Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, explained a progressive approach to strengthening the economy and reducing the deficit at Washington, D.C.’s Busboys & Poets as part of the Progressivism on Tap spring series on April 20.
Mishel emphasized that a budget is about choices—that it is a reflection of what the country prioritizes, whether that be tax cuts for millionaires or shared growth and prosperity. Some conservatives in Congress like to talk about how “broke” the nation is. While the nation is still by many metrics quite economically strong, simply parroting that the nation is “broke” obfuscates the real issue of how to budget the country’s revenue and how to scale back the deficit.
Further, Mishel contended that the country’s deficit is not a result of discretionary spending but the fact that the unemployment rate is still very high, which means less tax revenue. If Congress were to get back to focusing on job creation, the deficit problem could potentially solve itself.
Progressive leaders need to stop “enabling” the conservatives’ deficit-crisis argument, according to Mishel. He suggested two strategies. First, the Obama administration should underscore that there would be no deficit problem were it not for the Bush tax cuts and the two wars begun under President George W. Bush. Secondly, the Obama administration needs to focus wholeheartedly on job creation as the way to bring down the deficit instead of small but disastrous cuts to programs that serve low-income families.