Imagine President Joe Biden sitting atop a wrecking ball as it swings toward the American family, liberty, our free-market economy, education and reasonable taxation, for starters, and you will have imagined his proposed Build Back Better Act.
Yes, I know, it’s a klutzy name, but it may go down in history. In fact, its projected 10-year $3.5 trillion cost ($27,000 per household) is historically high even without analyses showing that the estimate falls short of the $5 trillion reality. Right now, Biden is afraid it may not be enacted, and, by way of winning over two dissatisfied Democrats, has talked about bringing its supposed cost down by a trillion or so. That move could fix its actual cost at something like $4 trillion while its policy content would redefine America adversely.
The question is whether the trillion-dollar deduction will pacify Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia or Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, both of them saying this conglomeration has to be to revised if they were to join 48 other Democratic senators voting for it and refusing to join 50 other senators known as Republicans voting against it. Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders, from whom Biden imbibes the thrill of radicalism, tweeted that two senators should not be permitted to defeat 48 others, eliciting the correction that it would be 52 votes defeating 48.
If the bill fails, some think it would be politically equivalent to Biden’s Afghanistan withdrawal and the border crisis, but it could strengthen his legacy. Remember we have already spent something like $5 trillion to deal with the pandemic and have a $1.2 trillion infrastructure measure sitting on the shelf. With passage of this bill, we could be looking at a black-hole debt ($220,000 per household) redefining America downward. Inflation is already punishing us and a Biden vision of higher corporate taxes would mean fewer jobs, lower wages and still higher prices. Down the road, we won’t have the means to rescue depleted Social Security and Medicare. The stock market will shrink, causing invested pension savings to shrink.
Money is just part of what’s wrong with this bill, which has a massive 2,400-page report outlining policy content. Leaving some pages out, the subjects include climate change, free child care, free community college, pre-kindergarten for all, union goodies, paid work leave, Medicare expansion, tax confusion and additional tax credits for families with children. While progressives see all of this as vital to the European-style socialism they desire, others see progressives as utopians making things worse, as in disincentivizing work with ill-conceived welfare. Depending on such matters as how many children you have and how high-paying a job, you would be able to make more money by not working than by working.
Lots of summations of what the bill does make it look good until you learn, for instance, that new child tax credits, which pay money to people with jobs, will in effect supply a basic income for many. The bill helps union members with dues that just might boost the salaries of union leaders making more on average than CEOs of corporations. Pre-kindergarten payments for 3- and 4-year-old children might help down-and-out single parents but cheat those who could benefit more by being home with loving families, as shown in a National Review article.
By going softer on its dogma and allowing for bipartisan debate and compromise, the progressive Democrats could have more wisely devised legislation surer of passage. No one seems to know about Sinema, but Manchin says he will surely reach an agreement eventually even though he is right now headed in the opposite direction. He wants to revive the Hyde Amendment and stick it in the bill, and then the bill’s opponents will include progressives hardly attached to the idea of forbidding the government to pay for abortions.
Another issue is raising the debt ceiling to allow borrowing for expenses above legal limits, both old and new. The Democrats could likely do this on their own but want Republicans to share the blame, and right now no one much is budging. Well, says Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, repaying what we owe could become impossible by Oct. 18, meaning crisis time: default, no entitlement payments, banks turned upside down, millions of jobs gone poof and foreign adversaries laughing it up.
Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.