Responding directly to national demand for a massive jobs program, members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus today introduced the Restore the American Dream for the 99 Percent Act into the House of Representatives.
The bill would create more than 4 million jobs and reduce the deficit by more than $2 trillion over the next 10 years, making it the biggest government effort thus far to marshal the resources needed to address the economic crisis.
While no one expects the bill to pass in the Republican-controlled House, it is viewed by many as outlining what really must be done if the economy is to be restarted in a way that benefits the overwhelming majority of the population.
The best anyone can hope for under Republican rule of the Congress so far has been a possible extension of the payroll tax cut for workers in exchange for the country being forced to swallow the extension of the environmentally catastrophic Keystone XL pipeline .
Progressive Caucus Co-Chairmen Reps. Keith Ellison, D-Minn. and Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., presented the legislation at a news conference today in the Capitol.
The bill would create several "corps" that will offer government jobs to the unemployed doing essential work including repairing school buildings, maintaining public parks, building neighborhood energy efficiency and conservation projects, and providing health care and other public services in underserved areas. One of the corps would be specifically devoted to re-hiring teachers and first responders laid off by cash-strapped state and local governments .
There are provisions in the bill that require 75 percent of the goods and services purchased by the federal government to be made in America, provisions designed to help small businesses get federal contracts, and allocation of $50 billion alone for highway, public transportation and electrical grid improvement projects.
The bill provides for tariffs in cases where what the lawmakers called "currency manipulation by China" results in "artificially driving down the cost of Chinese imports."
One clause in the bill protects both the long-term unemployed and wounded veterans from hiring discrimination.
The bill includes provisions that would raise $800 billion through a surcharge on millionaires and billionaires, end tax subsidies for oil companies, and impose a tiny financial transactions tax on Wall Street.
There would be other budget savings through ending the war in Afghanistan and slashing $200 billion from the defense budget by eliminating unneeded weapons systems and cutting in half the military forces currently stationed in Europe.
The bill also strengthens health care reform by creating a public health insurance option that would be available through health care exchanges. That measure alone, the lawmakers say, would drive down spending federal health care spending by $90 billion.
The bill would allow Medicare to bargain with pharmaceutical companies to get bulk discounts, a move blocked by Republicans in the past. Supporters say it would help save more than $150 billion.
To save Social Security benefits and trust fund, the legislation would raise the cap on earnings taxed by Social Security above its current $106,800.
"The Republicans want the people to think about how bad things are and to focus their anger on the president," said Grijalva "They don't want people to count the things the Republicans voted down that would have helped this country."
"This bill," said Ellison, "shows we can put people to work today by building for tomorrow."
Photo: Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair, Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., at a news conference, Aug. 1. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)