After a week of flurries and fears that Democrats are about to give away the store to keep the nation from defaulting on its debt, Kent Conrad presented his budget proposal to Democrats. Unlike the Republican proposal, it's a 50/50 blend of cuts and tax increases.
“I explained to the President and Vice President how the Senate Budget Committee Democrats developed a plan that achieves $4 trillion in deficit reduction in a balanced and fair way,” Conrad said in a statement. “It is my hope the plan will help influence the bipartisan negotiations and help them reach a comprehensive and balanced deficit reduction agreement.”
Under the blueprint, the top income tax rate would rise to 39.6 percent for individuals earning more than $500,000 a year and families earning more than $1 million. That group, which constitutes the nation’s richest 1 percent of households, would also pay a 20 percent rate on capital gains and dividends, rather than the 15 percent rate now in effect.
In addition to raising rates for the very wealthiest families, the blueprint proposes to obtain fresh revenue by targeting offshore tax havens and corporate shelters. It would also scale back the array of tax breaks and deductions known as tax expenditures, perhaps by focusing on the wealthiest households, which claim an average of $205,000 in tax breaks each year on average income of $1.1 million.
The blueprint would take nearly $900 billion from the Pentagon over the next decade — the same amount recommended by Obama’s fiscal commission. It would slice more than $350 billion from domestic programs. And it would produce interest savings of nearly $600 billion attributable to reduced borrowing.
A majority of Senate Democrats have approved of this proposal. Will it be considered "bold", "courageous" and "innovative" by the Beltway media who used those terms with respect to Paul Ryan's plan even as they held their nose over specific provisions? Doubtful. I'll be amazed if it gets a fraction of the coverage Ryan's plan received, despite the fact that every one of these bold proposals is supported by a majority of the American people.
I'm already seeing a whole lot of negativity on the liberal side of the planet. Claims of 'too little, too late', that Conrad is just introducing a sweeping budget because he's retiring in 2012, that no one will take these things seriously because they've been involved in talks for so long.
I recommend looking at it differently. The President called for everyone to bring their bottom line deal to the table on Sunday. Conrad has just dropped the Democrats' bottom line on the table, knowing full well that it will be unacceptable to every Republican in the room. So what? It would have been unacceptable to every Republican in the room two months ago, two days ago, two hours ago. It still delineates the differences between the two and sets a negotiating line that is far more to the left than the administration proposals (on purpose, by the way).
The question at this point is not when Conrad brought his proposals to the table. The question is whether liberals, progressives, the left, whatever you want to call them, will use their formidable vocal skills to generate some buzz around these, since you can rest assured the so-called liberal media never will.
The thing is, this week's stupid news blurbs were all about one thing: Highlighting the fact that no matter how far Democrats would go to make a deal, there is no deal for the Republicans. After a week of that, Conrad laid down the budget most Democrats would view as one they could support and get behind. No one expects it to pass, any more than anyone thought Paul Ryan's budget would pass. But Ryan has paid a high political price for introducing his wingnuttery early and often, and Republicans in the House have paid an even steeper one for voting for it, as they will continue to do in the future.
This is all drama, all theater. Now that Republicans have shown themselves to be the party of ungovernance, Democrats step up with a set of proposals that actually reduces the deficit, preserves the social contract, and raises taxes on people who can afford it. Of course the Republicans aren't going to bend to this, either. They weren't going to bend to anything. So when nothing gets done, or some bandaid patch deal is done that doesn't solve the longer-term issues, there will only be one party to blame and it won't be Democrats.