Media coverage of the battle over two infrastructure bills – one physical, one social – has become so chaotic that the truth is lost amid a cacophony of arguments about price tags and party factions.
What is happening in Washington is not a DC insider argument between West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Or between Arizona Senator Krysten Sinema and the Chairwoman of the Progressive Caucus of Congress, Pramila Jayapal, a member of Parliament from Washington.
It’s not about whether $ 3.5 trillion in new federal spending is too much or too little.
This is a battle between Big Pharma and the tens of millions of Americans burdened by excessive drug bills. This is a battle between a billionaire class who refuse to pay their fair share and the hundreds of millions of Americans whose lives would improve dramatically if the federal government put human needs above corporate greed.
This is a fight between the profiteers and the people.
And the profiteers gain the upper hand. President Biden signaled Tuesday that it was him ready to cut the $ 3.5 trillion package significantly to get the support of Manchin, Sinema and other so-called dissenting democrats.
Bad move. The $ 3.5 trillion figure is already a downward compromise from what Democrats should deliver to address historical injustices and the urgent needs of a country still grappling with a pandemic.
Instead of downsizing the democratic agenda, the president should sell it.
If Biden calls this struggle for what it really is – a struggle with the powerful interests that maintain a corrupt status quo and with members of Congress who serve those interests – he still has a chance to build the support that is required to enforce all or most of what has been proposed. The final figure could be less than $ 3.5 trillion, but it doesn’t have to be anywhere near as low as the $ 1.5 trillion or less that Manchin has proposed.
For this to happen, however, Biden must take full advantage of the bullying pulpit, which remains the most powerful political tool US presidents provide.
Biden needs to speak directly to people about what has been proposed, why it matters, and why the billionaire class is resisting it. Rather than accepting cuts that he does not want and that weaken Democrats’ ability to deliver on 2020 campaign promises, he should ask what cuts would be made by those who say the social infrastructure law is too expensive. Extending Medicare to Meet the Vision, Dental, and Hearing Needs of the Elderly? Funding for the care that seniors and people with disabilities keep in their homes? Paid leave for family and sick leave? A permanent discount for children to fight poverty? Free community college for working class students? A climate corps to create jobs and hope that the planet will be saved?