Joe Biden's 2024 Menu: The Rich.
President Joe Biden on Thursday rolled out his proposed budget for fiscal 2024, an ambitious plan that would raise taxes on the rich and on corporations while expanding the social safety net. It would cut nearly $3 trillion from the federal deficit over the next decade by imposing a 25 percent minimum tax on the richest Americans. If you want to read the entire 185-page document, have at it!
Of course, it also won't do a single bit of that, because Republicans won't pass any of the major parts of the plan, particularly not the tax increases, but also not the social safety net parts like paid family leave, childcare, or Biden's plan to rescue the Medicare trust fund for at least 25 years.
Not a bit of it will become law except the most routine keep-things-as-they-are parts, which will no doubt end up in yet another omnibus spending bill passed barely in time to avoid a government shutdown. If then. Oh, also, the part that increases defense spending by about 3.2 percent, to over $835 billion, will probably do just fine. But whatever defense budget eventually passes in the fall won't be accompanied by the tax increases that would make the expenditures slightly less odious.
So why even offer a budget that's not going to get passed by Congress? For starters, presidents have to submit a budget request in early February (traditionally by the first Monday, but everything moves slow these days) to get the process rolling, and the budget reflects the administration's priorities, even if the opposition is able to block them. Also, let's remember that Donald Trump's budgets, which zeroed out entire federal agencies, were entirely exercises in rightwing fantasy. And yet somehow we still have the National Endowment for the Arts.
So sure, a federal budget is mostly aspirational, and this year, Biden's budget serves two practical purposes: It sets out markers for where he wants his government to go in a second term (you know, if he runs), and it's also an opening bid in the negotiations over raising the debt ceiling. Republicans say they want to cut federal spending because the deficits are too high, and Biden's budget is over here saying "Yeah? You show me how you'd reduce the deficit by $3 trillion in 10 years, ya mooks."
Former Obama administration official Kenneth Baer, who served in the Office of Management and Budget, explained to the Washington Post,
"As one of the people who has spent many a long night writing and editing a budget, I take umbrage at the people who say it’s a meaningless document. It’s not a meaningless document. [...] It sets the terms of the debate. It shows what’s important to you, your commitments and what you really want."
So let's take a look at what's in this thing and what that says about what Joe Biden wants.
The Rich Still Need To Be Eaten
Speaking at a union hall in Philadelphia yesterday, Biden emphasized that his third budget proposal is aimed at "investing in America and all of America," because "Too many people have been left behind and treated like they’re invisible. Not anymore. I promise I see you."
To that end, the $6.8 trillion budget plan (over 10 years) includes about $5 trillion in tax increases on the wealthiest individuals and corporations, most of which will go to cover new programs that Biden has previously put forward but that haven't yet been enacted.
Some specific tax increase proposals may sound familiar because some of them were in the original version of Build Back Better, but were removed after Sen. Kyrsten Sinema said Donald Trump's 2017 Big Fat Tax Cuts for Rich Fuckwads couldn't be reversed, not even a little.
- Raise the corporate income tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent, which would still be lower than the 35 percent rate prior to Trump's 2017 cuts. It would also raise the tax rate on foreign earnings from 10.5 percent to 21 percent, to reduce the incentive for companies to move operations out of the USA.
- Repeal Trump's tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans by returning the top marginal tax rate to 39.7 percent from the current 37 percent. This would affect taxpayers making $400,000 a year for individuals, or $450,000 married filing jointly.
- Tax capital gains the same as income for people making over $1 million, and close the carried interest loopholefor chrissakes finally.
- Increase the surtax on corporate stock buybacks from one percent to four percent
- A new minimum tax on billionaires, assessing a 25 percent minimum tax on all income of the wealthiest tenth of one percent of Americans. That's a follow-up to the minimum corporate tax that was included in last year's Inflation Reduction Act.
- Raise Medicare taxes on those making more than $400,000 a year, and make more types of income eligible for Medicare taxation. We detailed that plan right here. Medicare would also be able to negotiate prices on more prescription drugs sooner, creating additional savings that would go to the Medicare trust fund.
