Melissa Harris Perry: This is The Takeaway. I'm Melissa Harris Perry in for Tanzina Vega. $6 trillion, that's the bottom line of the 2022 federal budget that the Biden administration proposed on Friday. Included in it are the two infrastructure proposals the president Biden has already begun to outline for the public in his American jobs plan and American families plan. Speaking in Cleveland on Thursday, the president, once again, detailed what he's hoping to accomplish through these spending measures.
President Biden: This is already clear. We're on the right track. The American rescue plan laid a strong foundation for a new economy that brings everybody along but it's just a first step. We're going to build on the incentive and incredible progress that we made and set America on a sustainable path to faster, more inclusive economic growth. We have to start investing in ourselves again and the American people again.
Melissa Harris Perry: For Republican lawmakers, there's another number included in this budget proposal that is likely to draw widespread condemnation. $1.8 trillion, that's the projected size of the federal deficit in 2022 under this plan. According to the New York Times, debt as a share of the US economy would reach record highs by 2024 if this budget is enacted. Meanwhile, some members of the GOP are trying to negotiate with the Biden administration on infrastructure spending, but the $928 billion plan put out by Republicans this week was quickly criticized by Senate Democrats, who said the GOP is just setting president Biden up to fail.
The partisan divide wasn't just on display this week when it came to the federal budget. On Tuesday, the president hosted the family of George Floyd to commemorate the sombre anniversary of the day officer Chauvin murdered George Floyd. The images were important, but the Justice in Policing Act named for Floyd that Biden had promised to sign by May 25th is still stalled in the Senate. There were, however, some historic moments in Washington this week. Civil rights attorney Kristen Clarke was confirmed to lead the justice department's civil rights division, making her the first black woman to serve in that role.
Speaker 2: I Kristen Clarke
Kristen Clarke: I Kristen Clarke
Speaker 2: Do solemnly swear
Kristen Clarke: Do solemnly swear
Speaker 2: That I will support and defend
Kristen Clarke: That I will support and defend
Speaker 2: The constitution of the United States.
Kristen Clarke: The constitution of the United States.
Melissa Harris Perry: On Wednesday, white house deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre became the first openly gay woman to lead the white house press briefing and the first Black woman to do so in roughly 30 years.
Karine Jean-Pierre: I appreciate the historic nature. I really do, but I believe that being high and being behind this podium, being in this room, being in this building, is not about one person. It's about what we do on behalf of the American people. Clearly the president believes in representation matters. I appreciate him giving me this opportunity. It's another reason why I think we are all so proud that this is the most diverse administration in history.
Melissa Harris Perry: We've a very busy week in the nation's capital and we're going to start today by walking you through it all. Here with me now is Heather Long, economics correspondent for the Washington Post. Heather, thanks for coming back on the show.
Heather Long: Great to be back.
Melissa Harris Perry: Also with us is Maya King, politics reporter at Politico. Maya, welcome back to you as well.
Maya King: Hi, thanks for having me.
Melissa Harris Perry: Heather, let's start with you. The Biden administration is putting forward a $6 trillion budget, what's in it?
Heather Long: A lot of the stuff we've seen before, so that infrastructure package is a big part of this budget, both the physical infrastructure on the roads and the pipes and getting everyone internet as well as what they call the care package, which would ex hugely expand affordable childcare and elder care and paid parental leave in the United States. There's also a really big increase in what's known as discretionary spending. The president is proposing a lot of spending on education, research, transitioning in the United States to a more climate friendly economy. It's about a 16% increase in non-defense spending and a 1.7, so a much more modest increase, in defense spending.
The big, big takeaway here is it would be a lot of money next year in particular, a $6 trillion budget and running close to a $2 trillion deficit. Meaning we're not paying from a quite a bit of that spending next year. They're painting it, the administration painting it as a down payment on America's future, getting us on the right track. Obviously though, there's a lot of concerns about spending money we don't actually have.
Melissa Harris Perry: I want to push into one aspect of that. Now you said they're getting internet for everyone. I feel like 30 years ago in America, we would have seen states and governors excited about federal spending that would bring that kind of critical infrastructure to their communities. Maya, are we expecting pushback, not only in Congress, but also at the state level from governors who would actually benefit from this spending?
Maya King: It's interesting. I think we can absolutely expect pushback in Congress. We've already seen that with anything that the Biden administration has put forth that really has a dollar sign attached to it. The immediate response, particularly from Republicans in Congress, has been, "This is way too expensive, this will bankrupt the country in the name of liberal policy, and it's just not a viable path forward." I think we've seen that already in the giant gap, I believe it was last valued at about $1.5 trillion in difference, between what Democrats have proposed and what Republicans came back with.
