Safety net ‘sugar’ in Biden’s second infrastructure bill will be hard for Republicans to remove if passed

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The Republican senator stressed the urgency of killing the Democratic president’s agenda before new perks are locked in public support – now or never.

“The administration’s plan is simple,” said Senator Ted Cruz. “Make everyone addicted to sugar. ”

Cruz’s warning about stopping the Affordable Care Act in 2013 has since found justification in countless failed attempts by the GOP to repeal it. And it demonstrates the challenge President Joe Biden’s agenda now poses to Conservatives determined to keep spending and taxes as low as possible.

The “sugar” of the US plan for Biden’s families – from universal preschool to new Medicare dental insurance, from expanded university aid to compulsory paid work leave – makes Obamacare’s sweetness light. The Democratic president also wants to dramatically increase the size and scope of these benefits.

Biden would finance his plans, among other methods, by raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy. The great popularity of his proposals suggests that the benefits will be hard to uproot if Republicans regain power and decide to try.

Their scale has garnered little attention lately as the White House grapples with the resurgence of Covid and a $ 1.2 trillion two-party Senate compromise on roads, bridges, broadband and more. investments in “physical infrastructure”. But soon, those advantages will dominate debate in Congress as Democrats try to push forward their $ 3.5 trillion budget plan against strong Republican opposition.

Some are already sinking temporarily under the provisions of the Covid relief law enacted earlier this year. The examples calculated by the left-wing Center on Budget and Policy Priorities show their dimensions that change the lives of millions of American families.

Biden’s expanded child tax credit would increase the income of a single mother earning $ 15,000 with a toddler and a sophomore by nearly a third. The expanded refundable credit – easily accessible even to those who don’t have to pay income tax – would provide him with an additional $ 4,725 in cash.

Better-off families would also benefit. A family of four earning $ 90,000 with children ages 8 and 13 would see their child tax credits increase by $ 2,000.

Obamacare’s expanded grants would provide a much larger windfall for some middle-class families. A 30-year-old couple earning $ 70,000 would save $ 17,100 – a quarter of their household income – from $ 1,920 per month to $ 496 per month.

Then there is an increase in the tax credit for childcare and dependent expenses up to $ 4,000 per year from $ 600, up to $ 4,000 per month in family and medical leave. paid by employers; and a doubling of scholarships for prospective teachers to $ 8,000 per year while they graduate. While offering a low-cost universal preschool and two years of free community college, Biden would increase the size of the Pell grants for tuition by $ 1,400.

In addition to dental coverage, Medicare beneficiaries would also enjoy new hearing and visual benefits. Some formerly incarcerated criminals would have access to food stamps. Adults without children would receive more of the earned income tax credit. And much more.

“We know what families need,” Heather Boushey, a member of Biden’s Council of Economic Advisors, said in an interview. For every dollar spent on the increased child tax credit, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said last week, research shows the company would reap $ 8 in profit from an increased labor supply, a higher educational attainment and fewer teenage births among beneficiary families.

“My biggest concern is not ‘What are the risks if we make these investments?’ It’s’ what’s the cost if we don’t? “” Yellen said in a speech. “We now have a chance to mend the shattered foundations of our economy and, on top of that, build something more just and stronger than what existed before. ”

Moderate and conservative lawmakers and economists, in both parties, voice a series of criticisms: that the spending will fuel damaging inflation, that it will increase the national debt, that some provisions are poorly targeted and unnecessary. The Liberal Democrats want to spend more than $ 3.5 trillion, but racking up the adoption votes will almost certainly require cutting or rejecting some proposals.

In theory, providing benefits to American voters could pay Biden big political dividends. Or not, as Democrats learned by losing five of the next six presidential elections after President Lyndon B. Johnson enacted Medicare and Medicaid in 1965.

A recent analysis by the Niskanen Center shows that expanding the child tax credit would disproportionately benefit rural areas, which tend to have lower incomes and larger families. But many rural voters choose candidates based on cultural issues favorable to Republicans, not economic topics Democrats prefer to talk about.

Nor is it certain that Americans will continue to support the pandemic-era aid they have embraced for now.

Yet history shows that the widely available benefits – from Obamacare to farm subsidies to tax cuts – become difficult to reverse once enacted.

An exception came in the late 1980s when Congress passed, and then quickly repealed, a new “catastrophic care” benefit under Medicare. Loud protests from seniors, who feared the new coverage might not be worth “extra premiums” of up to $ 1,600 per couple, fueled the reversal.

Biden’s plan seeks to sidestep this problem by avoiding anything sour to almost all families. No one earning less than $ 400,000, he promises, will see their taxes increase even by a dime.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story miscalculated the potential tax credit for child care and dependent expenses.

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