Sunday, November 25, 2012

Progressive ideas get media coverage

By Frank Moraes

Keith Ellison (D-MN)
The House Progressive Caucus has long had a lot of good ideas. But in general, they get little coverage. For example, while all the media were going gaga over Paul Ryan's budget, the Progressive Caucus released the People's Budget, which was ignored except when it was used to ridicule its name. Whereas the Ryan budget was just a Trojan horse meant to justify huge tax cuts for the wealthy, the People's Budget actually balanced the budget.

The line from the mainstream press was always the same: the People's Budget was a non-starter. No one would ever take it seriously. On the other hand, Paul Ryan's budget was very serious because people took it seriously. Of course, the people who took it seriously were primarily the usual suspects (wealthy people who want to reduce their taxes) and the mainstream press itself. It is interesting that reporters claim they should only report what the two sides say and never comment that one side is wrong. And yet, when it comes to something like this -- budget proposals on the right and left -- they choose to not even report on the left side.

In this context, I am pleased to see some actual liberal budget proposals seeing a little media light. As I've been screaming for years, a good way to fix entitlements is to actually fix them and not destroy them. On the right (and sadly, in the White House), we mostly see proposals to cut benefits -- directly, through cost of living declines, and through increased eligibility requirements. What exactly is getting fixed here? I think it is the problem that Social Security and Medicare even exist. Those on the right and in the middle see that as the problem: government was just too generous in the past and now we need to do something about it. This is why their arguments are generally so weak or flat out wrong, like the argument that Social Security was only meant to support a population that had a life expectancy below 65. (This argument is literally wrong and weak: it is not true and even if it were it would be a terrible argument.)

Last week, Senator Mark Begich has introduced a bill that would eliminate the payroll tax cap that makes Social Security the ridiculously regressive tax that it is. Similarly, the Progressive Caucus, led in part by Keith Ellison, is pushing the same idea in the House.

I don't expect these proposals to get much traction. But the fact is that at least the radio silence on them is starting to lift. More reporters are covering this stuff. I suspect that most people think that ideas to "fix" entitlement programs only come from the right. The fact is that only ideas to destroy entitlements come from the right. Ideas to truly fix entitlements come exclusively from the left. And the only way anyone will know this is if we talk about it in the public square and don't relegate it to rooms so quiet no one can hear.

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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  • Frank,

    Social Security is progressive not regressive. It is a contributory benefits system not a tax. High wage earners can get up to 1/10th what low-wage earners collect on a per dollar contributed basis - how is that regressive?

    You aren't fixing Social Security here. You are paying for a broken system.

    By Blogger JoeTheEconomist, at 3:45 PM  

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