BBB could be the greatest legislative achievement in 50 years. So what’s actually in it?



It feels like we’ve only been talking about the Build Back Better plan for months. And yet, strangely enough, there is very little public understanding of what it is. For opponents, it is an extremely aggressive piece of wasteful social spending. For the supporters, it is a critical and long overdue investment in neglected aspects of our society.

Now the actual content of the invoice is finally taking shape. On the Great Ideas Podcast with Matt Robison, Guest Ben Ritz, director of the Center for Funding America’s Future at the Progressive Policy Institute, walked through the mystery, pitfalls, and promise of the Build Back Better (BBB) ​​law. And he answered the question: will this bill really work and actually do something good for America?

Hear the full conversation here:

This conversation has been compressed and edited.

What has the Biden administration already achieved through the American rescue plan and the infrastructure law that has not yet been passed?

The US $ 1.9 trillion bailout plan was the way to fill the void left by the end of the Trump administration and get America through the pandemic. This included lots of spending on things like unemployment insurance, business reviews, and aid to state and local governments. and [looking at GDP and unemployment] I think there is no question that it has been effective in solving problems at the moment.

The Infrastructure Act is about the future: where the Biden administration wanted to see our country after the pandemic. The idea is embodied in the phrase “build better”. The discussion then turned to traditional infrastructure versus programs like paid vacation and elderly care, which may not really qualify as the same type of long-term investment. So these were split into two different bills.

Incidentally, there is a third bill that everyone forgets, and it could be the most important one, the US Innovation and Competition Act, which focuses on research and development and long-term competitiveness.

There seem to have been two possible strategies for the Democrats: doing a little of everything in BBB, or taking a more focused and disciplined approach to some big goals. What did the Democrats go through?

When we wrote a report on this a month ago, we proposed a roughly $ 2 trillion package, about half of which was to help working families, a third to fight climate change and the rest to empower Health care for the needy. The framework we have today is very similar to that.

But under the hood, Congress leaders took more of a grab-bag approach to fit within the overall price limit and accommodate many competing interests. For example, the child tax credit: instead of making it permanent, part of the extension is permanent, but another part expires after a year. Universal Pre-K is only valid for six years for the same reason. Then they snuck into an extension of Medicare and home health care for older Americans. Paid family and sick leave were also out of scope, but could creep in again.

Overall, unfortunately, it tended to be more in the direction of “make everything a little worse and temporarily” and not so much “do a few things well and permanently” as I would have liked.

What are the pieces that you are very confident will work and have a really big impact?

There are two things that I look forward to the most. Firstly, the full reimbursement of the child tax credit. That said, if the tax credit is more than you owe in taxes, you will actually receive a payment from the government. This is responsible for most of the child tax credit poverty reduction and will be huge for poor children in America. Second, I think a lot of the climate action could be very good for research and development, but also for expanding renewable energy and electric vehicle purchases and moving towards clean energy.

Conclusion: is that ultimately a good calculation? Will it work?

There is still something open because they are still working on it. But many of these programs, even some that I put on the cutting room floor when we wrote our report, are great ideas. I wish we could have prioritized and focused. Overall this could be great but we’ll have to wait and see.

We share edited excerpts from the Great Ideas podcast every week that explain how guidelines work and present innovative solutions to problems. Please subscribe and to learn more about BBB and everything the Biden administration has achieved, watch the full episode on Apple, Spotify, Google, anchor, Breaker, bag, RadioPublic, or stapler

Matt Robison is a writer and political analyst who focuses on demographics, psychology, politics, and economics trends that shape American politics. He spent a decade on Capitol Hill as the legislative director and chief of staff to three members of Congress and also served as a senior advisor, campaign manager, or advisor on several New Hampshire congressional elections. In 2012, he ran a race from behind that national political analysts named the biggest surprise win of the election. He then served as Policy Director in the New Hampshire State Senate and successfully helped coordinate legislative efforts to pass the Medicaid extension. He has also done extensive work in the private sector on energy regulation policy. Matt holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Swarthmore College and a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He lives in Amherst, Massachusetts with his wife and three children.

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