Speed Reads

reframing the debate

Critics, supporters alike may be 'misleading' the public on scale of Democrats' reconciliation bill

Both sides of the progressive-moderate debate in Congress may be "misleading" the American public on the true scale of Democrats' budget reconciliation bill, Eric Levitz writes for New York.

Critics like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and supporters such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) frequently emphasize the proposal's $3.5 trillion price tag. The former paints it as too exuberant and risky, while the latter champions it as historic and transformative. If passed, it would ultimately be the biggest expansion of the American welfare state in half a century, Levitz acknowledges, but that's over the long-run. Its actual immediate, single-year fiscal cost is $350 billion.

The reason Levitz thinks it's worth making that distinction is that Manchin and other moderates backed two coronavirus relief bills in the past year that cost $2 trillion and $900 billion upfront, which means the lawmakers have already supported more expensive packages. And if the primary concern about the bill is that it could drive up inflation, the immediate cost is a better metric, Levitz argues.

"By any reasonable measure, the reconciliation bill poses less inflationary risk than the relief bills that Joe Manchin and his fellow 'moderates' already voted for," Levitz writes, explaining that direct relief payments are more likely to rapidly boost demand to the point where it outstrips supply than the investments in the reconciliation bill.

While Levitz is critical of Manchin's position, he also suggests that proponents are giving the holdouts more ammunition by continuing to frame the bill as they are. Read the full argument at New York.