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House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's federal budget proposal, crowded with unrealistic cuts on critical social programs, is like a scene in a bad "The Lord of the Rings" sequel. Long, overblown and waiting for a third act - and as unbearably outdated in its outlook on poverty as Gandalf appears in his gray beard. Yet, judging from the media noise, you might come to the conclusion that it's the only budget proposal there is.
It's not. One of the smarter budgets to hit the Hill has gotten nary a mention. It's the Congressional Black Caucus' Alternative FY2015 Budget Plan.
The CBC's practical stab at budget mathematics is an impressively disciplined annual exercise you wouldn't know about, even if you live and work in Washington. It's a shame because it's actually one of the better documents to circulate Capitol Hill every year - and has been so consistently since Ronald Reagan was president. You don't have to agree with everything in it, but it definitely injects an essential black voice into the high stakes budget debate.
That voice rightfully presses the case for a sensible $500 billion combined job creation, infrastructure and education improvement package, along with $2 trillion in revenue, nearly $2 trillion in deficit reduction and $400 billion in poverty reduction. Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., has proposed a very workable Wall Street "transaction tax" - a simple 0.25 percent tax on every financial speculation that raises nearly $400 billion over 10 years.
Let a black member get slapped with an ethics probe, say something off-the-cuff on race or be the obligatory go-to person for all things racially charged and you'll get streams of content to hit the trend cycle.
But let a group of organized black politicians count and crunch budget numbers - that's apparently too much for Washington and the world to handle.
The CBC budget is one of the last real and intellectually solid congressional sounding boards for the under served, and yet it can't find a session of Congress that dares to pass it. The CBC may not get everything right - who does in Washington these days? They should, however, at least get credit for going in the right direction with this particular effort.
Charles Ellison is a veteran political strategist. He wrote this for The Root, a black news and opinion web site.