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Republicans have unveiled their latest austerity budget, but, that's not the only budget that the media should be focusing on. While it's important that we all fight back against the Republicans' proposals to further the destruction of our social safety net, we need to be pushing hard to support the Progressive budget as well. Last week, the House Progressive Caucus – which is the largest caucus in the House of Representatives – unveiled The People's Budget: A Raise for America. Instead of slashing programs like Medicaid and food stamps, like the Republican Budget, the People's Budget would repeal the sequester cuts, strengthen the social safety net, and invest in working families. Where Republicans want to repeal Obamacare and take subsidies away from low-income Americans, Progressives want to expand affordable healthcare by implementing a public option and negotiating lower drug prices for seniors. Republicans want to voucher-ize Medicare, lower taxes on the rich, and increase military spending. And Progressives want to allow states to create single-payer systems, provide debt-free college to every student, and close the loopholes that allow corporations to stash billions over seas. While Republicans are actually bragging about cutting another $5.5 trillion dollars from the federal budget, Progressives are proud to call for nearly $2 trillion dollars of investment in America's future. There is no comparison between investing in jobs, healthcare, education, and infrastructure, and slashing our social programs with more austerity just to give billionaires another tax cut. The People's Budget is a virtual blueprint of how to put our nation back on track, and how to restore our faith in the American Dream. These are time-tested ideas that strengthen the middle class and make those at the top pay their fair share, and it's time that our lawmakers made the People's Budget a reality.

Thanks to Obamacare, 16 million Americans are no longer uninsured. Despite some Republican Governors refusing to expand Medicaid in their states, the healthcare law has been so effective that our national uninsured rate has dropped from 20.3 percent to 13.2 percent since October of 2013. Sylvia Burwell, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, said, “When it comes to the metrics of affordability, access, and quality, the evidence shows that the Affordable Care Act is working, and families, businesses, and taxpayers are better off as a result.” And, these numbers show just what's at stake if the Right-wing members of the Supreme Court decide that people in Red states don't deserve health care subsidies. Sixteen million Americans who finally have health insurance could have it yanked away because Republicans in Congress can't stand that President Obama gets credit for his success. They shouldn't be fighting the Affordable Care Act, they should be celebrating it as an American achievement. Making sure that every American has access to affordable healthcare is a goal we should all support, and 16 million fewer uninsured is one heck of a step in the right direction.

It doesn't matter where you drive, you've probably noticed that our roads are crumbling. That's why members of both parties agree that we need to extend transportation funding, but that doesn't mean that they agree on how to pay for it. According to a recent article over at The Hill, lawmakers have proposed several ways to pay for highway funding, and there are very different views on who should fork over the cash to repair our roads and bridges. Some lawmakers are pushing regressive ideas like implementing toll systems or raising the gas tax, while others want those who make the most to cover the majority of these expenses. The more progressive ideas include taxing the hoards of cash that corporations have stashed over seas, or taxing oil companies per barrel of oil instead of Americans paying more at the pump. It has been far too long since our country invested in our national infrastructure, and it's time for those who benefit the most to contribute more to rebuild our roads and bridges. If we don't want the rich to skip out on their fair share when it comes to our infrastructure, we need to call our lawmakers and make our opinions known about the transportation bill.

Scott Walker is finding out that it's hard to balance a budget when you cut your own revenue. Last year, the Republican governor of Wisconsin cut taxes by $541 million dollars, and this year, he's slashing education funding and skipping a massive debt payment to cover the shortfall. By pushing off Wisconsin's $108 million dollar debt payment, Scott Walker will cost his state at least another $1.1 million dollars in fees and interest. And, who knows what it will cost to undo the damage to Wisconsin's public education system after $300 million is slashed from university funding, and nearly $130 million is cut from primary schools across that state. These are just a few of the effects of Walker's failed economic policies, which are nothing more than recycled “trickle-down” nonsense. Like other Republican governors around the country, Scott Walker is finding out that you can't cut your way to prosperity, and the people of Wisconsin better recall their governor before there's nothing left for him to cut.

And finally... Oregon is already ahead of most of our nation when it comes to voter registration, and now that state is taking another step towards getting everyone out to vote. Last week, that state implemented automatic voter registration, which will ensure that every Oregonian citizen who interacts with the DMV automatically receives a ballot. Rather than blocking people from participating in the democratic process, Oregon wants everyone who can vote to help shape their state's policies and select their leaders. The new measure is expected to increase the voter rolls by 300,000 citizens, and moves the burden of registration from the voter to the state. Already, that state's mail-in ballot system has given Oregon some of the highest voter turnout rates in our nation, and this measure will only increase turnout even more. The most important part of living in a democracy is participating in it, and every state should take a lesson from Oregon's inclusive policies.

And that's the way it is - for the week of March 23, 2015 – I'm Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.

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