Representative Bruce Braley advocated a four-point "Blueprint for Recovery" in Politico yesterday. The House Populist Caucus, which Braley formed last year, has endorsed these proposals to "require Wall Street to pay for economic development on Main Street and to pay down our nation's deficit."
Compensation. We need to change the culture of limitless bonuses by passing the Wall Street Bonus Tax Act (H.R. 4426). America's middle-class families saw their savings wiped out by Wall Street's gambling addictions and then watched as their tax dollars went to save troubled banks. The targeted tax would apply only to executives at banks that received Troubled Asset Relief Program funding who took bonuses in excess of $50,000. The Bonus Tax Act would generate billions of dollars of new revenue that would be directed exclusively to reward small businesses that are investing in new jobs.
Speculation. We need to stop excessive and risky speculation on Wall Street by passing the Let Wall Street Pay for the Restoration of Main Street Act (H.R. 4191). This legislation would reinstate a tiny transaction fee on speculative stock transactions by Wall Street traders, creating $150 billion annually in new revenue that would be dedicated to job creation and reducing the deficit.
Job creation. A "jobless recovery" is not a recovery for the middle class. With a national unemployment rate hovering around 10 percent, it's clear America's middle-class families are still struggling to make ends meet.
That's why we need to take the following two-pronged approach to creating good-paying jobs that can't be outsourced: We need to pass the National Infrastructure Development Bank Act (H.R. 2521), which would establish a wholly owned government corporation to prioritize infrastructure improvement projects that would create good-paying jobs. We also need to pass the Buy American Improvement Act (H.R. 4351) to eliminate loopholes in existing domestic sourcing laws and ensure that taxpayer money is used to purchase American-made products and support American jobs whenever possible.
Click here for more details on the Wall Street transaction fees the Populist Caucus supports. The idea is worthwhile, but I am skeptical that the current economic team in the Obama administration would get behind it.
I'm not clear on why a new government corporation on infrastructure projects needs to be created (as opposed to just appropriating more funds for existing agencies to spend on high-speed rail, affordable housing or other infrastructure needs). I asked Braley's office for comment on that part of the blueprint and received this reply:
The Populist Caucus believes we need a National Infrastructure Bank (NIB) now to invest in merit-based infrastructure projects-both traditional and technological-by leveraging private capital. In recent years, the private sector has raised more than $100 billion in dedicated infrastructure funds, but most of that money is being invested overseas. We need an NIB to attract those funds into a U.S. market for infrastructure development.
It's notable that the Populist Caucus is not backing broader populist measures, such as tax hikes for corporations and the top 1 percent of individual earners. Then again, Braley's caucus prepared and approved this "blueprint" before Oregon residents approved two tax-raising ballot initiatives this week.
Great concepts all around
These sound like excellent proposals, but the media will get a hold of it and portray most of the NIB projects as pork and then the Club for Growth and the National Taxpayers Union etc. will portray themselves as the real populists because they are "protecting" the taxpayer.
Republicans are seeking the populist image
but it's not credible, given who has overwhelmingly benefited from Republican economic policies. It's not the middle class. Even Polk County Republican Party Chairman Ted Sporer has acknowledged that Republicans have used government "to empower and enrich large, powerful economic units, so as to allow them to better victimize the average Iowan [...]."
If Democrats do more to help the middle class we'll be in a better position to counter the Club for Growth propaganda. Up to now the Obama administration's economic policies have been giving Republicans too much ammunition.