Powerful Democrats work to make sure that infrastructure is paid for by the rich, not the rest of us

Powerful Democrats work to make sure that infrastructure is paid for by the rich, not the rest of us

President Joe Biden has made it as clear as he possibly can that he’s not going to accept a bipartisan infrastructure proposal that includes a hike of the gas tax. That highlights the essential problem of getting a deal done: how it’s going to be paid for. With interest rates continuing at record lows and a U.S. economy primed to be unleashed, that shouldn’t be the main hangup. The money is there to be had cheaply, and the super wealthy are there to finally be forced to pay taxes. Republicans will refuse to either take on more national debt, or to allow taxes to be raised on the people who can afford it.

“The President has been clear throughout these negotiations: He is adamantly opposed to raising taxes on people making less than $400,000 a year,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates said on Friday. “After the extraordinarily hard times that ordinary Americans endured in 2020—job losses, shrinking incomes, squeezed budgets—he is simply not going to allow Congress to raise taxes on those who suffered the most.” In case that message wasn’t absolutely clear, Press Secretary Jen Psaki reiterated it Monday on CBS’ morning show. “An idea that’s been floating around that certainly the president would not support is a gas tax which would raise taxes on people making less than $400k a year. We’re just not going to stand for that.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders, the independent chair of the Senate Budget Committee, backed Biden up on that Sunday, adding he will also oppose a fee on electric vehicles. “If it is roads and bridges, yeah, of course we need to do that and I support that,” Sanders said on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday. “If it is regressive taxation—you know, raising the gas tax or a fee on electric vehicles, or the privatization of infrastructure, no I wouldn’t support it, but we don’t have the details right now.” That privatization bit is key, too. There hasn’t been much in the way of information from the group of 21 Republicans and Democrats who have agreed in principle to a deal, but what has leaked out shows that they’ve discussed having a fire sale of public assets to pay for the plan—putting those roads and bridges in private hands.

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The other part of their funding proposal is stealing COVID-19 relief funds, another idea the White House takes a dim view of. “We are worried that major cuts in COVID relief funds could imperil pending aid to small businesses, restaurants and rural hospitals using this money to get back on their feet after the crush of the pandemic,” Psaki said at the end of May, after the first round of talks with Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito ended. The U.S. Conference of Mayors, National League of Cities, and National Association of Counties are adamantly opposed to this idea, and have made sure that congressional leadership and every member of Congress knows it.

This means raising taxes on the rich. The majority of Democrats in Congress agree on that. They’re trying to reestablish the idea that everyone paying their fair share of taxes is just how government is supposed to work, and they see this huge, absolutely essential, and highly popular  infrastructure proposal as the way to do it.

“What we’re doing is generating revenue, but we are also making a major area of American government more fair, so people don’t feel they’ve been played while the rich person gets off scot-free,” Sen. Ron. Wyden, the Oregon Democrat chairing the tax-writing Finance Committee, told The New York Times. He’s been working on tax policy changes for corporations, the energy industry, and the rich. That means raising corporate taxes from the 2017 GOP tax scam rate of 21%—it was 35% pre-2017, and Democrats have proposed rates of 25% and 28%. They should go back to 35%, but we’ll see how much they want to fix this.

Wyden’s team is eyeing a couple of other 2017 measures, including one that’s letting millionaires using partnerships and limited liability companies take a tax break meant for small businesses, and the carried-interest loophole that allows private equity firms to claim the fees they get from clients as capital gains (taxed at 20%) instead of income (taxed at 37%). Wyden is also proposing getting rid of a range of tax breaks—44 separate provisions—that give the fossil fuel industry a windfall and replacing them with tax breaks for green energy producers.

For the super-rich, Biden wants to raise the top tax bracket from 37% to 39.6% and to tax stock sales for millionaires as income rather than capital gains. There’s support for that among rank-and-file Democrats in Congress. “Taxes need to be raised on corporations and need to be raised on that wealthiest of people who got a terrible, tremendous windfall from the Trump tax game,” Rep. Steve Cohen a Democrat of Tennessee, told the Times.

Voters like the idea, too. As Kerry Eleveld writes, “For nearly two decades, more than two-thirds of American taxpayers have told Gallup they don’t think corporations pay their fair share in taxes … In fact, just a couple months ago, Pew Research Center polling found that at least 80% of Americans said one of their biggest complaints about the federal tax system was the fact that some corporations and wealthy individuals don’t pay their fair share.”

Using very popular tax hikes to pay for very popular infrastructure projects is pretty much a no-brainer for anyone who doesn’t believe that Democrats need to be working with morally and intellectually bankrupt Republicans.

Nonetheless, Biden is still listening to that group of 21. “I think the question here is, what can we agree on, Democrats and Republicans? Can we rebuild our roads, our railways and our bridges?” Psaki said Monday morning. “The president is eager to continue those discussions and see if we can make big progress this week.”

Fine. There are still big gaps to be reckoned with based on the last we heard of the bipartisan proposal, beyond funding. According to one Republican, the deal has just $10 billion for electric vehicle charging stations—that’s the scope of climate change-related provisions in it, apparently. As a benchmark, Biden’s original proposal for $2.25 trillion on the American Jobs Plan includes $115 billion to modernize the bridges, highways, and roads of the fossil fuel age. It has another $85 billion for public transit, $80 billion for Amtrak, and $174 billion to build 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations, to electrify 20% of school buses, and to electrify the federal fleet. He’d spend $100 billion on broadband, $25 billion for airports, and $111 billion for water projects.

While those negotiations continue, and Biden continues investing in them at least in terms of allowing them time, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sanders are moving ahead with budget reconciliation. That’s the procedure they used to pass Biden’s American Rescue Plan—the COVID-19 relief bill—that doesn’t allow for a Republican filibuster.

With Biden’s blessing, Schumer and Sanders—as well as leadership in the House—need to get this done with just Democrats. As of now, everyone is moving forward as if both things can happen; a bipartisan deal can pass with Republican votes and everything that can’t be done in that regular order bill can be lumped into a budget reconciliation that moderate Democrats—namely Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema—will agree to. It’s an awful lot of work everyone is having to do to answer to the massive egos and stubborn obstruction of a few.

From Daily Kos at Read More. This article is republished from DailyKos under an open content license. Read the original article at DailyKos.

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