Providing for the General Welfare Works

I don’t think I’ve ever heard anybody say the goal of the Democratic Party is to “provide for the general welfare” (that phrase from the Constitution). We’ve all heard instead that Democrats are fiscally irresponsible big spenders, while Republicans keep government spending under control, helping the economy grow. Simon Rosenberg, who leads a progressive think tank, explains how wrong this is

Inconvenient truth, fiscal responsibility edition:

Biden is now the third consecutive Democratic president to have seen the annual deficit drop significantly on their watch. It rose significantly under the last three Republican presidents.

[Biden] said he’d soon become the only president “ever to cut the deficit by more than $1 trillion in a single year.” He’s on track to deliver. . . . 

When it comes to the deficit, Americans have endured a remarkably consistent pattern for four decades.

It starts with a Republican presidential candidate denouncing the deficit and vowing to balance the budget if elected. That Republican then takes office, abandons interest in the issue, and expresses indifference when the deficit becomes vastly larger. Then a Democrat takes office, at which point Republican lawmakers who didn’t care at all about the deficit suddenly decide it’s a critical issue that the new president must immediately prioritize.

During the Democratic administration, the deficit invariably shrinks — a development Republicans tend to ignore — at which point the entire cycle starts over.

As the cycle spins, polls continue to show that most Americans see Republicans as the party most trustworthy to reduce the deficit, despite reality, because some partisan branding is tough to change, even in the face of four decades’ worth of evidence. [Steve Benen, MSNBC]

There is perhaps no more important false narrative in American politics than the [Republican Party] is the party of growth and fiscal responsibility.

Team Biden appears to be eager to take that on. Praise f—ing be.

The White House is leaning into a new argument: That deficit reduction can and should be recast as a positive feature of successful *progressive* economic policy. [Greg Sargent]

As we’ve been saying for many months now, it is essential that every 2022 voter knows that when Democrats are in power things get better, and when Republicans are in power they don’t.

The data is clear, overwhelming. . . .

 [It’s] the most important, least understood story in American politics. . . 

Since 1989, 43 million jobs have been created in the US, 41 million – 95% – have come under Democratic presidents. 

33.8 million jobs = 16 yrs of Clinton & Obama 

7.4 million jobs = 13 months of Biden

1.9 million jobs = 16 years of Bush, Bush & T____ [Rosenberg]

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. . . Democrats need to have this conversation with voters this year. It is essential knowledge, critical to understanding where we are, and where we are going as a nation.

Unquote.

It’s amazing that voters regularly say they “trust” Republicans more on the economy despite their consistently worse results. Why? Republicans associate themselves with low taxes and getting the government “out of the way”. But reducing taxes on people and corporations who already have lots of money doesn’t help the economy; it simply concentrates more wealth at the top. Repealing the Affordable Care Act or abolishing the Department of Education wouldn’t create jobs. Democrats do a better job on the economy by spreading the wealth around. They do this by promoting the “general welfare”, as the Constitution requires. When the general population is better off, the economy is better off. It’s as simple as that.

When Will We Build Back Better? And What Will We Do?

“Build Back Better”. It’s not a great slogan, but Biden’s BBB bill will be passed eventually. It won’t be as sensible as what Biden originally proposed. A few “conservative” or flaky congressional Democrats insisted on making it worse. But it will make a difference in millions of lives when it finally becomes law.

Democrats in the House say they want to pass it this coming week, which means by Thursday, November 18. Then, however, both the House and Senate take another much needed break until the end of November. Assuming House Democrats do their job next week, Senate Democrats will then have two weeks to do theirs, before it’s break time again.  Unless Senate Democrats approve it by December 10, it won’t get done until 2022 (we really are living in the future). 

Almost all the news about BBB has been about the spending side of the bill, leaving out the popular offsetting taxes the bill would impose on corporations and people with plenty of cash to spare. The other thing the news has mostly ignored is what the bill would do. A relatively objective and nonpartisan group called the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has kindly provided the list below. The CFRB concludes it would have a small effect on the federal deficit in its present form. In the long run, they say it would have a bigger effect, assuming all the temporary parts of the bill are made permanent. But there’s no doubt whatsoever these things are worth doing and we can afford to do them (unlike the last Republican tax cut, for example, which wasn’t worth doing and made good things like BBB less easy to afford).

What’s in the Build Back Better Act?

