If you know one thing about the Democratic Party’s behemoth “Build Back Better” bill, it’s that it is popular. After all, everyone on the left says so, from the president on down. It’s “deeply popular,” “extremely popular” even! The thing is so “wildly popular” it’s befuddling that it is still being negotiated over in Congress, where its scope is alternately pared back or partially restored depending on which faction of the Democratic Party has control of the ball.
In fact, the limbo in which Build Back Better presently languishes isn’t a function of its popularity. Just the opposite. As one Morning Consult survey conducted in late November found, only 49 percent of voters actively support the bill, while a plurality of respondents believe the legislation will deepen the financial hardships associated with inflation—a condition that is rapidly supplanting the pandemic as the biggest issue among voters. Yet, you don’t have to be a voracious consumer of survey data to know that opponents of the president’s agenda are gaining the upper hand. You only have to listen to how the president talks about his own legislative goals.
The latest leading indicator of the Biden agenda’s toxicity is exemplified by a brazen act of presidential theft. On Thursday, the Biden team introduced a new talking point into the mix lifted almost verbatim from Build Back Better’s Republican opponents. “Republicans would rather the bills at your kitchen table be higher so the taxes in big mansions can be lower,” read a statement published on Biden’s Twitter account. This could only have been written by someone who takes a dim view of your intelligence.
The Build Back Better agenda seeks to reverse a measure passed in the GOP tax-code-reform law that caps the state and local tax deduction (SALT) at just $10,000. If House Democrats had their way, the cap would be raised to $80,000, the benefits of which accrue primarily to homeowners in mostly Democrat-led high-tax states. The more you owe in income and property taxes, the larger your benefit. In other words, the bill literally provides a tax break so the liability on “big mansions can be lower.” And Republicans haven’t been shy about saying as much.
Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley called the provision “a blue-state billionaire bailout.” Democrats are “skewing this toward the wealthiest Americans,” Ohio Sen. Rob Portman observed. “I’m almost impressed our colleagues have found a way to be this out of touch,” quipped minority leader Mitch McConnell.
As far as it’s possible to tell, Biden’s team seems to have assumed that they could just appropriate this Republican talking point while reversing the partisan roles, and you—simpleton that you are—would be none the wiser. In doing so, however, the Biden team has revealed how effective they think the GOP’s line of attack will be. This isn’t the first time they’ve shown their hand.
In a late October speech announcing the existence of a “framework” around the president’s agenda, Joe Biden introduced the bill by talking about how it would resolve the emerging economic maladies that heretofore had been dismissed as the fixations of blinkered conservatives. Biden insisted that by injecting trillions of more dollars into the economy to chase after too few consumer goods, Build Back Better would somehow “lower the inflationary pressure on the economy.” He added that “it would not add to the deficit at all.” Indeed, it “will actually reduce the deficit”—which, if you read the fine print, assumes a lot of revenue generation after the first five years in which roughly $750 billion of spending is frontloaded. The bill is even “fiscally responsible,” Biden claimed.
This is a staggering rhetorical pivot toward what we were told were the obsolete concerns of a pathetic conservative rump, which hadn’t yet accepted that the era of limited government was dead and gone.
When Democrats start integrating conservative language into their legislative pitch, the ground is shifting. Nor did Republicans in Congress do much to bring this about—disorganized, fractious, and relegated to the minority as they are. This is an organic phenomenon emerging from the bottom up. If Democrats continue to convince themselves that Build Back Better is all that stands between them and an electoral catastrophe next November, it’s reasonable to expect that it’s not going away anytime soon.