President Joe Biden took full advantage of his State of the Union address to celebrate his administration’s victories for hard-working U.S. families and set the tone for progress and possibility for the next two years.
While the country is still suffering from high but easing inflation and the effects of a brutal pandemic, Biden has still presided over historic investments in children and families, climate, health care, and infrastructure.
He’s created 12 million new jobs, including nearly one million in manufacturing, in just two years — and achieved the lowest unemployment rate in over 50 years. Those numbers will only increase as more spending from Biden’s bills to manufacture computer chips, fund infrastructure projects, and invest in green energy kicks in.
Given the disconnect between his significant accomplishments and weak public approval numbers, Biden wisely used his platform to boast about these achievements — and to offer a clear vision for the future.
Two of his aspirational goals would be particularly effective in moving us toward economic equality: restoring the enhanced Child Tax Credit and instituting a billionaire income tax.
Biden’s expanded Child Tax Credit quickly cut child poverty in half. But in late 2021, conservatives refused to continue this highly effective anti-poverty measure — and child poverty immediately spiked. To renew the expansion would once again drastically reduce child poverty, a primary goal of any decent society.
It’s not like it would be hard to pay for.
Currently, billionaires pay an average of just 8 percent in federal income taxes, compared to nearly 14 percent for the rest of us. Biden’s proposed “Billionaire Minimum Income Tax” would right that wrong and also raise $360 billion over 10 years.
That’s enough to fund many years of the enhanced Child Tax Credit and is really, really popular with voters, including a majority of Republicans. Similarly, Biden’s call to increase taxes on manipulative corporate stock buybacks would also reduce inequality.
Biden also called for Congress to pass immigration reform, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to address police violence, the PRO Act to protect workers’ rights to unionize, and the Equality Act to stop discrimination against LGBTQ people. And he asked Congress to codify Americans’ right to seek safe abortion care after the Supreme Court stole it away.
Along the way, Biden pointedly rejected conservative demands for painful cuts to social programs — including Social Security, Medicare, and much more — for fulfilling their obligation to pay America’s debts, which skyrocketed during the last administration. We must hold Biden to that promise.
What’s more, in a divided Congress, Biden can’t simply throw up his hands and let lawmakers block progress. He must be prepared to use executive action wherever appropriate.
Already, Biden’s executive actions canceled student loans up to $20,000 (although GOP lawsuits have stalled that in the courts), clarified protections for transgender Americans, lowered prescription drug costs, and secured greater access to reproductive health services, to name a few.
Biden should also call public health emergencies regarding reproductive health, the epidemics of gun violence and police brutality, and a climate emergency. That will open up more power for the executive branch to protect the American people when Congress won’t.
In a divided Congress, Biden will need more than fiery populist talk or calls for elusive unity. He will need to ensure equality and justice for all through his power as president.