Policy Cost/Savings (-)
Family Benefits  $585 billion
Provide universal pre-k & establish an affordable child care program (6 years) $390 billion
Establish a paid family and medical leave program $195 billion
Climate & Infrastructure  $555 billion
Invest in clean energy & climate resilience $220 billion
Establish or expand clean energy & electric tax credits $190 billion
Establish or expand clean fuel & vehicle tax credits $60 billion
Establish or expand other climate-related tax benefits $75 billion
Enact infrastructure & related tax breaks $10 billion
Individual Tax Credits & Cuts $210 billion
Extend Child Tax Credit (CTC) increase to $3,000 ($3,600 for kids under 6) for one year $130 billion
Make CTC fully refundable for 2023 & beyond $55 billion
Extend expanded Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for one year  $15 billion
Other individual tax changes $10 billon
Health Care  $335 billion
Strengthen Medicaid home- and community-based services $150 billion
Extend expanded Affordable Care Act (ACA) premium tax credits & make premium tax credits available to those in Medicaid coverage gap through 2025 $125 billion
Establish Medicare hearing benefit $30 billion
Invest in the health care workforce $30 billion
Other Spending & Tax Cuts  $310 billion
Build & support affordable housing $170 billion
Increase higher education & workforce spending $40 billion
Other spending & investments $100 billion
Reduce or Delay TCJA Base Broadening $290 billion
Increase SALT deduction cap to $80,000 through 2025 $285 billion+
Delay amortization of research & experimentation expenses until 2026 $5 billion’
Enact Immigration Reform  ~$100 billion
Subtotal, Build Back Better Act Spending & Tax Breaks  $2.4 trillion
Increase Corporate Taxes -$830 billion 
Impose a 15 percent domestic minimum tax on large corporations -$320 billion
Impose a 15 percent global minimum tax & reform international taxation -$280 billion
Impose a 1 percent surcharge on corporate stock buybacks -$125 billion
Enact other corporate tax reforms -$105 billion
Increase Individual Taxes on High Earners  -$640 billion
Expand the 3.8 percent Net Investment Income Tax -$250 billion
Impose a 5 percent surtax on income above $10 million & an 8 percent surtax on income above $25 million -$230 billion
Extend and expand limits on deductibility of business losses -$160 billion
Other Revenue -$170 billion
Reduce the tax gap by funding IRS & other measures -$125 billion*
Reinstate superfund taxes on oil -$25 billion
Expand nicotine taxes -$10 billion
Reform tax treatment of retirement accounts -$10 billion
Health Care -$250 billion
Repeal Trump Administration drug rebate rule -$150 billion
Reform Part D formula, cap drug price growth, & allow targeted drug price negotiations -$100 billion
Establish $80,000 SALT deduction cap from 2026 through 2030 & $10,000 cap in 2031 -$300 billion+
Subtotal, Build Back Better Act Offsets  -$2.2 trillion
Net Deficit Increase, House Build Back Better Act  ~$200 billion

Preparing for a Worse Pandemic

It looks like the Gulf Stream will eventually collapse, leading to a climate catastrophe, but maybe it will take centuries, not months, so let’s consider a different catastrophe instead. Eric Lander, the administration’s top science adviser, explains what we need to do to avoid a much worse pandemic:

Coronavirus vaccines can end the current pandemic if enough people choose to protect themselves and their loved ones by getting vaccinated. But . . .

New infectious diseases have been emerging at an accelerating pace, and they are spreading faster.

. . . That’s why President Biden has asked Congress to fund his plan to build on current scientific progress to keep new infectious-disease threats from turning into pandemics like covid-19.

. . . For the first time in our history, we have an opportunity not just to refill our stockpiles but also to transform our capabilities. However, if we don’t start preparing now for future pandemics, the window for action will close.

Covid-19 has been a catastrophe: The toll in the United States alone is more than 614,000 lives . . . A future pandemic could be even worse — unless we take steps now.

It’s important to remember that the virus behind covid-19 is far less deadly than the 1918 influenza. The virus also belongs to a well-understood family, coronaviruses. It was possible to design vaccines within days of knowing the virus’s genetic code because 20 years of basic scientific research had revealed which protein to target and how to stabilize it. And while the current virus spins off variants, its mutation rate is slower than that of most viruses.

Unfortunately, most of the 26 families of viruses that infect humans are less well understood or harder to control. We have a great deal of work still ahead.

The development of mRNA vaccine technology — thanks to more than a decade of foresighted basic research — was a game-changer. It shortened the time needed to design and test vaccines to less than a year — far faster than for any previous vaccine. And it’s been surprisingly effective against covid-19.

Still, there’s much more to do. We don’t yet know how mRNA vaccines will perform against other viruses down the road. And when the next pandemic breaks out, we’ll want to be able to respond even faster.

Fortunately, the scientific community has been developing a bold plan to keep future viruses from becoming pandemics.

Here are a few of the goals we should shoot for:

The capability to design, test and approve safe and effective vaccines within 100 days of detecting a pandemic threat (for covid-19, that would have meant May 2020); manufacture enough doses to supply the world within 200 days; and speed vaccination campaigns by replacing sterile injections with skin patches.

Diagnostics simple and cheap enough for daily home testing to limit spread and target medical care.

Early-warning systems to spot new biological threats anywhere in the world soon after they emerge and monitor them thereafter.

We desperately need to strengthen our public health system — from expanding the workforce to modernizing labs and data systems — including to ensure that vulnerable populations are protected.

And we need to coordinate actions with our international partners, because pandemics know no borders.

These goals are ambitious, but they’re feasible — provided the work is managed with the seriousness, focus and accountability of NASA’s Apollo Program, which sent humans to the moon.

Importantly, these capabilities won’t just prepare us for future pandemics; they’ll also improve public health and medical care for infectious diseases today.

Preparing for threats is a core national responsibility. . . . The White House will put forward a detailed plan this month to ensure that the United States can fully prepare before the next outbreak. It’s hard to imagine a higher economic or human return on national investment.