While blasting the White House's proposed $886 billion in military spending as "madness," progressives on Thursday also praised portions of U.S. President Joe Biden's fiscal year 2024 budget for sizable social investments that could lead to "broader opportunity, greater economic and health security, lower levels of hardship, and a nation where everyone can thrive."
"No one in the White House seriously believes that Congress will adopt it in its current form," Politiconoted of Biden's blueprint. "It's a messaging exercise. And as such, the White House sees no downside whatsoever to throwing out things that will never pass the Republican-controlled House. The fight is the point."
Still, the scope of the budget—which includes significant funding for the climate, childcare, democracy, education, healthcare, housing, violence prevention, and more, made possible in part through tax hikes for wealthy individuals and corporations—was celebrated by the likes of Sharon Parrott, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).
"President Biden's 2024 budget invests in people and communities and creates a 21st century tax system that supports these investments to build toward an economy that works for everyone," Parrott said. "It lays out an agenda that would move us closer to a nation where everyone—regardless of their background, identities, or where they live—has the resources they need to thrive and share in the nation's prosperity."
Erica Payne, the founder and pesident of the Patriotic Millionaires, declared that "President Biden's proposed budget is the most ambitious tax plan we've seen from a president in decades—and a clear emphasis of the values that he and the Democrats stand for: investing in our country, fighting off corporate profiteering, protecting the social safety net, and doing so all while reducing our nation's budget deficit."
"The wealthiest Americans and corporations can easily afford to pay more—and hundreds of patriotic millionaires and billionaires are ready and eager to do their part to make sure all Americans can thrive," Payne added. "Let's be clear: As President Biden's budget lays out—we can invest in America, expand the social safety net, fight income inequality, and do it all while lowering taxes for working people—if we simply require the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share."
The president's proposals to help American families include expanding the child tax credit from $2,000 per kid to $3,000 for those ages six and above, and to $3,600 for children under six; enabling states to increase childcare options for millions of kids; and funding a federal-state partnership that provides high-quality, universal, free preschool.
The budget also calls for boosting prevention services to reduce the number of children entering foster care as well as changes to the adoption tax credit to better serve families with lower incomes and those who choose legal guardianship.
Biden advocates for $59 billion in funding and tax incentives to increase the affordable housing supply; $10 billion to remove barriers to affordable housing developments; and $10 billion to address racial and ethnic homeownership and wealth gaps. The president proposes providing $4.1 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program—and allowing states to use some of that money to provide water bill assistance to poor households, since a related program expires at the end of 2023.
Along with fighting for billions of dollars to ease hunger, the administration aims to pour money into high-poverty school districts as well as improve the affordability of higher education by increasing the discretionary maximum Pell Grant by $500, expanding free community college, and subsidizing tuition for students from families earning less than $125,000 enrolled historically Black, tribally controlled, or minority-serving institutions.
"Time and again, President Joe Biden delivers on his promise to fight for American families, his commitment to fairness for all Americans, and his belief that everyone should have the freedom and opportunity to build a better life. This budget reflects those priorities and values by helping people continue to rebuild," said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who highlighted various proposed investments in education and major federal programs.
In terms of healthcare, Biden pushes for putting billions of dollars into tackling cancer, increasing funds for veterans exposed to environmental hazards, and providing $471 million for reducing maternal mortality and morbidity rates, especially among Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native women. He also wants to expand coverage of mental health benefits and make historic investments in the behavioral health workforce.
The president advocates for making healthcare premium cuts permanent and providing Medicaid-like coverage to individuals in states that have not expanded their programs under the Affordable Care Act. There are also provisions to cut prescription drug costs, improve Medicaid home and community-based services, and expand the National Health Service Corps as well as programs that train and support nurses.
Biden would also extend the solvency of the Medicare trust fund by at least 25 years. In addition to investing in Social Security Administration staff, a White House fact sheet says that the Biden administration "looks forward to working with the Congress to responsibly strengthen Social Security by ensuring that high-income individuals pay their fair share."
Max Richtman, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, said that "while the conservatives' approach is to 'cut, cut, cut!' earned benefits for future generations of retirees, President Biden's budget would fortify Medicare for the future by asking the wealthy to pay their fair share."
"Instead of 'kicking the can down the road' as some previous administrations and Congresses have done, the president's budget confronts the trust fund shortfall head-on—without burdening beneficiaries," Richtman continued. "In a society with massive wealth inequality, the wealthy can afford to pay a little more. Future seniors cannot afford benefit cuts."
While welcoming Biden's efforts to protect Medicare, Lisa Gilbert, executive vice president of Public Citizen, also suggested that "looking ahead, the administration should crack down on Medicare Advantage plans that profit by cherry-picking healthy seniors and restricting care for enrollees; expand dental, vision, and hearing benefits for Medicare enrollees; work with Congress to cap out-of-pocket expenses for seniors; and take a bolder stand against Big Pharma greed by expanding drug price negotiation to bring down the prices of more drugs sooner and cover all Americans, not just people on Medicare."
On the climate front, the budget proposes spending $4.5 billion on clean energy, $16.5 billion on climate science and clean energy innovation, and over $24 billion on conservation and to help build communities' resilience to devastating storms, drought, extreme heat, floods, and wildfires. The administration also pushes for investing nearly $2 billion in environmental justice efforts.
A coalition of over a dozen green groups stressed in a joint statement Thursday that "as our country deals with inflation, high energy prices, public health crises, biodiversity loss, and climate change, it is now more important than ever that Congress fully funds the agencies responsible for addressing these critical issues."
Varshini Prakash, executive director of the youth-led Sunrise Movement, said that "President Biden's proposed budget—especially its investments in clean energy, jobs, and an end to oil and gas subsidies—is the kind of thing young people in this country want to see ahead of 2024."
"But President Biden has the power to act on climate and issues important to our generation without having to go through a Republican House," she noted. "He can reject the Willow Project, which goes against his own agenda to stop the climate crisis, and can do everything in his executive authority, like declaring a climate emergency and invoking the Defense Production Act, to jump-start our transition to clean energy."
Given the current conditions in Congress—with Republicans controlling the House and a Senate where the president's agenda is often thwarted by not only the GOP but also right-wing Democrats and a new Independent—Biden is certainly in for a battle.
That's especially the case considering that, as CBPP's Parrott noted, "the president's budget priorities stand in stark contrast with the emerging House Republican agenda—an agenda that pushes more tax cuts for the wealthy and profitable corporations, and holds the economy hostage by demanding deep spending cuts in areas like K-12 schools, healthcare, medical research, college tuition help, and help buying groceries as the price for raising the debt limit."
"Taken together, this emerging agenda would increase hardship and narrow access to opportunity; widen already large differences in outcomes by race, ethnicity, and geography; and hurt the country as a whole," Parrott warned of GOP lawmakers' priorities.
ProsperUs coalition spokesperson Claire Guzdar argued that "President Biden's budget is driven by what we know works: investments in the people who keep our economy running. Lowering costs for families, strengthening Medicare and Social Security, and delivering investments in healthcare, housing, and climate are key to widespread prosperity and economic growth."
"President Biden must now fight to enact this budget and continue to reject dangerous calls for austerity and cuts to programs that strengthen our communities and our economy," Guzdar added.
A U.S. Senate Budget Committee hearing for the president's proposal is scheduled for the morning of March 15.
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