Democrats can – can – finally be on the verge of agreeing on a revenue and spending plan. It will clearly be smaller than President Biden’s original proposal, and much smaller than what progressives wanted. It will be infinitely bigger than what the Republicans would have done, however, because if the GOP controlled Congress, we would be doing nothing at all to invest in America’s future.
But what will the plan do? Far too many reports have focused primarily on the overall spending figure – $ 3.5 trillion, no, $ 1.5 trillion, whatever – without saying much about the policies that spending would support. To be fair, however, the Biden administration could have done a better job of encapsulating its plans in pithy slogans.
So let me come up with one sentence: Tax the rich, help American kids. This affects a lot of what the legislation is likely to do: reports suggest that the final bill will include taxes on the income of billionaires and minimum taxes for corporations, as well as a number of programs focused on the children. And action on climate change can, reasonably, be seen as another way to help future generations.
Republicans, of course, will denounce anything Democrats come up with. But there are three things you need to know about both taxing the rich and helping children: These are great ideas from an economic standpoint. They are extremely popular. And they are very much in the American tradition.
About the economy: While the modern Republican Party is totally committed to the proposition that low taxes on corporations and the wealthy are the key to economic success, there is no evidence that this is true. On the contrary, the historical correlation goes in the other direction. The US economy grew faster during times when taxes at the top were relatively high than it was when they were low.
On the other hand, there is overwhelming evidence that helping children, besides being the right thing to do, has big economic benefits. Children who benefited from social protection programs like food stamps grew into healthier and more productive adults. Children who were enrolled in preschool were more likely to graduate from high school and go to university than those who were not. As I have argued in the past, the economic case for investing in children is even stronger than for investing in physical infrastructure.
As far as public opinion is concerned, what is striking is the little impact of more than 40 years of anti-tax and anti-government propaganda on the opinions of voters. Polls consistently show that large majorities, including many Republicans, support higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy. Large majorities also support the funding of childcare services and support for families with children.
It is true that anti-government politicians often win elections – but they do, with rare exceptions, not because the public adheres to libertarianism, but because white voters can sometimes be persuaded that government programs only benefit. ‘to people of color.
Finally, while Republican politicians routinely claim that Democrats are anti-American and Democratic proposals are Marxist, history tells us that the key pieces of legislation that we’re probably about to see – aid to middle-class children and the poor as well as higher taxes on the rich – are uniquely American ideas.
Remember, we are the nation that fundamentally invented universal education. Thomas Jefferson called for publicly funded schools even in the midst of the War of Independence (yes, only for whites, but still). In the 19th century, America led the way in creating “common schools” meant to include students from all walks of life, and supported by many of the same arguments now advanced for universal preschool and other forms. help for children. .
So when Republicans denounce pro-kids policies as socialist and try to promote private schools, it is they, not Democrats, who are rejecting our nation’s traditions.
And guess what: we are also, arguably, the nation that invented progressive taxation. America has had progressive income taxes and inheritance taxes, that is, taxes levied at a higher rate on large income and estates, since 1916.
It should be noted that the early proponents of these taxes did not see them simply as a means of generating income. They also explicitly called for taxes on the rich as a way to limit inequality, and in particular to prevent the emergence of a hereditary oligarchy. Thus, in 1905, Theodore Roosevelt argued that it was essential to prevent âthe inheritance or the transmission in their entiretyâ of âfortunes inflated beyond all healthy limitsâ, and in 1907 he called for a âprogressive tax heavy âon estates to achieve this goal.
A modern American politician who said something similar would be accused of engaging in an anti-American class war. But if it is a class war, take advantage of it; like spending to help children in low-income families, progressive taxation is as American as apple pie.
So if Democrats finally agree on a budget plan, they should do everything to promote it. America’s economy, politics and historical traditions are on their side.