Thursday, September 30, 2021



Apparently there's an actual reason for the deadline today on the infrastructure bill: I heard about it on the radio from Brooklyn Rep. and House Democratic Caucus chair Hakeem Jeffries, but the details came out in the Washington Post on Tuesday: it's the Federal Highway Administration, which funds road-building programs all over the country, and which isn't budgeted out of annual congressional appropriations but the Highway Trust Fund, usually from gas tax receipts, with an authorization from Congress for several years at a time that is running out, as it happens, tonight. The infrastructure bill, which the Senate passed back in August, reauthorizes the Highway Trust Fund (as well as adding many billions of dollars to the fund), and unless it's passed in the House and signed by the president by midnight, it shuts down, not exactly an emergency (projects have state funds that should generally keep them going) but inconvenient for some thousands of workers who could get furloughed. At the same time as the government itself would if they couldn't pass the continuing resolution today (but apparently that's now definitely happening).

Meanwhile, Manchin threw an interesting curveball yesterday, complaining that the Build Back Better plan is "fiscal insanity" and offering a somewhat more granular view of what he'd like to do instead:

“I want to do a tax overhaul. One thing you understand that all Democrats agreed on, there’s not a lot of things we all agree on, is that the 2017 tax cuts are unfair and weighted toward the high end. Let’s fix that. That’s the reconciliation,” Manchin said. “I think we can get a good bill done. I really do, if we work in good faith.”

Scratching my head here, because while most of the BBB tax proposals do not exactly reverse the Trump tax cuts favoring the rich (some of them do, like returning the top marginal rate for personal income tax from 37% to where it was before 2017, 39.6%, or cutting the exemption on estate tax from $11.6 million per individual back to the pre-Trump level of $5 million), they are rigorously tied to an idea of fairness, raising individual taxes only on people who earn $400,000 and up, as Biden pledged to do, and broadly redistributing income from the top quintile to the other four progressively

Via Tax Policy Center.

and also—I'm not sure if this has been widely noticed—projecting a total increase in government revenue over the 10-year period of $2 trillion, corresponding to the $2 trillion by which the 2017 tax law was supposed to increase the 10-year deficit (in the end, of course, that was a lot worse). In that sense, the legislation absolutely does reverse the Trump tax cuts on the bottom line, restoring to the government for public use the money the Trump administration distributed to the wealthiest Americans.

He said he would also focus on extending the child tax credit that expires at the end of the year, a strong signal that Dec. 31 may be the true deadline for passage of a reconciliation package even as congressional leaders desperately try to force action this fall.

Joe, it's already in the bill! It's by far the biggest item, running from around $100 billion in 2022 to almost $200 billion in 2028, according to the (malevolent) calculations of the Tax Foundation, or a whole trillion dollars in the first seven years, $1.6 trillion over the full ten! (Or $1.1 trillion according to the less rabidly rightwing Committee For a Responsible Budget) You don't need to focus on it, that's already done!

This is one of the really disturbing things, the feeling that Manchin doesn't actually know what legislation we're talking about, though he has in fact already voted for it, or its first draft, on 11 August, the only job now being to fill in the details of what has already been approved and signed by the president. That plus his his incessant worry about inflation from a program that is clearly not inflationary in any way. All he can talk about is that misleading bottom line (he doesn't seem to understand that the $3.5 trillion is distributed over a ten-year period), and the only demands he's able to make are for things that are already there, the reversal of the Trump tax cut and the permanent establishment of the fully funded child tax credit from last spring. 

Now he's come out to announce his own bottom line is $1.5 trillion—less than what some say the child tax credit to which he is so attached would cost:

I'm getting so tired of this. Something might happen tonight, but the stress is really getting to me.

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