The values and policies embodied by the Budget for All, the budget of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) for fiscal year 2013, offer a stark contrast with those of the budget put forth by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). First, the Budget for All protects Medicare, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act, and other elements of the social safety net. Second, it boosts public investments in education, infrastructure, and research and development. But the Budget for All and the Ryan budget are perhaps most diametrically opposed in their approach to economic stewardship over the weak recovery.
As my colleague Rebecca Thiess highlights, the Budget for All would finance a direct jobs program, infrastructure investments, targeted tax credits, and increased nondefense discretionary spending to ameliorate the ongoing crisis in the U.S. labor market. The Budget for All proposes increasing spending by $786 billion for job creation measures and public investments over the next two-and-a-half years (FY2012-14), relative to current law. This is critical: Expansionary fiscal policy remains the single best lever to fill the gap in aggregate demand and put Americans back to work. The Budget for All would accelerate economic recovery by increasing near-term budget deficits even while reducing longer-term deficits and sustaining primary balance over the second half of the budget window.
The Budget for All would increase mandatory and discretionary spending (excluding overseas military operations) by $259 billion in FY2013 and $261 billion in FY2014, boosting GDP by 2.3 percent and 2.2 percent, respectively, relative to current policy (the relevant baseline for aggregate demand). Net of the much smaller fiscal drag exerted by progressive tax reforms being gradually phased in, we estimate that the fiscal expansion proposed by the Budget for All would increase GDP by $280 billion (+1.8 percent) and $167 billion (+1.0 percent), respectively, in FY2013 and FY2014. By substantially boosting near-term aggregate demand, we estimate that the Budget for All would increase non-farm payroll employment by 2.1 million jobs in FY2013 and 1.2 million jobs in FY2014.
Conversely, the Ryan budget would accelerate the looming economic drag from contractionary fiscal policy with deep, aggressive spending cuts—failing the “first, do no harm” principle and sharply impeding job creation. My colleague Ethan Pollack recently estimated that the Ryan budget would reduce employment by 1.3 million jobs in FY2013 and 2.8 million jobs in 2014.*
On net, non-farm payroll employment would be roughly 3.4 million jobs higher by the end of FY2013 and 4.0 million jobs higher by the end of FY2014 if Congress adopted the Budget for All instead of the Ryan budget. To put this in perspective, the economy has gained 2.0 million jobs over the last 12 months but needs more than 10 million jobs to restore pre-recession unemployment and labor force participation rates. Going forward, the CPC budget would markedly accelerate the rate of rehiring, while the Ryan budget would drastically slow—or entirely wipe out—new hiring.
Immediately slashing government spending, as Ryan has proposed, is not a game or a joke—it’s economically irresponsible budget policy that has backfired across much of Europe and would seriously aggravate un- and underemployment. And as proven by the Budget for All, racing down the austerity path isn’t required for a fiscally responsible budget. The CPC budget would reach the same debt level as the Ryan budget without jeopardizing the economic recovery.
Fiscal responsibility demands sound economic stewardship, which means addressing the jobs crisis and closing the gap between potential output and actual GDP (the economy is currently running $883 billion—or 5.4 percent—below potential). While a large output gap persists, government spending cuts will have a particularly adverse impact on aggregate demand and fiscal sustainability will remain elusive. (Again, just look to Europe.)
The Congressional Progressive Caucus has proposed a credible budget that would prioritize jobs first and phase in deficit reduction as the economy strengthens (with emphasis on policies that will have relatively little deleterious impact on aggregate demand). Ryan has produced a budget that would choke off economic recovery in an attempt to gut government and refund the tax bill. The CPC budget is credible and economically viable; the Ryan budget is not. And literally millions of jobs hang in the balance between these two competing visions for the United States of America.
*The employment impact of the Budget for All is meant as an apples-to-apples comparison with these estimates for the Ryan budget, which were also calculated relative to current policy excluding spending on overseas military operations (which has a relatively small impact on domestic output).