The Honeymoon Period: Selling the plan

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Aliza Kibel / The Tufts Daily

Last week, the White House unveiled the American Jobs Plan, a $2.3 trillion stimulus package meant to bolster America’s infrastructure, manufacturing sector and R&D and workforce development programs. It’s an ambitious framework and it’s more than necessary, but President Joe Biden’s main challenge is selling it to fellow Democrats. 

Of the $2.3 trillion, $1.3 trillion will be spent on transportation, building and repairing highways, affordable housing and new schools. Investments this large exceed the spending levels of Biden’s former boss by far. This plan, coupled with the American Rescue Plan and other upcoming proposals, even had one writer at the New Yorker wondering aloud if Biden is the second coming of Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Franklin Roosevelt. 

Unlike these famous predecessors, however, Biden is going to have a much harder time getting these plans through Congress. 

Roosevelt cruelly excluded African Americans from his Social Security program, allowing him to win the support of southern white supremacists in Congress who wanted to redistribute wealth to their poor white constituents and no one else. Thus, with support from progressive reformers and the ever-powerful white supremacist bloc, Roosevelt got his plan through Congress. 

Today, Biden has one of the slimmest Congressional majorities in modern history. The two parties have only become more ideologically consistent, meaning any semblance of bipartisanship is unlikely. This necessitates almost total unity within the Democratic Party, in both houses of Congress. From Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Sen. Joe Manchin, everyone has to sign off. 

Progressives are already saying the plan is too small. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez said it is very “encouraging,” but she and other House progressives are pushing for a much larger package: $10 trillion.

“I know that may be an eye-popping figure for some people, but we need to understand that we are in a devastating economic moment,” Ocasio-Cortez told Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. “Millions of people in the United States are unemployed. We have a truly crippled health care system and a planetary crisis on our hands, and we’re the wealthiest nation in the history of the world. So, we can do $10 trillion.” 

Meanwhile, conservative House Democrats are moving in the other direction. Reps. Josh Gottheimer, Bill Pascrell and Tom Suozzi explicitly said they will not vote for this infrastructure bill if it does not include a repeal of the cap on the state and local tax deduction. The cap on this deduction particularly impacts wealthy individuals in blue states, where taxes tend to be much higher on income and property. In turn, the repeal of this cap will especially benefit those wealthy individuals. 

The median income in Rep. Pascrell’s district is just over $80,000. In Rep. Gottheimer’s suburban New Jersey district, the median income is around $110,000. On Long Island in Rep. Suozzi’s district, the median income is over $125,000. 

In the House of Representatives alone, Biden has the challenge of uniting these two groups: the progressives who know at least one trillion dollars annually is necessary, and the suburban moderates who want a massive tax break for their millionaire constituents. 

And then he has to get Joe Manchin to support all of it.