By Erica Jedynak and Ashley Klingensmith
Federal lawmakers may have big dreams this fall to pass more multi-trillion-dollar spending packages, but they are missing the one thing they may need most: credibility.
Members of Congress have put forward a massive spending plan with a sticker price they claim is somewhere around $1.75 trillion — though it is likely higher, given Congress’ penchant for legislative gimmicks. This is all marketed to “build back better.” Democrats intend to pass this package through what Congress calls the reconciliation process, on a party-line vote.
Many lawmakers aren’t entirely convinced by the president’s promise that the plan will create “more jobs,” cut taxes, “lower costs,” “reduce inflation,” or — the most implausible promise — cost “zero dollars.”
Neither, for that matter, are most Americans. According to a recent YouGov poll commissioned by Americans for Prosperity (conducted when the sticker price of the bill sat at around $3.5 trillion), Americans have little trust in the promises lawmakers are making about their spending spree. The cost may have changed, but the fundamentals of the bill, wastefulness and corporate welfare, remain.
Congress, it seems, is not viewed as trustworthy.
By a 57-13 percent margin, Americans have concerns that this proposal would trigger higher inflation, increasing their cost of living. They urge Congress to hold off on any new spending.
That isn’t surprising.
In August, voters reported inflation and higher prices as their top economic concerns. The price of gasoline has risen more than 42 percent since last year. Meat, poultry, fish, and egg prices rose 8 percent. Home electricity prices jumped 5.2 percent and homes fueled by gas saw a price hike of 21 percent as homeowners and renters in Pennsylvania and New Jersey prepare to turn on the thermostat with fall arriving.
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Americans are already suffering from higher costs of living, which has been devastating, in particular, for the working poor. They rightly wonder: won’t a spending spree hike prices even more?
They also question lawmakers’ assurances that the spending plan would actually improve the economy. By a 46-35 margin, Americans believe that the proposal would make the economy weaker, and 45 percent say that it wouldn’t benefit their families at all.
Many have good reason to worry. The Biden spending plan has at times called for higher corporate taxes — which would likely, as research shows, be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices. Employees would also pay, in the form of lower wages, for what is being sold as a tax increase on only the wealthiest Americans.
But the proposal would raise taxes for nearly everyone. According to the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, middle class Americans would have been hit with a tax hike under the Democrats’ previous spending plan. Even Americans making $30,000 per year would pay more federal taxes within six years.
Perhaps that is why, by a margin of 55-25 percent, our polling shows that Americans feel that the middle class would see their taxes go up. They don’t trust lawmakers — they trust what they’re seeing with their eyes, at the gas pump and at the grocery store.
They don’t trust lawmakers — they trust what they’re seeing with their eyes, at the gas pump and at the grocery store.
And if most Americans don’t believe they’ll benefit from this spending spree, where do they think this money would go?
A plurality, 36 percent, feel that special interests would reap a windfall from this spending spree, while only 13 percent of Americans feel that special interests wouldn’t benefit at all.
The contents of the president’s spending plan confirm those suspicions. Among other things, it offers hundreds of billions of dollars to union leadership in Medicaid-funded home health and community-based services. It provides more than $500 billion in energy handouts for politically preferred firms, and authorizes new electric vehicle rebates for households making up to $500,000 a year. Who does this benefit? Just think: who is driving the Tesla on your block?
The plan would also provide taxpayer subsidies to insurance companies on behalf of some of America’s highest earners. Providing more taxpayer money to insurance companies and high earners is bad public policy, and one we cannot afford.
If Americans suspect some unsavory palm greasing would accompany the president’s plan, it is only because Congress has a long, sordid history of engaging in such shenanigans. The details of the still-emerging package will not rebut these expectations.
Perhaps lawmakers hope that voters aren’t paying much attention and that they’ll be wooed by sermons on how America is only one more massive spending spree from a new golden age. If so, they’re mistaken.
Americans are tuning in, and the more they learn about this proposal, the more they dislike it. Fifty-four percent of people who have heard of the package want it scrapped, while only 34 of those who haven’t heard of it feel the same way.
In other words, Americans have kicked the tires of this plan — and they think it’s a bad deal. Its salesmen should be worried.
Erica Jedynak is a senior adviser for Americans for Prosperity who resides in Rockaway, NJ. Ashley Klingensmith is state director of Americans for Prosperity-Pennsylvania who resides in Pittsburgh, PA.