It remains to be seen what the Build Back Better Act of 2021 will ultimately look like if Democrats are able to get it passed by Congress and onto President Joe Biden's desk to be signed into law. But liberal economist Paul Krugman, in his October 25 column for the New York Times, expresses optimism that Democrats are about to pass legislation that will "invest in America's future" — even if the bill that is passed is smaller than what some progressives have been pushing for.
"Democrats may — may — finally be about to agree on a revenue and spending plan," Krugman explains. "It will clearly be smaller than President Biden's original proposal, and much smaller than what progressives wanted. It will, however, be infinitely bigger than what Republicans would have done, because if the GOP-controlled Congress, we would be doing nothing at all to invest in America's future…. Far too much reporting has focused mainly on the headline spending number — $3.5 trillion, no, $1.5 trillion, whatever — without saying much about the policies this spending would support."
Krugman goes on to say that the Biden Administration "could have done a better job of summarizing its plans in pithy slogans."
"So let me propose a one-liner: Tax the rich, help America's children," Krugman writes. "This gets at much of what the legislation is likely to do. Reporting suggests that the final bill will include taxes on billionaires' incomes and minimum taxes for corporations, along with a number of child-oriented programs. And action on climate change can, reasonably, be considered another way of helping future generations."
Krugman adds that "taxing the rich and helping children" are "very much in the American tradition," citing some examples.
The economist notes, "Remember, we are the nation that basically invented universal education. Thomas Jefferson called for publicly funded schools even in the midst of the Revolutionary War…. We are also, arguably, the nation that invented progressive taxation…. In 1905, Theodore Roosevelt argued that it was essential to prevent the 'inheritance or transmission in their entirety' of 'fortunes swollen beyond all healthy limits,' and in 1907, he called for a 'heavy progressive tax' on estates to achieve this goal…. Progressive taxation is as American as apple pie."
Krugman continues, "So, if Democrats finally do agree on a fiscal plan, they should go all-out in promoting it. Economics, politics and America's historical traditions are on their side."