An Alternative, Progressive Plan for the Deficit

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country we bring you the unmissable quotes from political conversations on WNYC. On today's Brian Lehrer Show, Democratic Congresswoman Jane Schakowsky of Illinois explains her alternative proposal to the deficit reduction plan released last week.

As part of their proposal to deal with the deficit, the two co-chairs of President Obama's bi-partisan budget commission recommended cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Schakowsky, also a member of the comission, has laid out an alternative, progressive approach to close the gap. She says the chairmen's plan would be too hard on the middle class:

The philosophy is very different. We talk about shared sacrifice. Well, there hasn't been shared sacrifice in our country right now. The middle income and lower income people have not seen their income increase and all of the growth and wealth has gone to the very wealthiest already in our country. 

Congresswoman Schakowsky says there's a simpler solution and it comes from building more revenue, not from cutting into the elderly with Social Security and Medicare cuts. She suggests putting back a "robust" public option, saying this is what will bring health care costs down.

One of the things in my plan would be to let Medicare negotiate with the drug companies for lower prices. Like the veterans administration does and as a consequence, the cost of drugs under the VA is much lower, a fraction of the cost.

The President's deficit commission is scheduled to vote on a plan iby December 1. 14 of the 18 members must agree for a plan to pass. Schakowsky is hopeful, but she acknowledges the political prospects for her plan are dim.

I think that it's going to be very hard to come to an agreement that's comprehensive by 14 people... I think the Republicans, the right-leaning members, are not interested in revenue increases.  And so, I don't see how we get from here to there... but regardless I think our work has been constructive in laying out many things that the Congress can consider about how we reduce our debt and our deficit, which everyone agrees, progressives and otherwise, is a serious problem.