In the 1930s, our 32nd president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, embarked on a bold initiative.
Lifting the nation from the Great Depression’s doldrums required more than peace-meal policies that basically kept the system humming along as it always did.
We needed to improve our roads, bridges, tunnels, and rail lines.
We needed to build airports, schools, homes, and factories.
We needed to deliver electricity and telephone service to rural communities.
We needed to provide jobs that preserved the arts, sciences, and the environment.
That required a “New Deal” for the American people.
It required a total restructuring of our economy.
The 90% top tax rate created under FDR continued through the (Republican) Eisenhower era and created the middle class and the most prosperous stretch of job growth and infrastructure development this country has ever known.
We arguably would have been too weak to defeat fascism in Europe in the 1940s if the New Deal had failed or hadn’t existed at all.
In the midst of the worst pandemic in a century the previous administration allowed to run out of control, the highest level of racial unrest in 50 years, elevated threats of domestic terrorism, a climate crisis threatening all planetary life, and 1920s-level income inequality, it appears President Joe Biden is in a “Roosevelt moment.”
Delineating his plan at a carpenters’ training center outside of Pittsburgh, Pa. Wednesday, Biden spoke of “historic and galvanizing” investments in 20,000 miles of roads and highways, and refurbishing the 10 most economically vital bridges.
The environmental aspects of Biden’s plan include cutting greenhouse gas emissions, especially in the transportation sector; addressing racial and economic disparities that lead to higher pollution in communities of color; distributing electric car charging stations across the country; and creating tens of thousands of well-paying union jobs transitioning the country away from fossil fuels.
As Biden said:
“This is not a plan that tinkers around the edges. It is a once in a generation investment in America unlike anything we’ve done since we built the interstate highway system and the space race decades ago.”
Of course, since there’s a Democrat in the White House and Democrats hold the majority in both houses of Congress, Republicans are once again pretending to care about money and from where the $2 trillion will come.
And the answer is making them squirm.
As did Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Ford, Nixon, and Carter, Biden intends to go where the money is — to the wealthy.
On Monday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki explained tax hikes on the country’s wealthiest along with other means will finance the entire infrastructure bill.
The hike will not be much.
As Joan McCarter reported in The Daily Kos:
“This comes with a corporate tax hike, from the 21% set by the Trump tax scam to $28%. It would prevent companies from just shifting profits overseas to avoid that tax hike by imposing a 21% global minimum tax, and would prevent companies from merging with overseas companies to move their headquarters and avoid taxes. It would also increase corporate IRS audits, which could raise even more money (but the IRS needs to be fully funded for that to be able to happen). This is all the hard infrastructure; the ‘soft’ infrastructure — child care funding, family tax credits and other domestic programs — will come in a few weeks. That will be another roughly $2 trillion and will include tax hikes on the super-rich.”
Weeks ago, Biden signed the “American Rescue Plan,” the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief and economic stimulus package touted as the most progressive financial legislation since the 1930s that includes provisions to deliver $1,400 relief checks to most Americans (many of whom received them days after the bill’s passage), a tax credit increase for low- and middle-income earners to a maximum of $3,600 dollars annually per child under age six, food assistance, an additional $300 a week in unemployment insurance, hundreds of billions in subsidies to local and state governments, rent and eviction prevention, and COVID-19 vaccines and research.
Unlike the “rescue packages” passed during the Trump administration that only rescued the already wealthy, this one helps working class and middle-class Americans.
Now Biden is positioning to go even further.
That means raising the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent, increasing the top individual income tax rate and the capital gains rate for high-income earners, and increasing the estate tax, projected to increase federal revenues $2.1 trillion.
This could finally be the time in four decades when we join other major countries who fund their social programs and infrastructure with higher taxes on the rich.
For forty years this country slogged under a system promoting the discredited theory that if we give more to rich people money in the form of tax breaks, they will generously dole out more to the rest of us, and the country will be more prosperous.
This theory is aptly called “trickle down economics.”
It was a lie when it was first proposed and passed back during Ronald Reagan’s administration, and it is a lie now.
Despite knowing it is a lie, Republicans perpetuate it because they understand doing the opposite will alienate them from the only constituency they care about–the wealthy and corporations.
Most people figured out the scam a long time ago.
28 percent corporate tax rate is paltry compared to the 90% top tax rate created under FDR.
Even going back to President Lyndon Johnson’s 70% would be an improvement.
Joe Biden has always been an incrementalist.
28% is start, but we mustn’t stop there.
Imagine what this country would look like if wealthy “patriots” were actually patriotic.