Without any Republican endorsements for his administration’s expansive agenda to support childcare and education through increased taxes on the nation’s wealthiest, Joe Biden is appealing directly to Americans with a series of stops across the US, in efforts that could see one of the largest boosts to federal safety nets in decades.
Following a tour of Virginia schools on Monday, the president spoke at Tidewater Community College to renew his pitch for the American Families Plan, a $1.8 trillion proposal to bring the US in line with other wealthy nations by providing up to 12 weeks of paid family and sick leave, free preschool and community college, and childcare support for low- and middle-income families.
“No one should have to choose between a job and a paycheck or taking care of themselves, a parent, a spouse, or a child that’s ill,” he said.
The plan would be paid for through a series of tax proposals that would return the top marginal income-tax rate to 39.6 per cent from 37 per cent, and raise the capital gains tax rate to 39.6 per cent for households that earn more than $1m on investments, among other changes that would impact the nation’s wealthiest.
“I think it’s about time we start giving tax breaks to working-class families and middle-class families instead of just the very wealthy,” Mr Biden said. “Do we want to give the wealthiest people in America another tax cut or do you want to give every high school graduate the ability to earn a community college degree?”
Echoing remarks he made from the White House and during his first primetime address to a joint session of Congress last week, the president criticised the conservative fiscal legacies of “trickle-down economics” that have undermined the kinds of widespread reforms and public services his administration wants to restore as a central part of American life.
“For too long we’ve had an economy that gives every break in the world to the folks who need it the least,” he said on Monday. “We can choose to give hard-working families a break, a tax break in effect. We can choose to invest in our students. We can choose an economy that rewards work and not just wealth.”
He added: “Let’s give people a shot. Given even half a chance, the American people will never, ever, ever, let their country down. Imagine if we gave them a full chance. Imagine what it would mean for them and their families and for our country.”
The president and the first lady, Jill Biden, also toured Yorktown Elementary School, where Mr Biden asked students in one fifth-grade classroom about current projects, what they wanted to be when they grew up, and whether they liked virtual learning – the school has been open for in-person instruction four days a week since last month.
Mr Biden’s Virginia trip followed a rally in Georgia on Friday, where he promoted his agenda one day after addressing Congress with the pitch for a sweeping domestic spending plan totalling more than $4 trillion.
His American Families Plan follows a still-in-progress infrastructure-focused American Jobs Plan, a separate $2.2 trillion proposal that Republicans have sought to counter with a significantly slimmed-down version, as the White House makes a play for a bipartisan measure – up to a point. Mr Biden wants progress on a bipartisan-supported bill before reassessing his next move by Memorial Day.
With the Families Plan, the federal government would cover two years of tuition-free community college, pre-kindergarten for all three- and four-year-old students, and family and medical leave, along with expanded food assistance programmes for low-income families and more training and other support measures for teachers.
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