TAKE YES FOR AN ANSWER. Build Back Better Is Here, And It's F*CKING BETTER.
Looks like President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats have finally settled on what's going to be in the Build Back Better reconciliation bill, just in time for President Joe to fly off to Europe for two major summit meetings. A White House announcement of the framework of the bill indicates it will contain a lot of the priorities Biden had campaigned on, although it's been trimmed down from the original, more ambitious plan that was introduced earlier this year. The total price tag will be about $1.75 trillion, which is less important than talking about what's in the bill, so we'll be focusing on that. It's good stuff!
Biden met this morning with House Democrats to discuss what's in the agreement framework, which still needs to be written up in formal legislative language, to delete any marginal notes reading "fuck the moderates, SOCIALISM NOW!" The package had to be pared back significantly in order to meet demands from Sens. Joe Fucking Manchin (D-West Fucking Virginia) and Kyrsten Fucking Sinema (D-Fuck Goddamn Shit Arizona. Fuck). The Washington Post notes that it
remains unclear if Manchin and Sinema support the new framework, but the White House believes all Democrats will unite behind the plan, according to senior administration officials, who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity earlier Thursday.
So good, it looks like Manchin and Sinema at least haven't decided at the last minute that the bill should also designate lobbyists as America's national mammal.
Here's Joe Biden announcing the framework, right damn now.
What all is actually in this here framework? Let's dive in!
Childcare: Families of four earning under $300,000 a year will get subsidized childcare, so they'll pay no more than seven percent of their income on childcare for kids under six. Parents who are unemployed or in education/job training programs will qualify for childcare on a sliding scale, capped at seven percent of income, too. The plan will also improve job standards for childcare workers, because union jobs, goddamn right.
Universal Pre-K:(Update: Lol, how did I leave this out?) That's everywhere, for all three- and four-year-olds whose parents want it. It should increase the availability of Pre-Kindergarten classes for as many as six million kids, and make it more affordable and improve services for millions more families. This is freakin' big.
Home & Community Based Services: Increased Medicare funding to provide home care services for seniors and folks with disabilities, with provisions to improve caregiver job benefits, too.
Expanded Child Tax Credit: The refundable Child Tax Credit from the American Rescue Plan will be extended, and as far as we can tell, it doesn't look like it will be subject to the work requirements or lower eligibility levels Manchin had wanted. The credit will only be funded for a year (giving Democrats a hell of a strong issue for the midterms), it will be made permanently refundable, which means the poorest Americans won't have to meet an income threshold to get the full tax credit. GOOD. Let's not have child poverty, OK?
While the biggest lever to encourage the shift to renewable energy, the Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP), has been axed (Democrats promise they'll continue to pursue it), there are still $555 billion in investments aimed at moving forward the transition to green energy, including
- Consumer rebates and tax credits to encourage home energy efficiency, installation of rooftop solar, and purchase of electric vehicles, with expanded tax credits if the EV is built with American components and union labor. The total EV subsidy could come to $12,500 per vehicle.
- Subsidies to build clean energy tech in the US, with union jobs.
- Environmental justice initiatives, requiring 40 percent of investment in projects to go to disadvantaged communities that have seen some of the worst effects of fossil fuel pollution.
- Creation of a Civilian Climate Corps to provide 300,000 jobs doing environmental cleanup and building up community resilience to deal with climate change.
- Resilience investments to help agriculture, ranching, and forestry improve practices and adapt to climate challenges, also coastal restoration and soil conservation.
Obamacare subsidies: The framework preserves the American Rescue Plan's increased subsidies for Obamacare premiums, helping about nine million Americans save an average of $600 per person per year. The subsidies are expected to help some three million people who are currently uninsured to get health insurance.
Closing the Medicaid gap: It's not quite the Senate's proposal to provide something very much like Medicaid to people in the dozen states that refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, but it's pretty good: The roughly four million Americans currently in the "Medicaid gap" will be able to get ACA premium tax credits, allowing them to buy insurance with a premium of zero dollars. It looks like they'll still have to pay copays and deductibles, though; we'll keep an eye on that as the legislation develops.
Medicare benefit expansion: Bernie Sanders didn't get the full coverage of dental, vision, and hearing care that he had pushed for, but Medicare will at least cover one of those, expanding benefits to cover hearing services. That's still a big deal, since as the White House notes, "Only 30% of seniors over the age of 70 who could benefit from hearing aids have ever used them."
Nibble On The Rich
The plan will include that minimum tax on corporate profits, so that companies reporting more than $1 billion in annual profits for three consecutive years will have to pay 15 percent minimum on their profits. The plan will also impose a one percent surcharge on stock buybacks, which pump up executive compensation and investor dividends without helping workers. Such buybacks are where most of the benefits of the 2017 tax cuts ended up going.
The proposed billionaire tax, however, is not here, so we'll have to take another swing at that some time.
Other revenue measures will include measures to prevent corporations from hiding their profits overseas, new surtaxes on the wealthiest .02 percent of Americans, and boosting the IRS's budget so it can collect more of the taxes that the very rich already owe, but avoid paying.
Two of the big items in the original Build Back Better proposal are gone altogether: the plan to pay for two years of community college or vocational education, and the plan for paid family and medical leave. Both are definitely worth coming back to; as Yr Editrix likes to point out, the paid leave plan may not be the loss it sounds like, since the version passed by the House was a complicated dog's breakfast that would have depended on private insurance — it wouldn't even help the lowest-income families much, since it was based on income and had no minimum benefit.
So for fuckssake when we come back to paid family leave, let's do it right and pass the real deal, Kirsten Gillibrand's FAMILY Act.
In place of the community college provision, the plan will increase the maximum amount of Pell Grants by $550, increase payments to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and to Tribal Colleges and Universities, as well as to other minority-serving higher education institutions.
Elsewhere in education, the plan will expand the availability of free school meals and provide the school nutrition assistance year-round, so kids won't be hungry during the summer, suck it Fox News.
In addition, the bill will expand funding for low-income housing for rental assistance, down payment assistance, and construction/refurbishing of affordable housing. Also too, there'll be investments in lead paint removal, and incentives to promote state and local zoning reforms to encourage more duplexes and multi-family housing, just to freak out the NIMBYs.
Finally, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) will be expanded for around 17 million low-income workers who don't have kids, ending what had been a de facto penalty on low-income folks who didn't have kids. From the White House fact sheet:
For example, a childless worker who works 30 hours per week at $9 per hour earns income that, after taxes, leaves them below the federal poverty line. By increasing her EITC to more than $1,100, this expansion helps pull such workers out of poverty.
Get ready for Fox News to bitch about how we won't have enough desperately poor people now.
Now that there appears to be a fairly firm agreement, there are reports that Nancy Pelosi wants the House to vote today on the linked Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (BIF), but progressives may want to see the actual legislation written first, or at least an absolute commitment from Manchin and Sinema to support Build Back Better before they'll vote. We'll see what happens!
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