President Biden’s transformative human infrastructure plan is enormously popular with a large majority of Americans. The media and those opposed to it spend a lot of time talking about the price tag of $3.5 trillion while ignoring the big picture: The $3.5 trillion is spread over 10 years making it $350 billion a year, about half of what we spend each year on national defense.
And like any investment, we need to look not just at what it costs up front, but what it returns in the long run. And this investment will return its initial costs many times over. It will help reduce our debt, not expand it.
Republican lawmakers complain that it will increase the national debt even while they voted to cut taxes for corporations from 35% to 21% during the former president’s term, increasing the debt by $7.5 trillion. Trickle down economics doesn’t work; instead the savings were reinvested in company stocks. This wasn’t an investment, it was a gift to those who need it least but who donated heavily to get Republicans elected.
Democratic lawmakers have a plan to pay for the bill, by making the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes and raising corporate taxes from 21% to 28%. Hardly that dramatic, not even back to the 35% that they were under President Obama. Americans making under $400,000 per year won’t see any tax increases.
Let’s look at what the bill would include that would benefit millions of hardworking American families: expanded pre-kindergarten programs, which would give all kids, no matter their race or financial status, the best start to their education. Expanded Medicare coverage of dental, vision, and hearing - filling a critical gap that disproportionately impacts low-income communities.
Free community college - which would give millions of students in underserved communities the chance to access higher education and find well-paying jobs for their futures.
Lowered drug costs by allowing Medicare to negotiate lower prices - a change that could finally stop drug companies from price gouging consumers on lifesaving medications like insulin.
Paid family leave for new parents and those caring for sick relatives - a program which would finally end the United States’ shameful position as one of only three high income democracies not to provide such a service. Child tax credits - a transformative policy that would immediately lift millions of children in the United States out of poverty. Increased clean energy to mitigate climate change - a critical step toward tackling the existential crisis of our lifetime.
There are larger costs to not passing this bill. Millions of people, primarily women, without childcare won’t be able to join the workforce, costing the economy tens of billions each year. Young people who can’t afford community college end up costing the economy vast sums in terms of lost productivity and whatever public assistance they may need down the line.
If we don’t slow climate change, we’ll be spending hundreds of billions more per year dealing with worsening wildfires, floods, and droughts. If we don’t begin to reverse widening economic inequality, half of America won’t be able to buy the goods and services the economy produces.
Biden’s Build Back Better plan is a once-in-a-generation investment in American families. Together with the more traditional infrastructure plan already passed in the Senate with Republican support, these plans reinvest in the future of the American economy and American workers and will help us out-compete China and other countries around the world.
The investment is long overdue and the costs of not acting are too high. The majority of Democratic lawmakers are on board; Senators Joe Manchin and Kirsten Sinema need to stop listening to their corporate donors and work for the American people who elected them and pay their salaries.