Biden on a Roll, with Mayo.

            The New York Times crows that “Now Biden Is on a Roll…. Policy Paralysis Ends With Midterms Near.”[1]  Deeper in the paper, cooler heads offer a more serious appraisal.[2] 

            President Joe Biden’s original tax plan called for undoing the tax cuts passed in 2017 during the administration of President Donald Trump.  Corporations and high-income earners would bear the brunt of plans to reap an additional $1.5 trillion in revenue.  Most of this fell by the wayside.  The final bill set a minimum 15 percent tax on corporations and a just-for-show 1 percent tax on stock buy-backs by companies. 

President Biden’s original social policy program sought to greatly expand federal spending to support families at either end of the life spectrum.  It proposed federal paid family and medical leave, expanded child-care, and home care (for aging adults).  It also hoped to spend a lot on financial aid for college students.   The Democratic majority in the House of Representatives added money to extend the payments to families with children which had been introduced during the Covid emergency.  The total cost of these programs was designed to meet the demands of “reconciliation” legislation.  It came in at $2.2 trillion.  “Need” would not factor in eligibility for most of these programs.  The entire package had to be scrapped. 

            President Biden’s original climate proposals were intended to reduce emissions of green-house gases by 50 percent below the 2005 levels by 2030.  Administration plans included limits on off-shore drilling for oil and gas in order to limit the availability[3] of carbon-based fuels; plans to close coal and gas-fueled power generation plants; and plans to encourage individual and corporate consumers to shift toward “renewable” energy sources (solar, wind).  In November 2021, the House of Representatives passed a bill allocating $555 billion to support these proposals.  The law allocates less than $400 billion. 

            President Biden’s original medical proposal sought to expand Medicare to cover dental, vision, and hearing care.  It also sought to beef-up the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed during the administration of President Barack Obama.  In particular, it planned to expand subsidies for insurance premiums under the ACA and to enroll an additional four million people in Medicaid.[4]  In the end, the program will extend the current subsidies for the ACA premiums for three years (2023-2025).  In addition, Medicare has been granted a limited right to negotiate on drug prices with pharmaceutical companies.  The expansion of Medicare has been dropped. 

            What went wrong?  The Constitution, that’s what.  Laws must pass both houses of Congress, then be signed by the President.  The Democrats have a small, but real, majority in the House of Representatives.  The Senate is divided 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting a deciding vote.  Senate rules allow this sort of majority to operate only on “reconciliation” votes.  Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema gave Republicans the majority in the Senate until they got the changes they wanted.  See: sausage-making. 


[1] Peter Baker, NYT, 9 August 2022, page 1, above the fold.  The story is labeled “News Analysis,” but it more hopeful speculation.  Not to be mean, but perhaps they might call the paper the “New Yorkie Times”?  See: Yorkshire Terrier – Wikipedia 

[2] Emily Cochrane, “Path of a Shrunken Bill: From Grand Ideals to Compromise,” NYT, 9 August 2022. 

[3] Thus artificially raising the price.  We could just tax carbon, but Americans love their cars and air conditioning. 

[4] The ACA had tried to coerce states into expanding Medicaid to provide coverage for poor people.  The Supreme Court had clapped a stopper on this, so a bunch of Republican states had refused to expand Medicaid. 

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