U.S.A: It is astonishing that Two Democratic Senators hold their President’s legacy plan hostage — By Mohamed Hamaludin

Commentary — By Mohamed Hamaludin

The federal government, with Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt as president, in the 1930s, created the New Deal, bringing a vast network of enhanced social services, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and major infrastructural projects. Another Democrat, Lyndon B. Johnson, in the 1960s, poured huge amounts of money into the social safety net and also produced the landmark Voting Rights Act. But they faced stiff opposition from those who dub large-scale government spending “socialist” and ruinous to the economy. The same claim is being made against another Democratic President, Joseph R. Biden, and his$3.5 trillion Build Back Better plan.

Biden’s “human infrastructure” package offers free child-care up to age 5, saving the average family $14,800 annually; universal pre-school for 3- and 4-year-olds, benefiting five million families, saving each $13,000 annually; and 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave.     

The plan also includes tax cuts for families with children, following on Biden’s earlier American Rescue Plan that boosted the Child Tax Credit from $2,000 to $3,000 per child aged 6 and over for nearly 40 million households; and tax cuts for workers without children, boosting the Earned-Income Tax Credit from $543 to $1,502 for 17 million low-wage workers.

The plan would also empower Medicare to negotiate cheaper prescription drug prices and also offer dental, vision, and hearing coverage. It would lower health insurance premiums for nine million people.

Free two years of free community college is offered and tax credits would be used to expand the housing stock and rehabilitate two million homes. Other provisions include boosting workforce training, more money for teachers and schools and promoting clean energy jobs.

Unsurprisingly, more than 60 percent of Americans support the plan and Congress was expected to pass the eventual Build Back Better bill. But, with the Senate split 50-50, Democrats must invoke the Reconciliation procedure, using Vice President Kamala Devi Harris’ vote as president of the Senate for a 51-50 majority. But two Democratic Senators object: West Virginia’s Joseph Manchin III and Arizona’s Krysten Lea Sinema. On the surface, they oppose the cost even though Biden says it will be fully funded by increasing taxes on corporations and on individuals making more than $400,000 annually.

The two Senators want a cost of between $1.7 trillion and $2.5 trillion and obviously do not mind holding the plan hostage and making it appear that their president cannot get things done and his popularity is sinking. But there is more to their opposition. Manchin complains that the proposals would create an “entitlement society” and is demanding that only one of these three proposals be included: expanded child tax credit, paid family leave and child-care subsidies, The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent reported. “I don’t believe that we should turn our society into an entitlement society,” Manchin said.

Vermont’s Independent Senator Bernard Sanders responded: “I believe all Americans are entitled as human beings to health care. I believe people are entitled to quality education regardless of their income. I believe that people are entitled to affordable housing.”

That goes for Manchin’s West Virginia, where 278,000 people live in poverty, making it the second poorest state in the nation. It has the lowest percentage of adults with a bachelor’s degree and the second lowest life expectancy. The economy depends on coal for 75 percent of its income.

Sinema has stayed quiet but the New York Times reported that she wants $100 billion cut from proposals to tackle climate change which include $150 billion for clean electricity and $300 billion in tax incentives to encourage use of wind and solar power and electric vehicles. Also, Politico reported that she opposes making prescription drugs cheaper and, citing a Kaiser Health News analysis, adds that she “ranks as one of Congress’ leading recipients of pharmaceutical industry donations.”

Meanwhile, in Sinema’s Arizona, 24/7 Wall Street ranks the northeast as “one of the poorest in the country.” Feeding America said last year that Apache County had the greatest “food insecurity” in the nation. The 1,000-year-old Hopi tribe is stricken by drought. The Navajo Nation needs 34,000 new housing units and repairs to another 34,000, the Arizona Republic reported.

Manchin’s ideal is for the entire plan to be scrapped and Democrats “take as a win” a separate bipartisan $1.7 trillion infrastructure bill. Not so fast, said the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which is demanding that both measures be put to a vote at the same time. The caucus comprises 95 House members (and Sanders) of a total House Democratic membership of 224 and reflects the most diverse group of national lawmakers ever so they know the needs of the American people.

Caucus members include 27 African Americans, 15 Latinos, six Larinos and one Pacific Islander and 46 women – as well as three Muslims (Andre Carson of Indiana, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, a Somali child refugee, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, a Palestinian), two Indians (caucus chairwoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Ro Khanna of California). There are several LGBT members, including African Americans Mondaire Jones and Richie Torres of New York. They come from 30 states and the District of Columbia, including Florida: Lois Frankel, Darren Soto, Frederica Wilson.

If Manchin gets his way, could he really look his constituents in the eye and brag that he kept them from getting free child care or universal pre-K or extended child tax credit? After all, he is worth $5 million, earns $500,000 annually from a coal-related company and travels in his $700,000 yacht to Washington for Senate sessions.

Could Sinema, who took a progressive background to the Senate in 2018, was worth about $35,000 then but reportedly $1 million now, really boast that she sabotaged a plan to lower drug prices or take on climate change? Neither could the 50 Republican Senators. In fact, they will speedily claim ownership of whatever proposals emerge. After all, they opposed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan and then lied in their districts that they made it happen.

Mohamed Hamaludin is a Guyana-born journalist who worked for several years at The Guyana Chronicle in the 1970s and on publications in the Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands before emigrating in 1984 to the United States, where he worked at The Miami Times, the Miami Herald and the South Florida Times.  Though now retired, he writes a column for The South Florida Times (sfltimes.com) in which the above column first appeared. He may be reached at hamal1942@gmail.com

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President Biden delivers remarks on his Build Back Better agenda for economic growth

CNBC Television

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on his Build Back Better agenda and the plan to generate economic growth. The Senate passed a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan on Tuesday 12 October, a huge step for Democrats as they try to push President Joe Biden’s sweeping economic agenda through Congress.

