Free college, a Green New Deal, Medicare for All, a federal jobs guarantee: each of these sweeping social programs are being proposed by Democrats running for president in 2020. The conservative response to each of these has generally been that they cost too much, and that there’s no way that the government could ever responsibly pay for any of these (let alone all of them). Beyond that, the right argues that injecting the trillions of dollars into the economy would likely start to cause inflation, and then throws in a comment about Venezuela.
And under the prevailing economic thought in the United States, this would be true. Congress currently operates on a pay-as-you-go system (known as PAYGO) where all increases in spending must be offset by cuts somewhere else in the budget — effectively preventing the creation of a large, expensive federal program. While it makes sense that Republicans support this fiscally conservative policy, Democrats inexplicably back it as well. Upon taking control of the House, Democrats passed a rules package that included PAYGO, with only three Democrats voting against (Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Tulsi Gabbard and Ro Khanna).
PHOTO COURTESY OF AMERICAN BULLION
Instead of perpetuating fiscal policy which prevents Democrats from pushing their very own agenda, progressives should support, well, progressive monetary policy. It’s true that injecting enough money into the economy would cause inflation — although it’s difficult to tell how much money, besides that the number is likely in the trillions — but instead of shying away from the problem, Democrats can just as easily solve it. Instead of using the Fed to fight inflation, (which it has done impressively well, considering the size of the Republican tax bill) legislators can attack the root cause of inflation: too much money in the economy.
The question then remains of how to take the money out: significantly raising taxes on the middle class would be counterproductive to the goals of the social programs. The top one percent on the other hand, owns approximately 40 percent of all wealth in the U.S., providing a vast amount of money for the government to tap to reduce inflation. A wealth tax such as the one proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) could easily correct inflation, with the added benefit of contributing towards greater income equality. But instead of embracing fiscal policies that help them advance core progressive legislation, almost all Democrats continue to repeat the conservative talking points in favor of PAYGO.
Ryman is a sophomore Political Science major with a minor in History, Environmental Studies, and Theatre.