There is only one thing that both parties agree on- spending money we do not have. I’m a social liberal but I want a balanced budget. Decades ago, I fit might have fit into the GOP which was trying to evaluate public expenditures based on costs versus benefits. Said another way, the old GOP cared about waste, but also about addressing the needs of our citizens. No more.
We all know by now that Trump was no fiscal conservative. His record from 2017-2020 proves that he was a big spender. Check the deficit. It went from $665 billion in 2017, to $3.7 trillion in 2020. That’s an increase of 556% in just the four Trump years!
But there’s more to the story. For decades, the GOP has ignored fiscal responsibility, getting much worse under Trump. It advocated tax cuts (especially for corporations and the wealthy) while constantly urging more military spending. And Trump and his friends worried little about the deficit that their polices created. The Trumpist Republican party became the “spend wildly and cut taxes” party.
Often, the primary group pushing these members of Congress for increased funding was not the Pentagon. It was the military-industrial complex that Ike warned us about … big corporations wanting cost plus contracts, corporate welfare… regardless of the need for tanks, planes and so on. And the GOP fully supported them. It’s a little late for the GOP to suddenly advocate for the concept of fiscal responsibility now when the Democrats are in power.
On the other hand, the Democrats have traditionally been the big spending party. As opposed to the GOP which talks about helping the middle-income folks but does little, Democrats generally have been for the small guy, trying to get things like healthcare coverage increased. But they have not been good at raising the revenue needed to pay for these programs. Which brings me to Biden.
Biden pushed through his massive COVID relief package with almost no GOP support. Reconciliation was used in the Senate to pass it with only 50 votes. It addressed many clear and vital needs (such as targeted help for businesses hurt by the pandemic), but it also had some questionable areas (like sending $2,800 checks to couples making $149,000 annually). Plus, the bill had an enormous price tag … $1.9 trillion. There were very few revenue raising measures (mostly relating to big corporations) included in the package.
Biden proposed an infrastructure bill which goes far beyond what most Americans understand as infrastructure. Not only does it address roads, bridges and so forth, but the bill also has funding for education, environmental issues, childcare and a wide range of other non-capital items that no one normally thinks of as infrastructure. And the Biden camp admits that even with the revenue gains proposed (increasing taxes on businesses, but not back to where they were prior to the Trump cuts), it will not pay for itself for decades.
There’s no question that infrastructure is collapsing in the US and that we are far behind other developed nations. Both parties agree on that much.
When all looked lost, a courageous bi-partisan band of 21 Senators (11 from the GOP) has seemingly come to the rescue with a $1.2 trillion compromise bill which Biden has agreed to support. The new plan is still massive and includes $579 billion on what most Americans view as traditional infrastructure (roads/bridges- $109 billion, $55 billion water, rail-$66 billion, electric/power- $73 billion, $65 billion broadband, $25 billion airports and $49 billion public transit).
It’s still weak on the payment end, failing to raise corporate taxes or taxes on the wealthy. Instead, it proposes better tax collection by the IRS, a convenient ploy to avoid making key lobbies angry. Plus, repurposing Covid money and issuing bonds. If all of the GOP Senators stay on-board, which remains to be seen, there will be 61 Senators voting to move on it, thus avoiding a filibuster.
As for Biden, he has also stated that his priorities (i.e., “human infrastructure”) that are not covered within the infrastructure bill must be brought up under a reconciliation package (needing only 51 votes to pass) that goes through Congress simultaneously with the compromise bill. Hopefully, there will be revenue increases in it to off-set costs.
Biden has indicated that both bills must pass Congress for him to sign them simultaneously. In that there is no guarantee that there will be 50 Democrats signing on to the reconciliation bill, major problems lie ahead. In particular, WV Senator Manchin and Arizona Senator Sinema must be brought on board for the Democrats to succeed.