Finley: A $3.5 trillion plunge into socialism
Democrats continue their internal fight over how much of President Joe Biden's $3.5 trillion spending proposal they can get away with passing, but for those who believe in fiscal and personal responsibility, the battle is already lost.
Whether the whole banana is adopted, or a somewhat smaller slice, it is all but certain America will see the largest expansion of government since Lyndon Johnson's Great Society initiative in the '60s.
It became inevitable once Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who had been a holdout for spending sanity, agreed to accept $1.5 trillion in new giveaways. That's now the floor; the ceiling will be decided based on how much sugar Democrats sprinkle on Manchin's home state.
The betting line is $2 trillion to $2.5 trillion for the final package — if Democrats can get their hard-line liberal caucus to recognize what victory looks like.
So this will not be a good week for those who believe the individual should be the most powerful force in American life. Biden's package is designed to broaden dependency on the government to cover a wide swath of the middle class.
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Free community college. Free elder care. Free preschool. Government-funded family and medical leave. Expanded Medicare. All great stuff, right?
But somebody has to pay for it. Biden and the Democrats are pretending the tab will be picked up by making the wealthy and corporations "pay their fair share," ignoring the steep price everyone will pay when such a heavy burden on investors and job creators stalls the economy.
Democrats are putting the finishing touches on the transformation of America into a European-style socialist welfare state. It will eventually have to be paid for — by everyone — with European-style taxes.
Lower and middle-class taxpayers in European Union nations pay an average marginal tax rate of 49% on all wages above $37,000 a year, and an average value-added tax (VAT) of 20% on their purchases.
The non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that in 2021 the effective tax rate for Americans earning between $50,000 and $75,000 will be zero.
That will have to change to cover the price tag for Biden's free goodies.
The difference between this package and the previous trillions spent in the name of COVID-19 relief is that this spending will never go away. Once a government entitlement is set in place and a constituency built for its dollars, it is nearly impossible to end.
Democrats have an opportunity to make such a transformational change in America because they have a 3-vote majority in the House and control of the 50-50 Senate by virtue of the vice-presidential tie-breaker.
But such narrow margins don't constitute a mandate.
Americans in 2020 chose Biden as president because they believed his promise to govern as a moderate who would chart a middle-road course for the nation. Had they wanted socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, they could have had him.
They got Sanders' agenda anyway, and they aren't likely to be happy with the consequences.
Democrats are bound to pay a price for their overreach in the 2022 mid-term elections. But by then the damage will have been done, and will be irreparable.
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