The American Families Plan proposal was a key part of President Joe Biden’s first speech before a joint session of Congress Wednesday night. And the reaction to his $1.8 trillion proposal was mixed.
“America is on the move again,” the president said as he launched into a description of the families plan and the separate $2 trillion-plus infrastructure proposal he recently released. The wide-ranging address moved through diverse topics, including social justice, access to health care, raising children out of poverty, domestic violence, limitations on gun ownership, immigration reform, infrastructure and conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, among other topics.
But Biden’s primary emphasis was on his American Families Plan, which calls for four more years of school in the form of universal pre-K for children ages 3 and 4 and two years free community college. It would also expand child care access and bolster those providing the care. And it would also expand paid family and medical leave.
The plan would extend the temporary increase in the child tax credit through 2025 and be made fully refundable, as well, so those who don’t earn enough to claim it from their taxes would receive the benefit. The plan would also make the earned income tax credit expansion for workers who don’t have children permanent.
Biden touted the importance of access to education, noting that education propelled the country into the 21st century, but the rest of the world is catching up or has caught up. He said 12 years of school is no longer enough to compete globally.
Of child care, he promised that low- and middle-income families would pay no more than 7% of their income for care for young children.
He also called on Congress to embrace the Affordable Care Act and lower both deductibles for working families and the cost of prescription drugs, which he called “outrageously expensive in America.”
Biden said the expanded child tax credit passed in March would help 65 million children and cut child poverty in half.
The cost of the families plan would be borne, he said, by increasing the top tax rate on wealthy Americans to 39.6%, as well as ending capital income tax breaks and “other loopholes” for the very rich.
In a response that he billed as an “honest conversation about common sense and common ground,” Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, accused Democrats of “wanting to go it alone,” and said the administration’s proposals push Congress apart.
“Tonight we also heard about a so-called family plan,” Scott said. “Even more taxing, more spending to put Washington even more in the middle of your life from the cradle to college. The beauty of the American dream is that families get to define it for themselves. We should be expanding opportunities and options for all families, not throwing money at certain issues because Democrats think they know best.”
The Americans Principle Project released a statement from its president, Terry Schilling, critical of the plan. While noting the American family is in crisis, it said Biden’s solution represents a “big governmental takeover of the family.”
Said Schilling, “America’s families need real relief and support to help parents better provide for their children, not an expansion of government to further erode the role of parents and put bureaucrats in control. Any political leader who is truly pro-family should strongly oppose this plan.”
Latter-day Saints for Biden-Harris, on the other hand, expressed delight, calling the families plan “key step to helping families become self-sufficient while providing a foundation for our children’s success.” Among other things, the group said “the expansion of free meals to more K-12 schools, will mean that our children and our neighbors’ children will grow up healthier and more able to learn and thrive.”
While not addressing specifics of the plan, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, criticized the president for proposing more than $6 trillion in spending, and noted that the “massive” $1.8 trillion spending in the American Families Plan will be financed primarily by tax increases.
In an online discussion of the president’s first 100 days, American Enterprise Institute resident scholar and director of poverty studies Scott Winship criticized the president for focusing on cash transfers, “when really what we probably ought to have been focused on at some point is getting kids back in school dealing with these learning gaps that have been opened up over the last year.”
And he said the administration seems to care less about how money is spent compared to spending as much as possible.
The family advocacy group ParentsTogether Action released a statement from its co-director, Justin Ruben, praising the proposal, calling it a “bold proposal to support American families and help eradicate child poverty in the United States. The expanded fully-refundable child tax credit, delivered monthly, and to the parents who need it most — along with the support in the president’s plan for child care, paid leave and affordable college — are critical steps in strengthening the social safety net and helping American families thrive.”
Ruben said making the child tax credit expansion permanent “isn’t just good policy, it’s good politics — overwhelming majorities support it.”
Among tweets on the presidential address:
How do we pay for Biden's $1.8T American Families Plan?— Robert Reich (@RBReich) April 28, 2021
Simple: we tax the rich.
Repeal Trump tax cuts: $500B
Raise top marginal tax rate by 1%: $123B
Wealth tax: $2.75T
Wall St transaction tax: $777B
Eliminate loopholes: $119B
Fund the IRS: $1.75T
Total: $6T over 10 years