From cradle to grave, Democrats set to extend social safety net

WASHINGTON – When congressional committees meet this week to begin formally drafting the Democrats’ ambitious social policy plan, they w...


WASHINGTON – When congressional committees meet this week to begin formally drafting the Democrats’ ambitious social policy plan, they will undertake the most significant expansion of the country’s safety net since the war on poverty in the 1960s, by developing legislation that would affect virtually the lives of all Americans. , from conception to infirmity in the elderly.

Passage of the bill, which could spend up to $ 3.5 trillion over the next decade, is anything but certain. President Biden, who has staked much of his national heritage on enacting the measure, will need the vote of every Democrat in the Senate, and virtually everyone in the House, to secure it. And with two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema, saying they wouldn’t agree to such a costly plan, that it would challenge democratic unity like nothing since the Affordable Care Act.

In large part, this is because the proposed legislation would be so transformative – a cradle-to-grave reweaving of a social safety net frayed by decades of growing income inequality, stagnant wealth and depleted government resources, capped. by the worst public health crisis in a century.

The pandemic has loosened the reins of federal spending, prompting members of both sides to support supplying the economy with aid. It also led to decades-old political desires – like expanding Medicare coverage or paid family and medical leave – which Democrats say have proven to be necessities as the country weathered the crisis. coronaviruses.

“Polls have shown for a very long time that these issues in supporting American families are important and popular, but all of a sudden they have become not a ‘good to have’ but a ‘must have’, said Heather Boushey, a member of Mr. Biden’s Council of Economic Advisers who has been shaping such policies for decades.

Democrats say they will fund their spending with proposed corporate tax hikes – which has already prompted a multifaceted effort with a big budget by corporate groups trying to kill the idea – and possibly taxing wealth in ways the United States has never tried before.

“We are talking about free or affordable child care where no one pays more than 7% of their income; we are talking about universal pre-K programs with two years of formal instruction; we’re talking about two years of post-secondary education, ”said Rep. Jamaal Bowman from New York, a former teacher and principal who is vice-chair of the House Education and Labor Committee. “This is how you build a strong nation.”

For the Republicans, who are preparing a counteroffensive, the Democratic plans are nothing less than socialism. They say they fear the plan will be financially unsustainable and jeopardize economic growth, making Americans too dependent on government for their basic needs.

“What are the Democrats trying to do to this country? Rep. Bruce Westerman, Republican of Arkansas, asked Thursday, as the House natural resources committee began drafting its part of the sprawling bill.

To grasp the scope of the measure contemplated, consider a life, from conception to death. Democrats intend to fund paid family and medical leave allow a parent to be absent during pregnancy and after the birth of a child.

When that parent is ready to return to work, increased funding for child care will kick in to help cover child care costs. When that child turns 3, another part of the bill, universal preschool, would ensure that public education can begin at an earlier age, regardless of where that child lives.

Most families with children would continue to receive federal income supplements each month in the form of an expanded child tax credit that was temporarily created by Mr Biden’s pandemic rescue law and which would be extended by the new bill on social policy. School nutrition programs, expanded for emergencies during the pandemic, would continue to provide more children with free and discounted meals long after the coronavirus has withdrawn.

And upon graduation from high school, most students would be guaranteed two years of graduate school with expanded federal financial assistance for community colleges.

Even after that, income supplements and generous workforce training programs – including specific efforts to train home health and elderly care workers – would keep the government in place in many. adult lives. In old age, people would be helped by tax credits to offset the cost of elderly care and by an extension of Medicare to cover dental, hearing and vision services.

“Many of us believe this is the greatest opportunity we will have in our careers to do something deeply structural and transformational for our economy,” said Representative Donald S. Beyer Jr., Democrat of Virginia, “and we shouldn’t miss it.”

For critics, the legislation represents a fundamental upheaval in American-style governance and a shift towards social democracy. With it, they worry, would come endemic European-style unemployment and depressed economic dynamism.

“There have always been differences of opinion about the role of government in people’s lives, and the United States has long taken a different approach from Western Europe,” said N. Gregory Mankiw, a Harvard economist who served as Chairman of the Council to President George W. Bush. economic advisers. “This is clearly designed to take a big step towards the Western European model.”

Defenders ignore these concerns. Representative Robert C. Scott of Virginia, chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, said the legislation would promote economic growth, with child care subsidies that would push parents back into the workforce, spending on education to prepare all Americans more equitably for work; and vocational training to improve labor mobility.

“We are making the US economy more dynamic and more competitive globally,” he said.

Moreover, in the long-standing struggle to balance economic growth against equality and fairness, Democrats are ready to look to the latter.

“The road we have taken has led to the concentration of wealth in the hands of a very small number of people while the rest have just struggled to survive,” said Mr. Bowman. “It’s time to try something else.

From a mechanical standpoint, the legislation is not as much of a radical change as the creation of Medicare and Medicaid in the 1960s, or Social Security in the 1930s. Even the Affordable Care Act of 2010 has created an entirely new government infrastructure, a federally managed or regulated exchange where Americans could purchase private health insurance that must comply with government restrictions on coverage and cost, noted Michael R. Strain, Conservative economist . American Institute of Business.

On the other hand, the new legislation would greatly increase the existing programs. Support for child care would come through the Community Development Grant to states, cities and counties. Universal pre-K would be secured through block grants and increased funding from Head Start. Two years of graduate study are expected to become accessible through more generous Pell scholarships and other existing financial aid programs

But if passed, Mr Strain said the legislation could fundamentally change the relationship between the state and its citizens: “Its ambition lies in its size.

Most Americans have traditionally seen the federal government take care of their finances once a year, at tax time, when they apply for a child credit, get a write-off for the truck they may have bought for. their business or receive a check for earned income. income credit, to name a few.

This would change profoundly if the Social Policy Bill were passed. The Expanded Child Tax Credit began to provide monthly checks of up to $ 300 per child to millions of families, but is set to expire in 2022. Its decade extension could make it an item of life that would be very difficult to take to future conventions. The same goes for the child care and dependents credit, which now offers up to $ 8,000 in child care expenses, but also expires in a year.

And the federal government, not private employers, would pay most of the wages of those eligible for family and medical leave.

“If this is passed, in a decade people will see many more government touchpoints supporting them and their families,” Ms. Boushey said.

A major difference between the social economy Mr. Biden and the Congressional Democrats hope to create and the welfare state in Europe is how it would be paid. Most European countries require their citizens to finance their social protection programs, largely through a value added tax, a sales tax levied at each stage of the production of a consumer good.

At the insistence of the president, the House and Senate tax drafting committees are to fund the spending of the bill with taxes from corporations and individuals with incomes greater than $ 400,000 per year.

To this end, the Senate Finance Committee is considering innovative ways to tax wealth, including changing the way estates are taxed so that heirs have to pay more tax on inherited assets.

The committee is also considering taxing the accumulated wealth of billionaires – things like houses, boats, stocks and other assets whether sold or not – a new frontier of fiscal policy it would be difficult to achieve. Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, chairman of the finance committee, said such measures are the only way to ensure that the super-rich must pay their fair share of taxes each year.

“I’m going to bring the caucus into this discussion, but I believe billionaires should pay taxes every year, just like nurses and firefighters do” on every paycheck, Mr. Wyden said.

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Newsrust - US Top News: From cradle to grave, Democrats set to extend social safety net
From cradle to grave, Democrats set to extend social safety net
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