Biden 2025 Budget Would Offer ‘Welcome Relief,’ But Not Enough

One expert said that enacting his reforms “will begin to reverse the 40-year one-way ratchet of falling taxes for the wealthy and corporations and instead invest in workers and families.”

By Jessica Corbett. Published 3-11-2024 by Common Dreams

Photto: U.S. Secretary of Defense/flickr/CC

On the heels of delivering the latest State of the Union speech and signing a package of funding bills, U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday unveiled his budget blueprint for fiscal year 2025, a proposal praised by congressional Democrats and progressive advocates who want him to go even further.

The $7.3 trillion budget comes as the divided Congress is still sorting out funding for the current fiscal year. Given those divisions—and that the Republican House majority is already advancing its own budget resolution for the fiscal year that begins in October—the Democratic president’s plan is widely seen as a statement of priorities going into the November election.

“Biden used his official budget request as a campaign leaflet, taking a first-term victory lap and calling out Donald Trump by name,” Politico reported, referring to the former president who lost reelection in 2020 and is now the presumptive Republican nominee.

One key issue is Social Security and Medicare. The GOP blueprint unveiled last week includes a fiscal commission that critics call a “death panel” designed to fast-track cuts. As Common Dreams reported earlier Monday, Trump made televised comments taken as “support for cutting Social Security and Medicare,” which his campaign later claimed were about cutting “waste” in the programs.

Meanwhile, according to a White House fact sheet, Biden’s new budget demonstrates his desire to “protect and strengthen Medicare and Social Security for this and future generations,” including with improvements to drug price negotiations.

Nancy Altman, president of Social Security Works, said Monday that the Republican candidate’s latest remarks are “consistent with Trump’s record as president” and Biden is presenting “a very different vision for Social Security’s future” with his proposal to protect the program by boosting taxes on the ultrarich. She emphasized that “Social Security is on the ballot this November.”

Raising taxes for the wealthy and corporations—which would not only fund initiatives but also cut an estimated $3 trillion from the national debt over a decade—is a major focus of Biden’s blueprint, which takes aim at provisions from Trump’s 2017 tax law. Biden calls for imposing a 25% minimum tax for individuals with wealth of more than $100 million, as well as ending capital income tax breaks and closing other loopholes.

The blueprint also advocates for setting the corporate tax rate at 28%, raising the Inflation Reduction Act’s (IRA) minimum rate on billion-dollar corporations to 21%, denying deductions for compensation over $1 million for any C corporation employee, and “reforming the international tax system to reduce the incentives to book profits in low-tax jurisdictions,” as the fact sheet details.

Other tax-related proposals include restoring the full IRA investment in the Internal Revenue Service and providing new funds to crack down on rich tax cheats, as well as reviving the expanded child tax credit that led to a historic drop in youth poverty.

“The White House budget’s across-the-board increases would be a welcome relief to agencies and programs across the government that have seen their funding cut,” said Lisa Gilbert, executive vice president of Public Citizen, in a statement Monday. “This budget demonstrates a commitment to ensuring corporations pay more of their fair share.”

Sharon Parrott, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, also welcomed the plan, saying that “President Biden’s 2025 budget lays out a sound approach to key decisions that need to be made next year, regardless of the outcomes of the elections: a fairer tax code that raises more revenues from wealthy people and profitable corporations to invest in people, communities, and the economy and to improve our fiscal outlook.”

Groundwork Collaborative executive director Lindsay Owens offered similar praise, asserting that “the tax reforms in President Biden’s 2025 budget are the critical unfinished business of Bidenomics. Enacting the reforms in his budget will begin to reverse the 40-year one-way ratchet of falling taxes for the wealthy and corporations and instead invest in workers and families.”

Other priorities for the president include lowering childcare costs, increasing the affordable housing supply, expanding access to homeownership and affordable rent, cutting home energy and water bills, reducing the cost of higher education, investing in family planning services, implementing paid family and medical leave, enabling universal pre-K, and confronting the climate emergency.

The budget includes $23 billion for climate adaptation and resilience; nearly $10 billion to address air pollution, radiation exposure, and legacy waste and contamination in communities nationwide; $3 billion for the international Green Climate Fund; $1.6 billion to support the clean energy workforce and infrastructure projects; and mandatory funding to expand the American Climate Corps.

“This budget only has a shot at becoming a reality if Biden and Dems win big this November. Biden needs to deliver for young people, otherwise many young people are going to end up staying at home,” said the Sunrise Movement, which last week partnered with three other youth-led groups to put forth a sweeping agenda that they believe can energize younger voters.

On the voting front, “the budget provides state and local election officials with $5 billion in new, sustained election assistance funding over 10 years,” pointed out Public Citizen’s Gilbert. “This follows on essential commitments made by the White House in the State of the Union address to prioritize the Freedom to Vote Act and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.”

