By Arab News
By Maria Maalouf*
There is no question that US President Joe Biden scored a big political and legislative victory when Congress last month passed a big spending bill totaling $360 billion. The Inflation Reduction Act includes money earmarked for healthcare, the climate and other spending areas. However, Biden’s celebrations could be premature. Other political factors could thwart his political programs. The $360 billion spending packet could face many hurdles.
There were several political gains the Biden administration enjoyed thanks to the passage of this bill. It showed that the president can collaborate with Congress and overcome any opposition. Accordingly, he can coordinate many policies with the Democrats in Congress under the leadership of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. In addition, Biden is fulfilling his campaign pledges to spend more on healthcare and the climate.
Moreover, the president is moving the Democratic Party toward a progressive pathway. The course of the US government is now to focus more on social programs, as opposed to the spending on defense that is always favored by the Republicans. Furthermore, the size of the spending package is huge. Therefore, it will fund and promote many of the proposals that the Biden administration has been talking about since it entered the White House. Biden’s political victory dispelled the image of him as a failed politician who is very inferior when compared to his two Democratic predecessors: Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
Crucial for Biden is that he is now able to fire up his political base. This is a common expression in the American political lexicon meaning that a president can mobilize the popular support he needs to govern and implement his vision for the country. Many are showing enthusiasm for what Biden did. For instance, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich has written in support of the president as a politician capable of defeating a conservative agenda. Expectedly, many analysts are now debating what the next political step is for Biden. Most likely, he will impose two types of taxes: One will be levied on the superrich in America and the other will be applied to the big oil companies that are making big profits.
Nevertheless, Biden still cannot control inflation. It is a very negative political trend that the American middle class is being hurt so much by the rise in price of every basic commodity, especially food.
The future of this huge spending bill remains uncertain, especially if the Democrats lose control of the House of Representatives as expected in November’s midterm elections. Worse, millions of Americans are skeptical about whether or not this bill will improve the economy. The budget deficit also could swell as a result of the Inflation Reduction Act.
According to National Public Radio: “Because the projections of the Mid-Session Review were finalized in June, (the budget deficit) does not include the $280 billion CHIPS and Science Act and estimated $740 billion climate, healthcare and tax measure.” This means that the Biden administration will spend the same amount of money on a similar bill and it will target healthcare and the climate. NPR estimates that the Biden administration “forecasts $1.03 trillion deficit, down by nearly $400 billion.” Yet, it is doubtful that the budget deficit will decrease if the Democrats keep passing these lavish spending bills.
Biden cannot govern by taxing and spending. The American people will be resentful of him this way. Instead, Biden’s economic program should seek common ground, identifying what the Democrats and the Republicans can achieve together to improve the economy. In this regard, he is finding support among a few Republicans, who see in his partial cancellation of student debts a tremendous relief for the American economy. This is what Biden must press for swiftly and strongly. Canceling $1 trillion of student debt is more helpful to the American economy than spending $360 billion on programs that cannot succeed in their entirety.
• Maria Maalouf is a Lebanese journalist, broadcaster, publisher and writer. She has a master’s degree in political sociology from the University of Lyon.