Representatives of the Congressional Black caucus overseeing the federal budget and the process of legislating it said the Congressional Black Caucus’ spending plan is more humane and fiscally sound in the long term than the GOP or Trump proposals.
On Sept. 7, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) convened a roundtable of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Task Force on Budget, Appropriations and Taxation. Scott, co-chair of the task force with Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.), said the CBC’s budget proposal is more critical than ever.
“The CBC budget is fiscally sound and morally responsible,” Scott said. “Our proposal will reduce the deficit by a trillion dollar over the years while the Republicans want to give tax breaks to the wealthy.”
In addition to Scott, Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) and Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) were also at the roundtable.
The CBC released its first budget proposal in 1981, the first year of the Reagan administration, when the president introduced a budget that drastically cut or eliminated social service programs while increasing the military budget. Since that time, the CBC has introduced its version of the federal budget as a guiding document for Democratic presidential administrations and as an opposition document when Republicans are in the White House. A CBC budget has never been adopted by either party although many items, such as increased funding for HBCUs, often are included in the final budget when Democrats control the White House.
The CBC’s fiscal year 2018 budget, which was initially released in March, provides increased funds for HBCUs, health care insurance expansion, anti-poverty programs, primary and secondary public school support, job training initiatives and programs such as Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. The CBC recently added a $200 billion supplement for the victims of Hurricane Harvey and $1 trillion for the country’s infrastructure.
The CBC budget will be paid for by eliminating loopholes and imposing equitable taxes on wealthy individuals and large corporations. Those priorities are why the NAACP has always supported the CBC budget, Hilary Shelton, the director of the Washington bureau of the NAACP and the senior vice president for advocacy and policy, said.
“The federal budget reflects the country’s values,” Shelton said. “The budget that the CBC presents represents a nation that we all aspire to live in.”
Shelton said Blacks and other people of color are still recovering from the Great Recession of the late 2000s. He noted that Blacks were more adversely affected losing billions in assets mainly from home foreclosures and the financial hits that pensions and 401ks took.
Shelton said that the CBC budget funds Social Security, SNAP (food stamps) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families while the GOP and Trump budgets cut or decrease funding for those programs.
Janelle Jones, an economic analyst for the Economic Policy Institute, said the Trump budget’s cuts in Pell grants were “ridiculous” and bemoaned the lack of funding for the U.S. Department of Labor. “The cuts in the Labor Department are disastrous for Black workers,” she said. “Black workers need job training and youth programs. Young Black workers are the ones that are hurt when these programs are cut.”
Algernon Austin is a scholar with Demos, a progressive public policy think-tank based in New York City. Austin said the CBC’s budget would aid Blacks who are under or un-employed. “While the country’s unemployment rate is 4.4 percent, in many places, [for Blacks] it is double that of Whites,” Austin said. Blacks have the lowest employment rate of any of the major racial-ethnic groups. The Black unemployment rate is higher today than in 2000 and then you had 500,000 more Blacks working than now.”
Austin notes that the CBC budget should be implemented because it calls for racial equity in future infrastructure and investments; improving public transit infrastructure, noting that people of color are heavy users of it; and school infrastructure, saying that modernized buildings held reduce achievements gaps.
Scott said if Republicans bring their budget resolution to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, the CBC will offer its budget as an amendment to it.