Stand Up America’s senior associate of policy and political affairs, Sunwoo Oh, also welcomed the proposal saying that “election funding is critical to ensuring every voice is heard and every eligible vote counted. It’s long past time that Congress invest in America’s election infrastructure to give states and localities the consistent resources they need to keep our elections, and those who administer them, safe and secure.”

However, not all parts of the budget were welcomed by progressive advocacy groups. For example, Gilbert declared that “it’s impossible not to comment on the $895 billion defense topline. War hawks squealing that a 1% increase to defense spending is ‘meager’ or ‘catastrophic’ lack perspective altogether. The true catastrophe is the existing scale of U.S. military spending.”

“The Pentagon is a three-quarters-of-a-trillion dollar agency that has never once passed an audit,” she stressed. “It’s infamous for waste, fraud, and bankrolling defense corporations. Roughly half of the total… goes to contractors each year. Reallocating billions away from the Pentagon and into direct human needs instead would benefit everyday Americans far more.”

The Environmental Working Group criticized another aspect of the Pentagon budget, warning that $1.6 billion is too low for Department of Defense (DOD) cleanup of contaminated sites, including those impacted by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as “forever chemicals.”

“The cost of cleaning up the backlog of contaminated sites continues to grow and now exceeds $38 billion, per estimates provided by the Pentagon in 2022,” noted John Reeder, the group’s vice president for federal affairs. “It’s clear that incremental increases in funding cannot possibly catch up to the DOD’s rising cleanup obligations. Service members, military communities, and farmers need the cleanup of toxic PFAS pollution to move much more quickly‚ they have waited far too long.”

The budget includes a $4.7 billion emergency fund for border security—a top issue in Congress and the presidential contest.

American Immigration Lawyers Association executive director Ben Johnson said that his group supports additional resources for U.S. Customs and Border Protection “to increase capacity at ports, the hiring of 1,600 more asylum officers, efforts to reduce the 3 million-case backlog plaguing the immigration courts, and the targeted use of more than $1 billion to combat cartels and stop fentanyl and other contraband smuggling.”

“Lacking in the president’s request, but which he has called for in every previous budget, is funding for legal representation that is critical to ensure both fairer and more efficient hearings for people seeking asylum or other legal protection,” Johnson added. “More funds could and should also be directed to improve the entire immigration system which will reduce yearslong visa backlogs and help American families, businesses, and the economy.”

Another policy that garnered swift criticism was the proposed 2% pay raise for federal civilian employees, which is lower than the president’s previous budgets and contrasts with the 4.5% pay raise for military service members.

“We applaud President Biden for taking steps in his proposed budget to ensure corporations and the ultrawealthy are paying their fair share in taxes, to extend the solvency of Medicare, and to increase budgets for critical federal programs,” said American Federation of Government Employees National president Everett Kelley. “However, we are extremely disappointed in the way this budget turns its back on the long-standing practice of pay raise parity for civilian and military employees of the federal government.”

“Civilian federal workers right now are working for 27.5% less than their private-sector counterparts. A paltry, 2% raise for civilian federal employees will do very little to close that widening gap,” the union leader emphasized. “Ultimately, until we are able to address lagging pay for federal workers, other efforts to recruit, hire, and retain top talent will never be successful because of the albatross of low pay.”

As Republicans in Congress widely complained about Biden’s proposal, top Democrats celebrated it. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that “just as he did in his State of the Union address, President Biden’s budget lays out a bold, optimistic, and responsible path for the nation.”

“The budget highlights the sharp contrast between Democrats’ positive, proactive vision and the Republican negative, regressive vision for our country. Democrats want to grow our economy in a responsible way, while making smart investments in our future,” he continued, challenging all of his colleagues looking to succeed outgoing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to “lay out their plan… for all Americans to see.”

Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said, “Put simply, this budget tells working people and families: ‘We have your back—and we’re going to keep building a stronger future together.”

“As we work to finish negotiating and passing the final six appropriations bills for fiscal year 2024, I look forward to digging into the details of the president’s budget request for fiscal year 2025 and working with my colleagues to begin the process of writing serious, bipartisan spending bills that will move our nation forward and continue to build a brighter future for American families,” she added.

While that work is still underway, Office of Management and Budget director Shalanda Young is set to testify about Biden’s 2025 proposal before the Senate Budget Committee on Tuesday. The panel’s leader, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said Monday that the president “has released a fiscally responsible budget that puts the middle class first and lays out a vision for a stronger, safer, and more prosperous America.”

On the other side of Capitol Hill, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, also applauded Biden’s budget, specifically highlighting the child tax credit and paid leave policies. She said that “I look forward to working with President Biden in shaping a federal budget that delivers a more prosperous future for everyday Americans.”

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).

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