit with a variety of new fees and taxes. And the military would face a shock-and-awe accounting: a 22 percent cut in Army forces, 30 percent for Marines, 20 percent for the Navy and 15 percent for the airforce. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would end, and weapons programs would go begging.
Again, this is all just demonic, the way it would strive to keep older Americans from lapsing into poverty and require cuts to the military budget. The weapons programs that would "go begging," by the way, would be outdated ones that are no longer useful, like "variations of the F-35, MV-22 Osprey, and Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle." And it would end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? A key driver of our structural debt? That can't be a serious proposal. (And I guess that as mad as Milbank was at Citibank, he'd never for a minute suggest that they be "hit with a variety of new fees and taxes.)
Milbank says that "[e]ven the most starry-eyed of the progressives know the proposal is as much of a non-starter as Paul Ryan's House Republican plan." This is the same Paul Ryan who earned a tongue-bath from the media for his courage, though, so it's hard to see why this would have been an incentive against progressives assembling a set of their own priorities, even if they are "starry-eyed." Milbank imagines that there will be some utility to the progressive plan, in that it will give President Obama "a far-left counterweight to the far-right Ryan plan."
I think that actually the progressive plan will be useful, in that it will pressure Obama to hold his line instead of making further compromises in the direction of Paul Ryan. That way we won't end up with a compromise that's further out in the wrong direction. But then, unlike Milbank, I'm assessing the utility of this gambit from the vantage of the actual humans who will be impacted by the policy proposals, and not from the perspective that says policy is a means to the end of getting a president re-elected.
Milbank also seems to think that Ryan's plan "requires only spending cuts and actually reduces taxes." Actually, the Ryan plan shifts escalating health care costs onto the middle class, it raises -- RAISES, DANA, R-A-I-S-E-S -- taxes, and offers a lot of relief to the people Ryan deems to be the most needy in society, people like -- ha, ha! -- Citibank.
Here is Milbank's substantive criticism of the Progressive Caucus' Plan, in its entirety:
It's difficult to evaluate the liberals' dream scheme because they don't make projections beyond 10 years (after which entitlement spending problems become larger), and, rather than having the proposal "scored" by the Congressional Budget Office, they used as their referee the Economic Policy Institute, a like-minded think tank.
I'll concede that this plan should be subject to CBO scoring like everyone else. As for the criticism that it doesn't make projections beyond ten years, the simple fact of the matter is that these projections are rather limited in their utility anyway. The plan calls for increasing Social Security taxes, implementing a competitive public option, and lower Medicare prices, so that's how the "entitlement spending problems" get addressed. (Fewer Americans would die in Afghanistan under this plan, so maybe we should "score" the added burden all those alive humans place on society.)
That's about it, in terms of substantive criticism! Milbank thinks it reflects poorly on these lawmakers that it rained and they had to use umbrellas, and there's an emphasis on Rep. Raul Grijalva's (D-Ariz.) tie, which was not knotted to Milbank's standard. And you can tell that this is the stuff that Milbank was most proud about writing, because he opens and closes this doggerel with a discussion of precipitation.
Anyway, we dare not speculate on what life would be like if the Congressional progressives had their say in the matter. Per liberal economist Dean Baker, it's better to celebrate the alternative: "[T]en years of zero job growth, 25 million people unemployed, underemployed or out of the workforce altogether, declining real wages, millions of homeowners losing their homes, and tens of millions of homeowners underwater." The rain falls on the just and the unjust, I guess.