Biden Administration

Biden Aims To Fund Future Spending Sprees With New Tax Hikes

Plus: Two dozen Texas bills seek to restrict voting, media companies seek special exemption from antitrust rules, and more...

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Democrats say the hikes will address inequity in the tax code. As congressional Democrats are pushing to make permanent several elements of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 spending bill, the Biden administration is gearing up for the biggest round of federal tax hikes since 1993. The administration is realizing that the U.S. may eventually have to pay for some of the massive spending sprees that President Joe Biden and Democrats have still in the works.

"Unlike the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 stimulus act, the next initiative, which is expected to be even bigger, won't rely just on government debt as a funding source," report Nancy Cook and Laura Davison of Bloomberg.

While it's been increasingly clear that tax hikes will be a component — Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said at least part of the next bill will have to be paid for, and pointed to higher rates — key advisers are now making preparations for a package of measures that could include an increase in both the corporate tax rate and the individual rate for high earners….

For the Biden administration, the planned changes are an opportunity not just to fund key initiatives like infrastructure, climate and expanded help for poorer Americans, but also to address what Democrats argue are inequities in the tax system itself. The plan will test both Biden's capacity to woo Republicans and Democrats' ability to remain unified.

"His whole outlook has always been that Americans believe tax policy needs to be fair, and he has viewed all of his policy options through that lens," said Sarah Bianchi, head of U.S. public policy at Evercore ISI and a former economic aide to Biden. "That is why the focus is on addressing the unequal treatment between work and wealth."

Administration officials told Bloomberg that Biden won't seek a direct wealth tax of the sort proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.). Rather, the new tax hikes will be based on Biden campaign proposals, and could include:

  • Repealing the Trump administration's 2017 tax breaks
  • Raising the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent
  • Raising the tax rate (to what is not clear) on folks earning more than $400,000
  • Expanding estate taxes
  • Raising the capital gains tax rate for high earners
  • Incentives and/or penalties aimed at U.S. companies who move jobs overseas

No plans have yet been finalized, officials said.

"An outstanding question for Democrats is which parts of the package need to be funded" by higher taxes, write Cook and Davison. "Efforts to make the expanded child tax credit in the pandemic-aid bill permanent — something with a price tag estimated at more than $1 trillion over a decade — could be harder to sell if pitched as entirely debt-financed."


FREE MINDS

Texas Republicans have recently introduced more than two dozen bills aimed at making it harder for people to vote. The "lawmakers seek to tighten ID requirements and voter rolls, limit early voting and up the penalties for errors," notes NBC News. The bills are riding a wave of delusional but extremely common conservative beliefs about election fraud:

Former President Donald Trump's stolen election lie has convinced 3 of every 4 Republicans that there was widespread voter fraud in last year's election, according to a December Quinnipiac University poll, even though there is broad evidence that it is extremely rare.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's office spent 22,000 hours looking for voter fraud and uncovered just 16 cases of false addresses on registration forms, according to The Houston Chronicle. Nearly 17 million voters are registered in Texas.

And while Texas already had some of the most restrictive laws on the books, that isn't stopping state lawmakers from joining their GOP peers across the country to propose new restrictive bills. Republican legislators in Georgia, Arizona, Florida and Wisconsin — many of whom joined with Trump to cast doubt on the system — are legislating to restrict the vote, arguing that new measures are needed to restore trust in the system.


FREE MARKETS

Media companies are seeking special exemption from U.S. antitrust laws. "If passed, the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act would allow news publishers to work together to establish distribution and payment deals with digital platforms that have at least one billion global monthly users," Digiday explains. "The legislation would give news publishers safe harbor from antitrust liability that normally would preclude them from collective bargaining. That safe harbor would last four years following enactment of the law if passed."

Media and members of Congress are framing it as a bill rooted in fairness and the First Amendment, but it sure seems like the news business seeking special privileges from the government in an attempt to tilt the playing field against everyone's current fave scapegoat, Big Tech.


QUICK HITS

• "Attorneys who visited a Border Patrol tent facility in Texas for unaccompanied immigrant minors who recently crossed the border said some of the children were held for as many as eight days in crowded areas without showers or the ability to call their families," reports Buzzfeed.

• The official tally of U.S. troops still in Afghanistan is about 1,000 people short, European Union and Afghan officials say.

• Tenant screening programs—which flag people "for being on a federal list that prevents American companies from doing business with them"—are full of false positives, reports NBC News. The Supreme Court will consider one of these cases later this month, as lawsuits proliferate against tenant screening companies.

Reason's Eric Boehm spotlights the trouble with certificate-of-need laws.

• Americans could be barred from a lot of international travel if U.S. officials continue to lag on instituting vaccine passports.

• India is considering a ban on cryptocurrencies.

• Against cannabis legalization rules that require it to be cultivated inside.

Reason history lesson!