Press Release Economic Policy

Building Back Better Could Be Better, Say CEPR Experts


10/28/2021 12:00am

Contact: KL Conner, 202-281-4159Mail_Outline

Washington DC — President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better framework is a welcome, transformational investment in the care infrastructure that working families in America need, but it is disappointing that paid leave, prescription drug price negotiation, and other popular progressive policies were left out. Moreover, too many key provisions are temporary or unnecessarily complex, and the unpopular Trump tax cuts are largely left in place. The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) responds with these comments:

“For too long, the United States has lagged far behind other wealthy countries when it comes to family and economic security policy. The new BBB framework is a major step toward closing that gap. 

“Universal Preschool for all 3 and 4-year-olds will enable more than 6 million children to benefit from quality early education, and increase the health and well-being of all children, but especially working-class and disadvantaged children, over the long term. Unfortunately, this provision, as well as the framework’s childcare provisions, expire after six years. 

“The framework’s childcare provisions will ensure that all parents can afford high-quality childcare and boost the wages of child care workers. Unfortunately, the framework has an unnecessary means test that will exclude about 5 percent of parents from eligibility. This should be eliminated and replaced with an additional copay tier for families with incomes over 250 percent of median income.  

“Extending the expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC) will provide 35 million American households with a $3000 to $3600 per child benefit. Regrettably, this is just a one-year extension. However, the framework does make the Child Tax Credit fully refundable on a permanent basis, so that even if the expanded CTC is not extended beyond 2022, all low-income children will continue to receive the same $2,000 benefit provided to middle- and higher-income children in 2023 and subsequent years. 

“The framework includes $150 billion in funding to build new housing, improve existing public housing, and make housing more affordable for the working-class. Unfortunately, this is a more than 50 percent cut in housing funding from the House’s BBB bill, and the funds are spread too thin across multiple programs. It would be better to concentrate the funding in three major housing programs: the Housing Trust Fund, tenant vouchers for affordable rental housing, and public housing. 

“Assuring affordable home care for hundreds of thousands of older Americans and people with disabilities will relieve an untenable burden on families, and improve the working conditions of home care workers.

“We welcome the benefits these programs will provide for families, children, the elderly, and disabled, but are deeply disappointed that paid family and medical leave — a popular program that would benefit the 70 percent of working families with no family leave — has been dropped from the framework. All workers deserve paid leave to care for new children, family members who are ill, disabled, or elderly, and themselves, when they are sick or temporarily disabled. 

“The exclusion of paid leave particularly disadvantages working-class parents, women workers, Black and Hispanic workers, and those who work part-time. President Biden knows from painful personal experience how important paid leave for all is, making it doubly disappointing that it has been left out of the BBB framework. 

“It is also deeply disappointing that the framework does not include any language on negotiating drug prices. The public pays for drug research, and federal law gives the pharmaceutical industry patent monopolies on the products produced with this publicly funded research.The industry should not be allowed to charge whatever it wants for drugs that are needed for people’s lives or health. 

“Finally, progressive executive actions implement pre-existing law and many are long overdue. There never was any good reason to delay implementing laws passed by a prior Congress that empowers the Biden Administration to make progress on core priorities, such as cutting prescription drug prices and reining in pollution that undermines public health and exacerbates the climate crisis. Aggressive executive action is needed all the more urgently now that it is clear that new legislation will be inadequate to fully address so many pressing needs.”

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