A friend who has little interest and much dislike of politics wrote to me after I’d reblogged “The Republicans Are Playing Chicken.” That post detailed the Republicans’ cynical determination to enact a new low in politics: refusing to work with Democrats to raise the debt ceiling.
The result of this maneuver, which would be akin to a person’s failure to pay a credit card debt, would have had huge ramifications for our economy and the world’s economic picture.
It was particularly shameful/shameless because the debt to be repaid includes Trump’s vast tax cut for the wealthiest Americans. Fortunately, the Democrats headed it off–for now.
My friend said he sees politics today as Republicans fighting Republicans and Democrats, and Democrats fighting Democrats and Republicans. I was so surprised by this comment, which I understood to mean he saw everything going on in our country as fairly equivalent in both parties, that I didn’t know where to start. I didn’t respond to that statement.
But I realized there may be many Americans who share his view, so I feel it’s important to show how wrong it is–dangerously wrong, if it leads to lack of enthusiasm in voting in 2022.
Let’s start with Dems fighting Dems. In fact, 96% of Congressional Democrats now support both the bipartisan infrastructure bill that has passed the Senate and the “human infrastructure” bill that will need to be passed by budget reconciliation by the Democrats alone. There is almost no disagreement about the importance of the bill. Those for it include members elected in swing states and those who won in districts that Trump had carried in 2016.
The progressives took a stance that they wouldn’t vote for the infrastructure bill until they were sure they’d get the full support of all the Senate Democrats for the reconciliation bill. And although there was some messiness in the artificial deadlines that couldn’t be met, it is likely that a scaled down version of the bill will pass, naysayers notwithstanding.
This bill has the overwhelming support of the American people in poll after poll. It is President Biden’s bill–not some crazy far-out “socialist plot.” In the poor state of West Virginia, where Senator Joe Manchin is holding out for a smaller bill, it has 70% support.
“Build Back Better” is designed to redress the terrible imbalance in the American economy that’s been growing for the last 40 years as the wealthy advance and the middle class and poor stagnate or fall behind.
If enacted, even at a lower figure than the $3.5 trillion over 10 years, its results could be transformative for Americans who’ve been struggling. It is truly an investment in the people of our country–and our country’s future.
Robert Hubbell writes in his newsletter “Today’s Edition” that some say Biden’s proposal will “radically reshape our society.”
He then counters that argument, first stating what the bill will do:
*Add dental and vision coverage to Medicare
*Allow the federal government (instead of insurance companies) to negotiate drug prices for Medicare recipients
*Offer two years of free tuition to community college
*Increase the amount of federal financial aid for students attending four-year colleges
*Invest in the construction or rehabilitation of 2 million homes
*Increase the Child Tax Credit
*Increase the Earned Income Credit from $543 to $1,502
*Reduce [health] insurance premiums for low-income Americans
*Expand free school meals
*Rehabilitate infrastructure in aging school buildings
*Invest in workforce training to respond to the changing job market
*Extend and increase the tax credit for electric vehicles
*Extend and increase the tax credit for clean energy
*Establish clean energy standards
*Create a Civilian Climate Corps
“With the exception of the creation of Civilian Climate Corps, the above items merely expand (or reduce) existing benefits or costs. Those revisions to existing programs will not ‘radically reshape our society.’ They will help working Americans to build better lives for their families in a safer, cleaner environment.
“Opponents complain about clean energy credits, but do not complain about subsidies to oil and coal companies. Opponents complain about child tax credits and earned income credits but do not object to corporations writing off obscene stock grants to CEOs. Opponents complain about free meals for school children but do not object to corporations writing off $1,000 lunches when executives entertain clients at fancy restaurants…
“Pick a provision of the reconciliation package and you can find a similar but more expensive benefit granted to corporations in the current tax code. Joe Biden is investing in the American people rather than corporations. If that is ‘radically reshaping our society, we need more of it, not less.”
This bill will not add to the debt or deficit. It will be paid for over its proposed 10-year life by “making the tax code fairer and making the wealthiest and large corporations pay their fair share,” according to the White House.
And that’s why it’s under attack by powerful forces, including lobbyists for the fossil fuel industry and pharmaceutical industry.
Conservative columnist David Brooks fully supports this legislative move. He finds it necessary to address ‘“the crisis that Biden was elected to address — the poisonous combination of elite insularity and vicious populist resentment.”
“The Democratic spending bills are economic packages that serve moral and cultural purposes. They should be measured by their cultural impact, not merely by some wonky analysis. In real, tangible ways, they would redistribute dignity back downward.
“They would support hundreds of thousands of jobs for home health care workers, child care workers, construction workers, metal workers, supply chain workers. They would ease the indignity millions of parents face having to raise their children in poverty.
“Look at the list of states that, according to a recent analysis of White House estimates by CNBC, could be among those getting the most money per capita from the infrastructure bill. A lot of them are places where Trumpian resentment is burning hot: Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, North and South Dakota. (emphasis mine)
“In normal times, I’d argue that many of the programs in these packages may be ineffective. I’m a lot more worried about debt than progressives seem to be. But we’re a nation enduring a national rupture, and the most violent parts of it may still be yet to come.
“These packages say to the struggling parents and the warehouse workers: I see you. Your work has dignity. You are paving your way. You are at the center of our national vision.”
“This is how you fortify a compelling moral identity, which is what all of us need if we’re going to be able to look in the mirror with self-respect. This is the cultural transformation that good policy can sometimes achieve. Statecraft is soulcraft.”
And what have the Republicans been doing while the Democrats are trying to make America a fairer place? In Congress, they’ve been uniformly opposing the legislation, with the old “socialist” canards, etc.
In the states, they’ve been continuing their efforts to diminish voting based on disproven fraud in the past election. They adhere to the Big Lie that Trump won, even when there’s overwhelming evidence even from his own former staff that they knew he’d lost.
They continue demonizing Covid vaccines and protective masks, encouraging potential violence that’s resulted in screaming at local school boards about reasonable Covid mandates to save children’s lives, as well as manufactured scare tactics surrounding “critical race theory.”
Read Heather Cox Richardson’s Letter From an American (October 1) for a view of what was going on in the Trump administration exactly one year ago today. Her entire essay is worth the time. She concludes:
“For my part, I’m not sure what is driving the stories that seem to paint Biden’s work as a lost cause: The recent position that Democrats are hapless? That it’s safer to be negative than positive? That our news cycle demands drama?
“Whatever it is, I continue to maintain that the issue right now is not Democrats’ negotiations over the infrastructure bills—regardless of how they turn out—but that Republican lawmakers are actively working to undermine our democracy.
I heartily agree with her, and with political scientist and journalist David Rothkopf, who tweeted a lengthy series of excellent comments pointing out how silly the media’s take on the “Dems in Disarray” is when the Democrats are, around the clock, doing the hard work of attempting to legislate a huge and much-needed package.
(Rothkopf and others have a podcast discussion bearing a title that refers to the expansion of Medicare to include coverage of eyeglasses and hearing aids: “When Did Old People Being Able to Hear or Chew Their Food Become Marxism?”)
Rothkopf concluded his tweet thread:
“They [Democrats] will continue to be the one party seeking to defend our democracy and ensure our rights and strengthen our country at home and abroad. Does that sound like disarray to you. If it is, I’m all for it. We need it. It is the only path to our growth & survival as a country.”
What do you think? I keep pondering David Brooks’s thoughts that this transformative legislation may be a way to reach some of the disaffected who might otherwise be prone to hopelessness and even violence. Wouldn’t that be an extraordinary example of Joe Biden’s keeping his campaign promises to accomplish the seemingly impossible work of unifying our nation?