Nice Things We Need
The budget also includes some domestic programs that were good ideas when they were proposed in Build Back Better, and were still good ideas when Joe Manchin demanded they be removed from Build Back Better. A few have been downsized for the budget plan, which also adds some items that weren't in BBB.
- Restore the enhanced child tax credit and make it permanent. Hell yes. It markedly reduced child poverty in the US, and it's damn near criminal that it was allowed to lapse. Also way better for America's children than allowing them to work in meatpacking plants.
- College affordability. The budget calls for higher maximum awards for Pell grants and for a $500 million grant program to make two years of community college free — not quite the full free community college program Biden originally ran on.
- Universal Pre-K and affordable child care. Not quite the full programs proposed in Build Back Better, but as CNN summarizes, this would fund "a new federal-state partnership program that would provide universal, free preschool. The spending plan would also increase funding for existing federal early care and education programs."
- Paid family and medical leave — another big priority that still needs doing. 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave; for fuckssake let's get this done. Yeah, in 2025 after we retake the House and expand the Senate majority.
- More free school meals. During the pandemic, we gave every kid eat. The Biden budget would provide $15 billion to enable wider free lunches, though hey, since it's a wish list, why not just say we want universal free school lunch? Kids learn better if they're not hungry.
- Make the IRA's Obamacare subsidies permanent. The enhanced premium subsidies, which started out as part of the American Rescue Plan, have helped reduce the percentage of Americans without healthcare coverage to record lows. But they're set to expire in 2025.
- Reduce maternal mortality. It's still a crisis, with far greater rates of maternal mortality for Black women than for white women. The budget calls for $471 million in funding to expand maternal health care, particularly in rural areas. It would also require all states to provide Medicaid postpartum care for 12 months instead of the current 60 days.
- $35 per month insulin for all Americans. It was included in the IRA for folks on Social Security, so let's make that the standard for those on private insurance or who have no insurance at all. It's literally a matter of life or death.
- Lower prescription drug prices for seniors. The IRA put a $2000 cap annual on out-of-pocket costs for Medicare beneficiaries (going into effect in 2025). Biden wants to further limit copays for generic prescription drugs for chronic conditions to $2.
Yes, We Still Need Climate Spending
While the Inflation Reduction Act was the biggest American investment ever in fighting the climate emergency, Biden's budget proposal also recognizes that there's a lot more that needs doing, so it calls for still more funding to move America closer to reaching our Paris climate agreement goals. We want to wrap this sucker up, but take a look at this CNBC piece for more details on how the budget would expand our transition to clean power and cutting carbon emissions. Among the basics:
• $24 billion for climate resilience and conservation
• $16.5 billion for climate science and clean energy innovation
• $6.5 billion for energy storage and transmission projects
• $4.5 billion for jobs building clean energy infrastructure
• $3 billion for advancing adaptation finance
• $1.8 billion for environmental justice initiatives
• $1.2 billion for the Energy Department’s industrial decarbonization activities
Want even more info? I'm leaving a tab open with the White House fact sheet on the budget's climate priorities, because this is what the agenda for keeping the planet habitable should look like.
So those are some darn good priorities — and a blueprint for the 2024 campaign, too.
And now, back to two years of hearings on Twitter and Hunter's laptop. Total waste of time, but they may help make a very strong case for not letting Republicans anywhere near power again.
[2024 Budget of the US Government / WaPo / CNBC / NYT / CNBC]
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Joe Biden Prepares His First Veto, And Joe Manchin And Jon Tester Helped!
He will shake them and bake them.
President Joe Biden will use his veto pen (it is a regular pen) for the first time today, after two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin (West Virginia) and Jon Tester (Montana), joined Republicans in passing a bill to prohibit "woke investing" by pension fund managers. Biden pledged Monday that he'd veto the bill if it passed.
The bill was aimed at rolling back a Labor Department rule that, as Politico explains,
allows retirement plan managers to incorporate climate and social factors into investment decisions. Republicans have criticized the regulation — which itself reversed a Trump-era rule discouraging environmentally and socially focused investing — as a threat to retirement savers because it would allow political forces to take precedence over returns.
We have to say we like what amounts to a quadruple negative here: Biden's about to veto a rollback of a reversal of a ban.
