Last week, on Dec. 19 specfically, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., announced that he would not support the current iteration of the Build Back Better Act.
His decision calls the future of the $1.75 trillion spending package into serious question.
For this, Democrats have only themselves to blame.
After all, Manchin's demands that Democrats scale back their ambitions are more than reasonable — especially at a moment of high inflation and economic uncertainty.
Build Back Better employs a host of gimmicks to mask the bill's true cost.
Indeed, as an analysis released earlier this month by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reveals, BBB could increase the deficit some $2.5 trillion more than advertised, if the bill's various provisions are made permanent as intended rather than allowed to expire prematurely.
Senate Majority Leader Charles "Chuck" Schumer, D-N.Y., has promised to hold a vote on BBB early next year. His party's efforts to hide its massive price tag — and the crippling deficits it would generate — are major reasons why the bill is dead in its current form.
The use of accounting trickery to obscure a measure's true cost is nothing new on Capitol Hill. But in BBB's case, the magnitude of the Democrats' deception is without peer.
The bill would touch just about every sector of the U.S. economy, from health care to the environment and child care.
For months, President Biden and congressional Democrats have insisted that this historic spending spree would be paid for — and even reduce the deficit.
That claim was always hard to swallow.
But it became even more difficult to believe after the CBO's initial score of the legislation last month, which projected that the bill would add $367 billion to the deficit over 10 years.
Even this estimate was generous, given that BBB purports to make just about every one of its provisions "temporary." As Nobel laureate Milton Friedman famously said, "Nothing is so permanent as a 'temporary' government program."
Its de facto expansion of Medicaid in the states that did not expand their programs under Obamacare, as well as its more generous premium subsidies for those who secure coverage through the exchanges, are both set to expire after a few years.
So are its higher Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit.
Democrats have no intention of letting these programs expire.
They'll fudge the numbers however they need to in order to get their programs established, and then count on inertia to keep them going.
So how much will these provisions cost if they don't disappear after just a few years?
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R- S.C., and Rep. Jason Smith, R-Mo., recently asked the CBO to answer exactly this question.
According to that updated analysis, a version of BBB without sunsets would add $2.75 trillion to the deficit between 2022 and 2031. After accounting for interest, that figure increases to $3 trillion.
These projections don't come from a partisan think tank or a conservative economist.
They come from the non-partisan CBO — an organization with a well-earned reputation for independence and integrity.
So Democrats are pushing for legislation that, if enacted as they hope, could add $3 trillion to the federal deficit. They're trying to do so by a one-vote margin, with no support from Republicans, while telling the American public to ignore the CBO's analysis of the bill; legislation they've branded as "fake."
During a period of immense economic anxiety and persistent inflation, the last thing Americans need is a coordinated effort by elected officials to secretly explode the deficit.
Sen. Manchin has killed Build Back Better, at least for the time being.
He's doing the country a great favor.
Sally C. Pipes is president, CEO, and the Thomas W. Smith fellow in healthcare policy at the Pacific Research Institute. Her latest book is "False Premise, False Promise: The Disastrous Reality of Medicare for All," (Encounter Books 2020). Follow her on Twitter @sallypipes. Read Sally Pipes' Reports — More Here.
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