Mon. Jan 24th, 2022


(noun) a dream policy package that will inject historical investment into every sector of US infrastructure

Joe Biden first used the phrase during the 2020 presidential election campaign against Donald Trump – an expression of his comprehensive vision to rebuild and reform the US economy with large-scale government spending during and after the pandemic.

Once in the White House, it became a legislative plan to plow federal investments in areas ranging from child care and education to green energy, and pay for it with tax increases on the richest Americans and big businesses. But almost a year later, the package has yet to be approved by Congress. Republicans are unanimously opposed, claiming that it will further fuel inflation and unreasonably increase the US debt burden.

Democrats are almost all on board: Build Back Better reflects the pent-up policies they have cherished for more than a decade, including federal action to combat climate change, strengthen female participation in the labor market, and address entrenched income and racial inequalities set. However, there were a pivot point: Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democratic senator, whose support is essential for any measure to pass the equally divided upper chamber.

Manchin has already forced the Democrats to reduce the cost of the spending measures they envisioned from $ 3.5tn to $ 1.75tn – and he’s not done. Last month, Manchin took further action against the bill – which increased tensions with the White House and outrage among Capitol Hill Democrats. Biden’s highest legislative priority is now being postponed until 2022: if it survives at all, its scope will be much narrower than the original FDR-like idea.

The president and Manchin may still make a compromise, but for now, Build Back Better increasingly looks like a symbol of a turbulent year for Biden – and to some extent his shattered economic dreams.

james.politi@ft.com



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