Making smart budget choices: Biden plan is rooted in common sense

President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address during a joint meeting of Congress in the House chamber at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, March 7, 2024, in Washington, D.C. Biden is joined by Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA). (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/TNS)

With a $7.3 trillion budget plan for fiscal year 2025, President Joe Biden laid out priorities that include a heavy emphasis on anti-poverty and quality of life while taking aim at Donald Trump’s efforts to roll back taxes on the rich.

Coming after a forceful State of the Union address in which the longtime senator and vice president took a step back from his tendency towards reflexive bipartisanship to bash the radicalism of the Trump-captured GOP, it’s refreshing to see a continued embrace of expansive social policy, backed by a commitment to progressive taxation.


That the GOP-controlled House — putatively led by Speaker Mike Johnson, who Trump keeps on a short leash — will certainly kill any chance of bringing this vision to fruition should be no impediment to putting it front and center.

Let the Republicans return to their districts and explain to their constituents why they stand united in opposition to ameliorating the skyrocketing cost of child care and instituting the paid family leave mandates that all but a handful of countries worldwide have — both significant drivers of people who want to have kids delaying the decision or changing their minds altogether.

Force them to explain what’s so bad about tax breaks for would-be homebuyers struggling with housing costs, and why reversing the sweetheart deals billion-dollar corporations and the wealthiest Americans got from Trump’s 2017 tax cuts is such an objectionable principle that it trumps having these things.

Already, Biden’s emphasis on an expanded enforcement capacity for the IRS has yielded significant results. It only makes sense that, with this increased ability to go after tax cheats, we can more forcefully ask the wealthy to pay their fair share so that all Americans can benefit from increases in productivity.

Inevitably, this approach will be framed in some corners as irresponsible spending, and certainly any policy of this magnitude must be studied and tweaked and optimized for greatest return. But there’s been little more irresponsible than the massive cuts on the biggest companies and wealthiest individuals, which have allowed the richest 1% of U.S. earners to soar past the entirety of the middle class in recent years and ballooned the federal deficit that Republicans otherwise pretend to care about.

Biden’s efforts, meanwhile, could well reduce the deficit substantially.

More importantly, it could set the middle class on solid footing at a moment where low unemployment and wage gains — the result of sound economic stewardship over the last couple of years — have been to some extent offset by the expiration of pandemic-era safety net expansions.

We know that programs like expanded child tax credits work because we were forced to conduct an impromptu experiment during the COVID years. The vision of a permanent adaptation of parts of this system is electorally potent and just plain good policy.

It should come in tandem with efforts to address some underlying practical problems like a dearth of affordable housing and available child care options. Financial solutions alone can’t and won’t be enough to address every issue facing low-income and middle-class people.

Budgets are political documents, and these initiatives to make substantial improvements in the lives of ordinary Americans at the cost of very modest reductions in the wealth of the fantastically wealthy are worthwhile.