Joe Biden Bringing FDR-Level Help For American Families
The White House has rolled out the details of President Joe Biden's American Families Plan, the $1.8 trillion "human infrastructure" follow-up to the administration's earlier jobs and physical infrastructure proposal. It's good stuff! Biden will get to work selling the plan in his address to Congress tonight, although really he started earlier, since Biden campaigned on many of the items in the proposal, like family leave, universal pre-kindergarten, and free community college.
The administration calls the paired proposals "once-in-a-generation investments in our nation's future" that together will expand the middle class, reduce poverty, and make the US competitive again. So let's take a look at what's in the new proposal!
The plan would essentially expand the public investment in education for all Americans by two years in the early years, with free pre-kindergarten for all 3- and 4-year-olds, and by two years after high school, with free public community college for all who want it.
Biden's calling for $200 billion for the pre-K component, estimating it would help five million kids, at a savings of $13,000 per family. The community college program would run $109 billion, and would be available to all Americans, including Dreamers — young people whose parents immigrated to the US when the Dreamers were children without documentation. Get ready for the Usual Suspects to complain that we should be helping Americans first, and to not shut up even when you point out that the program is aimed at Americans, dummy.
The Washington Post explains that both programs would be joint federal-state partnerships, with states having the ability to participate or not — so get ready for red states to proudly refuse, on the noble principle that education is a bad idea.
States participating in the pre-K program would be expected to cover 10 percent of the costs at first, increasing their share to 50 percent. For community college education, the federal share ultimately would be 75 percent of the cost.
In addition to those two big programs, the plan would expand the top amount available for Pell grants by $1,400 per student, which WaPo notes is actually short of Biden's campaign call to double the amount of the grants. Instead, it's an increase of 20 percent. Like all Pell grants, these would be available to students at all colleges and universities.
Also too, the plan would help out historically Black colleges and universities, tribal colleges, and other schools serving minority students by subsidizing two years of tuition for students whose families earn less than $125,000 a year. That's the biggest chunk of an overall $46 billion for HCBUs and minority-serving schools.
For public schools, the plan also adds $45 billion to expand free meals to all students enrolled at schools in areas with high poverty. Our druthers would be free school meals for everyone everywhere, but this is a damn good start. The spending would also make permanent the American Rescue Plan's expansion of school meals during the summer, for all kids qualifying for free or reduced-price meals.
And to expand the national teacher workforce, a whole bunch of nice things, too:
The plan calls on Congress to double its scholarships for prospective teachers from $4,000 to $8,000 per year and expand the program to early childhood educators. The plan would invest $2.8 billion in yearlong paid teacher residency programs, $900 million in special education teacher development and $400 million in teacher preparation programs at historically Black colleges and universities, tribal colleges and universities and minority serving institutions.
The plan would also allocate $1.6 billion to help current teachers earn credentials for in-demand specialties, such as special education and bilingual education. An additional $2 billion in the plan would go toward educator leadership programs, like mentorships for new teachers and teachers of color.
And to make sure the people caring for America's kids can earn a decent living, all pre-K and Head Start teachers would earn at least $15 an hour, and as the White House's fact sheet puts it, "those with comparable qualifications will receive compensation commensurate with that of kindergarten teachers," too.
Paid Family/Medical Leave
Joe Biden wants America to catch up with the rest of the developed world and provide all workers with 12 weeks of paid leave for parental, family, or medical leave. That $225 billion plan would be phased in over 10 years, because of course everything has to be done with an eye to meeting the stupid constraints on federal spending in any one bill. The paid leave would offer a minimum of two-thirds of workers' regular pay up to $4,000 a month. CNN notes that this would help a hell of a lot of people, like the 30 million Americans who don't currently have any paid sick leave at all. While we're waiting for more details on this part of the plan, it doesn't sound like it'd be an "unfunded mandate" on employers. (Rebecca claims she actually can't afford to give us all three months off and pay a replacement at the same time; at the same time, regarding a separate bill that mandates seven days paid sick leave, she explains employers can DAMN WELL AFFORD.)
Expanding Good Stuff In The American Rescue Plan
The American Family Plan would take several good ideas in the coronavirus relief package and either extend them or make them permanent. The biggest one is the enhanced tax credit for parents, which provides $3,000 or $3,600 a year per child, depending on the kid's age, and can be paid monthly. Lots of Democrats, and Biden himself, have called for that benefit to be made permanent, but to keep the package's initial costs down, the new proposal only expands the credit through 2025, apparently betting it will be such a hit with parents at most income levels that they'll want it to be made permanent down the road. Biden does though call for making the "refundable" part of it permanent — so it would be going to parents even if they're too poor to pay federal taxes.
The American Families Plan does make permanent some other parts of the COVID relief bill, like increasing the tax credit for child care. That will
cover as much as half of a family's spending on care for children under age 13, up to a total of $4,000 for one child or $8,000 for two or more children.
In addition, the proposal would make permanent the Rescue Plan's reductions in health insurance premiums for people buying health insurance through Obamacare, at a price tag of $200 billion. And it would permanently expand the Earned Income Tax Credit for workers who don't have kids, because not having kids is no guarantee of staying out of poverty, somehow.
Paying For It: Bye, Tax Cuts For Rich Fuckwads, Bye!
Biden proposes to pay for this chunk of federal spending, in part, by rolling back a little more of the 2017 tax cut. Specifically, he wants to raise the top individual income tax rate back to where it was before 2017, 39.6 percent, after Trump cut it to 37 percent.
Beyond that, the Biden plan would also increase funding for the IRS to enforce the tax laws and get back in the business of auditing people who make a lot of money, instead of mostly going after poor people like it does now. That alone should bring in an extra $700 billion over the next decade. Damn well about time.
Finally, Biden wants to raise capital gains taxes on people who earn a million bucks a year or more, increasing the tax they pay on sales of stocks or other assets from its current rate of 20 percent to 39.6 percent. That would be a huge step toward tax fairness, since most wealthy Americans only get a small portion of their money from paychecks, so they can pay the lower rates on cap gains.
Not surprisingly, Republicans are already moaning that we can't possibly afford any of this, even though investments in education, children, and making work pay off for everyone will have very real economic benefits. Expect pretty much everything in the package to poll well, and to be treated as toxic by the GOP.
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