The decade's most triggering comedy
Much of President Joe Biden’s legacy will be defined by the “Build Back Better” act (H.R. 5376), which the White House touts as “transformative” of our nation’s social fabric. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has vowed to pass the bill by Christmas. The House of Representatives already approved the Build Back Better Framework on November 19 by a 220-213 vote (no Republicans voted yes; one Democrat, Rep. Jared Golden [D-ME] voted no).
But what’s in the bill? How much does it cost? How would it transform our nation — and is it a transformation American citizens want?
This article, although not comprehensive, offers the most succinct coverage of the “Build Back Better” act’s major components.
What is the Build Back Better act?
Although Democrats originally branded this legislation as a “human infrastructure bill,” the Build Back Better act is a social spending initiative that the president has boasted will “transform” our nation’s social fabric. It contains new government programs for taxpayer-funded childcare, Obamacare expansion, government transfer payments, green energy spending and tax credits, and it even has embedded a controversial immigration provision in the bill.
What is the bill’s real cost?
Much of the media coverage has focused on the price of the bill: Initially Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) proposed $6 trillion in spending, saying that amount was “probably too little.” Congress whittled the bill down to $3.5 trillion, then reduced it to $1.75 trillion in October, reducing the 10-year deficit to $367 billion according to an analysis from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
But these numbers rely on a series of budget gimmicks that minimize the BBB’s true cost. As Ben Zeisloft of The Daily Wire reported:
A report by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget suggests that the true cost of the legislation may be $4.9 trillion due to a number of “arbitrary sunsets and expirations.”
For instance, the bill would extend the American Rescue Plan’s Child Tax Credit increase and Earned Income Tax Credit expansion for a year, set universal pre-K and child care subsidies to expire after six years, make Affordable Care Act expansions available through 2025, and delay the requirement that businesses amortize research and experimentation costs until 2026.
In another economic sleight-of-hand, the bill phases in universal pre-K, which would not become truly “universal” until the program’s fourth year (2025).
“This is a well-established gimmick – using long-term savings to pay for short-term spending that masks the costs of the programs that are plainly intended to be permanent,” wrote Gordon Gray, director of fiscal policy at the American Action Forum.
The CBO estimates, without these budget gimmicks, the Build Back Better act “would increase the deficit by $3.0 trillion over the 2022–2031 period.” The cost of the Child Tax Credit alone would increase 863%, and rolling back the state and local tax (SALT) limitation would go from raising $15 billion in revenue to costing $245 billion. The Build Back Better act would create $24,843.48 in new national debt for every American household.
How would the bill’s signature measure, universal pre-K and childcare subsidies, affect American families?
The Build Back Better act would raise the cost of childcare while offering nothing to parents who want to stay at home and raise their own children. Parents were three-times more likely to favor having one or both of the parents provide childcare (i.e., raise their own children), according to an Institute for Family Studies/Wheatley Institution survey by YouGov. The Build Back Better act does nothing to advance the interests of Americans who want their children raised by family, not by strangers.
One of the most widely publicized features of the Build Back Better act is universal pre-K. Preschool is “free” for children ages 3 and 4, with an Obamacare-style roster of sliding scale subsidies for children through age 5, provided the children are not enrolled in kindergarten, and their parents are engaged in a qualified activity (such as work or a job search) and have less than $1 million in assets.
The program is truly universal: U.S. taxpayer-funded benefits are offered “without regard to the immigration status of the individual [child] or of any parent of the individual.” The program is phased in over four years, limited to 100% of state median income in 2022, with this increased to 115% and 130% in the next two years, before opening to all Americans in 2025. Under the bill’s terms:
It will cost an estimated $390 billion in the bill, as written. Given its funding cap and the high cost of childcare in some areas, “a couple making $343,600 in Washington, DC, would receive $30,300 in childcare subsidies for two children,” wrote policy expert Rachel Greszler.
Would the Build Back Better act increase childcare costs?
Absolutely. The Build Back Better act forces nearly all lead teachers to have no less than a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or similar field within six years of the time the BBB becomes law. In return, the bill requires childcare facilities to pay workers “living wage[s]” at least “equivalent to wages for elementary educators with similar credentials and experience.”
