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What compromise may look like for the Democrats’ 'Build Back Better' plan

President Joe Biden, with a bipartisan group of senators, speaks Thursday June 24, 2021, outside the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
President Joe Biden, with a bipartisan group of senators, speaks Thursday June 24, 2021, outside the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

President Biden says the Democratic deadlock on Capitol Hill will be solved.

Recall that Biden wanted to spend some 3.5 trillion dollars over ten years, or about $350 billion dollars a year on things like health care and child care.

That figure is half the amount Congress is willing to spend on the Defense Department with basically no debate at all.

However, the social spending bill has no Republican support at all, and deep resistance from some key Democrats who say the final price tag has to come down.

How will Democrats navigate shrinking social program dollars – while the need for them grows?

Guests

Jennifer Bendery, senior politics reporter at HuffPost. (@jbendery)

Jack Beatty, On Point news analyst. (@JackBeattyNPR)

Also Featured

Dennis Hoffman, director of the L. William Seidman Research Institute at Arizona State University.

Jim McKay, state coordinator at Prevent Child Abuse West Virginia.

Transcript: How the child tax credit would shape the lives of families in West Virgina

Jim McKay is state coordinator for the group Prevent Child Abuse West Virginia. He says the Democrats’ proposed spending bill, $3.5 trillion over 10 years, could transform lives in his state.

JIM McKAY: It would do so much for for our state that has been challenged by poverty, by economic conditions that have left so many families in despair. I mean, we are hard working people, but West Virginians have struggled for a long time. And so the opportunity to have paid family and medical leave would help thousands of West Virginians who are currently having to choose to stay home and care for their loved ones who are ill, who may be older, a newborn and can’t afford to go to work. Or if they go to work, they have to leave their loved one in the care of someone else, and they miss those precious moments in their lives.”

MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI: McKay says he’s particularly focused on the impact the bill or the additional spending would have on children and families.

McKAY: The child tax credit is having a tremendous impact in West Virginia, lifting thousands of children up. We have the highest rate of child poverty in our state, and it’s not for a lack of parents who care and want to do the best for their children. But our economic circumstances leave them behind.

McKAY: With the child tax credit, they’ve been able to have that concrete support when they’ve needed it. And have it at their flexibility, whether it’s repairing a little roof that’s leaking, we’ve heard from families that are using it for baby furniture and furniture for their children. Paying past due electric bills just when they’re getting ready to lose the electric power to their home. So it makes a huge impact all across the board.

CHAKRABARTI: West Virginia has the sixth highest overall poverty rate in the entire country. So as Senator Joe Manchin and the progressive Democratic caucus debate over that top line number, which will then determine what programs to save and what programs get cut, Jim McKay says in West Virginia, they see the entire issue very differently.

McKAY: We’ve not really viewed this as a menu of options to choose from, but really, it is all ingredients that are part of a recipe that help families thrive. We have to address the economic conditions that families are in. And scaling them back, it’s a real challenge. We know lawmakers are doing the best to make ends meet, just as our families are doing the best that they can.

McKAY: For our families … oftentimes when they have to scale back, the food budget is the kind of key thing that they have to scale back. Well, my son needs some new shoes. He’s outgrown his clothes. So we’re going to scale back the food this time. Families need food. And so what this provides with policy solutions through the reconciliation bill is it helps those families meet that. So for us … all of these things are important, including issues to provide clean water and address our our environment.

CHAKRABARTI: Jim McKay works with West Virginian families. We wanted to know what he thought about the fact that his own senator, Senator Manchin, says that spending more on families, including West Virginia families, could quote, ‘turn our whole society into an entitlement mentality.’ Well, to that, McKay says:

McKAY: It’s challenging. We know everyone cares and wants to make the right choices for us. The question of fiscal responsibility is a priority. However, we would encourage lawmakers to look at what the provisions of the policies are, rather than a top line number. We’re talking about an investment in our children, in our families, for our nation over the next 10 years. What does that next decade look like?

McKAY: And when you take $3.5 trillion, or the higher numbers that have been proposed earlier in the year, it’s a really a modest investment in terms of our GDP. It’s largely paid for by having those who have benefited so much from our economic system in the way it’s structured, and our taxation system. So by closing loopholes where everyone would pay for a fairer tax system, it will help us make that commitment and keep our promises to our children and their families.


 

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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