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This week may go down in history as when the country took big steps forward, should the Senate pass a bipartisan physical infrastructure bill and a Democrat-only social infrastructure bill.
When, 89 summers ago, presidential candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt pledged he would pursue “a new deal for the American people,” the nation was in deep distress.
Our circumstances aren’t the same, but the impacts from both legislative pushes would be similarly popular and profound.
For about a year and a half we’ve experienced a pandemic and its health and economic effects. That exacerbated a decades-long trend of wealth increasingly shifting from the working and middle class to the rich, a condition that creates demagoguery and insecure citizens with less ability to improve their lots in life.
Then, as now, Americans want to live lives of dignity, with security, opportunity and freedom. They also continue to believe the government has a role to play to help them reach those goals.
As data from the Pew Research Center shows, since 2016 most Americans think “government should do more to solve problems,” including securing clean air and water, high-quality K-12 education, health insurance, adequate retirement income and an adequate standard of living.
President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan was supported by about two-thirds of Americans, a stunning portion in our time of partisan polarization. A recent CBS News/YouGov poll found high support for the bipartisan infrastructure bill. And, as Frank Newport of the Gallup Organization noted, objectives of the social infrastructure bill — like help with home care and childcare, climate provisions, job training, paid leave, college tuition support, supporting families with tax credits and expanding health care — are also quite popular.
Americans are already being helped by some policies in the social infrastructure bill. That’s politically important because people generally don’t want to lose what they’ve gotten. Just look at what happens when cuts to Social Security are threatened. The pushback is tremendous.
Parts of the American Rescue Plan expanded health care to millions. Next steps on health policy are uncertain, although Democrats will at least likely add dental, hearing and vision coverage to Medicare.
The social infrastructure bill would make permanent the new child tax credit, which just started going to most families. The income cut off is $112,5000 for a family with one parent and $150,000 headed by a couple, and it is projected to cut child poverty by about 45 percent. Already 35.2 million families, including 90 percent of children, received their first monthly payments.
Biden has pledged not to raise taxes on anyone making under $400,000 a year. Only 1.3 percent of Mainers would have a direct tax increase under the president’s plan to raise revenue.
And recently Republicans have come out against using funds from better stopping tax cheats to support physical infrastructure. Because they initially backed that source of revenue, it will need further negotiation.
As these two pieces of legislation move forward and details on both are worked out, they bring with them enormous promise.
If somehow Franklin Roosevelt could come in a time machine to today, he could repeat what he said in 1932: “Let us now and here highly resolve to resume the country’s interrupted march along the path of real progress, of real justice, of real equality for all of our citizens, great and small.”
Passing both bills would make life easier for individuals, families and their children. We can all have a healthier economy and society, with more opportunity.