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AFP
April 29, 2021

Biden to urge epic fight against inequality in Congress address

AFP
April 29, 2021

Washington: President Joe Biden will unveil a nearly $2 trillion spending plan to boost the middle class Wednesday as the highlight of a sunny, yet audacious speech to Congress signaling the Democrat’s desire to reshape America.

Speaking to a joint session of Congress on the eve of his 100th day in office, Biden will hail what on Tuesday he called "stunning" success in vaccinating Americans -- a national effort that has transformed the country from coronavirus catastrophe to leader in global recovery.

But with solid approval ratings and a Democratic majority -- albeit razor thin -- in Congress, Biden feels he has momentum on his side to tackle politically difficult challenges.

Topping those is his newly unveiled American Families Plan, which seeks to redress what Biden sees as crippling economic inequality by pouring billions of dollars into education and childcare so that more Americans can join the middle class. To pay for it, Biden wants to reverse tax cuts for the rich that his Republican predecessor Donald Trump pushed through in 2017.

"You’re going to hear him talk about his vision for the country tonight," White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield said on CNN. "I think what you’ll hear the president say tonight is that we really have a once in a generation opportunity right now to seize the moment, to make these investments."

In every aspect of the primetime television speech, Biden will echo his mantra that "America is back" -- both in recovering from the coronavirus disaster and in putting the turbulence of the Trump era behind. When it comes to foreign policy, he "will talk about his commitment to reengaging with the world, taking America’s seat back in the world," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.

On domestic issues, Biden will make the case for a lengthy Democratic wish list, including police reform, pro-immigrant reforms and gun control -- some of the most sensitive issues in US politics. US presidents usually bend over backwards to avoid or at least hide tax increases.

However, Biden is banking on popular support for his idea of leaning on the super rich to fund the $1.8 trillion American Families Plan -- both by raising their taxes and closing loopholes they use to escape paying in the first place.

The spending plan, which will need approval by a deeply divided Congress, would pour money into early education, childcare, higher education and other building blocks in what the Biden administration argues will be reconstruction of the country’s battered middle class.

To fund this the top income tax rate would increase from 37 percent, where Trump’s plan put it, back to its pre-Trump 39.6 percent. The Biden plan would also end loopholes and capital income tax breaks, while raising "billions," according to the White House, in a tightened tax regime for inherited wealth.

Lastly, Biden would increase funding for the IRS tax authorities to the tune of $80 billion extra, so that they could go after high-earning tax dodgers. Crucially for the politics of the Biden ploy, Americans earning less than $400,000 a year would face no extra taxes.

"There is broad support among the American people for this approach. There’s broad support for the American people for the investments these resources will go to," a senior White House official, who asked not to be identified, told reporters.

"These reforms are fundamentally about fairness." The proposed splurge comes after Congress already approved a $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which injected stimulus into almost every corner of the economy, and is now debating a proposed $2 trillion-plus infrastructure plan.

The setting for Biden’s maiden address to Congress as president will reflect the crisis times in which he took office. Instead of a House chamber crammed with the usual 1,600 or so politicians and guests, Biden will look out on a select group of around 200.

Of the nine members of the Supreme Court, only Chief Justice John Roberts will attend. "President Biden ran as a moderate, but I’m hard pressed to think of anything at all that he’s done so far that would indicate some degree of moderation," senior Republican Senator Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday.