The month-long showdown over taxes is finally nearing its end as the majority of Congressional Democrats face off against a small group of their moderate colleagues in a fight over the future of the party and the country. While most Democrats are advocating for popular policies like prescription drug negotiation, paid leave, and taxing the rich, centrists have continually dug their heels into the ground, derailing negotiations and endangering the party’s success in the coming midterm elections. They’ve adopted the priorities of their wealthy donors and corporations over the American people, threatening to kill the President’s agenda to get their way.
Centrist Democrats have proposed an inadequate counter to the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package, drastically cutting key safety net expansions like a paid parental leave program that would bring America in line with the rest of the developed world, a Medicare expansion, and even eliminating the possibility of Medicare being able to negotiate prescription drug prices — a long promised Democrat policy. Moreover, centrists continue to cavil at the price tag while also rejecting significant tax increases on the wealthy that would pay for it. It makes no fiscal sense. The entire bill can and should be paid for by raising taxes on the richest Americans, it would add nothing to our debt, fund a massive and critical investment in our country, and decrease inequality all at the same time. It’s a win-win that every Democrat should support.
But, if these legislative-hostage takers remain opposed to overdue tax code reform and social investments then it’s time for donors like myself who support the President’s agenda to take action.
It’s unfortunate that our campaign finance laws have been systematically attacked and weakened over the past decade, to the point where every subsequent election since 2008 has been more expensive than the last — and there are no signs of it slowing down. While we cannot change this broken system overnight, it can be used to our advantage. I encourage other like-minded wealthy donors to stop giving to the candidates who keep disappointing and serving the corporate interests at every turn and start funding their Democratic primary challengers that will uphold the popular will. It’s about time that donors revolted.
While some of these moderate members come from swing districts, there are a few that come from safe blue seats. House members like Richard Neal (MA-01) and Ed Case (HI-01) both hail from Democratic strongholds that are at no risk of Republican takeover. The vast majority of the American people, Democratic voters, and the President of the United States support taxing the wealthy to invest in our communities, so why are both of these deep blue representatives so vehemently opposed to it? There is absolutely no reason for Biden’s agenda to be challenged from deep blue seats.
Democrats have already conceded to the centrists. They split the original Build Back Better plan into the budget reconciliation bill and the infrastructure bill at the behest of Senators Manchin and Sinema, all on the understanding that the two bills would be linked together. But now centrists are demanding more, and they will continue to do so until we draw a line in the sand and challenge them.
If Democrats and President Biden do not deliver on their promises to invest in America, then the 2022 midterms and ultimately the 2024 presidential election will be a total wash for the Democratic Party. Democrats must make it clear that those in their ranks that are willing to remove trillions of dollars of aid for Americans struggling in the post-COVID economy in order to preserve tax breaks for their anti-tax donors cannot be tolerated. Centrist Democrats in Congress need to rise to the moment, not sabotage progress while paying lip service to the idea of tax fairness.
As our society is buckling under the pressure of unprecedented inequality, it is inexcusable for the government to continue to offer the ultra-wealthy and corporations special tax treatment. Our nation can easily afford a larger tax bill to fund overdue infrastructure and safety net expansions just as easily as we can afford the world’s largest military budget. It all comes down to our priorities. Do we want bombs or bridges? If we can’t get Republicans on board with prioritizing the needs of the American people, surely we can get all those who call themselves Democrats, progressive and moderates alike, to do so. And if we cannot, there must be electoral consequences.
There is something fundamentally wrong when a plurality of Americans support Biden’s progressive tax agenda along with a vast majority of elected Democrats but yet, the will of the people and a supportive legislature are still obstructed by a small handful of moderate Democrats working on behalf of their donors. Rather than coming to fight with the same old tactics, let’s take the battle to these centrists and use their own playbook against them.
Stephen Prince founded Card Marketing Services in 1993 and is vice-chair of the Patriotic Millionaires.