“This is a very bad idea, House Democrats. It makes no sense whatsoever to give Republicans veto power over progressive legislation.”
By Jake Johnson
Common Dreams (11/16/18)
Nearly three-quarters of the American public and a historic number of Democratic lawmakers support Medicare for All, but the House Democratic leadership is considering using its newly won majority to impose a rule that would “recklessly betray” the grassroots forces that put them in power by making single-payer and other progressive priorities impossible to enact.
According to a list of Democratic proposals obtainedby the Washington Post, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)—who is currently fighting back against efforts to prevent her from becoming House Speaker—is pushing for a rule that would “require a three-fifths supermajority to raise individual income taxes on the lowest-earning 80 percent of taxpayers.”
In response, MoveOn.org called the proposal “a staggeringly bad idea.”
Though the proposed rule is framed as an effort to protect the financial well-being of middle class Americans, Eric Levitz of New York Magazine pointed out that “while progressives are committed to increasing the discretionary income of the bottom 80 percent, that does not necessarily mean keeping their tax rates frozen at historically low levels.”
“A bill that required those households to pay a new, smaller monthly sum to the government—so as to fund a single-payer system that would actually reduce their cost of living by delivering radically cheaper healthcare services—could hardly be called regressive,” Levitz notes. “And the same can be said for legislation establishing universal child care, paid family leave, or any other program aimed at easing the middle class’s financial burdens.”
“Equating support for middle-class families—with opposition to increasing their tax rates—is a conservative project, which Democrats have no business advancing,” Levitz added. “If the party wishes to establish structural barriers to policies that would hurt the middle class, why not require a three-fifths majority to cut Medicaid, Medicare, or Social Security?”
Combined with Pelosi’s expressed committment to reviving the “economically illiterate” pay-go rule—which would require that all new spending be offset by spending cuts or tax hikes—the proposed tax restriction would completely undercut Medicare for All, free public college, a federal jobs program, and other ambitious left-wing policies by dramatically restricting the party’s ability to raise revenue and effectively handing Republicans the power to block progressive legislation.
“This is disastrous policy and messaging,” argued Richard Phillips, senior tax policy analyst for the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP).
The proposed rule, Phillips added, would constrain “revenue that can be generated for many of the kind of bold investments we need to be making in terms of healthcare, education, infrastructure, etc.”
Progressive advocacy groups and experts registered their outrage at Pelosi’s rule proposal on social media on Friday, with economist Stephanie Kelton warning that the Democratic leader’s measure would completely “kneecap the progressive agenda.”
“This is a very bad idea, House Democrats,” CREDO Mobile declared. “It makes no sense whatsoever to give Republicans veto power over progressive legislation.”
(This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.)
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For First Act in Power, Democrats Consider Making Their Own Agenda Impossible To Pass
By Eric Levitz
This week, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi unveiled a list of new procedural rules that her caucus intends to implement when the next Congress is seated. Most of these measures are unobjectionable “good government” reforms. But one of them would create a new — and all-but-insurmountable — obstacle to the passage of many of the policies that the Democratic Party claims to support.
The rule, proposed by Pelosi and Massachusetts representative Richard Neal, would “require a three-fifths supermajority to raise individual income taxes on the lowest-earning 80 percent of taxpayers.”
This proposal is, in effect, a progressive revision of an existing House rule: Under Paul Ryan’s leadership, the current Republican majority established a supermajority requirement to raise income taxes on anyone. Thus, Pelosi’s decision to retain the supermajority threshold on tax hikes – but restrict it to the bottom 80 percent – might look commendable on first glance. After all, in recent decades, America’s richest citizens have seen their tax rates plummet, even as their share of income gains soared – so why not take measures to restrict future tax increases to the top 20 percent of earners? A spokesman for the minority leader’s office, Henry Connelly, describes the proposal as a populist measure, aimed at repealing “a Republican rule rigged to permanently lock in the massive tax giveaways…[to] wealthiest 1 percent and big corporations,” while “affirming Democrats’ commitment to protect hard-working Americans.”
Dems adopting conservative arguments
Alas, there are several problems with this argument. For one thing, while progressives are committed to increasing the discretionary income of the bottom 80 percent, that does not necessarily mean keeping their tax rates frozen at historically low levels. Currently, for much of the American middle class, health-insurance premiums function as a steadily rising tax. A bill that required those households to pay a new, smaller monthly sum to the government — so as to fund a single-payer system that would actually reduce their cost of living by delivering radically cheaper health-care services — could hardly be called regressive. And the same can be said for legislation establishing universal child care, paid family leave, or any other program aimed at easing the middle class’s financial burdens by dramatically expanding the public sector’s ambitions. Equating support for middle-class families — with opposition to increasing their tax rates — is a conservative project, which Democrats have no business advancing. If the party wishes to establish structural barriers to policies that would hurt the middle class, why not require a three-fifths majority to cut Medicaid, Medicare, or Social Security? …
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(Commoner Call cartoon by Mark L. Taylor, 2018. Open source and free for non-derivative use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )