IMMEDIATE RELEASE 3 September 2021
Today’s Events in Historical Perspective
America’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
WASHINGTON — Critics said it couldn’t be done, and President Joe Biden disagreed. He campaigned on his ability to work with Congress, and he made good on that promise. He thanked Republicans for keeping their word – 19 of them, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. – who joined all 50 Democrats in voting for a $1.2 trillion infrastructure spending bill.
The legislation provides billions for traditional “hard” infrastructure, like roads, bridges, and airports, plus the most funding for Amtrak since its passenger rail lines were established in 1971. Biden used to ride Amtrak almost daily as a senator commuting from his home in Delaware.
But that’s not all, the bipartisan legislation was followed by another jaw-dropping achievement when all 50 Democrats stood in solidarity to support a $3.5 trillion “human” infrastructure bill to address needs for the youngest, with free pre-school and community college, to the oldest, with expanded Medicare for dental, hearing and vision benefits. This second Democrats-only bill also funds programs to mitigate and fight climate change, and it’s paid for by higher taxes on businesses and corporations that haven’t been paying their fair share.
Taken together, these two pieces of legislation will transform the middle class in a way that hasn’t been attempted by an American president since the New Deal and the Great Society.
The extent of what this legislation proposes to do over the next decade would revitalize a middle-class beaten down by an economy that rewards the very rich and undervalues blue-collar workers, heightening the divide between the haves and have-nots to a breaking point in our democracy.
Given the excessive partisanship in Washington, it’s amazing that Biden has been able to pull this off. It’s a tribute to his respect for the Congress, an institution he spent 36 years serving as a senator, and his understanding of what it takes to bring along members of both parties. It’s not over yet. There’s a balancing act ahead between mainstream Democrats and progressives in the House, and Biden can’t for a minute take his eye off the prize for fear there could be defections in the Senate. In fact, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has already put the brakes on the deal, which is not to say full stop.
The reason this expansive legislation is happening now is first and foremost, it’s necessary. The climate crisis (note Hurricane Ida and the wildfires in the West) is reaching a level of urgency where it can no longer be ignored. And the economic inequality in the country must be confronted in a way that provides opportunities for all families and not just those at the top income level.
Interest rates are at historic lows, so it won’t be as costly to finance this revitalization of the middle class as some critics are saying. There is pent-up demand from the Pandemic, and the country is ready for the economy to rebound. “So, if your primary concern right now is the cost of living, you should support this plan, not oppose it. Because a vote against this plan is a vote against lowering the cost of healthcare, housing, childcare, eldercare, and prescription drugs for American families.”
Those are President Biden’s words. The other side has a different view. “You’re putting in motion, I think, the demise of America as we know it,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the top Republican on the Budget Committee. “You’re putting in motion a government that nobody’s grandchild can ever afford to pay.” That’s an old argument and Republicans are going to have to work hard to find reasons why the government shouldn’t make people’s lives better when the needs are so obvious. What he is missing is that these bills are going to stimulate the economy with domestic jobs, consumer spending, and increased tax revenue from those jobs. This is Keynesian pump-priming economics at its best.
Douglas Cohn’s latest books are The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency and World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers).
© 2021 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND
IMMEDIATE RELEASE 3 September 2021