The Republican-controlled House passed the bill on Tuesday, with a single Democrat, Jared Golden of Maine, joining all the Republicans. Then Wednesday, Manchin and Tester joined Senate Rs to pass the bill in a 50-46 vote. But wait! you astute Wonkette readers are thinking right now, That is a simple majority! What gives? Nothing passes by a majority in the Senate these days!
And for the most part, you'd be right, but this bill was introduced under the Congressional Review Act, a 1996 law that allows Congress to wipe out recently passed rules put in place by executive branch agencies. And the CRA specifically allows the Senate to negate agency rules with a simple majority, evading the filibuster.
As you may recall, that's the same law Republicans under Donald Trump used to wipe out a lot of environmental rules that had gone into effect under Barack Obama. And wouldn't you know it, that's what the bill Biden's vetoing is about too, even if it's not immediately obvious.
The vote was a big priority for Republicans, who insist they're at war with "woke corporations" and all that corporate Marxism they hate so. They especially hate what's come to be called "environmental, social, and corporate governance," or ESG investing policies, as CNBC explainers:
ESG funds are designed to attract socially conscious investors with portfolios of companies that, for example, do not contribute to climate change or that practice good corporate governance.
Well we certainly can't have that, because that's how communists invest in financial markets. So the Trump administration banned retirement fund managers from considering anything but financial gain in investing.
The rightwing claim is that ESG investing might actually hurt retirees by reducing the potential growth of pension funds, so even if a city or university or other institution might prefer not to invest in Big Oil, bans on ESG would compel the fund managers to potentially include Exxon stock in the portfolio, take that libs.
Why yes, kids, much of the support for anti-ESG efforts has come from the fossil fuel industry itself, which understands all about money as free speech.
Money is free speech when corporations are making political contributions, or lobbying Republicans to ban ESG investing. But don't you dare use your money-speech to try to make the world a better place by choosing to invest in green companies instead of fossil fuels, because you have a fiduciary duty to bring in returns, and nothing else. Screw your free speech money, commies.
The Biden administration promised to veto the rollback because damn right money is speech, or, as the veto threat puts it,
The rule reflects what successful marketplace investors already know – there is an extensive body of evidence that environmental, social, and governance factors can have material impacts on certain markets, industries, and companies.
And by golly, if institutions want their investments to consider the long-term impact of their investments on the climate or on social justice, that's their business, not the federal government's.
Manchin and Tester, both from coal states, calculated that signing on to the GOP bill would be good optics going into their 2024 reelection campaigns — and since they both knew Biden would veto the thing, they could distance themselves from greenie liberals with no real political cost anyway.
Tester explained he was just looking out for Montana retirees, don't you see:
“At a time when working families are dealing with higher costs, from health care to housing, we need to be focused on ensuring Montanans’ retirement savings are on the strongest footing possible,” Tester said in a statement. “I’m opposing this Biden Administration rule because I believe it undermines retirement accounts for working Montanans and is wrong for my state.”
Politico also reports that when he was asked if party leadership had leaned on him to vote no on the bill,
Tester told reporters that they gave a presentation to the broader caucus Tuesday. But “it wasn’t like, pestering.”
You wouldn't want to pester Tester to make him resist the rollback of a reversal of the ban, is what we're saying.
Manchin's opposition to the Labor Department rule was far more vociferous, because Joe Manchin really loves presenting himself as an opponent to all things that even sound progressive:
Manchin took to the Senate floor to blast the Biden DOL rule as “just another example of how our administration prioritizes a liberal policy agenda over protecting and growing the retirement accounts of 150 million Americans.”
Politico here reminds readers again that the rule doesn't mandate ESG investing, but merely makes it an option — "free" market-like. Hell, the rule even allows retirement fund managers to invest in terrible rightwing stuff if they want. The National Asshole Lobby is perfectly free to invest in baby harp seal futures if it wants, or even in coal companies, which are going to go belly-up in coming decades anyway.
This will hardly be the last battle over ESG investing, but Biden's veto will at least put the kibosh on any federal bans for now. And the Right will keep on insisting it's all about protecting retirees, when in reality it's about protecting Big Oil.
[Politico / CNBC / Energy Monitor]
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Socialist Joe Biden Forces Tech Companies To Provide Daycare Options To Get CHIPS Act $$
If you build a daycare, they will apply for jobs.
