US President Joe Biden released a budget blueprint Monday that calls for higher taxes on the wealthy, lower federal deficits, more money for police and greater funding for education, public health and housing.
In essence, it tries to tell voters what a diverse and at times fractured Democratic Party stands for ahead of the midterm elections that could decide whether Congress remains under the party’s control.
The bottom line: Biden is proposing a total of $5.8 trillion in federal spending in fiscal 2023, which begins in October, slightly less than what was projected to be spent this year before the supplemental spending bill was signed into law this month. The deficit would be $1.15 trillion.
There would be $795bn for defence, $915bn for domestic programmes, and the remaining balance would go to mandatory spending such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and net interest on the national debt.
The higher taxes outlined on Monday would raise $361bn in revenue over 10 years and apply to the top 0.01 percent of households. The proposal lists another $1.4 trillion in revenue raised over the next decade through other tax increases that are meant to preserve Biden’s pledge to not hike taxes on people earning less than $400,000.
The 156-page plan also shows the splinters that persist in Biden’s coalition and the possible gaps between the promises of what is being offered and the realities of what ultimately emerges. Biden has backed many of these ideas previously without necessarily getting a full buy-in from Congress.
The proposal includes a minimum 20 percent tax on the incomes of households worth $100m or more, similar to a proposal that Democrats in Congress began debating late last year and that failed to clear the Senate.
More money would go to support law enforcement, yet bipartisan efforts at police reform have failed. The budget assumes — with a high degree of uncertainty based on forecasts made last November — that inflation at a 40-year peak gets back to normal next year.
“Budgets are statements of values,” Biden said in a statement, “and the budget I am releasing today sends a clear message that we value fiscal responsibility, safety and security at home and around the world, and the investments needed to continue our equitable growth and build a better America.”
It’s a midterm elections pitch to a nation still off balance from a chaotic few years caused by the coronavirus pandemic, an economic recession, a recovery, challenges to United States democracy, and war in Ukraine. The Biden budget foresees cutting annual deficits by more than $1 trillion over the next decade. Those reductions would occur in large part through higher taxes and the expiration of relief spending tied to the coronavirus outbreak that began in 2020.
While the budget would elevate funding for education, public health and provide $48bn to increase the supply of affordable housing, it fails to spell out what the broader successor to Biden’s stalled “Build Back Better” agenda would be. That proposal from last year included money for childcare, preschool, clean energy and lower healthcare premiums, but it was blocked by Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the decisive Democratic vote.
White House Budget Director Shalanda Young told reporters the blueprint does not include line items tied to that possible bill because “discussions with Congress are ongoing”. But the budget plan includes a “ deficit-neutral reserve fund” to account for a possible agreement being reached.
The Biden administration looked at a tax increase last year that resembles the 20 percent minimum on the full income of people worth $100m or more. But Manchin nixed that idea as divisive. What the Biden administration outlined on Monday would raise $361bn over 10 years and apply to the top 0.01 percent of households. The proposal lists another $1.4 trillion in revenue raised over the next decade through other tax changes.
Among the tax changes is a 28 percent corporate tax rate and top individual rate of 39.6 percent, both increases.
Undergirding the plan is a forecast that the economy will return to normal next year after the unprecedented spending tied to the pandemic and inflation. The budget forecasts 4.7 percent inflation this year and 2.3 percent in 2023, which would be down from 7 percent in 2021. Yet prices kept climbing in the first two months of 2022, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine pushed oil, gasoline and natural gas prices higher in ways that could spread across the economy.
Cecilia Rouse, chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said the administration expects “the economy to normalise” as the country works through waves of the pandemic, supply chain pressures ease and the “extraordinary measures” of support tied to the coronavirus roll off the budget. That normalisation would imply inflation falling back to its more typical levels, “but there’s tremendous uncertainty”, Rouse said.