After much drama, President Joe Biden made it clear last week that his basic legislative package – the US Jobs Plan, which would begin to rebuild our decrepit infrastructure, and the US Family Plan, which would meet basic needs – will pass together or not at all. .
Now Democrats are set to negotiate the scope of the family plan so they can unite behind it.
The inevitable arguments should not drown out some basic truths.
First, both bills contain imperative and remarkably popular reforms. The infrastructure bill is just a small down payment to rebuild the key nerves of our economy – roads, public transportation, water systems, the power grid. No sane person doubts the necessity. And the American family plan pulls together many agendas in a reconciliation package that can pass with majority support, a tactic necessitated by Republican obstruction.
What Republicans call “socialist” would simply provide American families with the kind of basic shared security that families in industrialized countries enjoy around the world. The child tax credit is helping families with children, as is increasing investment in child care and kindergarten. This would reduce child poverty by almost half.
The bill would guarantee paid family leave so that workers can afford to care for loved ones in distress. Making community college tuition free will make higher education more affordable. Providing older people with more affordable prescription drugs and expanding medicare to include hearing, vision and dental care makes good sense.
These investments are not frivolous luxuries. They are not making America a socialist society. They create a more human and more rational society. And that’s why both of these measures enjoy majority support among Americans, including significant support among Republican voters.
Second, these bills are affordable. The infrastructure bill, described as a $ 1.5 trillion plan, actually provides $ 550 billion in new money over 10 years. The family plan is described as a $ 3.5 trillion bill, but that too over 10 years. By comparison, the military budget – at over $ 1,000 billion a year – would be a $ 10,000 billion program. Plus, both plans include savings and tax hikes, on the wealthy and businesses, which pay the bulk of the new spending.
As they are largely paid, the bills are not inflationary. Over the next 10 years, our cumulative GDP will total more than $ 285 trillion, or nearly 20% of the global economy. Three and a half billion is just over 1% of that, so to suggest that it will somehow fuel some runaway inflation is a joke.
Third, despite all the talk about division, what is striking is how united the parties are. Republicans, for all the bipartisan gossip, are united in obstructing Biden’s agenda, believing they will benefit if it fails. They will vote unanimously against the American family plan, and against any effort to finance it that involves raising taxes on the rich and on businesses.
Democrats, on the other hand, are remarkably united in favor of both plans. As Representative Pramila Jayapal, leader of the Progressive Congressional Caucus, said, about 96% of Democrats in both houses of Congress are in favor of passing the president’s plan. There are only two Conservative senators – Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema – and only half a dozen MPs are dragging their feet.
The problem is, with the Senate split 50-50 and Democrats having only a three-margin margin in the House, even a few corrupt, compromised, or conservative opponents can mess up the business. And, needless to say, Big Pharma, Big Oil, the business lobby, and Wall Street have launched legions of lobbyists to try to stop reforms from moving forward.
Against the blizzard of campaigns and corporate money, against the partisan obstruction of the Republicans, it will take a broad and active citizen mobilization to force change. These reforms are long overdue; their passage is a moral imperative, not simply a political choice.
Over the next few weeks, the Americans must join the fight. Every citizen who cares about the future of this country should make sure that their senators and representatives hear it.
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