An alternative vision for the President's budget

By Rose Ann DeMoro
Executive Director, National Nurses United, AFL-CIO

President Obama's Republican-lite budget is a reminder of how off track the state of politics has become inside the Beltway, and why we could use some of the protests that rocked Cairo's Tahrir Square in the United States.

Rather than accommodating a corporate wish list that prioritizes deficit reduction at a time of a still persistent recession, how about a vastly different approach.

"It seems the administration has concluded that after that tax-cut deal," writes David Corn of Mother Jones, "there is not much else the White House can do via government spending (or tax cuts) to create jobs, especially with Republicans controlling the House."

Well, they could lead.

"The consensus of White House reporters is that the proposed budget, like most is a political document that was chiefly designed to give Obama the best shot at winning reelection next year," Corn concludes.

Maybe it's time for those who devoted so many resources into electing Barack Obama to tell the President and his advisors that the beach might be more appealing next year if things don't change.

And, the White House and Congress should stop telling everyone to lower our expectations while real unemployment still stagnates around 17 percent, the healthcare crisis continues unabated, and corporate profits steadily soar while working people fall farther and farther behind.

Every day seems to bring fresh reminders that the President and his inner circle have determined that the path to re-election means to pander to those who promote the perception of centrism and bi-partisanship rather than the solutions American families actually need.

Thus, another day, another concession to Wall Street, its trade lobby the Chamber of Commerce, and the rejectionists in Congress.

The result - an extension of tax cuts for the rich and gutting of the estate tax, a call to lower the corporate tax rate at a time of boom times on Wall Street, and a budget that gives token nods toward infrastructure investment while cutting such programs as home heating aid to seniors and the poor.

What the administration and the Democrats in Congress could do instead is propose a people's budget - an investment program that puts millions back to work, attacks the alarming income gap and rise in poverty, and establishes guaranteed, universal healthcare for all.

In short, the nurses values of caring, compassion and community, not the corporate values of greed at the expense of the rest of us.

Can't pay for it? Here's 16 ways how:

1. End the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan now, not in some vague future with an ever sliding goal line. The Afghan war alone now runs over $100 billion a year.
2. Close down Cold War relic U.S. bases in Germany and many other places around the world.
3. Reduce the military budget by one-third to one-half -- the U.S. spends more on defense than the next nine biggest spenders - China, Britain, France, Russia, Germany, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Italy, and India, do all together.
4. Crack down on offshore tax havens for giant corporations.
5. End wasteful U.S. subsidies to corporations, such as agribusiness.
6. End tax breaks to U.S. companies that outsource jobs.
7. End all corporate tax loopholes that allowed companies like GE and Citicorp to pay no taxes last year.
8. Prohibit payment of any federal subsidy to corporate repeat labor law violators.
9. Eliminate tax benefits for non-qualified deferred executive compensation arrangements, which adds up to as much as $100 billion a year.
10. Eliminate employer practices of mis-classifying workers as contractors to avoid paying appropriate taxes and benefits.
11. End tax exemptions to religious affiliated institutions as that is a mockery of the separation of church and state.
12. Reinstate the estate tax.
13. Restore tax provisions for high income earners, and eliminate the personal exemption and many itemized deductions for very high income earners.
14. Establish more job creation measures that would add revenue into the economy.
15. Pass energy reform, taxing carbon usage.
16. Enact an expanded Medicare for all, single payer national healthcare system which would create 2.6 million new jobs, and $44 billion in new tax revenues.

Fighting for such a program might seem far-fetched. But as campaigns for women's suffrage, abolition of slavery and segregation, labor rights, and passing Social Security and Medicare prove, we don't have to turn to Egypt to learn how to struggle.

Rose Ann DeMoro is executive director of National Nurses United.