Cherry blossoms, baseball’s Opening Day, allergy attacks, and…budget proposals?

One of these is not like the others. Around Washington, however, all four are springtime rituals, and this year is no exception. We’re already seeing three competing budgets vying for attention: one from President Obama, another from the House Budget Committeeled by Paul Ryan, and a third from the House Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC). [PDF]

It’s likely none of the proposed budgets will pass in entirety, but they aren’t expected to. These budgets are essentially wishlists for each group, and useful tools to rally each respective base. That being said, the above plans do offer some valuable insights into where each party stands relative to each other and to the American people.

The National Priorities Project (NPP), recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, released its own analysis of the three budgets and how they stack up against popular opinion. According to the NPP, the budget best reflecting the views of the American people is also the one getting the least attention.

The Third Way

The report examined a number of issues such as job creation, entitlements, and foreign policy. Of the dozen issue areas surveyed, the CPC’s budgetbestcorresponds with what Americans want.

For example, the CPC calls to restore funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps. According to the NPP, 70 percent of Americans oppose cuts to food stamps. The Obama budget, on the other hand, simply leaves funding unchanged.

The CPC budget also requires complete withdrawal from Afghanistan (82 percent of Americans oppose the Afghanistan war), cuts military spending by $255 billion over 10 years (58 percent support substantial cuts in military funding), and would close a number of corporate tax loopholes (supported by 67 percent).

In comparison, the Obama budget doesn’t get terrific marks; much of it preserves the status quo. Changes it does propose in areas like tax policy and increased discretionary spending are relatively small.

Still, Obama’s budget tracks more closely with the American public than the Ryan budget. The Ryan budget may pledge to close some tax loopholes, but as with the tax plan he rolled out with Mitt Romney in 2012 during the presidential elections, there are no specifics to date.

What Kind Of Country Are We?

Most Americans do not identify themselves as liberals–only 23 percent in the most recent Gallup survey, the highest in that poll’s history.

This fact is what makes the CPC’s budget so intriguing. If we really are a centrist nation, or even a center-right one, how does that align with the NPP’s findings?

Maybe we’re not a center-right nation after all. Maybe we lean more left than we think. NPP’s analysis shows Americans actually do support progressive policies, at least in theory. Most Americans favor expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, want corporations and the wealthy to pay their share of taxes, support cuts to military funding, and believe in programs like food stamps and unemployment benefits. These are all progressive ideas.

So why isn’t there a progressive renaissance happening right now?

Part of the problem is that “progressive” is a term without a clear definition. Most Americans aren’t sure it describes their views. Others contend progressivism has been hampered by problems with the rollout of the Affordable Care Act (an argument I think has merit).

Both of those are hurdles that need to be overcome if progressives want to reach more people. It will take time. But if the NPP’s results indicate anything, it’s that Americans want a system that’s more equitable and takes care of more people.

This budget doesn’t have a chance of becoming law in the near future, but in the spirit of spring, it’s worth remembering the old baseball saying: There’s always next year.