Friday, October 29, 2021

Less Than Transformative


Noting the announcement by President Biden of the framework of a $1.75 billion soft infrastructure bill, The Washington Post reported

The architect of the original $3.5 trillion plan, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), similarly encouraged House Democrats to hold off on voting until “clear language” is finalized on the safety net bill with the support of 50 senators. He said he continues to work to advance issues including a more robust expansion of Medicare, but he also described the $1.75 trillion compromise as transformational, saying it is “the kind of legislation [that hasn’t] passed in Congress since the 1960s.”

Thursday’s new framework includes prekindergarten programs that White House aides described as part of the largest one-time education investment[s] since the creation of public high school. The $1.75 trillion plan also includes new aid to help families afford child care and extends tax credits that millions of parents are receiving in the form of monthly checks.

When it comes to health care, the White House plan expands Medicare to cover new hearing benefits. The plan would lengthen the life of tax credits that have helped roughly 9 million Americans afford health insurance purchased on the Affordable Care Act exchanges. And it would provide new tax credits to help roughly 4 million low-income people afford health insurance in a dozen states that have not expanded Medicaid under the ACA.

Charlie Peters argues

Liberal carping notwithstanding, these are not small beer to those of us who lived through Bill Clinton’s pitching for school uniforms and Barack Obama’s hiring of Bob Rubin and Timothy Geithner. Neither are they consolation prizes to the millions of families who will see their kids off to pre-K without having to take out a home equity loan, or the millions of people who will be able to take advantage of the Affordable Care Act now in spite of their wingnut governors. Take the win and press on is not a bad strategy. You can get there that way.

I don't know what "take the win" means, especially because as of Friday afternoon, there is no bill but only a framework, and no assurance that even if the tepid bill is enacted as described by the President that the approximately $1.75 billion reconciliation bill will be enacted. Progressives have demanded that the two measures be passed in tandem because if the tepid bipartisan bill is passed and signed first, any reconciliation bill passed afterward is likely to be a shell of its former self.. Once upon a time, Speaker Nancy Pelosi endorsed the progressive strategy, as did President Biden.

We now know who holds the cards within the Democratic Party and it's not the left, the Speaker, or even the President.   Upon reaching agreement in July with the budget committee on a bill which could be passed by reconciliation

"The budget committee has come to an agreement. The budget resolution with instructions will be $3.5 trillion," (Senate Majority Leader Chuck) Schumer said, speaking to reporters with Sanders and other members of the panel. "Every major program that President Biden has asked us for is funded in a robust way."

The deal will also include funding for expanding Medicare to cover dental, vision and hearing and addressing climate change — key asks from progressives, including Sanders. A Democratic aide familiar with the deal said that the budget resolution will also include language prohibiting taxes from being raised on individuals who make less than $400,000 or small businesses.

It hasn't worked out that way. Medicare will not be expanded to cover dental and vision care- though hearing aids were left in- and the full-scale attack on climate change is looking like a small foray.

Presently, Democrats may have no choice but to "take the win," though if this is the transformative change Joe Biden, Charlie Pierce, and others claim it is, one might legitimately ask what President Obama was doing for eight years (hint: very little). 

However, that "win" looks a lot like progressives being rolled. Consider that when Schumer cited the $3.5 trillion figure, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, one of the two Democratic opponents of the ambitious proposal, already had

previously suggested to ABC News that he was interested in a smaller figure, saying that "if that’s $1 trillion or $1.5 trillion or $2 trillion, whatever that comes out to be over a 10-year period, that’s what I would be voting for."

Manchin at that time, in July, was willing- given a little cajoling, ego enrichment, and maybe a couple of things for West Virginia- to approve a $2 trillion package. Fourteen weeks later, after intense negotiation, progressives and Mr. Build Back Better reportedly have been able to get Manchin up to $1.75 trillion.

Even those of us who never advanced in math class beyond Algebra know that $1.75 trillion is less than $2.00 trillion. Nonetheless Pierce, whose sentiments probably will be echoed along the ideological gamut of Democrats from John Bel Edwards to Ilhan Omar once this process is complete, maintains

It is a radical rethinking of national priorities, and implicit in Sanders’ remarks is the undeniable truth that, if you want this package of proposals improved, and if you want to maintain the momentum for change that it signifies, elect more Democrats to the Senate and watch their smoke.

Electing more Democrats clearly is the best solution. For now, however, that smell wafting through the air is the Democratic left getting smoked.

 

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