Yet on the state level, the need is a little bit different. I think what we saw around the pandemic stimulus payments over the last round, a lot of state and local officials were saying "You know what? We actually really do need this money." Many Republican leaders were willing to accept it there too, just because the need is very different and people were really hurting, I think, on the state and local level, in a way that governors were able to see much differently. How this now translates to infrastructure, what this means now for this next round of debate on what exactly infrastructure means, how we define it and, as Heather mentioned, of course, how we pay for it. It certainly, I think will shape the contours of how different leaders on different levels will respond to it.
Melissa Harris Perry: Heather, let's come back to the pay for it piece that Maya ended on there. Maybe this is an indication of why my credit cards looked the way they do, but really who cares if we can't pay for it in the short term? Isn't the real issue here about stoking the economy with this spending and also dealing with all of the deferred maintenance on our national infrastructure?
Heather Long: You make a great point. Obviously, many of the programs that are being proposed are hugely popular, such as paid parental leave finally getting the United States to have 12 weeks of paid parental leave. Making those critical infrastructure investments many of us, as you drive around parts of the country, feel those nicks in the road and see those bridges that could really use a repair every day, not to mention some of these pipes in the ground. I was on the website recently trying to figure out if the water line to my house is an old led pipe or not, which is a very scary situation for anyone.
There are costs associated with spending more money than you have similar to a credit card bill, where if somebody isn't balancing every month, they are paying interest. The United States is borrowing money from other countries right now in order to fund this and we are ultimately going to have to pay interest on it. I think the big concern from an economic perspective is nobody's saying that we're going to hit that critical point where we can't borrow anymore next year or even five years down the line, but there is going to be some number that we can't borrow past, or that it becomes much more expensive to borrow, similar to somebody who hasn't paid their credit card bill suddenly sees that interest rate, that borrowing rate, jump up over time.
That's why there you see, even in the Democratic party, some voices who are warning, "Does it really need to be quite this much?" The headline on the New York Times, this front page this morning is, "The Biden administration seeking, spending levels not seen since World War II." We are talking about a huge, huge amount of spending. That's really the debate that's going to come down for a lot of moderate Democrats. They will vote for a number of these programs, but do you vote for it all in one fell swoop or do you do something that looks a little bit more like small chunks?
Melissa Harris Perry: The World War II discourse is instructive here because it is post-World War II America that becomes the global power we understand ourselves to be, in large part because of that spending. Of course, also because of the massive war that took us into that space. Maya, I'm also thinking that in that moment there was a lot of partisan unity, which is to say that in Democrats ran the board at that time. That is not the situation we're in now. These very slim majorities are not what Roosevelt was facing. Is there any possibility that this can in fact past through the government we have right now?
Maya King: It's I think you make a great point by mentioning the slim majority here, because even then that has gotten in the way of Democrats' ability to really push through the agenda that they have in place. I think really what there'll be reliant upon his reconciliation and bringing in that third party to be able to push through what were the terms of this spending that they really do want to see come to fruition. It's very clear that Democrats, especially in Congress, have gotten much more comfortable with leaving Republicans behind and getting these bills across. Certainly the American rescue plan is, I think, a really good example of that.
The point that by the Biden administration has been making is that they're trying really, they consider this point in this time in America post pandemic, post economic downturn which we're still very much in, as one that would wake up both parties to really the urgency of getting some serious spending passed that hasn't really crystallized yet. I'm wondering and what I'm looking for and especially in my reporting is whether or not they'll be able to hammer that point home so that they won't have to exactly pull out the nuclear option to get this all through.
Melissa Harris Perry: Heather, in my household there's two big anxieties about what's not in there. One is the Medicare age being lowered to 60 is not in there. For my college age daughter, the $15 minimum wage is not in there. She's working minimum wage this summer and not happy to see that that is not in there. Some of those big pieces that we'd heard on the campaign trail, why aren't they in this enormous package?
Heather Long: That's an excellent question. I would throw in two more to that list that are surprising, that were on the campaign trail and are not part of this big first budget package. That is that there's no student debt relief or student debt cancellation even up to that first $10,000 that was talked about a lot on the campaign trail. Similar to you, you mentioned not lowering the Medicare age, also no public option. On the campaign trail, the president was very adamant about wanting to push some national federal public option for health insurance. We don't see that as part of this as well.
The White House keeps saying and you can that, "We still support these." That they would be after this 2022 package, these would be the next wave of things or that they could potentially move simultaneously. I think we've seen that Congress is not good at multitasking. There's a lot here they're already supposed to do with these infrastructure bills that were supposed to be the first one they had hoped would pass by Memorial Day weekend. That hasn't happened. I think the way I would read this is it's interesting what fell out when the priorities had to be written on paper, it was interesting what did not make it.
While they're still giving lip service to these items and are still on the dream list for president Biden, I think reality has set in that the Democrats probably only have one or two more big bills that they can pass and these items do not appear to be on that list.
Melissa Harris Perry: Let's go here to the other kinds of things that either were or were not happening in DC this week. Maya, this was the moment when we were supposed to have, on the president's desk ready for signature, the George Floyd justice in policing act but it didn't happen. Has there been any movement and is it going to happen?
