You might have heard about how U.S. Representative and incendiary quote factory Allen West–an early candidate for both Fool of the Year and Fool of the Decade honors–followed up his not-so-subtle claim that “78-81” Democratic congressional members are card-carrying members of the Communist Party with the equally untrue assessment that economic justice is un-American.
(There are roughly 78 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC)–all Democrats. Again, not subtle.)
What you might not have heard is that the supposedly-Communist CPC proposed a budget in March of this year (which they suspiciously named The People’s Budget–Uh-oh!).
Their budget is designed to eliminate the deficit by 2021–in fact, it creates a budget surplus, while preserving Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.
This is primarily done by cutting waste in defense spending, applying the Buffet Rule, taxing capital gains as regular income, and eliminating oil subsidies and corporate loopholes from the tax code. Their budget enacts a public option for healthcare. It fixes–REPEAT–fixes Social Security’s insolvency. It invests US$1.45 trillion in job creation, education, clean energy, housing, and broadband infrastructure. It promotes energy independence. It eliminates emergency war funding which will help prevent presidents from going to war without congressional consent (as mandated by that pesky U.S. Constitution).
In short, this is a budget that is not only balanced, but saves money by reducing spending overall, eliminating waste, and moving us closer to a flat tax rate (for all but the very poor). It might sound made up but it’s not. I got all this directly out of the actual budget proposal (which you can read here).
The CPC budget stands in stark contrast to the budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan which devastates social programs, imbalances the tax code even more in favor of the rich and large corporations, and in the end INCREASES the deficit by more than US$3 trillion. Despite being denounced by religious leaders as “immoral” and “irresponsible,” the Republican majority in the House passed the Ryan Budget on March 29, 2012.
The CPC budget proposal was voted down the very same day, 78-346. It barely managed a ripple in the national media. And Allen West called them communists for proposing it.
(A bipartisan budget proposal incorporating ideas from both sides also went down in flames that day.)
West has been one of the louder voices in the cacophony denouncing social justice as socialism, communism, Marxism, Leninism, Maoism, hell, syllogism, and whatever other ism they think will get a rise out of people.
Much as socialism and capitalism have been locked hand-in-hand by our Constitution, so has liberty and justice (I’m pretty sure I heard that somewhere). Before the Founders even got started with the particulars of how our newly formed nation would work, they made their intentions clear:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
My glasses might be smudgy but I think justice is first. Now obviously this isn’t a prioritized list but justice seems to at least be equally important as the other things. I hear so much talk of liberty being an American value. Yet when many people say that they only mean economic liberty. Oddly, many of these same people don’t interpret justice to include economic justice.
Communism dictates that an engineer and a janitor should earn the same income. It’s ridiculous. I’d be willing to bet that less than 0.01% of Americans believe anything remotely close to that. What I believe, and I think many other Americans believe, is that a janitor should be able to put food on his family’s table and a roof over their heads. That his kids should have access to a college education. That no children should starve. That no one should die of untreated illnesses or exposure to the elements.
These are not radical assaults on American liberty. They are American values that simply place a higher priority on justice. There’s actually a reasonable argument to be made that economic justice increases liberty because it allows more people the freedom to enjoy it.
Allen West’s type of partisan name-calling is usually just a means of deflection. Unfortunately, so are the calls for a “change in the tone” of political discourse. I disagree. Our lives, our freedoms, our futures–and our children’s futures–are at stake. We should be passionate about these things, so long as that passion doesn’t supersede truth and reason.
So it goes with liberty and justice, too.