Biden Announces National Caregiving Plan

Joe Biden plans to announce today a new caregiving program, part three of his four-part “Build Back Better” plan:

The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee’s plan includes measures to expand care for children, the elderly and the disabled. Some of the boldest proposals — such as providing free universal preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds and creating tax credits to help pay for child care — come as the needs of parents struggling to balance caring for their children while working have been thrown into sharp relief by the COVID-19 pandemic and as many schools are opting against in-person instruction in the fall.

….Biden would pay for ongoing costs in the overall package in part by rolling back some of President Trump’s tax cuts for corporations and by raising taxes on the wealthy. The cost of the expanded caregiving — $775 billion over a decade — would be paid by rolling back tax loopholes on real estate investors with incomes over $400,000 and making the wealthy pay all the taxes they owe, according to the campaign. A senior Biden campaign advisor said the efforts to make sure the wealthy comply with tax laws alone could raise “hundreds of billions of dollars.”

Making the wealthy “pay all the taxes they owe” is usually similar to “waste, fraud, and abuse” in the annals of smoke and mirrors, but these days I’m willing to think more highly of it. Republicans have diligently cut back on IRS enforcement of the rich for so many years that there really is some low-hanging fruit to be had simply by beefing up the auditing of high-income taxpayers:

Larry Summers estimates that simply by returning to the state of affairs in 2011, the IRS could raise an additional $50 billion per year from the rich. Tighten things even further and perhaps that could go as high as $75 or $100 billion.

I read a lot about how “COVID-19 is changing everything,” and I’m skeptical of most of it. Once we get a handle on the virus, I suspect that we will almost all go back to our old habits. Still, there are clearly some things that COVID-19 has shined a very bright spotlight on, and childcare is one of them. It’s been a problem for a long time, but COVID-19 has made it a problem for a lot more people—and, crucially, that includes middle-class suburbanites, not just the poor. Biden’s plan is a good chance to see if people are more willing to support a national caregiving plan after a year of living with the virus and having their kids home from school.

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