A proud year for Biden and progressives

President Biden speaks to reporters after a Democratic Caucus meeting at the Capitol to discuss the bipartisan infrastructure plan on Friday, October 1, 2021.
Greg Nash

The picture hasn’t been pretty, but the finished portrait will paint 2021 as a proud and productive year for the president and the progressives in his party.

The American Rescue Act is already law and eventually both infrastructure bills will pass Congress in some form. Everybody wants the smaller of the two packages and House progressives have made it clear that you can’t get the small one without the big bill.

The basic bipartisan infrastructure proposal is good but not good enough to fundamentally reform and revitalize the economy. Passing the basic package without the premium package would be like buying property in a pricey residential neighborhood and then putting in a foundation without spending the money to build the house.

The enactment of all three bills in a divided and polarized political climate would be a significant accomplishment for the president and will revitalize the economy, fight climate change and make wealthy Americans and big corporations pay their fair share of taxes.

In the face of an intense lobbying campaign by big business lobbyists, and having only a razor-thin majority in Congress, President Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and their aggressive progressive supporters are about to pull off a remarkable political miracle. Progressives won’t get everything they want but they will get the tools they need for America to deal with the existential threats to the economy and the planet.

Sanders lost the battle for the presidential nomination but won the war for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party. Biden rose to the challenge to create a dynamic economy in a changing world. His extensive legislative experience as a senator for 36 years gave him the tools to negotiate the slippery slope that separated progressive and moderate Democrats.

The Progressive Caucus in the House of Representatives led by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) deserves credit for standing firm and to counter the leverage that moderate Democrats like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) enjoy in the closely divided Senate. Progressives learned to play hardball and will probably win the game even though it required sacrifices to score.

The media has shortchanged the power of the progressives in the fight for America’s future. The spotlight has been on moderate Democratic senators Manchin and Sinema, shortchanging the attention given to progressive Democrats. But if the basic infrastructure funding and Build Back Better packages both pass, progressives in the Democratic Party will have expanded America’s capacity to meet the pressing challenges that confront the future of the United States.

These bills together with the American Rescue Act would constitute a remarkable legislative trilogy that could meet the challenges of a changing world economy and battle the ravages of climate change.

The Child Tax Credit in the American Rescue Plan pumped much-needed financial aid to hard-working families with vulnerable children. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will modernize our outdated and archaic electronic and transportation infrastructure. The jewel in the crown is the Build Back Better Plan, which provides for clean energy jobs, universal pre-school and free two-year college and vocational education. 

The cost of the American Rescue Plan is $1.9 trillion dollars and the price tag for the infrastructure package is about $1.2 trillion. The cost of Build Back Better will end up at just north of $2 trillion over 10 years. Manchin indicated he would be receptive to a package in the $1.9 trillion to $2.2 trillion range, while Jayapal has said the progressive bottom line is $2.5 trillion.

Most Americans will enjoy the benefits of the initiative without paying a cent. Wealthy Americans who received big and bountiful tax breaks during previous Republican administrations will shoulder the financial burden of the program.

Critics complain that the ambitious Biden Build Back Better plan goes too far, too fast. But a new Quinnipiac national survey demonstrates that a clear majority of Americans want to transform the economy to meet the challenges that threaten the health, wealth and well-being of Americans and people worldwide.

The late 1800s German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck once said that laws are like sausages. You should never watch them being made. The mainstream media was so pre-occupied with food preparation that it failed to anticipate the feast.

The sausage-making in the fight over infrastructure hasn’t been pleasant to watch. But the food will be delicious and nutritious when it is finally served. Progressive Democrats will occupy seats at the adult table, while Republicans will fume at the kids’ table.

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. His podcast, “Deadline D.C. with Brad Bannon,” airs on Periscope TV and the Progressive Voices Network. Follow him on Twitter: @BradBannon

Tags Bernie Sanders Brad Bannon Build Back Better centrist Democrats Infrastructure Joe Biden Joe Manchin Kyrsten Sinema Pramila Jayapal progressive Democrats White House

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