As Ryan Bourne of the Cato Institute noted, “The average childcare worker nationally is currently paid $25,460, against $60,660 for the average elementary school teacher (in other words, the latter earns 138 percent more).” As such, the bill will reduce the number of childcare workers and drive up childcare costs, which will be mostly borne by U.S. taxpayers. The salary hike alone will increase childcare costs by $13,082 a year, according to the left-leaning People’s Policy Project.
The bill also disadvantages religious daycare providers. As this author has reported:
The BBB, in a clause added by Rep. Robert C. Scott (D-VA), would designate childcare funds as “federal financial assistance” — meaning that church- or synagogue-run daycares would have to abide by federal “nondiscrimination” policies in hiring. These include the 1964 Civil Rights Act and Title IX. Although neither law contains a word to that effect, the Supreme Court and the Biden administration have interpreted the laws as meaning that employers cannot refuse to hire homosexual or transgender employees. … The bill constitutes “an intentional effort to bring all of these programs under the moral revolution mandated by the federal government. And that means that religious institutions and religious organizations would not be able to operate these schools in a way consistent with their own beliefs, especially when it comes to the gender and sexual morality revolution, the entire array of issues, most importantly summarized as LGBTQ,” said Albert Mohler Jr. president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. …
In this case, Big Mother government uses the power of federal funding to force its immoral views on holy mother, the Church.
It is not clear the BBB benefits childcare recipients as much as it claims, either. James J. Heckman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist whose studies are frequently cited by those who support universal pre-K, said:
I have never supported universal pre-school. The benefits of public preschool programs are the greatest for the most disadvantaged children. More advantaged children generally have encouraging early family lives. The “intervention” that a loving, resourceful family gives to its children has huge benefits that, unfortunately, have never been measured well. Public preschool programs can potentially compensate for the home environments of disadvantaged children. No public preschool program can provide the environments and the parental love and care of a functioning family and the lifetime benefits that ensue.
Universal pre-K offers a benefit many Americans do not want, while sidelining alternatives that parents prefer.
How does the Build Back Better act expand Obamacare and other forms of government health care?
The Build Back Better act would overrule the will of the states and shift millions of people out of their health insurance onto less desirable, government-run health care plans.
According to the CBO in October, the BBB act would swell Medicaid enrollment by 4 million people and extend Obamacare subsidies to 3.6 million more people; meanwhile, 2.8 million would lose their employer-based health care coverage.
The Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) left it up to the states to decide if they wanted to expand Medicaid, and 12 states declined. The Biden administration doesn’t plan to repeat that mistake; it simply takes state choice out of the matter. The plan allows people making up to 138% of the poverty level eligible for zero-payment plans on Obamacare exchanges. It also expands the ACA by making people who earn up to 400% of the poverty level ($106,000 for a family of four) eligible for government subsidies.
“The BBBA … also allows local entities to directly access federal funds, circumventing the wishes of taxpayers and their duly elected state representatives who do not want to participate,” writes Ryan Lanier of Citizens Against Government Waste.
The bill expands Medicare by providing funding for hearing aids and audiologist/hearing check-ups for Medicare recipients, beginning in 2024 (another phased-in budget gimmick).
How would the Build Back Better act affect public housing and the safety of suburban families?
The Build Back Better act would require aid recipients to build government housing projects in safe, suburban neighborhoods, driving down property values and ratcheting up crime rates. President Biden’s legislation refers to this euphemistically a move to “reform zoning codes” and “reduce barriers to housing supply elasticity and affordability.” The BBB reinstates the Obama administration’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH), stripping out zoning ordinances and placing government-subsidies housing, and its attendant crime, in every neighborhood. As this author has written:
Urban Affairs professor George Galster of Wayne State University found having more than four Section 8 vouchers within 1,000 feet of each other harms property values. … Experts argue the number of Section 8 recipients is one of the best predictors of an impending crime wave. University of Memphis criminologist Richard Janikowski and his wife, housing expert Phyllis Bett, discovered the link almost by happenstance. The couple had been working on two separate maps for their work: he of crime patterns, she of housing vouchers. In early 2008, they decided to compare notes: “Janikowski merged his computer map of crime patterns with Betts’s map of Section8 [sic.] rentals…the match was near-perfect. On the merged map, dense violent-crime areas are shaded dark blue, and Section8 [sic] addresses are represented by little red dots. All of the dark-blue areas are covered in little red dots, like bursts of gunfire. The rest of the city has almost no dots.”
