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Who Is GRRR MAD At Joe Biden's Budget Today?
What are they protesting? What have you got?
Now that Joe Biden has released his budget request for fiscal 2023, with its call for new taxes on the super-wealthy, as well as increases in spending for the military and for policing, the reviews are coming in, and they are about what you'd imagine: Progressives wish the budget had included more of their priorities, which they'll try to write into upcoming legislation, and Republicans are griping that Joe Biden is an evil socialist because he didn't come up with a budget written by the Heritage Foundation. (We are joking, of course. The Heritage Foundation is far too liberal for many Republicans these days.)
Wall Street Journal: Joe Biden Now A Red
Predictably, the Wall Street Journal does not care for the proposed "billionaire minimum tax," which would tax the 700 richest Americans 20 percent on income and unrealized investment income over $100 million, because what about the honest hardworking American billionaires? Will no one think of the billionaires? The editorial fulminates,
So much for President Biden’s pivot to the political middle. The fiscal 2023 budget he unveiled Monday re-proposes most of the bad ideas that haven’t passed Congress and adds a new one—a tax on wealth that he refused to endorse as a candidate in 2020. On the economy, he’s pivoting further left—presumably to fire up sullen progressives in November.
The tax Biden proposes gets at one of the chief drivers of economic inequality: The rich make money differently from you and me. Their wealth doesn't come from "income" (i.e., a salary) as it does from investments, which are only taxed when they're sold — and even then, they're taxed as capital gains, and at a much lower rate than the tax on income. (Also, instead of selling them, the rich just borrow against them, for eternity.) And of course, the very rich are experts at avoiding capital gains taxes, even after they die.
The Journal is especially mad that the new tax would apply both to regular income and to the increase in value of assets in a tax year, even if the investors don't sell the assets (which would make them subject to capital gains taxes instead). The editors complain this is very tricksy, because the proposed tax is "redefining wealth as income," and that's somehow extremely unfair to the super-wealthy who already avoid most taxes.
A better idea, the Journal suggests, would be to cut the capital gains tax to zero, because just think of all the economic activity that would unleash!
Also too, the editors warn, don't be fooled by the sneaky Democrats' insistence that only the very richest Americans would be affected:
The Administration says the tax would apply only to the top 0.1%—meaning hundreds of successful entrepreneurs and small business owners who accumulated wealth over decades through innovation and hard work. But these new taxes always start out applying to a few and then spread to millions.
Oh gosh, you mean we might start taxing the obscene wealth of even more of the One Percent? Stop threatening us with a good time, guys. We're willing to venture just a little way down that particular slope, which is a lot less slippery than the Journal would have people believe.
Also, perhaps to see whether anyone laughs, the editorial suggests that taxing some of the wealth of the very richest could have horrifying effects, like causing massive inflation and a whole new recession.
We guess we should be content that at least the Journal didn't argue that taxing the increase in value of assets would amount to aborting investors' profits before they could even be borned.
Progressive Caucus Leader Pramila Jayapal: Hey, Good Start!
As we noted yesterday, Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal is not a fan of the budget proposal's calls for additional military spending, a point she reiterated in an interview with NPR yesterday, though she also said of the overall budget plan,
"there are many good things in the budget, from historic increases to antitrust enforcement, money for child care development, block grants, Department of Labor, many other pieces that are very good domestic investments."
Jayapal also noted that while the budget didn't specifically call for passage of all the social services items in the Build Back Better reconciliation bill, the House can still move forward with "investments in child care and housing and many of those pieces," because
"there is a reserve fund in the budget that is essentially being kept there to say we will dedicate a certain amount of money to whatever we can pass legislatively. And that, of course, is the work we're doing right now [...]
"I think that it's clear after the fight we had on Build Back Better, we ran up against a block in the Senate. And so the Reserve Fund is a way to say let's get as much as we can done from those priorities. So I don't believe that all those priorities are dead yet. I just think we're going to still have to do a lot of work to try to get the 50 votes we need in the Senate to be able to pass as much of those priorities as we can."
Jayapal also called on President Biden to use his executive authority to help Americans get a fairer shake, noting that the Progressive Caucus has identified 55 executive actions Biden could take on matters from access to health care to raising wages. Oh, hey, looks like that's another Wonkette policy story for me to write soon!
Congressional Republicans: Why Not Spend Everything On Military?
Roll Call brings us a potpourri of Republican grumbling about the completely inadequate ( and record-high ) military portion of the budget proposal because at $813 billion (before supplemental aide to Ukraine is added in), it simply isn't enough money for guns and tanks and planes and missiles.
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), the ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, insisted that the budget “woefully” under-funds defense
contractorsand that the budget as proposed "will go nowhere as is." Shelby cautioned that when the Senate gets its hands on the defense budget, "We might need some plus-up in defense, because of the world’s situation,” which is, as ever, perilous.
Those worries about the US's wholly inadequate defense spending were shared by Rep. Trent Kelly (R-Mississippi), who noted that Biden's three percent increase in military spending doesn't come anywhere near Republicans' call for a five percent hike in spending on top of inflation. Kelly told Roll Call, "This is a dangerous time, and we need to continue to raise that.”
We certainly understand Kelly's concern, since the US defense budget merely outspends the next 11 countries in the world, combined. We should be outspending way more countries than that!
Also too, while Republicans fret we're not spending enough on things that go boom, they're also very worried the US is spending too much on everything else, and we need to stop that right away because inflation. House Budget Committee ranking member Jason Smith (R-Missouri) was aghast, saying,
"Spending $73 trillion just seems like it's only going to fuel the inflation fire. [...] I'd like to know how you're going to help the people of southern Missouri to be able to afford food on the table, clothes on their backs and gasoline in their cars."
In fact, Rep. Smith was so aghast at the runaway federal spending that he forgot to mention that $73 trillion covers the entire 10-year total of federal spending projected in the budget, which includes stuff like Social Security and Medicare that the government is committed to spending automatically. In mere reality, Roll Call points out,
That's about $1.4 trillion more than "baseline" funding, or projections of spending that would occur without enacting Biden's proposals.
In other words, about $140 billion per year above baseline, which doesn't sound nearly so frightening, so why would a Republican even mention it?
The Roll Call piece also notes that Democrats are still hoping to pass some version of Build Back Better this year, if a way can be found to get Sen. Joe Manchin ("D"-West Virginia) on board for some mix of climate and social policy spending. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called passing a reconciliation bill a "high priority," adding that
"It’s going to be hard. We know that. We’ll try to get as much done as we can that gets 50 votes. That’s where we’re at. There’s a ways to go."
For his part, Manchin is back to being opaque, oracular, and infuriating, telling reporters Monday that
he personally has no deadline for coming to an agreement, although others have talked about trying to reach a deal before the July 4 recess to give both chambers time to process it before all momentum is lost in the height of midterm election season.
But Manchin made no promises. "I'm not saying anything is going to be done," he said.
Well heck, this is certainly no time to be doing anything, now is it?
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