Biden’s $6 Trillion Budget: Last Friday, Biden called for big increases in spending on education, public health, and infrastructure. Here’s what both sides are saying. To have stories like this and more delivered directly to your inbox, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.
Top Story: Biden’s Budget
Last Friday, before the long weekend, President Joe Biden unveiled a $6 trillion budget. The proposal calls for big increases in spending on education, public health, and infrastructure. These expenses would be funded by tax hikes on wealthy individuals and corporations. Given the fact that the cost of borrowing is cheap, the White House believes it’s prudent to invest now and worry about reducing deficits later. However, critics note that more than $5 trillion has already been approved for COVID-19 relief, therefore Biden’s budget will stoke inflation and leave future generations saddled with debt. Here’s an expanded view of what both sides are saying about the administration’s ambitious spending plan:
On The Right
Republicans and conservative commentators believe Biden’s budget is a groundless encroachment of the federal government into not only the economy but also the everyday life of Americans. They’re worried about rising inflation and ballooning federal debt.
Debt Problems for Future Generations: The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board says the budget “is unprecedented in American peacetime history.” Despite the fact consumers are “flush with COVID relief payments” the Editors write that “Biden wants to keep using the cover of COVID to sneak through an expansion of government that would be historic and permanent.” On a line-item level the Editors note that “executive agencies would get huge budget increases.” These include Health and Human Services, Commerce, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Meanwhile, “Defense and Homeland Security budgets would decline after inflation,” they write. This is an issue because “China is a generational challenge. Iran is arming its proxies across the Middle East. Migrants are flooding the Southern border. Yet Mr. Biden believes the military and border security need to go on a diet.” If Biden’s budget passes, the Editors write that “Americans now in their cradles will be paying for it long after today’s politicians are in the grave.”
Turning America into Europe: Meanwhile, Charles Lipson of The Spectator says “The best historical analogue to [Biden’s] proposed budget increase is Lyndon Johnson’s cradle-to-grave Great Society Program.” With that said, however, “It has the same flaws,” he writes. “In fact, Biden’s program is best understood as the next step in a long political arc, extending from Franklin Roosevelt to LBJ to Obamacare.” Lipson writes that “All of them proposed centralized government solutions to almost every social problem, particularly endemic problems among the poor.” In the author’s view, however, “those problems are caused mainly by the breakdown of family structures, high rates of urban violence and public schooling that doesn’t prepare graduates for jobs that require higher and higher levels of education.” At the end of the day “By vastly increasing the government’s share of the economy, along with ever-increasing bureaucratic regulations, his programs will make America’s government and economy much more like Europe’s social democracy. That means a larger social safety net, higher taxes, and slower growth. It means less control by state and local government, and less autonomy for individuals.”
Unsustainable Spending: Lastly, Editors at the National Review write that “Biden’s pricey wish list should prompt massive pushback from Republicans and provide a wake-up call to the moderate Democrats who still care about deficits and wasteful spending.” Prior to the pandemic, “In fiscal year 2019, the federal budget was already on an unsustainable trajectory,” they write. In 2020 the US ran over a $3 trillion deficit. In 2021 it’s projected to happen again. “For context, in a nation of 331 million, every trillion dollars represents $3,017 for each person in the country, including kids, or $7,785 per household.” Zooming out, “The budget will drive debt as a share of the economy to the highest in US history, exceeding the World War II record.” Massive debt would “make it more difficult for the Federal Reserve to hike interest rates to control inflation, because doing so would increase the government’s borrowing costs.” The Editors make a simple plea, saying “Republicans should oppose this agenda every step of the way — and moderate Democrats should join them.”
On The Left
Democrats and progressive commentators believe Biden’s proposal is warranted to fund long overdue investments that are necessary for both individuals and the country. While interest rates are historically low, they think the US should take advantage of the cheap cost of capital. They believe deficit discussions can be debated at another time.
Remarkably Modest: Paul Krugman, an Opinion Columnist at the New York Times, writes that “one of the most striking things about Biden’s budget initiative — arguably about his whole administration — is its relative modesty in terms of both money spent and claims about what that spending would accomplish.” Krugman says “He is neither proposing nor promising a revolution, just policies that would make Americans’ lives significantly better.” The budget is by no means “trivial” Krugman writes, “But it’s not socialism, either. It would still leave the United States with a smaller government than most other wealthy countries’.” Krugman also outlines Biden’s growth projections “of less than 2 percent after the economy has bounced back from the pandemic.” To him this is a “modest” and realistic target, especially set against the Trump administration’s projections of “GDP growth of 3 percent a year.” Ultimately, “the extra spending would make a huge difference to some economic sectors, notably renewable energy, and vastly improve some American lives, especially those of lower-income families with children.”
Big Government is Back: After highlighting what’s included in Biden’s spending proposal, Cameron Peters of Vox points out that “The budget is also notable for what it does not include: a renewal of the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funding for abortions.” Peters says “that rule, in place for more than four decades, has been criticized for contributing to economic and racial inequality — and its absence is one of several ways that this budget aims to affirmatively target root causes of inequality.” More broadly, Peters writes that Biden’s budget is a departure from his philosophy during the Obama years and even Democrats’ spending mentality during the Clinton administration. Quoting his colleague German Lopez, Peters contextualizes the plan saying it is “grounded in a clear vision: The government can — and should — do much more to solve the many problems facing the country.”
Deficits Don’t Matter: Lastly, Paul Waldman of the Washington Post says “Biden’s budget shows why he’s still a popular president.” More specifically, Biden’s budget “says we need a much more vigorous system of social supports for workers, parents, children and the elderly. It says we have to make investments now to allow the economy to keep growing and to become more equitable.” Additionally, Walman points out that “It also says that in the short-to-medium run, deficits don’t really matter.” Walman concludes by saying “In the big picture, the Democrats have the much more popular agenda; there’s nothing in Biden’s wish list anyone in his party would want to hide. Getting it enacted is the hard part.”
Flag This: Biden’s Budget
According to a poll released at the end of April, Americans largely support Biden’s spending proposals. A Monmouth University survey showed that nearly 70% of the public supports the president’s infrastructure proposal. Meanwhile, 64% support his American Families Plan, which would expand healthcare, childcare, and other support.
In an interesting article from Slate, a left-leaning outlet, Jordan Weismann highlights President Biden’s philosophical shift on spending from when he served in Congress in the 1970s and 1980s. In fact, “For the vast majority of his career, Joe Biden was a proud deficit hawk—a man who fretted for decades about federal spending,” Weismann notes. More specifically, “He began sponsoring bills designed to curb the budget in the late 1970s.” Moreover, In 1984 “Biden warned of looming economic catastrophe and co-sponsored legislation that would freeze all federal spending for a year, including Social Security.”
Ultimately Weismann believes Biden “learned a lesson” from his tenure as Vice President when the Obama administration failed to push through the “Grand Bargain,” or the attempted political compromise during the 2011 budget debates. This is why Weismann, along with others, believes Biden has shifted his stance so dramatically over the past 40 years.
Flag Poll: Biden’s Budget
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