The Build Back Better act offers welfare recipients who live in government housing their choice of the toniest neighborhoods — and, to the gangs that embed themselves in housing projects, a more affluent set of victims.
Does the Build Back Better act actually offer amnesty for 6.5 million illegal aliens?
Si, Señor. The bill allows approximately 6.5 million illegal immigrants to become lawful permanent residents of the United States, a status that would broaden amnesty recipients’ eligibility to receive such government programs as food stamps, Obamacare subsidies, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, the Child Tax Credits, and the Earned Income Tax Credits. The CBO estimates that will cost U.S. taxpayers nearly half-a-trillion dollars over the next 20 years ($483.42 billion, specifically).
As of last week, the Senate Parliamentarian ruled that this provision should not be included in the bill.
The bill also acts as a welfare magnet for future illegal immigration. For instance, its universal pre-K program is offered “without regard to the immigration status of the individual [child] or of any parent of the individual.”
How would the bill affect the U.S. economy — especially what most workers earn?
By reducing GDP and killing jobs, the Build Back Better act reduces real earnings for every group of Americans, top to bottom. “On average, tax filers in every quintile would experience a drop in after-tax incomes,” according to an analysis from the nonpartisan Tax Foundation.
As written, the bill would eliminate 125,000 jobs, cut the wages of those who keep their jobs by anywhere from 0.1% (according to the Penn Wharton Budget Model) to 0.35% (Tax Foundation), and reduce U.S. GDP by anywhere from 0.2% (Penn Wharton) to 0.48% (Tax Foundation).
If the “temporary” provisions are made permanent, Penn Wharton predicts that “by 2050 federal debt [will] increase by 24.4 percent [,] GDP would fall by 2.9 percent,” and wages would fall by 1.7% by 2050. In essence, most American workers would make less money in exchange for raising the salaries of childcare workers and other targeted constituencies.
How would the Build Back Better act affect inflation?
Because of the vast, front-loaded amount of spending contained in the BBB, “there will be a substantial fiscal pulse of $792 billion in the first 5 years, exacerbating inflationary pressures,” according to Gordon Gray, director of fiscal policy at the American Action Forum. The U.S. is already tied for the highest level of inflation among the world’s 35 developed nations, according to the IMF.
How would the Build Back Better act affect college tuition costs?
The Build Back Better act would likely fuel the continual rise of college tuition fees. The BBB would increase Pell Grants by $500. While Democrats present this as making college more affordable, in reality federal spending goes hand-in-hand with higher tuition rates. Federal college loans have risen 328% since 1990, while in-state tuition at four-year public universities rose by 278% during the same period. That tuition increase, perversely, benefits the federal government. As this author has written:
Every dollar in federal financial aid raises tuition by between 60 cents and a dollar, researchers have found. For instance, Nicholas Turner found for every dollar on federal aid, colleges reduced their private scholarships by 83 cents. …
The federal government is the primary holder of student loans. Under the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, Barack Obama virtually nationalized the student loan market. Thanks to that Obamacare-related legislation, the federal government holds $1.2 trillion of the $1.5 trillion in total student loan debt. Student loans now make up almost 60% of all federal assets.
Colleges seem determined to raise costs and fees no matter what, but federal funding makes the hike more amenable by hiding part of the increase from students (and their parents). And it increases the federal government’s total assets while benefiting university professors and administrators, an overwhelmingly Democratic constituency.
How would the bill affect home heating prices?
The Build Back Better act fines “selected entities in the oil and gas industry” for methane emissions beginning at a $900 fine per metric ton and eventually increasing to $1500. These fees could result in the average customer seeing an approximate increase of up to “17% in their natural gas bill, or over $100 per year for the average American family,” according to industry leaders in September.
