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Robert Reich: The Week Ahead Crunch Time – OpEd

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This week, Democrats either reach agreement on Biden’s social and climate agenda or the agenda may shrink into meaninglessness. The climate measures in particular need to be settled before Biden heads to Scotland for the U.N. climate summit this weekend, so other nations will see our commitment to reduce carbon emissions.

Yesterday, Biden met with key Democrats work out spending and tax provisions. Yet as far as I know, every senate Republican and at least two senate Democrats continue to assert that Biden’s agenda is too costly.

This is insane. Compare its current compromise tab of $2 trillion (spread out over the next 10 years) with:

— The $1.9 trillion Trump Republican tax cut that went mostly to the wealthy and large corporations. Americans were promised that its benefits would “trickle down” to average workers. They didn’t. Corporations used them to finance more stock buybacks. The wealthy used them to buy more shares of stock (and shares of private-equity and hedge funds). Clearly, the Trump Republican tax cut should be repealed to pay for Biden’s social and climate package. But no senate Republican will vote for its repeal, nor will Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema (not coincidentally, recipient of huge amounts of corporate campaign cash).

— The $2.1 trillion that America’s 775 billionaires have raked in just since the start of the pandemic. You’d think that at least a portion of this gigantic sum should help pay for Biden’s agenda since much of it has been the result of monopoly power (eg, Amazon). Kudos to Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, for proposing a “billionaires’ tax” (to be paid by people with $1 billion in assets or $100 million in income for three consecutive years). If Sinema has any principles, she’ll support it.

— The nearly $8 trillion we’ll be spending on the military over the next 10 years. The United States already spends more on our military than the next ten biggest military spenders in the world combined. Talk about bloat and waste: That military budget includes eighty-five F-35 fighters costing a total of $1.5 trillion. The F-35 is so plagued with problems that the current chairman of House Armed Service Committee calls it a “rathole,” and the Pentagon’s own official who’s responsible for the acquisition of weapons systems says spending more on it is “acquisition malpractice.” But you don’t hear about this in the media because Democrats routinely join Republicans to vote for bloated military budgets (181 House Dems approved this year’s authorization just last month) — and the media only reports controversy.

Yet senate Republicans, along with Sinema and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, say we can’t afford to spend what’s needed for childcare, education, or paid leave, and we can’t afford to reduce climate change? My friends, this is truly nuts.

Please let me have your views: What do you think will happen to Biden’s social and climate agenda? And what do you think the consequences will be?

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Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fifteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good," which is available in bookstores now. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

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