Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and other Republican Party leaders have staked their party's future on a false premise. They say the wealthy are already providing for everyone else, and middle class families need to sacrifice for a change while millionaires reap the benefits.
This year's Ryan budget is a product of this assumption. It treats the government to which Rep. Ryan has been elected as something between a nuisance and a menace, with no role in helping the economy except to transfer more wealth upward.
Plenty of people have pointed out that these ideas lost in November. What they often forget is that a more positive vision also won that election: a vision of an America that helps us all achieve more than we could individually, a government that acts when the moment calls for it.
The Congressional Progressive Caucus, which we're proud to co-chair, introduced its Back to Work Budget on March 13 because we know that putting Americans back to work, not cutting investments, is the answer to our nation's problems. We put 7 million people back to work in the first year and reduce the deficit $4.4 trillion over the next decade.
Good jobs and fair pay, not favors for a lucky few, are what make this country run. The magic elixir Rep. Ryan and his colleagues are selling - blank checks to the Pentagon, tax cuts for the wealthy, subsidies for fossil fuels, less opportunity for the rest of us - has simply failed to help our economy. We need to rebuild this country by cutting tax loopholes we don't need and investing in the things we do: roads, bridges, schools, health care, infrastructure, and other basics of a prosperous nation. That's what our budget does.
There is no question which approach the American people support. A Gallup poll released this week found that 72 percent of Americans, including a majority of Republicans, support putting people back to work repairing our infrastructure. The same percentage supports investment to create jobs.
We're not afraid of the contrasts our budget suggests with conservative ideology. Instead of closing the Department of Education, as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) called for at the Conservative Political Action Conference last week, we believe in building schools and putting more teachers on the job. Instead of continued tax breaks for large corporations, such as the $112 billion we will give away to wealthy fossil fuel companies in the next decade, we end preferential treatment for perks like corporate jets and put the money back into job creation for the American people.
Two years ago, Rep. Ryan's blueprint was greeted with cheers by conservative activists and considerable deference by the pundits. This year, his plan is being treated as what it is: a radical transformation of the American experience. If he got his way, Medicaid would wither, Medicare as we know it would cease to exist, and the decades of progress we've made in fighting hunger and poverty would be wiped out.
We agree with the American people who made their preference known in November: we can do better. The right-wing myth of makers and takers has had a pernicious effect on our politics and will take some time to fade away. In the meantime, we need to get our national conversation back on track. It's time for a serious effort to get America working again.
The House Republican majority didn't pass our budget in last Wednesday's vote, but after two years of ignoring the jobs crisis, we hope our plan starts a new conversation that can continue past budget season. All we've heard from Republicans is the same exhausted line about cutting everything in sight, retrenching, reining in the American dream, and foreclosing on any positive government role in our nation's future. It's time for jobs to be the priority for Washington that it already is for the American people.
Grijalva and Ellison are co-chairmen of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.