Thursday, May 27, 2021

Joe Did What? Budget edition


So the thing Biden is releasing tomorrow is the White House budget proposal for fiscal 2022, with projections out to 2031 (don't forget that it's only a statement of what the president would like Congress to do, and what they actually do will certainly be different in small or big ways), and Jim Tankersley/NYTimes got enough of an advance look at it to give us a preview.

The most "Joe Did What?" bit for me is that in addition to lowering the Medicare qualification age to 60 and allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, both sort of predicted, he recommends adding dental, vision, and hearing care to the Medicare list of services, an obviously great and needed item that has long been on the Sanders agenda but I think never taken seriously by a president before (though there's no cost estimate and it's not part of the budget proper, like our beloved ACA public option, which is apparently recommended in the same way). But the thing that's really interesting me is the picture it provides of not just how big this New Deal–sized program is but how it's timed, not just the spending but also the funding, through borrowing and progressive taxation. Tankersley didn't mention the last in his tease tweet—

—but it's still part of the plan, I'm glad to say. By 2028, under the projections, the government will be collecting almost 20% of GDP in tax revenue, as much as in just three previous years in American history, 1944, 1945, and the peculiar but extremely prosperous budget-surplus year 2000. And all collected from corporations and the wealthiest citizens, as promised.

But it will also take a lot of big deficits to get there as well: over $1.3 trillion every year, with a high of $1.8 trillion in 2022 itself, where the total budget is $6 trillion; the proportion of tax to borrowing rising, as it should, as interest rates and the cost of borrowing gradually rise, borrowing more while the money is extra cheap and taxing after it starts to get expensive, so that the direction is always progressive, whether it's minimizing the profits of plutocrat lenders, or maximizing the contributions of plutocrat taxpayers. 

And in the end the two huge packages are, as promised, fully offset by tax receipts by 2037, under the White House assumptions, which are pretty conservative (predicting average GDP growth of just under 2% a year after discounting for inflation) and an unemployment rate down to 1969 levels of below 4% but not close to the old dream of half that.

Some of the less famous things it's supposed to pay for, in the American Jobs and American Families plans:

  • The President’s plan includes $20 billion for a new program that will reconnect neighborhoods cut off by historic investments and ensure new projects increase opportunity, advance racial equity and environmental justice, and promote affordable access.
  • The President’s plan will inspire basic research, like advanced pavements that recycle carbon dioxide, and “future proof” investments that will last decades to leave coming generations with a safe, equitable, and sustainable transportation system.
  • People of color and low-income people are more likely to live in areas most vulnerable to flooding and other climate change-related weather events. They also are less likely to have the funds to prepare for and recover from extreme weather events... The President’s plan will invest in vulnerable communities through a range of programs, including FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program, HUD’s Community Development Block Grant program, new initiatives at the Department of Transportation, a bipartisan tax credit to provide incentives to low- and middle-income families and to small businesses to invest in disaster resilience, and transition and relocation assistance to support community-led transitions for the most vulnerable tribal communities.
  • Across the country, pipes and treatment plants are aging and polluted drinking water is endangering public health. An estimated six to ten million homes still receive drinking water through lead pipes and service lines. The President’s investments in improving water infrastructure and replacing lead service lines will create good jobs, including union and prevailing wage jobs.
  • Hundreds of thousands of former orphan oil and gas wells and abandoned mines pose serious safety hazards, while also causing ongoing air, water, and other environmental damage. Many of these old wells and mines are located in rural communities that have suffered from years of disinvestment. President Biden’s plan includes an immediate up-front investment of $16 billion that will put hundreds of thousands to work in union jobs plugging oil and gas wells and restoring and reclaiming abandoned coal, hardrock, and uranium mines. In addition to creating good jobs in hard-hit communities, this investment will reduce the methane and brine that leaks from these wells, just as we invest in reducing leaks from other sources like aging pipes and distribution systems.
  • The President’s plan invests $213 billion to produce, preserve, and retrofit more than two million affordable and sustainable places to live. It pairs this investment with an innovative new approach to eliminate state and local exclusionary zoning laws, which drive up the cost of construction and keep families from moving to neighborhoods with more opportunities for them and their kids. 
  • President Biden is calling for a national partnership with states to offer free, high-quality, accessible, and inclusive preschool to all three-and four-year-olds, benefitting five million children and saving the average family $13,000, when fully implemented.
  • President Biden’s $109 billion plan will ensure that first-time students and workers wanting to reskill can enroll in a community college to earn a degree or credential for free. Students can use the benefit over three years and, if circumstances warrant, up to four years, recognizing that many students’ lives and other responsibilities can make full-time enrollment difficult. If all states, territories, and Tribes participate, about 5.5 million students would pay $0 in tuition and fees.
  • The President is proposing a bold $62 billion grant program to invest in completion and retention activities at colleges and universities that serve high numbers of low-income students, particularly community colleges. States, territories, and Tribes will receive grants to provide funding to colleges that adopt innovative, proven solutions for student success, including wraparound services ranging from child care and mental health services to faculty and peer mentoring; emergency basic needs grants; practices that recruit and retain diverse faculty; transfer agreements between colleges; and evidence-based remediation programs.
  • while HBCUs are only three percent of four-year universities, their graduates make up approximately 80 percent of Black judges, half of Black lawyers and doctors, and 25 percent of Black undergraduates earning STEM degrees. Yet, these institutions have significantly less resources than other top colleges and universities, undermining their ability to grow and support more students. President Biden is calling on Congress to make a historic investment in HBCU, TCU [Tribal Colleges and Universities], and MSI [Minority-Serving Institutions] affordability. Specifically, he is calling for a new $39 billion program that provides two years of subsidized tuition for students from families earning less than $125,000 enrolled in a four-year HBCU, TCU, or MSI. The President is also calling for $5 billion to expand existing institutional aid grants to HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs
  • More investment is needed to support early childhood care providers and educators, more than nine in ten of whom are women and more than four in ten of whom are women of color. They are  among the most underpaid workers in the country and nearly half receive public income support programs. The typical child care worker earned $12.24 per hour in 2020—while receiving few, if any, benefits, leading to high turnover and lower quality of care. This investment will mean a $15 minimum wage for early childhood staff and ensure that those with similar qualifications as kindergarten teachers receive comparable compensation and benefits. And, it will ensure child care workers receive job-embedded coaching and professional development, along with additional training opportunities
  • The President’s plan will fund $17 billion to expand free meals for children in the highest poverty districts by reimbursing a higher percentage of meals at the free reimbursement rate through CEP. Additionally, the plan will lower the threshold for CEP eligibility for elementary schools to 25 percent of students participating in SNAP. Targeting elementary students will drive better long-term health outcomes by ensuring low-income children are receiving nutritious meals at an early age. The plan will also expand direct certification to automatically enroll more students for school meals based on Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income data. This proposal will provide free meals to an additional 9.3 million children, with about 70 percent in elementary schools.

Sorry, I just can't help myself. 

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