Maya King: There has been movement but our ability to really track or even quantify the progress on this bill has been extremely difficult. We know that Senators Booker, Tim Scott, as well as representative Karen Bass have been in conversations now for over a month in hammering out the details and trying to come out with some form of a bill, a police reform bill that will make all parties happy. What that means and what that translates to, particularly to activists, is a much more watered down bill. The big sticking point here is on the policy of qualified immunity which would, if passed in this bill, allow police officers to be individually sued if they violate someone's personal civil rights. That has huge implications for use of force and for officers' engagements with individuals and members of communities, particularly members of the Black community.
It gives our citizens the opportunity or the legal possibility to actually file suit against individual officers. Republicans have already said pretty much that they're absolutely not in favor of that. They think that it's a bridge too far to make that a part of this national piece of legislation. I think that Democrats really are trying to pass some version of that that actually allows people to really feel like they have a role in reforming police and reforming policing practices. Whether or not this actually gets passed, we know that time is running out. They really have now about two or three weeks.
I think that Tim Scott said if they don't have a bill on Biden's desk by the middle of June, they will have to recalibrate and realize that this is not perhaps the path forward on reform. Certainly remains to be seen. I think everyone is now looking at this group of lawmakers and encouraging them to hurry up here and really come out with a bill that will make everyone happy.
Melissa Harris Perry: It won't make everyone happy, but I get it. I want to dig in on this for just one more second Maya, because closely aligned obviously to the question of civil rights violations in policing is the much broader set of questions around US civil rights. We saw Kristen Clark, who I have known and respected for so many years, narrowly win confirmation to lead the justice department's civil rights division this week. She's going to be the first Black woman in that role. What do you think will be her agenda in the context of the DOJ?
Maya King: I think really looking at Clark's record with the lawyers committee on civil rights gives us a really great blueprint for what we could probably expect to see her doing on day one. I think her work in voting rights was particularly important over the last few years and that's something where the civil rights division may come in as well. Hate crimes, of course, that was another thing that she was also very instrumental in with the lawyers committee that I imagine DOJ in the civil rights division will also be paying a really close attention to.
Then of course, there's the investigation that DOJ has already launched in the pattern of practice investigations of very high profile police departments, namely the Minneapolis police department. I think that as the findings of that investigation start to come out and really as DOJ really starts to dig in on this and other police departments across the country, we can expect to see Kristen Clark really being the face of those investigations and understanding how police departments across this country have operated that have led to these really high profile shootings particularly of African Americans.
A lot of people are waiting to hear and see more about the Minneapolis police department in the context of George Floyd's murder. It'll really be interesting and, I think for a lot of people, very exciting to see Kristin Clark be able to deliver that message and push things forward there.
Melissa Harris Perry: Absolutely. Heather, let me come to you on another issue which is actually in the budget but feels to me like it's connected to these broader questions as well of economic, social, racial justice and civil rights, and that's housing. We know that one of the surprising effects of this shut down, the quarantine, has been just massively rising housing prices around the country. What is the budget plan for affordable housing and assistance from the government around that?
Heather Long: You're absolutely right that there is a lot of reason to be very nervous about the housing market and the housing affordability. Even before the pandemic, we had about 11 million families in the United States paying more than half their income on rent. I think it's likely that that could worsen this summer, those protections for not getting evicted are set to expire at the end of June. As you noted, the housing prices have gone up. At the moment rent prices are not showing up in the inflation data and the price rising data but I think there's a high likelihood we could see that happen in the coming months.
The plan is very ambitious. It was a big part of that first and second infrastructure package, to do several hundred billion dollars more towards affordable housing. That includes building additional affordable housing, as well as retrofitting some of the existing housing stock, a lot of which was built in the '50s and '60s and '70s and needs to be desperately upgraded. There's definitely a lot here, whether it will be enough or whether it will move fast enough, even if this were passed this summer. We talked about the struggles of Congress multitasking, even if this first step infrastructure package passes the summer is that going to be fast enough to alleviate some of these rent concerns or help prevent people from getting evicted right now? I would like to be more optimistic than I am on that.
Melissa Harris Perry: That one's tough. Maya, on a quick final note, I have to say that I did get more than a little bit of Black girl joy out of watching the historic moment when white house deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre became the first openly gay woman and the first black woman in about 30 years to lead the White House press briefing. Was that just the best or what?
Maya King: Absolutely. I think that that Black girl joy is no small thing. Black women have played a key role in electing this administration so it's important to also have representation in who's delivering the message out of the White House.
Melissa Harris Perry: I'm going to take that. I'm going to take Black girl joy is no small thing. Maya King is politics reporter at Politico and Heather Long is an economics correspondent for the Washington Post. Thank you both for joining us today.
Maya King: Thanks for having me.
Heather Long: Thanks so much.
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