'Build Back Better Agenda costs zero dollars:' is Biden right?

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Fact Box

  • On September 25, 2021, President Biden tweeted about his party’s $3.5 trillion dollar spending plan, “My Build Back Better Agenda costs zero dollars. Instead of wasting money on tax breaks, loopholes, and tax evasion for big corporations and the wealthy, we can make a once-in-a-generation investment in working America. And it adds zero dollars to the national debt.
  • The spending plan’s budget resolution topline goals include universal pre-k for 3-4 year olds, two years free of community college, paid family and medical leave benefits, the creation of a Civilian Climate Coprs, greencards to millions of immigrants and more.
  • Visualize a trillion dollars: if $1 trillion were stacked in $100 dollar bills, it would rise 40,000,000 inches high or 631 miles. The US national debt, as of September, surpasses $28 trillion. 
  • The Tax Foundation reports the spending plan would increase corporate tax rates from 21 to 28%, (which surpasses China’s 25% corporate tax), reduce business investment incentives, reduce US GDP by 0.98% and American incomes by 1%, as well as reduce wages by 0.68% percent, “eliminating 303,000 full-time” jobs.
  • Gallup records Biden’s current presidential rating at 43% approval, 53% disapprove; by party, 6% of Republicans, 37% of Independents, and 90% of Democrats approve of Biden’s presidency.

Curtice (No)

Zero dollars is a sum rarely seen in any congressional legislation. Yet, President Joe Biden claimed in a recent tweet that his Build Back Better agenda would 'cost zero dollars.' Very little in life is free, except speech, and Democrats know this. Claiming something is free doesn't make it so. Biden didn't even make the slightly less far-fetched claim that his plan 'will be paid for.' He said it would ‘cost zero.’ This is an utterly nonsensical claim that applies to no other spending situation in the real world. 

When a politician says something will cost zero dollars, that usually means it is going to be expensive, very expensive in the form of taxes. According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, it would add 'nearly $1 trillion of direct borrowing' and possibly as much as $2.9 trillion to the national debt over the next ten years. A trillion dollars seems like a slightly larger amount than zero. According to the Wall Street Journal, Biden's agenda is 'Full of delayed starts, phony phase-outs, and cost-shifting' to try to justify the zero dollars claim. Contorting legislation into some sort of bad balloon animal is no way to run a budget, especially that of this nation.

Naturally, many Republicans roundly took Biden to task for his claim, and even some Democrats voiced concerns. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., said, 'I don't think we can afford everything.' She also noted that the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package does not have a cost analysis by the Congressional budget office. The package dramatically increases tax rates on businesses and those earning $400,000 or more to pay for a laundry list of left-wing priorities. That doesn't sound like zero, either.

Andrew (Yes)

There is great irony in the conservative voices churning out headlines calling the Biden Administration 'financially illiterate,' amongst other things. Either these pundits don't understand the difference between 'gross' cost and 'net' cost or are attempting to intentionally mislead the American public. Obviously, Biden's spending priorities will have a gross cost: the total amount of money to get the ball rolling. This doesn't include the returns on these investments that the entire nation will inevitably enjoy. Simply paying attention to the gross cost of the bill, ignoring the returns, is like looking solely at a business's raw materials costs and ignoring the profits from final sales. The irony in the conservative criticism of this spending package is that the last round of Republican tax cuts had a high gross cost. But instead of the rewards going to average Americans, they were whisked away into the pockets of corporations and the extremely wealthy.

Part of President Biden's spending plan includes generating revenue from taxing corporations and wealthy individuals. Financial experts such as Warren Buffet have long touted the need for increasing corporate taxes. Opponents of raising corporate taxes will claim that this discourages companies from investing in their businesses, but it is plainly obvious that many corporations are more interested in outrageous executive pay and stock buybacks to inflate prices. Making these businesses pay their fair share and eliminating tax loopholes will be a major part of ensuring that this package is deficit-neutral. By increasing the tax rates on corporations and those earning over 400K a year, the Biden administration will be able to fund its priorities.

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