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Declaration of a Peaceful Revolution

Biden’s New Spending Framework Promises To Do Everything but Still Cost Nothing. That Doesn’t Make Sense.

President Joe Biden’s attempt to reset the messy negotiations over his “Build Back Better” plan seems to have failed, at least for now.

Biden on Thursday outlined plans for a new spending framework that would cost about $1.85 trillion over 10 years—a slimmed-down version of the $3.5 trillion plan he’s been pushing for months. The package would include about $555 billion for combatting climate change, $400 billion for child care, and a host of other progressive policy prescriptions. The framework was intended to break a progressive-vs.-moderate logjam within the Democratic Caucus in Congress, but so far does not seem to have found anything close to universal support. On Thursday night, the House bailed on plans to pass Biden’s infrastructure bill, choosing instead to continue holding that proposal hostage as negotiations over the social spending bill continue.

The Wall Street Journal sums up the state of play:

Wrangling all party factions behind a particular set of ideas has proved challenging, especially as congressional leaders and the administration have jettisoned some of progressives’ favored proposals in the face of objections from moderates….

But progressives, who for months have blocked the infrastructure bill as leverage to keep the social-policy bill on track, made clear they weren’t yet ready to drop their opposition. Their demand forced Democrats to delay a vote on the public-works bill for the second time in two months, though progressives said they hoped to move the bills in the House next week

Beyond the usual legislative intrigue, Biden’s new framework is notable in a few other ways. For one, it seems to be littered with budget gimmicks. The framework contains a one-year extension of the expanded child tax credit at a cost of $110 billion. But it’s an open secret that the tax credit will be maintained permanently. That disingenuous accounting is a neat way to make the overall cost of the package look smaller, but it’s a bad way to govern.

On the revenue side of the ledger, the new framework also seems to overestimate things:

All in all, the “new” framework suffers from many of the same problems that have plagued Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan since the president first trotted it out in March. It’s a Schrödinger’s cat of a proposal—one that promises “transformative investments” in everything from child care to green energy, but one that costs nothing at the same time. It can’t be both, of course, no matter how many gimmicks you might deploy.

The very existence of this new, slimmed-down spending plan should raise some questions. For months, Biden and his allies have been framing the $3.5 trillion spending bill as essential to combatting climate change, countering China, creating jobs, reducing income inequality, and a host of other vaguely defined goals. Some Democrats said even $3.5 trillion wasn’t enough to achieve those things.

Now, after cutting the bill in half, Biden says his new framework will “create millions of jobs, grow the economy, invest in our nation and our people, turn the climate crisis into an opportunity, and put us on a path not only to compete but to win the economic competition for the 21st century against China and every other major country in the world.”

So what about the other $1.7 trillion that got cut? Was that really essential or could we have accomplished the same things all along with a smaller bill? Something doesn’t quite add up.


FREE MINDS

So Meta.

Facebook has rebranded its corporate operations under the name Meta, signaling a shift away from social media and toward what CEO Mark Zuckerberg sees as the future of online interactions: the metaverse.

But what is a metaverse? The name is a deliberate nod to Neal Stephenson’s 1992 cyberpunk novel Snow Crash (if you haven’t read it, you absolutely should start this weekend). Meta describes it as “a set of virtual spaces where you can create and explore with other people who aren’t in the same physical space as you.” In short, it’s a concept of the internet that comes closer to simulating the real world. You’ll still be able to talk to someone from across the planet, but it will seem like you’re doing it face to face, with the help of virtual reality tech. Think Fortnite, but for everything.

It’s a cool concept, but one that remains very much unproven—both in terms of how well it would work, but perhaps more importantly in how much people would actually want to make social media even more real-seeming.


FREE MARKETS

McDonald’s will raise menu prices to offset rising supply costs and more expensive labor, The Wall Street Journal reports:

The Big Mac maker is also paying more for paper, food and other supplies, executives said. McDonald’s expects its commodity costs for the year to rise by 3.5% to 4%, up from the 2% they grew earlier in 2021, executives said.

Those higher costs are making their way to consumers, as McDonald’s executives said they expect U.S. prices to be up about 6% this year compared with last year.


QUICK HITS

• Even though COVID-19 vaccines will soon be available for kids ages 5–11, most parents aren’t in a rush to get them jabbed:

• For the first time in public, a firsthand account of torture at a CIA-run “black site” prison: “The more I cooperated, the more I was tortured.”

• A used Honda Civic that was valued at $21,000 when it was brand new in 2016 just resold for $27,000 because the used car market is insane right now.

• Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was criminally charged for groping a female aide’s breast.

• California condors are having “virgin births” and scientists aren’t sure why.

• Happy Halloween!

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