Build Back Better. It’s a great handle for bridges, viaducts and sewer lines.
But, oh, my — how inadequate a name for legislation that’s more complex and nuanced, focused on survival – personal, planetary.
No wonder Joe Manchin says he can’t sell it to the people of West Virginia. By and large, the news media can’t explain it, either. Or they can’t spare the time or space.
We’ve just come through a stretch in which news gatherers performed heroically in investigating the moral rot and self-dealing of the Trump administration.
Now we have a president who stands for something other than his claim to power. Joe Biden is putting his presidency on the line in the quest to help people who need it, not CEOs, not mega corporations, and too many in the news media seem to have lost touch with what news requires.
Bottom line: Because of inadequate coverage, too few people know what Biden is pushing beyond masks and COVID shots.
All they know is that the Democrats want to spend a lot of money on — who knows? On “social spending.” Trillions.
They know Biden has “failed” to pass his legislation by the end of the year, as if the positioning of the sun and stars should have any bearing on the fate of complex, history-making legislation.
They assume it is dead because the clock strikes ’22 and one pivotal Democrat continues to hold out. More about that in a moment.
The point here, though, is as Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over ’till it’s over.”
First, what’s in that “social spending”? The most important component is an extension of the child tax credit that was expanded dramatically in the stimulus bill approved early on.
Manchin has said he opposed it because he feared parents would use it on drugs. That's you, mom and pop, that he suspects, according to NBC News' reporting of his "private" conversations with Democrats.
The child tax credit means payments, based on income and eligibility, of up to $300 per month for each child under age 6 and $250 per month for each child from 6 to 18.
We are talking about 4.1 million children, many lifted out of poverty for the first time, and an economic infusion of $19.3 billion into local economies.
Next, the legislation would dramatically ramp up federal assistance to child care to make it more affordable and more available. If we want parents working, they need to have a place for their children.
This is one of the most pressing issues of the 21st century, and one that gets almost no attention from some news outlets.
The bill passed by the House would limit child care costs to 7 percent of income for lower- and middle-income families.
In the same vein, the legislation would pay for universal prekindergarten for 3- and 4-year-olds and invest in the infrastructure to make it happen.
The legislation would do dozens of things to improve health coverage through Medicaid and expansion of the Affordable Care Act. It would mean health coverage for millions more Americans, and such improvements as Medicare covering hearing screenings and the capping of high-dollar drugs like insulin.
People who see the complex process as a zero-sum game – “Joe Manchin blew it up” — don’t know that Manchin has said he supports the provisions for universal prekindergarten and the expansion of services under the Affordable Care Act. He also supports some if not all of the investments aimed at fighting climate change.
Without question, there is wiggle room there, and Biden is going to probe and push to find out what in this historic bill can make it to his desk.
As much as Democrats cuss Manchin, and I am one of them, let’s remember who the real agents of obstruction are.
Remember how Trump & Sons Demolition Inc. sought to destroy the Affordable Care Act without any alternative in mind. Remember the tax cuts that barely benefitted the average American but paid off royally for the highest incomes and giant corporations. Know that the ACA has come back with a roar under Biden's guidance.
Manchin deserves credit for voting against both GOP efforts – unnecessary tax cuts and dynamiting the ACA — frustrating a furious Trump, who saw the conservative Democrat from West Virginia as a potential foil.
Yes, the fury of people who see the humanitarian needs addressed by the Democrats’ initiative should be directly focused on the Republican Party. Biden’s objective, toward a more just and humane society, should be to elect more of those who believe in said goals and fewer in Congress whose consuming goal is to comfort the most comfortable.
Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org