The American Rescue Plan is the most ambitious economic legislative package since the 1930s. It is also a rejection of Reaganism and Clintonism.
President Ronald Reagan said during an August 1986 press conference that “the nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.’¨ Thirty-five years later President Joe Biden in the Oval Office signed his first major piece of legislation, the American Rescue Plan — the most transformative economic legislation since the implementation of New Deal legislation under President Franklin Roosevelt.
The passage of the American Rescue Plan harkens back to a notion of government adopted by the last progressive president, Lyndon B. Johnson. The Johnsonian concept of government was one of an unapologetic government using its force for the greater good. That approach of the government has been out of commission since the 1970s — among both political parties. Ronald Reagan declared during his inaugural address in 1981, that the ¨government is the problem.¨ The last three Democratic presidents of the past century have all enumerated the feeling of being trapped by fear of backlash to enact transformative progressive legislation once championed by Roosevelt and Johnson. The American Rescue Plan breaks that cycle of trepidation that has long bedeviled past Democratic presidents.
The American Rescue Plan is concentrated on working and middle-class Americans, a plan supported by over 70% of Americans, making it the most popular piece of legislation since 2006 and reminds us of what the government was able to accomplish during the New Deal. President Roosevelt, much like Biden, acceded to the Presidency during a time of portentous economic and political calamity. Roosevelt faced the worst economic outlook seen in American history, and Europe and America were turning away from democratic liberalism in favor of a more isolated global community. Roosevelt’s solution to solve the myriad problems facing the nation was to fundamentally alter the relationship between the federal government and the American people by enacting policies that would broaden the government mandate to provide for citizens in times of national strife.
Generations after the Great Depression and the New Deal policies that put our country on the pathway to prosperity—we find ourselves in the same predicament 85 years later. COVID-19 has caused an unprecedented amount of economic angst in our country. Food lines stretching as far as the naked eye can behold, unemployment skyrocketed, jobs lost, homes foreclosed — Americans struggling to make ends meet. The social and economic problems that accompanied COVID-19 required an adequate New Deal-esque response from our federal government. And for nearly a year, our government sat on the sidelines while Americans were losing their jobs and their livelihoods.
The American Rescue Plan, the $1.9. trillion COVID-19 economic relief package approved by a thin-Democratic majority in both houses of Congress and signed by President Biden finally gave the governmental help many Americans needed.
The American Rescue Plan represents the leftward shift of the Democratic Party that has been endeavoring for the past 30 years. Departed is the Clinton-era rhetoric of ¨the era of big government is over¨ and the policies of limited government that were predominant in the Democratic Party during the Clinton presidency. The Democratic Party has been moving in a more progressive direction on issues of economic and social policy preceding COVID-19, but COVID-19 had a significant impact on the leftward shift of the Democratic Party. Thus, the calls from President Biden and Democratic leaders to ¨go big¨ on the next COVID-19 relief package.
The American Rescue Plan includes direct $1400 payments, extends federal unemployment benefits until September, covers COBRA subsides until September, lowers Affordable Care Act healthcare costs until 2022, $20 billion invested in a national vaccination effort, $35 billion allocated to higher education institutions, $20 billion allocated for public transportation, $28.6 billion allocated for the restaurant industry and $50 billion for rapid COVID-19 testing. The American Rescue Plan features a historic refundable child tax credit for parents of children ages 6 and under who will start receiving $300 monthly payments via direct deposit. Parents with children ages 7 to 17 will receive $250 beginning this summer. The American Rescue Plan entails the biggest investment in childcare and combating poverty since the 1960s with the expansion of the child tax credit to $3,000 per child. As a result, the American Rescue Plan will cut overall poverty by a third and child poverty by over half and because of the Child Tax Credit provision within the American Rescue Plan, the safety net for low-income families will be enlarged which is a good thing.
The measures within The American Rescue Plan are non-permanent. Efforts to attempt to codify provisions such as the Child Tax Credit into law will undoubtedly face a filibuster in the Senate, which is why we must abolish the filibuster, an anachronistic vestige of the Senate rooted in a tainted history of hindering racial progress.
Ultimately, the American Rescue Plan is a rejection of 40 years of anti-government rhetoric coming from the Republican Party and 30 years of moderation stemming from the Clinton presidency. The American Rescue Plan is proof positive of the Democratic Party´s promise to use the federal government as an engine to reduce the suffering of Americans and in turn, promote equitable growth.