In a clever bit of regulation, the Biden administration announced this week that if chip manufacturing companies want in on the $39 billion in funding being made available to subsidize new factories through the CHIPS and Science Act, they'll need to provide a plan for making sure their employees have access to affordable, quality childcare — both for the construction workers who build the factories and for the folks who work in them. The Commerce Department will be publishing a new rule today to make that requirement official.
The idea is to create a domestic chip manufacturing industry that's not just good for the companies that make chips and need chips for manufacturing cars, appliances, and probably sex toys too, but also to make sure the tech workplace is friendly to women and working families. It's pretty nifty as industrial policy: You want to get some of the government funding, then you'll need to have policies consistent with Biden's goal of expanding the economy from the bottom up and the middle out, instead of just throwing taxpayer funds at billionaires and corporations, then hoping maybe they'll hire people.
As Axios explains, bullet points and all,
Companies who want to tap a slice of the $39 billion in funding set aside to build chip manufacturing plants will be required to submit a plan explaining how facility workers, as well as construction workers, will access child care, according to a presentation from the Commerce Department shared with Axios.
• The agency is agnostic on how companies get this done. They could build company-run onsite facilities, or outsource to a vendor. Companies could sponsor care directly or provide vouchers, discounts or cash.
• They'd need to understand what kind of care is actually available in the region, amid a nationwide shortage with a lot of regional variation.
As the New York Times explains, "Companies that receive the subsidies to build new plants will be able to use some of the government money to meet the new child care requirement," although the feds wouldn't mandate what kind of daycare solution companies choose. (Presumably, there'll be some requirement to prove that money allocated for childcare goes to it, not to an executive gym with a sign saying "changing tables" on the door.)
And while the rule would help advance a bit of Biden social policy that went poof when Joe Manchin had a tantrum and kicked all the stuffing out of Build Back Better, Commerce Department senior adviser Caitlin Legacki told Axios that the rule was primarily aimed at getting more workers into a post-pandemic labor market where many potential applicants aren't sure they can afford to go to work:
We're not doing this for the sake of putting points on the board for child care policy, but we are acknowledging that when you look at the labor market right now, one of the largest factors keeping people out of the labor market is caregiving responsibilities.
And as the Times points out, some of the companies that have announced plans to ramp up chip production have complained that it's becoming difficult to find workers. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo explained in a speech last week that providing benefits like childcare should be a no-brainer, in that case, since it's
“a simple question of math” for industries complaining of labor shortages. “We need chip manufacturers, construction companies and unions to work with us toward the national goal of hiring and training another million women in construction over the next decade to meet the demand not just in chips, but other industries and infrastructure projects as well."
Only about 3 in 10 U.S. manufacturing workers are women. Ms. Raimondo said the CHIPS Act would fail if the administration did not help companies change those numbers, by bringing in women who have children.
“You will not be successful unless you find a way to attract, train, put to work and retain women, and you won’t do that without child care,” Ms. Raimondo said in an interview.
This is far from the first set of strings being attached to the CHIPS Act funds, either. The subsidies already require that new facilities be built in the USA and prohibit chip makers who take the funds from doing stock buybacks — which has also been a condition of other Biden administration aid to businesses. Further, as the Times notes, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law includes labor standards and "Buy American" provisions, as Biden promised from the start. Biden's climate policy, too, seeks to use the spending power of the federal government to boost green manufacturing, as we saw in the decision to procure a mostly electric fleet of new postal delivery trucks — which will not only create jobs all he way along the EV parts supply chain, but will slash fuel costs over the life of the vehicle fleet.
For 'Climate Day,' Shirtless Joe Biden Washes Electric Car In White House Driveway
US Postal Service To Go Electric, Like Dylan At Newport
Will there be complaints that Joe Biden is trying to sneak socialist family-destroying big government daycare into industrial policy? Maybe! The real challenge will be getting this past the Supreme Court, which may decide that the Founders actually wanted child labor to be a part of any computer chip manufacturing plan instead.
[Axios / NYT / The Register / Image generated by DreamStudio Lite AI]
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Oil Giant BP: Don't Worry, Oil Totally Going Away!
They're the cool oil giant, not like those other oil giants!