Since these costs, which the CBO estimates will come to approximately $8 billion over the next decade, will be passed on to consumers, it represents a regressive tax on poor Americans and those on a fixed income. This increase comes on top of an anticipated 30% increase in home heating costs for those who use natural gas, the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The BBB also ends all leases for energy exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), further reducing supply and, thus, raising costs.
How would the Build Back Better act affect paid family and medical leave?
The Build Back Better act would establish a new government entitlement while also forcing taxpayers to fund existing, private-sector plans — and forcing businesses’ flexible paid leave policies to fit rigid government guidelines.
The BBB establishes a new government entitlement of four weeks of paid leave each year for qualified workers (who have at least $2,000 of recent wages). Taxpayers dollars, funneled through Social Security, state “legacy plan,” or insurance plan will pay the individual:
The federal government will pick up the tab for the “various measures of paid family leave” already on the books across the country, which cost up to $125 billion a year.
The BBB would also allow private employers who already offer their employees paid family and medical leave as a fringe benefit to apply for federal reimbursement of up to 90% of their costs. But employers must comply with a host of new bureaucratic regulations and red tape to qualify.
“Some of those rules include forcing employers to share their employees’ personal information with federal bureaucrats; allowing federal officials to override employers’ eligibility determinations; and requiring smaller employers to set aside pre-funded accounts, guaranteed by surety bonds, from which employer-provided benefits must be paid,” wrote Rachel Greszler. “So much for just emailing your boss about how much time you need for leave and when you will be able to return.”
An increasing number of private employers already offer such programs. “In March 2021, 23 percent of civilian workers had access to paid family leave and 89 percent had access to unpaid family leave,” according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
If someone receives more money than allowed under the Paid Family and Medical Leave Benefit, the federal government will let the recipient keep the overpayment if honest accounting “would be against equity.”
How would the bill change the Child Tax Credit?
The Build Back Better act would give American families “free” money. Families making up to $150,000 a year will receive a “child tax credit” of “$300 per month per child under six and $250 per month per child ages 6 to 17.” While the administration refers to this as a “tax cut,” these payments constitute wealth redistribution via government subsidies or transfer payments. These government checks will come with no expectation that their recipients work. Experts worry this handout will increase America’s already uncontrolled illegitimacy crisis.
“This policy will subsidize nonworking families, increasing the likelihood that the most vulnerable will remain outside the workforce. It also will subsidize single parenthood, including among teens, thereby weakening the probability that children will be raised by a married mother and father,” wrote Leslie Ford of The Heritage Foundation.
As noted, one of the bill’s budget gimmicks is to phase the credit out after one year, although the administration intends to make it a permanent government subsidy.
Does the Build Back Better act have the government buy some parents’ groceries?
It does. The BBB would give the parents of children who receive free or reduced-cost school lunches $65 a month for each child to buy groceries during the summer of 2023 and 2024. (Note the artificially “temporary” nature of the program.) Apparently, the Biden administration won’t be happy until it has families eating out of its hand.
Could the Build Back Better force U.S. taxpayers to fund abortion?
Yes. For the first time in decades, the Build Back Better act would offer “health care” funds without the Hyde Amendment, a fiscally responsible pro-life protection that has shielded taxpayers from being forced to fund most abortions since 1976.
“This so-called Build Back Better Act is shattering status quo principles that Americans should not pay for the destruction of unborn human life,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List. The BBB “would coerce [pro-life] states to cover abortion against the will of their constituents.” This provision may hit a brick wall in the Senate, where Joe Manchin (D-WV) has told National Review that any version of this bill which does not contain Hyde Amendment protections is “dead on arrival.”
How would the Build Back Better affect the state and local tax (SALT) cap? Is this a giveaway to the wealthiest Americans?
The Build Back Better act contains a massive giveaway to the top 1% of income earners. Before 2017, the federal government essentially absorbed the cost of left-wing state and local governments’ charging high taxes. Prior to that time, the tax code let taxpayers write off every dollar of state and local taxes (SALT).
