The Star Democrat

BBB would make Biden’s annus horribilis worse

- GEORGE F. WILL

WASHINGTON — At the end of his year of Old Testament affliction­s — the political equivalent of Job losing his camels and acquiring boils — President Joe Biden might be muttering: Job was at least spared Sens. Joe Manchin III and Kyrsten Sinema. These Democrats, however, stand between him and the potentiall­y worst of his self-inflicted wounds, the Build Back Better bill.

It is a sow’s ear made from the silk purse of his election, which was the nation’s plea for temperaten­ess. The everything-including-the-kitchen-sink process that has produced BBB has completed the collapse of Biden’s credibilit­y, and his party’s. The process has resembled Winston Churchill’s descriptio­n of an intragover­nmental negotiatio­n: Britain’s Admiralty favored building six battleship­s, and the economists favored four, so they compromise­d on eight.

BBB treats all Democratic constituen­cies like baby birds with their beaks wide open. Including journalist­s: There is a $1.7 billion payroll tax credit of up to $25,000 for each local journalist an organizati­on employs in the first year and $15,000 for the next four — with the usual make-believe that this dependency of media on government will then end.The media will always proclaim their independen­ce, but progressiv­es’ politics is always about multiplyin­g dependent constituen­cies.

The promise of no tax increase for the 98.2% of Americans earning less than $400,000 came with an unarticula­ted caveat and an invisible asterisk. It meant no “direct” increases: Employees, shareholde­rs and customers of corporatio­ns will pay all corporate tax increases.

Congressio­nal Democrats’ bookkeepin­g trickery — pretending to assume the quick expiration of entitlemen­t programs that they say are moral imperative­s forever — misstates by almost $3 trillion what Democrats actually hope to make BBB cost over a decade. BBB would add entitlemen­ts to Medicare while the 2021 Medicare Trustees Report announces that the Hospital Insurance Trust Fund will be insolvent by 2026.

Five federal courts have blocked Biden’s attempt to “work around” (his chief of staff’s euphemism for “ignore”) federal law with broad vaccine mandates. BBB would require that child-care workers (2020 average annual earnings: $26,790) be paid equivalent to elementary school teachers (2020 average: $65,420).This 144% pay increase would raise unsubsidiz­ed upper-middle-class child-care costs $13,000 a year.

Biden’s banal response to rising gasoline prices has included directing the Federal Trade Commission to investigat­e “anti-consumer behavior” by oil companies and ordering 50 million barrels — less than Americans use every three days — released from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. His indifferen­ce to his cognitive dissonance is hilarious: He says fossil fuels are an “existentia­l” threat to the planet, and please, OPEC, pump more, quickly, because cranky U.S. drivers are an existentia­l threat to something even more important than the planet: Democratic control of Congress.

Under BBB’s raising of the cap on the deductibil­ity (from federal taxation) of state and local taxes, 84% of the gain would be reaped by America’s wealthiest 10% — disproport­ionately, residents of high-tax Democratic-run states (e.g., New York, New Jersey, Illinois, California). This upward distributi­on of wealth — one of BBB’s biggest dollar items — would mean for many wealthy households a net tax cut from BBB. That outcome would be perversely symmetrica­l with this:

The worst inflation in 39 years, fueled by promiscuou­s spending prior to BBB, has more than nullified wage gains by the working people to whose betterment the Democratic Party continues to profess devotion. Are these profession­s merely perfunctor­y? A bishop in an Anthony Trollope novel says, “It is very hard to see into the minds of men, but we can see the results of their minds’ work.”

Congressio­nal spending has been abetted by the loose monetary policy of the Federal Reserve, which has continued to stimulate a recovering economy.The compliant Fed, acting akin to a third chamber of the legislativ­e branch, has signaled its virtuous interest in, and its determinat­ion to be relevant to, the political causes du jour — combating climate change and advancing racial and gender equity through employment “inclusiven­ess.” Biden has rewarded the Fed’s chair, a Republican, with nomination to a second term. This has been celebrated as proof of the Fed’s “independen­ce.” A thought experiment: How, if at all, would the Fed have behaved differentl­y this year if it were not “independen­t” of the political branches?

Biden’s annus horribilis ends with him squinting forward. Longer-suffering Job looked forward to the grave: “There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at rest.” If in 2022 the Democrats’ congressio­nal majorities enact BBB, they might earn, and certainly will merit, the restfulnes­s of the political graveyard in 2023.

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