As the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network releases its progressive, practical Budget for a Millennial America, those who helped craft it will explain their innovative ideas and tough choices in a series of posts. Today Zachary Kolodin argues that progressives should be fighting over the budget on their own terms.
Congressional squabbling over the federal budget can seem like a bunch of noise and politicking. But the federal budget provides a healthy, proactive way to demonstrate progressive priorities. Sure, we can call foul in response to every cut proposed by the GOP. But we'd rather be able to make a full-throated argument for the budget we want -- not just in 2012, but in 2016, 2020, and so on. Using the budget to reveal a path to progress, rather than allowing our opponents to use it as a weapon, is not only possible, but is an effective tactic.
So how can we do this? First, outline a progressive vision for the future. What does our world look like? Second, show people how we can start building the road to get there. There's no credibility unless there is a road.
How does something as supposedly grim and boring as a budget do this? It is vehicle for making our goals concrete and achievable. Try telling someone that you can prove America can fully repay the loans of talented Americans willing to become great teachers, provide universal kindergarten, and that we can afford it. Not only that, but we can simplify our tax system and ensure that middle- and low-income people pay the same or less than they already do.
It also bolsters our cries of foul play when the GOP tries to cut education or Social Security using "fiscal responsibility" as their justification. We can feel confident when we push back because we have our own fiscally responsible plan. If conservatives fight it out on this turf, we don't need to ask for a change in playing field. We can go head to head on their ground.
The time is ripe for this conversation. Discussing the federal budget after a financial crash that caused the Great Recession allows us to tell a story about how we got to this point. Hate national debt? Then let's fix American banking so we're not left saving Wall Street fat cats again. Hate spending so much on Medicare? Okay, let's make sure that health care reform works, because there aren't any other plans that chart a path to affordable health care and lower costs.
We aren't going to win arguments with the right by allowing them to dominate key narratives like the story of the federal budget. This is an argument we should want to have because we can win. It allows us to tell a very specific story about why we are where we are and how we can get where we want to go.
We at the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network want to have these conversations. That's why we asked more than 3,000 young people to outline their vision for America in 2040. And that's why we convened our 20 top student policy experts to create a federal budget proposal based on these findings. Over the next week, we'll be posting a series that touches on different aspects of the Budget for the Millennial America. Be sure to check in tomorrow.
Zachary Kolodin is the Director of the Future Preparedness Initiative at the Roosevelt Institute.