Building back fairly is a safe bet

Building back fairly is a safe bet
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Temperatures in Washington are rising, both literally and metaphorically, as the many weeks of haggling between President Joe BidenJoe BidenFormer Rep. Rohrabacher says he took part in Jan. 6 march to Capitol but did not storm building Saudis picked up drugs in Cairo used to kill Khashoggi: report Biden looking to build momentum for Putin meeting MORE and Republican negotiators like Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoGOP senator introduces constitutional amendment to ban flag burning Biden fails to break GOP 'fever' Pelosi: 'No intention' of abandoning Democrats' infrastructure goals MORE (R-W.Va.) have come to an end, though bipartisan negotiations continue in the Senate.

While it’s still not clear what the long-awaited infrastructure package will actually look like — the over/unders on the spending level, whether it will be bipartisan, how much of it will be offset with tax measures that raise revenue are all still up in the air. The waiting game has run out for many organizations and lawmakers who are coming out in force demanding swift action on the president’s “Build Back Better” agenda. When it comes to our continued COVID-19 recovery, addressing the climate crisis, funding child care and affordable housing, and other critical programs to create millions of good-paying jobs and provide relief for families, we have no time to waste.  

Americans are hungry not just for major investments but also for unity, especially in the wake of a deadly insurrection that was the crescendo of the bitter partisanship that has increasingly plagued our nation. So it is not surprising Biden has gone far above and beyond attempting to find common ground with the other side of the aisle — especially since there has long been consensus on the need to invest in many elements of infrastructure. The evidence of the nation’s crumbling roads and bridges confronts voters in every state in the country.


Americans should understand that — as with so much of what is described as bipartisanship these days — Biden has made vastly greater compromises than Republicans have offered. An analysis from the Progressive Caucus Action Fund shows that Biden has come down $20 in annual spending for every $1 the Republicans have inched up.

Republicans have also refused to concede at all on the urgent need for tax reform to address the historic levels of inequality in our nation. So far, they have proved to be utterly unwilling to ensure corporations pay their fair share — and, in many cases, anything at all. 

Despite the extraordinary concessions Biden has offered, the gulf between the two sides remains wide. Few in Washington are betting that an agreement can be reached. 

Biden’s original proposals — the infrastructure investments, including to begin to address catastrophic climate change, of the American Jobs Plan; the large-scale investments in the care economy contained in the American Families Plan; and the trillions in revenue raised through modest taxation of the corporations and the super-rich — were not negotiating gambits. They were evidence-based proposals to deliver and pay for long-delayed investments in making America economically stronger, more fair and just. 

Every element of the Biden proposals is overwhelmingly popular with the American public, including the Biden administration’s tax fairness agenda. Americans have been rightfully angry since 2017, when Republicans passed the disastrous tax giveaway law that slashed the corporate rate — including incentivizing multinationals to offshore jobs and investments — and allowed millionaires and billionaires to hoard more of their wealth. The craven injustice of having 55 profitable corporations pay $0 tax, or even get money back in 2020, has not gone unnoticed by the voting public. Polling demonstrates how solidly supportive Americans are of having the wealthy and corporations pay for investments that will grow jobs in infrastructure and assist families’ recovery.


Now is the time to correct some of the staggering inequities that have only worsened throughout the pandemic. It is impossible to look past the fact that many families are still suffering greatly. Huge numbers of Americans continue to be out of work. The racial wealth gap has widened further. These inequities are juxtaposed against billionaires who have staggeringly increased their wealth during the pandemic. The mind-blowing estimates from the IRS illustrate the extent to which the rich and profitable corporations are cheating on their taxes. And millionaire investors and their heirs have milked their capital gains tax preference while essential workers, who put their lives on the line to keep our country going, pay much higher rates on their hard-earned wages.

The moment is urgent, and the problems our nation faces are momentous. There is a time for negotiation, and there is a time for action. We need the Biden investment agenda and the Biden tax fairness agenda now.

Susan Harley is the managing director of the Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division.