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Who's Going To Pay? Conservatives Don't Care-- As Long As It Isn't Their Rich Donors



This isn't new for regular DWT readers: there really is just one "insurmountable" block to passing an infrastructure bill. It isn't the scope in terms of how much it will cost or how "infrastructure" is defined. It's the how to pay for it aspect. Earlier today, the progressive candidate running for the U.S. Senate in North Carolina, Erica Smith noted that "How do we pay for it?" is the most common question she's asked on the campaign trail when she's laying out her bold vision of transformation for her state and our country. "We pay for it," she said, "by making billionaires pay their fair share. We pay for it by not allowing the wealthiest Americans to pay less than working folks. These people have benefited from a rigged economy and in turn had the resources they need to keep it rigged by buying politicians' votes. The challenge is not in convincing the average American that we can be better than a country that has food lines as far the eye can see at the same time that billionaires aren’t paying taxes and are doubling their wealth, it’s in finding enough elected officials with the courage to do something about it. This shows what we already know to be true; our laws are written by billionaires to benefit billionaires and too many legislators are just a vessel in that transaction."


Early this morning, the Punchbowl News crew wrote that Biden broke off talks with McConnell staller Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) after several wasted weeks of "polite but futile back-and-forth. The two sides were hundreds of billions of dollars apart on overall spending, and equally far apart on how to pay for it all. Biden and Democratic congressional leaders want to raise corporate taxes, while also hiking taxes for those Americans making over $400,000 annually. Republicans instead proposed user fees and 'repurposing' unspent Covid relief funds. So no deal was possible."


So now Wisen has turned a group of 20 "centrists," 10 from each party, although how the GOP is going to describe 10 of its members as "centrists" with a straight face is beyond me. The two "chairs" the this dysfunctional group will be whackadoodle Arizona conservative Kyrsten Sinema-- one of the most unaccomplished members of Congress-- and retiring coward Rob Portman. No one will follow the lead of either of these two. The 20 of them met last night in the basement of the Capitol and got nowhere.


Punchbowl reported that "The White House seems driven, at least in part, by fulfilling Biden’s campaign-season claim that he’s a longtime bipartisan dealmaker. However, we haven’t seen much-- erm, any-- of that deal-making prowess since he became president. Biden has played hard toward his progressive base, which really helped vault him into the Oval Office. Yet not quite five months in, Biden’s entire presidency needs to become more focused on keeping Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) happy. Why? Because they’re the votes that Democrats need. Sorry if this upsets your sensibilities. We didn’t create the game; we’re just explaining it. So Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer need to show Manchin and Sinema that they’re doing everything they can to help their efforts succeed. And what would make Manchin and Sinema happier than a bipartisan group of lawmakers sitting in a room tossing ideas around to try to get a deal? Remember, both Manchin and Sinema-- but especially Manchin-- have this thing about bipartisanship. So either this G20 group talks for a while and gets a deal, or they don’t. Either way, it benefits Biden and Schumer."


The is a terrible idea because "1) Time isn’t on Biden’s side. It’s June 9 and Democrats don’t even have a shell of an infrastructure bill worked out yet. 2) These kinds of talks can go on forever. Take it from three people who’ve covered negotiations that last way too long. When do they cut this off? Who cuts it off? Why do they cut it off? We’ve talked to a bunch of people involved in the discussions and it’s easier to say what’s off the table rather than what’s on. But the group seems to be interested in an eight-year infrastructure bill that spends somewhere around $1 trillion. Tax hikes seem to be completely off the table. They’re working with some of the same pay fors as Capito was-- user fees and redirected Covid relief funds chief among them. There’s been discussion about a 'vehicle miles traveled' fee for electric vehicles, and other creative ways to get infrastructure funding to states without increasing the federal deficit. A carbon tax is not part of these discussions, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) said Tuesday."


Meanwhile, Bernie, chair of the Senate Budget Committee-- who has wanted to pull the plug on these "bipartisan" talks for a while now and have Democrats move ahead on their own-- "says he’ll do a multi-trillion dollar reconciliation bill in July, which is in line with Schumer’s statements. He confirmed that the reconciliation bill will include Biden’s American Jobs Plan and American Family Plan, which have a combined $4 trillion price tag."


This afternoon, The Hill reported that "A bipartisan Senate group is taking tax increases off the table as lawmakers try to craft an infrastructure proposal after GOP talks with the White House collapsed Tuesday." Jon Tester (D-MT) is part of the group and he said that tax hikes are a no-go. "Bottom line, this is probably the hardest part from my perspective, is how you get it paid for." Hey, Jon-- would you like me to introduce you to Stephanie Kelton?


Romney also told reporters that the GOP will not vote for anything with tax increases on the rich, although he said they had "made a lot of good progress."


Robert Reich wrote today, in an essay, The Wealth Supremacists, that "Wealth and power are inextricably connected. The super-rich have bought armies of lobbyists to keep their taxes miniscule and to create and maintain tax loopholes large enough to drive their Lamborghini’s through... The armies of the wealthy also prevent any major changes in the system that might threaten their wealth, such as a wealth tax, stronger unions, or tougher antitrust. American democracy is being attacked from two directions right now-- from the white supremacist followers of Donald Trump who are suppressing votes, and from the wealth supremacists who are bribing lawmakers with campaign contributions."