Pursuant to federal duties prescribed in the Constitution, nothing embodies commerce more than transportation, communication and energy access. Yet, America’s electrical grid is near-obsolete, broadband distribution is poor and 1/4 U.S. highway miles and 1/3 of our bridges dangerously need replacement or repair. Linked to proposed infrastructure fixes is a transformative, 2,465-page reconciliation bill, comprising the Build Back Better Act ─ “BBB,” desperately needed to combat climate change and save our middleclass by expanding citizen safety nets. Just as record heat waves, floods, mudslides, high winds and wildfires turn tax-paid edifices into rubble, poverty is corrosive to society. Already weakened by compromise, BBB will raise our quality of life to Euro-standards while slowing the rise in global warming daily battering America and ravaging the biosphere. Its projected 10-year cost ($3.5 trillion or $350 billion per year) is a fraction (~ 40%) of reported baseline military spending, absent the overkill and waste. Tax plans to fund it include a modest corporate tax rate increase from 21% to 26%, and a below-Eisenhower-era bump from 37% to 39.6% for citizens making $400,000 or more. Billionaires will also see a 5% boost in capital gains taxes. These equilibrations essentially erase the last administration’s $1.7 trillion tax cuts for the rich, which enabled billionaire manipulation of the stock market, corporate extortion and unconscionable profits during the pandemic. Coupled with international reforms, closures of loopholes and beefed-up IRS enforcement against oligarchic/plutocratic tax-avoiders, these funding mechanisms will pay for Build Back Better entirely.
If not gutted by goose-stepping GOPs and the reluctant Manchin-Sinema wing of the Democratic Party, BBB’s clean renewable energy initiatives will significantly reduce America’s carbon footprint by transitioning us from fossil fuels, major source of greenhouse gas emissions and respiratory diseases. Incentives for electric vehicle purchases, charging station construction, and homeowner rebates ─ for retrofitting houses against energy loss ─ are part-and-parcel of the package. Also central are penalties for methane leaks from oil and gas production, ramped up forest protection and wildfire control measures. Utilities will additionally be rewarded or penalized according to an annual 4% renewable energy benchmark. Originally slated for approval were two free years of community college (for enriching people’s lives while alleviating student debt), child care assistance and universal pre-K. Medicare will be authorized to negotiate drug prices, and expanded coverage will include hearing, dental, and vision services and long-term care. Given that U.S. citizens pay more for healthcare and pharmaceuticals than anyone else, these provisions of the bill, as most others, have overwhelming support. Like other industrialized nations, if legislation stays intact, the U.S. will finally get comprehensive paid family and medical leave as well.
In survey after survey, large majorities support BBB staying intact and taxes on the rich and big corporations funding it. Why, then, are Senators Joe Manchin (WVa) and Kyrsten Sinema (AR) obstructionists to this progress when a single miscast vote can derail it? In a word: corruption. Congressional decision-making is a money-driven, reelection-motivated phenomenon in which lobbyists outnumber legislators by 4 to 1. Sinema, who’s opposed to lowering drug prices through Medicare, allegedly accepts large Big Pharma campaign donations during elections. Manchin owns a coal investment consulting firm, run by his son. Other GOP conservatives and so-called Democrat “moderates” are comparably beholding to the billionaire class.
We’ve no time for new “Boss” Tweeds, Huey Longs or Vidkun Quislings; no time for baseless election-fraud and COVID conspiracies; no tolerance for public officials and businesspeople, exposed by “Pandora Papers,” hiding fortunes overseas to duck taxes. Not when the Colorado River Basin is driest in 1,200 years, not during manmade mass extinctions; not when overfishing has turned the oceans back to slime. Corrupt, sheepish adherence to the status quo begets an aftermath of wolves .
Scott Deshefy is a biologist, ecologist and two-time Green Party congressional candidate.