After much drama, President Joe Biden made it clear last week that his core legislative package — the American Jobs Plan, which would begin rebuilding our decrepit infrastructure, and the American Family Plan, which would address essential needs — will pass together or not at all.
Now Democrats are moving to negotiate the scope of the Family Plan so they can unify behind it.
The inevitable disputes should not drown out some basic truths.
First, the two bills contain reforms that are imperative and remarkably popular. The infrastructure bill is but a small down payment on rebuilding the key sinews of our economy — roads, mass transit, water systems, the electric grid. No sensible person doubts the need. And the American Family Plan puts many programs together in a reconciliation package that can pass with majority support, a tactic necessitated by Republican obstruction.
What Republicans label as “socialist” would simply provide American families with the kind of basic shared security that is enjoyed by families in industrial nations across the world. The child tax credit gives families with children a helping hand, as does expanded investment in daycare and universal pre-K. It would reduce childhood poverty by almost half.
The bill would guarantee paid family leave so that workers can afford to care for their loved ones in distress. Making community college tuition free will make advanced education more affordable. Providing seniors with more affordable prescription drugs and expanding Medicare to include hearing, vision and dental care is just common sense.
These investments are not frivolous luxuries. They do not turn America into a socialist society. They make for a more humane and rational society. And that is 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, in fact provides $550 billion in new money over 10 years. The Family Plan is described as a $3.5 trillion bill, but this too is over 10 years. In comparison, the military budget — at over $1 trillion a year — would be a $10 trillion-dollar program. Moreover, both plans include savings and tax hikes, on the wealthy and corporations, that pay for the bulk of the new spending.
Since they are largely paid for, the bills are not inflationary. Over the next 10 years, our cumulative GDP will total over $285 trillion, representing nearly 20% of the world economy. Three-and-a-half trillion is barely over 1% of that, so suggesting that will somehow fuel out-of-control inflation is a joke.
Third, for all the talk of division, what is striking is how unified the parties are. Republicans, despite all the blather of bipartisanship, are unified in obstructing the Biden agenda, believing they will benefit if he fails. They will vote unanimously against the American Family Plan, and against any effort to pay for it that involves raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations.
Democrats, in contrast, are remarkably unified in favor of both plans. As Rep. Pramila Jayapal, leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus has said, about 96% of Democrats in both houses of Congress favor passing the president’s plan. There are only two conservative senators — Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema — and only half a dozen House members dragging their feet.
The problem is that with the Senate split 50-50 and Democrats having a margin of only three in the House, even a few corrupted, compromised or conservative opponents can foul up the works. And, needless to say, Big Pharma, Big Oil, the business lobby and Wall Street have launched legions of lobbyists to try to stop the reforms from going forward.
Against the blizzard of corporate campaigns and money, against the partisan obstruction of Republicans, it will take a broad, active citizen mobilization to force the change. These reforms are long overdue; their passage is a moral imperative, not simply a policy choice.
Over the next few weeks, Americans must join the fight. Every citizen who cares about the future of this country should make certain their senators and representatives hear from them.
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