|7 Ways to End the Deficit (Without Throwing Grandma Under the Bus)|
A new study suggests that ending the deficit doesn’t have to hurt, just as long as we cut in the right places. Here are seven places where budget cuts in the US can create a more just, more secure, and more sustainable country. By John Cavanagh.
6th September 2012 - Published by YES! magazine
This fall, the U.S. Congress is going to wage a pitched, dragged-out battle over cutting roughly $120 billion a year to solve the so-called deficit crisis. Vital things like teachers’ jobs and Medicare could well get cut.
The Right is already launching new coalitions to push for an austerity budget, calling for cuts in “wasteful government spending,” including key safety-net programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and food stamps. America has overspent, they say. America is broke. But at the same time, they are calling for an extension of the Bush tax cuts and ruling out cuts in military spending—both policies that will increase the deficit.
It doesn’t have to be this way. My colleagues at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) have identified seven steps that, together, more than eliminate the deficit while making the country more equitable, green, and secure.
These proposals, from the IPS study called “America is Not Broke,” would also address the two deficits that author David Korten says do more to erode our society than the fiscal deficit does: our social deficits (rising poverty and inequality) and environmental deficits (starting with the climate crisis).
More Fairness, Less Deficit
Our first three proposals could bring in $329 billion a year; this alone would solve the deficit problem while helping to close the yawning inequality gap.
These three policy changes would go a long way toward making our society more equal, and that means better health, too. There is a terrific body of global evidence, a lot of it compiled by British researchers Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, that more equal societies are much healthier. People at all income levels live longer; they are more fulfilled; and there is less violence. The United States, a relatively equal society as recently as the 1970s, is now off the charts in terms of wealth and income inequality. It doesn’t have to be that way. Just as we created a more just and vibrant economy and a strong middle class through fair taxes between 1940 and 1980, we can do it again through progressive taxation.
More Green, Less Pollution
The second source of revenue would make the economy more green, a key imperative in a world where the environmental crisis is now as deep as the economic one. We found two simple ways to raise revenues and help save the environment.
More Savings, Less War
Finally, there are simple ways to cut the military while making the country and the world more secure. More than half of government discretionary spending now goes to the military. Congress has long avoided cuts, in part because they equate military spending with jobs, but IPS has pointed out that almost every other industry employs more workers per dollar than the military. Plus, there is now bipartisan support for two sets of significant cuts.
In other words, this plan could help erase the nation’s dangerous social and environmental deficits.
Many groups—from Jobs with Justice to National People’s Action to the AFL-CIO—are organizing to counter a push by the Right to use the deficit crisis to shred social programs and our nation’s safety net. Let’s up the ante and spread the message. America is not broke. We have plenty of resources to rebuild shared prosperity in the U.S.
John Cavanagh is director of the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies, co-chair of the New Economy Working Group, and a co-author of IPS’s study: America Is Not Broke, where citations for this article can be found.
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