Published June 11, 2021
A 10-member bipartisan group of senators announced an infrastructure deal on Thursday, but the agreement is likely dead on arrival because it includes minor tax increases on the middle class, which President Biden has said is a nonstarter. For both short- and long-term reasons, he should reconsider.
The proposal reportedly offers nearly $1 trillion dollars in spending over five years, and roughly $579 billion in new spending. The offer has the support of five Democratic centrists, including Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. Despite this, Biden has signaled he will reject the plan because it spends too little and proposes to index the gas tax to inflation, theoretically raising taxes for everyone rather than just the rich.
Biden’s stance is foolish. In the short term, he will gain more by reaching a genuine bipartisan deal than by reverting to ultrapartisan power plays that voters increasingly object to. No one seriously thinks that this offer is the final word; if Biden wants higher levels of spending, he can probably get that, even if it falls short of what he wants. He should also be able to coax Republicans into support some additional revenue increases, even if he can’t get them to back his specific tax increases on business and the rich. The tax code is so riddled with loopholes that it won’t be hard to find ways to gain revenue without raising tax rates. Presiding over a genuine compromise in which both sides give on something they don’t want would reinforce Biden’s image as a moderate, a crucial perception that helps him keep the support of suburban former Republicans upset with the GOP’s Trumpian lean.
Henry Olsen is a Washington Post columnist and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.