President Joe Biden on Thursday rolled out his proposed budget for fiscal 2024, an ambitious plan that would raise taxes on the rich and on corporations while expanding the social safety net. It would cut nearly $3 trillion from the federal deficit over the next decade by imposing a 25 percent minimum tax on the richest Americans. If you want to read the entire 185-page document, have at it!
Of course, it also won’t do a single bit of that, because Republicans won’t pass any of the major parts of the plan, particularly not the tax increases, but also not the social safety net parts like paid family leave, childcare, or Biden’s plan to rescue the Medicare trust fund for at least 25 years.
Not a bit of it will become law except the most routine keep-things-as-they-are parts, which will no doubt end up in yet another omnibus spending bill passed barely in time to avoid a government shutdown. If then. Oh, also, the part that increases defense spending by about 3.2 percent, to over $835 billion, will probably do just fine. But whatever defense budget eventually passes in the fall won’t be accompanied by the tax increases that would make the expenditures slightly less odious.
So why even offer a budget that’s not going to get passed by Congress? For starters, presidents have to submit a budget request in early February (traditionally by the first Monday, but everything moves slow these days) to get the process rolling, and the budget reflects the administration’s priorities, even if the opposition is able to block them. Also, let’s remember that Donald Trump’s budgets, which zeroed out entire federal agencies, were entirely exercises in rightwing fantasy. And yet somehow we still have the National Endowment for the Arts.
So sure, a federal budget is mostly aspirational, and this year, Biden’s budget serves two practical purposes: It sets out markers for where he wants his government to go in a second term (you know, if he runs), and it’s also an opening bid in the negotiations over raising the debt ceiling. Republicans say they want to cut federal spending because the deficits are too high, and Biden’s budget is over here saying “Yeah? You show me how you’d reduce the deficit by $3 trillion in 10 years, ya mooks.”
Former Obama administration official Kenneth Baer, who served in the Office of Management and Budget, explained to the Washington Post,
“As one of the people who has spent many a long night writing and editing a budget, I take umbrage at the people who say it’s a meaningless document. It’s not a meaningless document. […] It sets the terms of the debate. It shows what’s important to you, your commitments and what you really want.”
So let’s take a look at what’s in this thing and what that says about what Joe Biden wants.
The Rich Still Need To Be Eaten
Speaking at a union hall in Philadelphia yesterday, Biden emphasized that his third budget proposal is aimed at “investing in America and all of America,” because “Too many people have been left behind and treated like they’re invisible. Not anymore. I promise I see you.”
To that end, the $6.8 trillion budget plan (over 10 years) includes about $5 trillion in tax increases on the wealthiest individuals and corporations, most of which will go to cover new programs that Biden has previously put forward but that haven’t yet been enacted.
Some specific tax increase proposals may sound familiar because some of them were in the original version of Build Back Better, but were removed after Sen. Kyrsten Sinema said Donald Trump’s 2017 Big Fat Tax Cuts for Rich Fuckwads couldn’t be reversed, not even a little.
- Raise the corporate income tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent, which would still be lower than the 35 percent rate prior to Trump’s 2017 cuts. It would also raise the tax rate on foreign earnings from 10.5 percent to 21 percent, to reduce the incentive for companies to move operations out of the USA.
- Repeal Trump’s tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans by returning the top marginal tax rate to 39.7 percent from the current 37 percent. This would affect taxpayers making $400,000 a year for individuals, or $450,000 married filing jointly.
- Tax capital gains the same as income for people making over $1 million, and close the carried interest loopholefor chrissakes finally.
- Increase the surtax on corporate stock buybacks from one percent to four percent
- A new minimum tax on billionaires, assessing a 25 percent minimum tax on all income of the wealthiest tenth of one percent of Americans. That’s a follow-up to the minimum corporate tax that was included in last year’s Inflation Reduction Act.
- Raise Medicare taxes on those making more than $400,000 a year, and make more types of income eligible for Medicare taxation. We detailed that plan right here. Medicare would also be able to negotiate prices on more prescription drugs sooner, creating additional savings that would go to the Medicare trust fund.
Nice Things We Need
The budget also includes some domestic programs that were good ideas when they were proposed in Build Back Better, and were still good ideas when Joe Manchin demanded they be removed from Build Back Better. A few have been downsized for the budget plan, which also adds some items that weren’t in BBB.
- Restore the enhanced child tax credit and make it permanent. Hell yes. It markedly reduced child poverty in the US, and it’s damn near criminal that it was allowed to lapse. Also way better for America’s children than allowing them to work in meatpacking plants.
- College affordability. The budget calls for higher maximum awards for Pell grants and for a $500 million grant program to make two years of community college free — not quite the full free community college program Biden originally ran on.
- Universal Pre-K and affordable child care. Not quite the full programs proposed in Build Back Better, but as CNN summarizes, this would fund “a new federal-state partnership program that would provide universal, free preschool. The spending plan would also increase funding for existing federal early care and education programs.”
- Paid family and medical leave — another big priority that still needs doing. 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave; for fuckssake let’s get this done. Yeah, in 2025 after we retake the House and expand the Senate majority.
- More free school meals. During the pandemic, we gave every kid eat. The Biden budget would provide $15 billion to enable wider free lunches, though hey, since it’s a wish list, why not just say we want universal free school lunch? Kids learn better if they’re not hungry.
- Make the IRA’s Obamacare subsidies permanent. The enhanced premium subsidies, which started out as part of the American Rescue Plan, have helped reduce the percentage of Americans without healthcare coverage to record lows. But they’re set to expire in 2025.
- Reduce maternal mortality. It’s still a crisis, with far greater rates of maternal mortality for Black women than for white women. The budget calls for $471 million in funding to expand maternal health care, particularly in rural areas. It would also require all states to provide Medicaid postpartum care for 12 months instead of the current 60 days.
- $35 per month insulin for all Americans. It was included in the IRA for folks on Social Security, so let’s make that the standard for those on private insurance or who have no insurance at all. It’s literally a matter of life or death.
- Lower prescription drug prices for seniors. The IRA put a $2000 cap annual on out-of-pocket costs for Medicare beneficiaries (going into effect in 2025). Biden wants to further limit copays for generic prescription drugs for chronic conditions to $2.
Yes, We Still Need Climate Spending
While the Inflation Reduction Act was the biggest American investment ever in fighting the climate emergency, Biden’s budget proposal also recognizes that there’s a lot more that needs doing, so it calls for still more funding to move America closer to reaching our Paris climate agreement goals. We want to wrap this sucker up, but take a look at this CNBC piece for more details on how the budget would expand our transition to clean power and cutting carbon emissions. Among the basics:
• $24 billion for climate resilience and conservation
• $16.5 billion for climate science and clean energy innovation
• $6.5 billion for energy storage and transmission projects
• $4.5 billion for jobs building clean energy infrastructure
• $3 billion for advancing adaptation finance
• $1.8 billion for environmental justice initiatives
• $1.2 billion for the Energy Department’s industrial decarbonization activities
Want even more info? I’m leaving a tab open with the White House fact sheet on the budget’s climate priorities, because this is what the agenda for keeping the planet habitable should look like.
So those are some darn good priorities — and a blueprint for the 2024 campaign, too.
And now, back to two years of hearings on Twitter and Hunter’s laptop. Total waste of time, but they may help make a very strong case for not letting Republicans anywhere near power again.
[2024 Budget of the US Government / WaPo / CNBC / NYT / CNBC]
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