“The SALT deduction creates the largest subsidy for high-income taxpayers in high-tax states, paid for by the rest of Americans,” according to The Heritage Foundation. “The average millionaire living in New York or California deducted more than $450,000 worth of SALT.”
But the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, signed by President Donald Trump, capped the SALT deduction at $10,000, forcing wealthy people to feel the financial burden of living in free-spending blue cities and states. Naturally, Democrats in Congress want to reverse this. The BBB would raise the SALT cap from $10,000 to $80,000 through 2030.
The wealthiest Americans would see a major boost from this policy from the first year. “The top 1 percent of earners would experience a 0.8 percent increase in after-tax income in 2022 due to a more generous SALT deduction,” according to the Tax Foundation. As this author reported at The Daily Wire:
The left-of-center Brookings Institution calculated that 57% of the benefits from repealing the SALT cap “would benefit the top one percent (a cut of $33,100); and 25 percent would benefit the top 0.1 percent (for an average tax cut of nearly $145,000).” The middle class would save “a little less than $27” a year.
Repealing the SALT limit would also worsen racial income disparities, according to the left-leaning Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. “[J]ust 5.6 percent of [b]lack families would see a tax cut compared to 9.7 percent of white families. Similarly, only 6.5 percent of Hispanic families would see a tax cut from SALT cap repeal, meaning they are 33 percent less likely than white families to benefit,” ITEP reported.
If Republicans supported this policy, the Democrats would brand it a racist giveaway to the rich.
Does the Build Back Better act really have a government handout for journalists?
Stop the presses! Yes, it does! The Build Back Better act’s “Payroll Credit for compensation of local news journalists” would give local newspapers that do not employ more than 750 employees a tax credit of up to half of each journalist’s wages the first year and 30% every year after that until 2025. According to the bill the “amount of wages paid with respect to any” journalist “shall not exceed $12,500.”
Does the Build Back Better act offer a financial benefit to organized labor or underwrite union memberships?
The Build Back Better act would allow members of organized labor to deduct $250 a year in union dues from their taxes as an above the line deduction. As this author wrote at The Daily Wire, this is a payback to labor unions, who heavily support Democratic Party candidates:
Only 10.8% of the workforce is unionized — down from 33% in 1955 — and the vast majority of union workers are employed by government agencies. While this tax write-off goes to union members, the dues it offsets flow upward to well-paid union leaders. No fewer than 15 employees at the AFL-CIO alone earn enough to rank among the richest 10% of Americans (requiring a salary of more than $158,002 a year), according to the Center for Union Facts. The average labor union president earns $96,775 a year, according to ZipRecruiter.
It appears President Biden found another way to pay back organized labor’s support.
How does the Build Back Better act approach climate change and “green energy”?
The Build Back Better act contains more than half-a-trillion dollars (approximately $555 billion) in spending on climate change and renewable energy initiatives, despite the fact that renewable energy sources have shown themselves incapable of meeting consumers’ needs here and around the world.
While members of the Green Party in Germany’s parliament insisted the country’s policy to jettison fossil fuels for alternative energy, the Energiewende, would cost the equivalent of one scoop of ice cream a month, bills actually rose by €1 trillion ($1.13 trillion U.S.) — and the unreliable energy frequently left Germans in the dark. The BBB earmarks significant grants to bring green energy to rural areas. The BBB also ends all leases for energy exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).
The BBB also contains $2.25 billion to establish a Civilian Climate Corps, based on Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), it will employ people to perform climate works on public lands. The BBB demands that “members of the Civilian Climate Corps shall be compensated at not less than 200 percent of the annual [f]ederal poverty line,” or at least $25,760 a year, courtesy of U.S. taxpayers. “This is pure socialist wish-fulfillment,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
Does the Build Back Better act have a subsidy for buying electric vehicles or electric bicycles?
The Build Back Better act would force U.S. taxpayers to subsidize both electric vehicles and electric bicycles.
