Thursday, January 20

Biden’s signature bill isn’t that expensive. It’s a drop in the bucket | Ben davis

TOs Democrats continue negotiations in hopes of saving Biden’s legislative agenda, one thing that has consumed the media and conservative Democrats in Congress: the price. Almost all of the news about Biden’s Build Back Better reconciliation bill has cost $ 3.5 billion, as if the price was in the bill’s title.

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin issued a scathing criticism of Biden’s supposedly wasteful agenda, calling the reconciliation bill “fiscal insanity” that ignores the “brutal fiscal reality facing our nation.” Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema claims she I can not stand an invoice with such a high price. The tone of these conservative senators and the media coverage would lead anyone to think that $ 3.5 trillion of additional spending over a decade was an enormous amount of money that would dramatically increase the size of government, jeopardize government coffers, and even “redesign the social and economic fabric of this nation”.

This circumvents the fact that Congress routinely passes bills with as large or greater fiscal implications with virtually no media coverage, debate, or public comment. The federal government spends $ 7.5 billion per decade in the military, with little or no serious attempt to reverse this spending or even restrict its growth. The Trump administration passed $ 2 trillion in tax cuts with little comment on cost.

Selective focus on costs reveals our social priorities. Spending that reifies business power is considered common sense, while attempts to address inequalities in society are staunchly opposed. A dollar that goes to a missile destined for an Afghan wedding or a billionaire’s tax haven is less objectionable to those responsible than a dollar that goes to feed a starving child.

The main problem with hyper-focused on cost is that this bill just doesn’t cost that much. The $ 350 billion a year in increased spending represents only 1.5% of US GDP. In his statement, Manchin contrasted the price of $ 3.5 trillion over a decade with the $ 5.4 trillion the federal government has spent in the last 18 months. This really gives the game away: $ 520 billion over 18 months is just a drop in the bucket compared to the current level of $ 5.4 trillion. All of this occurs in a country that spends comparatively little on social programs in the first place.

Even after approving reconciliation as is, the American welfare state would still be a small investment by the standards of world economies. This is not a radical spending package: it is the agenda of a moderate president, supported by moderate party leaders, and even groups like the Third Way archcentric thinktank.

Furthermore, the package would be paid for while keeping the United States’ comparatively low tax burden. In fact, it says a lot that conservative obstructionist Democrats are more concerned with the official price than what is actually in the bill and what will be cut.

In defense budgets, which are passed without batting an eye, huge amounts of money end up in waste and filling the pockets of contractors: $ 1.7 trillion In a fighter plane that will barely fly at least $ 35 billion in boats that literally disintegrate when they touch salt water, and more and more. Each of these wasteful programs could pay for large chunks of the kind of popular and useful social spending that is so controversial today.

It’s so easy to raise money for the military that Congress even uses the defense budget as a back door for necessary financial spending – like when fighting to keep open bases that the military wants closed, build tanks the army doesn’t want, in order to protect American jobs. This turns defense spending into a constant stimulus package, employing people in repair work because it’s politically easier than just making sure people have enough money. The very politicians who demand to skimp on providing for needy families are more than happy to spend extravagantly on war.

The debate around Biden’s legislative agenda shows how clearly the priorities of our society are out of step with the real needs of the people. It is not about spending too much money, deficits, wastage, or fostering a “culture of dependency.” Rather, this demonstrates once again the extent to which our power structure aims to protect the status quo and the interests of the rich and powerful at the expense of everyone else.

The provisions of the reconciliation bill are not just a moral necessity and good policy: they are extremely popular. However, elected officials who support unlimited military spending are respond to lobbyists and donorsand oppose social spending on your name.

Pointing out hypocrisy on the part of fiscal conservatives is not a winning strategy, but this hypocrisy points to a fundamental contradiction in the way American society is organized. It is much more difficult for government to help the weak than to protect the powerful, and the choices of our elected officials rarely reflect the preferences of the citizens they represent. This situation is unsustainable. Now more than ever, we need a transformative movement that fundamentally reorients the priorities of our society. That starts with the approval of the reconciliation bill.

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