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Biden’s Proposed Budget Nothing but Empty Promises 

Earlier this month, Joe Biden announced his budget proposal, with a lot of promises. But the only thing we know he’ll deliver is that “nothing will fundamentally change.”

Molly Rosenzweig

March 31, 2023
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Photo: Evan Vucci/AP

On March 9, Joe Biden announced his budget plan for fiscal year 2024. Not much of it is likely to pass, since there’s a slim majority by Republicans in the House, and much of it is in preparation for the 2024 election. He proposed many social programs and tax increases on the wealthy, many things which he didn’t even fight for when Democrats controlled both the House and Senate. Biden likely made these proposals because he knows they won’t pass, but he can still say he’s at least trying. He touts the paltry things he was able to pass and continues to promote his rose-colored outlook and some elements of economic populism, similar to what he pushed at the State of the Union, though with continuing low approval ratings, we can be sure that the many workers and oppressed realize that the rosy picture is far from reality.

As for “making the rich pay their fair share,” his proposals include a “billionaire” minimum tax, which would impose a tax of at least 25 percent on those with more than $100 million in wealth, as well as an increased corporate tax rate, from 21 to 28 percent — which doesn’t even go back to the 35 percent rate that was in place before 2017. He also proposes raising taxes on foreign earnings for U.S. multinationals, eliminating tax subsidies for oil and gas, and increasing the stock buybacks tax. And he wants to close some tax loopholes and raise the Medicare tax to 5 percent for those earning more than $400,000. These proposed tax increases are small but show that he is speaking to many who are unhappy with today’s huge inequalities, and that he is responding to the popularity of the idea that the rich have gotten too rich.

These proposed tax increases are meant to counter GOP attacks about the deficit (by claiming to reduce the deficit by $3 trillion over ten years) and to provide a laundry list of social programs. Such programs include restoring the child tax credit, increasing Pell grants, paid family leave, increasing access to child and elder care, lowering housing costs, making Medicare solvent until the 2050s and more. It’s clear that Biden has to make promises to those who want more social spending and to tax the rich, but despite all these proposals, the only thing we can be sure will pass is Biden’s campaign promise that “nothing will fundamentally change.”

Despite referring to himself as the “most pro-union president in history,” and all of his talk about “creating union jobs,” the capitalist state is nothing but “a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie,” and Biden’s ultimate goal, like all presidents before him, is to ensure the stability of capitalism and the bosses’ profits. Biden’s recent busting of a potential railroad workers’ strike is just the latest example of where his priorities really lie. Furthermore, much of his “pro-worker” rhetoric is “America first” chauvinism, which pits U.S. workers against workers in other countries, using phrases like “bringing jobs home,” “buy American,” and “leading the world in manufacturing.” This is very important to keep in mind in the context of U.S. imperialism’s attempt to contain China’s growth and decline of U.S. hegemony. Although we should not be under the illusion that a “multipolar world” will be a more progressive world for working-class and oppressed people, we must also fight the racism, xenophobia, and prejudices against Chinese people that have been sweeping the country, fostered by U.S. imperialist interests.

Because his role is to manage the capitalist state, Biden is calling for even more funding for the police, “to keep communities safe and secure” and to support for training and community policing, even adding 100,000 more cops to the streets. He explicitly says that he “doesn’t want to defund them.” The police exist to protect private property and to maintain capitalist order, not to keep communities safe. If the unions that he brags about supporting go out on strike, it will be the police called in to escort the scabs and break the strike. Biden pays lip service to oppressed communities, when it is those same police that terrorize Black and brown communities.

It’s not just local police that he’s proud to support. Biden and the Democrats “fight for immigrants” during election season, yet this budget proposes to hire 350 more Border Patrol agents and more processing assistants at CBP and ICE, $535 million for border technology, among other things. This is a continuation of the crackdown on immigration, as this recent example (and others throughout his presidency) show. On the White House fact sheet, he even brags about having “secured more resources for border security than any of the presidents who preceded him.” Yes, Joe Biden is indeed bragging that he wants to arm and militarize the border more than Donald Trump did. Both Democrats and Republicans understand that capitalists need a hyperexploitable group of workers to boost their profits, a group that is created by violent border policies.

As expected, there are proposals for record military and defense spending. This part of the budget is likely to pass, given the bipartisan support for U.S. imperialism. He requests raising the discretionary budget authority for the Department of Defense to $842 billion, up 3.2 percent. For Ukraine, NATO, and European allies, he requests more than $6 billion. Owing to imperialism’s ever-increasing focus on containing China’s growth and influence, he aims to “invest in new ways to Out-Compete China” and “advance American prosperity globally.” Proposals include strengthening the U.S. role in the Indo-Pacific by investing $2 billion in order to create an “International Infrastructure Fund,” $2 billion for a new equity revolving fund for supporting equity investments, and $2 billion in investments to strengthen partner economies.

Regarding climate change, he touts the Inflation Reduction Act — a bill that actually promotes the expansion of fossil fuel extraction and is a handout to big businesses. His “actions” against climate change are mostly tax credits and rebates to incentivize “green” energy production and usage, and for things like electric vehicles. These are really just ways to ensure profits for capitalists in the “clean energy” sector. To placate the oil and coal bosses, he doesn’t forget to mention that “we’ll still need oil.” Given that the U.S. military is the planet’s biggest polluter, we can be sure that his calls for military spending will worsen the climate crisis. Biden and the Democrats will allow capitalists to continue destroying the planet to fulfill their insatiable need for profits.

While trans people, especially trans youth, are under attack from the Far Right, Biden made no mention of this in his March 9 speech, possibly to appeal to right-leaning voters. The White House’s website fact sheet makes only trite nods to “equity” and to making “the promise of America real for every American,” as well as adding “LGBTQI+” as an afterthought in social program proposals. He didn’t mention reproductive rights either. (The word “abortion” is mentioned twice in the full 184 page budget.) Next year, we’ll hear how we need to vote for Biden as the “lesser evil” to fight the Far Right (and defend abortion), yet he can’t even mention those who are facing attacks by the Far Right now.

Of course, Biden touted his biggest accomplishments — the American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and the Inflation Reduction Act — which were aimed at saving the capitalist economy and mitigating the most severe consequences of the neoliberal crisis and the pandemic, not solving the underlying conditions that the masses of workers and oppressed experience under capitalism.

In the context of inflation, layoffs, and the banking crisis, it’s clear the budget won’t be implemented. His list of progressive proposals shows that many people want more progressive policies and that he needs to speak to those people, yet he won’t deliver them. It is essential that as workers we form our own party and not rely on the capitalist Democrats and their empty promises. We need a working-class party that fights for socialism and takes up the struggles of the oppressed, that fights for the demands of workers and the oppressed, that will actually fight the Far Right, will fight for reproductive rights and the rights of trans people, and that is truly pro-union and pro-worker.

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