Since the 1980s, Democrats have offered a consistent refrain about the information age economy: that it makes the rich richer, suppresses wages for the middle class and leaves the poor further behind. To reduce inequality and expand opportunities, his economic advisors earmarked government investment in education, health care, training, infrastructure and support for families, all financed by higher taxes on the affluent.
A political era favoring low taxes and small government has allowed him only limited success.
But Republican opposition thwarted his efforts to win big investments in “human capital” and economic change. Major legislative action on priorities such as expanding early childhood education, modernizing infrastructure and curbing carbon emissions to slow the planet’s warming fell by the wayside.
Federal spending on popular benefit programs for retirees continued to grow. Federal spending on the future – capital investment, research and development, education and training – decreased. From a peak of more than 6% in the 1960s, those budget investments declined by more than half.
“The Biden administration was not strategic about this,” complained David Autor, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a leading authority on economic changes that has kept many Americans from moving forward. They fear that the window for bigger action may close again.
“We’ve been doing this for four decades: investing less in ourselves, cutting taxes, and running away from the future,” Autor said. “It just contributed to the US decline.”
Republican economists say the opportunity for wage stagnation and reduction has been exaggerated. Michael Strain of the Conservative American Enterprise Institute, author of the 2020 book “The American Dream Is Not Dead,” insists that Build Back Better may have set the economy back with wasteful, poorly designed programs.
University of Maryland economist Melissa Kearney, a moderate Republican who supports much of Biden’s agenda, called the continued impasse “a dire outcome.” She still hopes for a settlement.
“Investing in kids is a win-win. Millions of poor kids will do better in school, contribute more to our economy, rely less on safety net programs.”
Biden continues to make the case, including with his West Coast swing last week. “We haven’t invested in ourselves,” the president told donors at a Seattle fundraiser.
His remaining best-case scenario is half of last year’s $3.5 trillion blueprint, with the majority of new tax revenue devoted to deficit reduction rather than new spending. Possible elements: $500 billion to address climate change, limits on the prices of certain drugs, Obamacare subsidies and spending to expand early childhood education.
It would not be what he or his advisors expected. But it will be something.
“I don’t know when another opportunity will come,” Furman said, “that’s why I hope they can pull a rabbit out of a hat.”
- Kemp and Perdue clash over 2020 election results in Georgia
- McCarthy’s latest introduction to Trump paints America
- Blinken and Austin travel to Kyiv to meet Zelensky
- Democrats see slipping economic opportunity to expand
- Utah Democrats back independent Ivano
- John Kerry is trying to convince the world to commit
- Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren: Democrats Will Lose
- Rick Santorum Fast Facts | CNN Politics
- Violence against US politicians and diplomats fast facts
- Building a movement around Putin’s jailed Alexei Navalny