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  • Clyde Duncan  On 10/15/2021 at 2:21 pm

    Sinema and Manchin Are Wrong, But America Needs Them

    Humanising and demystifying opposition parties is a public service like no other.

    JANAN GANESH | Financial Times

    In her 2009 treatise, Unite and Conquer, Kyrsten Sinema suggests “Letting go of the bear and picking up the Buddha”. An English translation, which is yet to appear, would render this as something like “Spurning tribalism for co-operation”.

    Sinema’s overtures to Republicans come from a “place of peace”. The now-Senator for Arizona burbles on like this for almost 200 pages.

    FACED WITH HER VISION OF POLITICS, MOST DEMOCRATS COME FROM A PLACE OF NAUSEA.

    Bipartisanship, after all, is not an end in itself. The middle view on a subject is not always wise. With a rare chance to grow America’s welfare state, THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY IS BLOCKED BY SINEMA AND THE YET MORE REPUBLICAN-FRIENDLY JOE MANCHIN OF WEST VIRGINIA.

    F Scott Fitzgerald defined a first-rate mind as one that can hold opposing ideas at the same time. TO PASS HIS TEST, THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY HAS TO ACCEPT THAT “SINEMANCHIN” ARE WRONG, THAT THEIR OBSTINACY COULD SCUPPER JOE BIDEN’S PRESIDENCY — AND THAT AMERICA NEEDS THEM REGARDLESS.

    FIRST TO THEIR WRONGNESS. Sinema tends NOT to name her objections to the Build Back Better bill. Manchin is a tad less cagey, but no more persuasive. He wants bespoke help for the poor, not an “entitlement society” of universal largesse. The inference is that free childcare and community colleges, among other Biden plans, fall into the second trap.

    EVEN ON ITS OWN CENTRIST TERMS, THIS LINE IS PERVERSE. The social programmes with cross-party backing, such as Medicare, are open to almost all. The least popular, namely welfare, are means-tested.

    As in Britain, where tax credits are easy game but the NHS untouchable, it is the universal state that has right-wing buy-in. MOST REPUBLICAN VOTERS WOULD RATHER RAISE TAXES THAN CUT FEDERAL ENTITLEMENTS. As such, Manchin’s is a strange kind of bipartisanship.

    DEMOCRATIC GRIEVANCES WITH THE TWO SENATORS DO NOT END THERE. Public debt, or what Manchin calls “fiscal insanity”, is real. But it was he and Sinema who OPPOSED bigger TAX RISES. Then there is that almost regal hesitation to be drawn on specifics.

    IT IS HARD TO AVOID THE THOUGHT THAT, FOR BOTH SENATORS, THE BASIS OF THEIR OPPOSITION MATTERS LESS THAN THE FACT OF IT.

    Bucking a Democratic president is what sells in a deep red state (West Virginia) and parts of a purple one (Arizona). How it is achieved is secondary.

    The case against the pair would be unanswerable, in fact, were it not for one thing. In a riven nation, it just happens to be all that matters.

    One thread holding the US together is the existence of conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans. If all they do is humanise and demystify their parties for opposition voters, it is a public service like no other. Their views on policy pale next to their civilising role in the wider system.

    Sinema and Manchin are emissaries to Red America. Susan Collins and Charlie Baker do the same for the GOP in liberal New England. IT IS A MARK OF CIVIC ROT THAT I COULD NAME ALL SUCH TRANSGRESSIVE FIGURES WITHOUT TESTING THIS COLUMN’S WORD LIMIT.

    There are 19 “blue dog” Democrats in the House of Representatives. Over 50 were elected in 2008. That year will also be the last in which a Republican presidential hopeful is as pro-immigration, or as gracious towards Barack Obama, as John McCain.

    A once-normal heterodoxy has become career-ending – Nelson Rockefeller, metro-Republican, made it to vice-president. What the parties have gained in coherence, the country has lost in civic peace.

    Sinema is an enigma — maybe — in US politics. Green peacenik to blue dog in 15 years, her intellectual odyssey has outpaced even her material rise. It is disputed whether there was running water in her childhood home. Raised as a Mormon, she is now the one member of Congress with no professed religion.

    TO BE SO PROTEAN IS TO AROUSE MISTRUST. POLITICS HAS ENOUGH PEOPLE WHO FIND THEIR TRIBE AROUND THE AGE OF 18 AND CALL OFF THE SEARCH.

    It is the changelings and waverers who act as nodes between the two Americas, or who recognise how many more there really are.

    DEMOCRATS ARE RIGHT THAT SINEMA AND MANCHIN ARE RELICS.

    Each recalls a time when it wasn’t possible to guess someone’s region, accent, education, tastes or even opinions from the fact of their party registration.

    THE INDEPENDENCE THAT ALLOWS THEM TO WIN RED STATES, HOWEVER, IS THE INDEPENDENCE THAT CHOKES BUILD BACK BETTER.

    The Democrats win from the trade-off. So does a country whose trend to ever purer parties evoke the enrichment of fissile material.

  • Rob  On 10/16/2021 at 1:27 pm

    Mabey if he would remove some of the extra frills( bailout money for Democratic states etc.) he has tacked on to the bill it would have been passed a long time ago.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 10/17/2021 at 1:27 am

    Rob wrote: ” …. if he [Biden] would remove some of the extra frills …”

    The author wrote:

    “FACED WITH HER [Sinema’s] VISION OF POLITICS, MOST DEMOCRATS COME FROM A PLACE OF NAUSEA.”

    I say, Rob, if that was all it took to get a couple more votes to pass the Bill ….
    It would have been done, already.

    As they say: The games people play!!

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