As the Cato Institute’s Scott Lincicome explained, the Build Back Better act proposed that:
[E]lectric vehicle consumers receive a $12,500 refundable tax credit if they purchase an EV made at an American factory employing unionized workers. The subsidy declines, however, to $8000 if the vehicle is made at a non‐union U.S. plant and it drops another $500 if the car’s battery isn’t American‐made. Starting in 2027, moreover, only cars assembled in the United States would qualify for the base $7,500 credit.
According to the version of the Build Back Better act posted at Congress.gov as of this writing, the electric vehicle subsidy is available to couples making up to “$800,000 in the case of a joint return.”
The electric bike subsidy can come up to $900 for electronic bicycles (30% of any e-bike, up to $5,000). Families making up to $154,000 a year could receive a partial credit.
Does the Build Back Better act have any policies influenced by Critical Race Theory, such as “diversity, equity, and inclusion”?
The new, racially charged use of the words “equity” or “equitable” occur more than 40 times in the Build Back Better act, and the word “underserved” occurs a robust 121 times.
In part, the Build Back Better act would further “equity” by destroying roads in minority neighborhoods. The BBB contains $3.95 billion for “neighborhood access and equity grants,” including money to replace roads that “create an obstacle to connectivity within a community” because of their “high speed.” The proposal would replace these roads with “lower speed” roads. It also allows managers to alter any transportation facility that is “a source of air pollution, noise, stormwater, or other burden to a disadvantaged or underserved community.” These provisions would increase minority members’ commute times and possibly reduce their access to reliable public transportation.
To further “environmental justice,” the bill increases credits to install solar power in “low-income residential building project” (e.g., that receives HUD funding) and “the financial benefits of the electricity produced by such facility are allocated equitably among the occupants of the dwelling units of such building.”
The BBB also includes such DEI-driven policies as:
These racially driven policies should concern Americans of all backgrounds since “there’s a big difference between equality and equity,” as Vice President Kamala Harris said in the waning days of the 2020 presidential campaign.
Does the Build Back Better act contain any other pork barrel spending?
The Build Back Better act is laden with wasteful government spending, virtually none of which is authorized by the U.S. Constitution. For instance, the bill contains “$450 million for job training in ‘climate change’ careers, more than $150 million for ‘species protection,’ and $25 million for President Biden to establish an ‘environmental justice initiative,’” according to Citizens Against Government Waste.
Fish also receive pork. The president’s signature bill contains a $400 million program for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to perform “climate resilience” to save the Pacific salmon population. It also includes $25 million each to save freshwater mussels and desert fish. If the Build Back Better act becomes law, Democratic constituencies would practically be swimming in taxpayers’ dollars.
How would the Build Back Better act affect taxes on the rich, and on the middle class?
The Build Back Better act needs to raise lots of revenue for a bill that costs “zero.” In its effort to grab the green, the BBB would impose taxes on everyone, at every level of income distribution.
At the high end, the BBB would impose a 15% minimum tax on corporations’ “book income”: the amount of money that shows up on the company’s financial statements. This amount is determined by Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), which are in turn determined by a private nonprofit group known as the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB). The BBB would also levy a 5% tax on people with an adjusted gross income of $10 million a year, or an 8% tax on people who earn more than $25 million annually.
At the low end of income distribution, the Build Back Better act doubles cigarette taxes and expands taxes on other forms of tobacco and nicotine. This breaks President Biden’s campaign promise not to raise taxes on people who make less than $400,000 a year. “The vast majority of smokers have lower incomes, and tobacco is one of the few goods that have an inverse relationship with income in that consumption increases as income decreases,” according to the Tax Foundation.
And it will mean more interactions with the IRS for everyone. The bill would award the Internal Revenue Service with $78.935 billion — roughly six times the IRS’s 2021 budget — “for strengthening tax enforcement activities” and increasing “voluntary compliance.” The president has proposed hiring 87,000 new IRS agents, which would roughly double Americans’ likelihood of being audited, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Conclusion: The Build Back Better act is a costly, deceptively worded act that would increase pressure on the middle class in order to give massive handouts to the wealthiest Americans and to welfare recipients, both core Democratic constituencies.
America can do better than Build Back Better.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.