An analysis of the 2023 energy market released this week by BP, the world's fourth-largest oil company, anticipates that oil and gas production will fall more quickly than previously predicted, and that the world will also adopt clean energy faster than had been expected, with corresponding reductions in the carbon dioxide emissions that drive global warming.
BP's homepage for its "Energy Outlook 2023" report says many nice environmentally woke sounding things about how the world's "carbon budget" — the amount of CO2 emissions that can go into the atmosphere before sending global warming past the 1.5 degree C (2.7 degrees F) goal of the Paris Climate agreement — is rapidly running out, and notes that governments are increasingly committing to decarbonization, as well as that the "Russia-Ukraine war" makes it all the more vital to make the transition to clean energy. All of which is nice to hear from an oil company, but because BP has a history of saying nice things about cleaning up energy while supporting groups that fight efforts to actually reduce emissions, we're also skeptical. As Greta Thunberg said, it sounds like a lot of blah blah blah.
That said, the report also makes some specific predictions, as the Guardian summarizes — with some useful context on how much greater the changes will need to be in order to keep warming anywhere near the Paris goals:
In its annual energy outlook report, BP said it had reduced forecasts for global emissions in 2030 by 3.7% and by 9.3% in 2050. It expects oil demand to be 5% lower and gas demand to have fallen by 6% by 2035. The company said deployment of renewables projects would be 5% higher at current rates. [...]
BP’s new outlook forecasts that global emissions will peak during the 2020s and fall by 30% on 2019 levels by about 2050. However, that would still be short of the target of net zero by 2050 needed to avoid extremely damaging global heating.
The Guardian also notes that BP has seen huge profits following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which in the UK has "led ministers to introduce a windfall tax on North Sea oil and gas operators. The company is expected to reveal fourth-quarter underlying profits of about $5bn next week."
Further, a report last year documented that BP and the other three largest oil companies — Exxon-Mobil, Shell, and Chevron — are all very big on making pledges to reduce emissions and invest in clean energy, but that the industry remains far better at talking about decarbonizing than actually reducing emissions.
"We thus conclude that the transition to clean energy business models is not occurring, since the magnitude of investments and actions does not match discourse," the researchers at Tohoku University and Kyoto University in Japan said.
"Until actions and investment behavior are brought into alignment with discourse, accusations of greenwashing appear well-founded," they added.
The paper, published in the journal PLOS One, found that companies routinely talk about shifting to clean energy, but simply aren't making the big investments in green technology that would make a difference in reducing emissions. BP and Shell were singled out in the report for promising to reduce investments in oil and gas extraction even as they increased the amount of land and seabed they optioned for oil and gas exploration.
Exxon is the worst of the lot, having generated no clean energy at all between 2009 and 2020, which isn't the net zero the biosphere needs. And then there's BP:
BP's global renewables capacity — the largest among the four majors — amounts to only 2,000 MW, or the the equivalent of about two large gas-fired power plants.
The report did at least give BP and Shell credit for acknowledging that climate science is real, even if they fall short of doing much to change their business practices. (Shell, for its part, just had its highest profits in 115 years.)
Last year, NPR reported, BP explained that the report hadn't taken into account all the investments it had recently made, like "$1.6 billion in capital investments in low carbon energy" in 2021, so golly, perhaps we're just being all kinds of mean with our awful skepticism. But even if BP isn't yet living up to its decarbonization goals — and maybe it is but we just missed the news! — it does seem significant at least that the oil companies themselves are projecting lower production in the near future. They see the writing on the wall, but it's still anyone's guess whether they'll shift into clean energy — and Crom knows there are many ways they can! — or try to extract as much oil and profit as they can before the end of oil.
But we can't depend on what Molly Ivins called "the awl bidniss" to reform itself. The bastards need to be regulated, and governments need to keep doing like the Biden administration did with the climate bill: Create incentives to clean energy so cheap that dirty energy can't keep up. As that September 2022 Oxford study I've mentioned previously says, the faster wind and solar is deployed, the lower energy prices will go, and oil companies will need to either green up or watch their business model collapse.
[Energy Mix / Guardian / Huffpo / NPR / Photo: UC Davis College of Engineering, Creative Commons License 2.0]
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