Do roads and bridges come before people?
Major political battles in Washington are usually between parties — Democrats vs. Republicans — but the conflict getting the headlines today is between two wings of the Democratic Party. Everyone seems to support President Biden’s proposal to spend $1.2 trillion dollars to rebuild roads, bridges and airports, but there is opposition to the $3.5 trillion proposal for domestic spending. The liberals refuse to approve the infrastructure plan until the proposal for human benefits is resolved. Centrists express concern about the size of the budget.
Programs to benefit citizens would improve dentistry and hearing aid coverage under Medicare and child care payments to enable parents to hold jobs. The cost of climate change actions would be substantial. The financial proposals are for estimated costs of the programs over 10 years. Democratic senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona refuse to vote on Biden’s Build Back Better proposal because of the cost. With extreme cuts in the costs, liberal Democrats in Congress would then withhold their votes.
Negotiation is impeded because no politician under such circumstances would be willing to specify what items are to be cut. By doing so, a senator would create a political enemy. One approach to resolve the deadlock is to restrict benefits to those with lower incomes. However, with the U.S. so far behind other industrial nations in providing basic health care, housing and child care for its citizens, the tax adjustments required to provide reasonable benefits will undoubtedly be considered excessive by the centrists and paltry by the liberals.