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Moving Forward: Championing the Middle Class and Promoting Transparency

 

In the wake of last week's results, progressives must continue to pursue policies to promote economic growth and equity, address revenue shortfalls through sound tax reform, alleviate the burden on working families, and support public programs.

This is especially necessary as conservatives in legislatures and governor's seats are promising a slew of heinous cuts to state programs and several other fiscally irresponsible proposals.  For example, in response to his state’s overwhelming $25 billion deficit, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has proposed a range of unsustainable cuts, and just as alarmingly, has suggested the state opt out of the federal Medicaid program.  Such an action would be wholly unjustifiable on economic, fiscal, and social grounds. Not only would it result in 3.6 million children, low-income, elderly, and disabled Texans losing health care coverage, it would also halt millions of federal dollars from flowing to the state and substantially impede economic activity.

Stateline.org recently found that "at least 12 of the nation’s new governors have ruled out tax hikes, even as they face billions in collective deficits." These types of budget reductions predominantly harm the middle class and low-income families, and will only serve to hamper the prospects for recovery and increase joblessness. On top of this, right-wing officials across the country are pushing misguided privatization schemes, protecting corporate tax loopholes, and aiming to reduce taxes on the rich while shifting the cost on to everyone else.

The egregiousness of these policies is masked by the fervency of the Right's manipulative anti-government rhetoric. As E.J. Dionne Jr. expressed in The Washington Post, "[t]he genius of American conservatives over the last 30 years has been their understanding that the most effective way to change the country is to change the terms of our political debate."

Progressive leaders confront an enormous challenge in building support for needed action, even as the public is skeptical of the ability of government to deliver on its promises. To counter this perverse dynamic, progressives must champion the interests of the middle class and demonstrate the positive impact of government action, public structures, and investments in local communities. (Progressive States Network provides messaging resources for legislators and others interested in communicating more effectively about the importance of essential public services and investments.)


Action begins with transparency and accountability - issues that attract bipartisan support, foster a more focused budget process, protect taxpayers, and ensure effective use of public dollars. Progressive States Network has previously detailed the benefits of greater transparency of state spending on economic development subsidies, corporate tax breaks, private contracts, and tax expenditures.  As Good Jobs First writes in The State of State Disclosure, "the strength of the U.S. democracy rests to a great extent on transparency. Trust in government is enhanced when taxpayers can readily see where their tax dollars are going... Accessible information is a powerful weapon against... injustice as well as inequality and inefficiency."

Full Resources

Good Jobs First - The State of State Disclosure
Progressive States Network - Corporate Transparency in State Budgets
Progressive States Network - Messaging for Government Action in an Economic Downturn
Progressive States Network - Tax and Budget Reform: Policy Options for 2011
Stateline.org - Facing big deficits, a dozen new governors rule out tax hikes