A recent concession by President Joe Biden to lower the cost of his 10-year $3.5 trillion plan to bolster the middle class to around $2.3 trillion is more reasonable given the federal debt, yearly deficits and the reality of Washington politics.
The deal-making experience of Biden’s near 50 years in Congress seems to be paying off. We just hope it isn’t too little too late, and that positions of the Progressive Caucus haven’t hardened so much Democrats become akin to losing the good in pursuit of the perfect.
The Biden plan offers much for the middle class. There are tax cuts, possibly long-term, for families with children and lower income people trying to pay day care and keep a job. Opportunities for good paying jobs will expand for middle class families with free or more affordable community college tuition and pre-K education.
For seniors, it would add vision and hearing to Medicare and possibly expand Medicaid, the health program for the poor. It also calls for keeping higher Obamacare subsidies that were passed with the March COVID relief plan.
But lowering the cost will involve either cutting some programs altogether or reducing the time tax cuts are in effect. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, who has been staunchly against the $3.5 trillion plan, has said he would like to see some of the new programs means tested based on income.
That seems to be a reasonable approach, and some modifications to the Biden plan may win his support. Biden knows that will be needed as Republicans have vowed to wholeheartedly reject the plan.
We would favor keeping programs that help young families and middle class families struggling to pay day care costs. We would like to see middle class families be able to send their children to college or trade school without saddling their children and themselves with staggering student debt.
The bonus in bringing in a lower cost plan may come with more immediate approval of the $1 trillion infrastructure plan already passed by a large bipartisan majority in the Senate. Progressives have been holding up the plan in hopes for moderates to accept the $3.5 trillion plan. The infrastructure plan is crucial to the economy and to catch up on crumbling infrastructure that Congress has not been able to fix for decades.
Progressives may have to take a tie in this game. Biden’s message to them should be they can get all they want if they win bigger majorities in the House and Senate. Right now that majority is a slim one vote in the Senate (with Vice President Kamala Harris the winning vote) and shrinking to a handful of votes in the House.
Democrats should unite behind a smaller “Build Back Better” plan. It may be the one chance in the next decade to actually even the playing field for working families.
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