The Senate will vote today on H.R. 1, the House Republican spending plan for the remainder of 2011 that guts vital funding for education, job creation, infrastructure, anti-poverty programs, housing assistance, and more. The plan is not expected to pass the Senate, but neither is a version supported by Senate Democrats.
So the question of federal spending levels for the remainder of the fiscal year will remain unanswered. But today, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) presented an alternative to the House Republicans’ slash-and-burn approach to budgeting in a speech at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Noting that “today, we have to solve both our growth problem and our deficit problem together,” Schumer laid out a progressive plan to reduce the deficit.
First, Schumer revived his proposal from last year to institute a surtax on millionaires and billionaires. “I must say I noted with interest that in last week’s Wall Street Journal-NBC poll, the most popular proposal to reduce the deficit — out of 23 options surveyed — was a surtax on millionaires and billionaires,” he said.
Schumer also promoted closing the tax gap by cracking down on tax dodging and income sheltering by big corporations. “There is much we can do in the tax code to crack down on cheaters and vastly improve compliance,” he said. “Any credible deficit plan should tackle the so-called ‘tax gap’ — the gap between taxes owed and taxes paid — which has gotten as high as over $300 billion a year this past decade.”
He also advocated cutting the wasteful subsidies that are handed out every year to industries, including the oil and gas industries, that don’t need them. Schumer expanded on these ideas in an interview today with ThinkProgress:
All these kinds of subsidies should be on the table, but the one that sticks out like a sore thumb is oil and gas because the entire rationale for it is gone. It was passed, I think, when the price of oil was $17 a barrel, we had low production, and now of course, the price of oil is $100 a barrel. The subsidy, in economic terms, doesn’t mean anything other than to make some people wealthy who are already wealthy.
Schumer also pushed back hard on the notion that Social Security cuts should be a part of deficit reduction. In response to a reporter’s question, he said “Social Security doesn’t have any problems until 20 years from now,” adding that the deficit needs to be reduced long before then.