Hey, Democrats: Don’t rush building a better bill

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In the aftermath of the democratic defeats in Virginia, a near-death experience in New Jersey, and leaks from Seattle to Long Island, Congressional Democrats found themselves running to nearly pass $ 3 trillion in spending on infrastructure, climate and social safety nets. In recent days, the Chamber has approved a $ 1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package (now headed to the president’s desk) and the Democrats are negotiating theirs marquee legislation to “Build Back Better”, a $ 1.75 trillion social spending bill that includes, among other benefits, paid vacation, universal pre-K, and an extension of monthly tax payments for families with children.

By enacting this historic legislation, so it is thought, Democrats can avoid a bloodbath mid-term next year. “Democrats must resemble the party that can govern and produce results for the benefit of Americans of all races and regions,” as former US representative Tom Perriello, a progressive from Virginia, he wrote in The Washington Post.

But the Democrats shouldn’t count on Build Back Better (BBB) ​​to solve their election problems this fall. Most Americans still have no idea what’s in the bill, despite, if not because of, the wall-to-wall press coverage of the war within the Democratic Party over its details. An Ipsos poll on October 31 found that 69 percent some people know only “some, little or nothing” of the Democrats’ proposals. And massive spending has never been a path to mid-term victory.

Democrats also have a branding problem that BBB’s move won’t solve. Despite the merits of the bill, loc recent survey of voters in battlefield states and districts indicate that a significant number of key voters are wary of the legislation and see it – justified or not – as an expensive measure that won’t help the economy. If the Democrats are not careful, the BBB could reinforce voter stereotypes of the party as a high-spending liberal. “We are ready to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory even if something passes,” says pollster Pete Brodnitz, founder and president of Expedition Strategies.

In a poll commissioned by the center-left Progressive Policy Institute, Brodnitz surveyed 1,800 likely voters in 44 competitive House districts and nine battlefield states, including Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina, Florida and Ohio (with a margin of error of +/- 2.19 percent). Among these voters, only 54 percent approves the Democrats’ social spending plan (though 73 percent approve the bipartisan infrastructure bill). Brodnitz also found that 73 percent of respondents say Democrats in Congress “want to spend too much money without paying it” and that 74 percent – including 49 percent of self-described liberals – were concerned that the bills “would overheat the economy.” and increase inflation “.

The bad news doesn’t stop there. Battlefield voters gave Republicans the edge over the economy despite the ruinous policies of former President Donald Trump, who launched a destructive trade was with China and added $ 7.8 trillion to public debt. Although voters were split 50-50 over which party “knows how to create good jobs”, they did favorite Republicans from 52 percent to 48 percent as the party that “knows how to strengthen the economy”.

More worryingly, 65 percent say Democrats are “too anti-business,” including 73 percent of independents and even 42 percent of Democrats. Biden also didn’t help get rid of the party baggage. Only 48% of voters on the battlefield say they can identify Biden’s “economic strategy for the country”.

Brodnitz conducted his investigation in September and his findings did not receive the attention they deserved. But in light of the Democratic election bombardment, its results have been prophetic. The BBB, as it is currently built, is not for sale. With the GOP already in office “Socialism,” Democrats cannot afford messages and policies that do not neutralize these false attacks.

A recent poll confirms Brodnitz’s September results. On a 3-5 November investigation from USA Today and Suffolk University, only 47 percent of registered voters said they support the BBB package and only 25 percent said they expect the legislation to help their families (60 percent say it “will hurt” or “won’t have much effect”).

In the 1960s, Daniel Patrick Moynihan was ferocious when he called for a time-out in the war on poverty, which he called a “period of”benign neglect. “The BBB could also benefit from a”strategic break“—To borrow West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin’s stage – so Democrats can refine their sales pitch and ensure the package they build meets voter needs and rehabilitates the party’s image. the centrist senator recently renewed his call to delay the bill, citing the latest numbers on inflation – the maximum in 30 years.

Understandably, the Democrats want the BBB to be over now, while there seems to be some momentum after months of negotiations. But Democrats shouldn’t hesitate at the idea of ​​a time-out just because Manchin is promoting it, even as they resent his successful efforts to cut the size of the bill, strip many of its clean energy provisions and encourage things like a job requirement linked to the child tax credit. A break could benefit progressives as much as moderates, allowing Democrats to reap the political benefits of the already passed and more popular infrastructure bill and perfect the BBB. (Also, if Manchin wants a break, a respite is likely anyway.)

One way to improve the BBB, Brodnitz says, is to reframe the bill as a powerful job creator rather than a cradle-to-grave expansion of the safety net. The White House website, for example, guides visitors through the hypothetical life of a worker named Linda and the generous lifetime benefits she and her son will receive. Liberals believe that is exactly what the Americans want. But while every benefit in Build Back Better may be popular – and the White House poll says it is – the sum is less than the parts if voters see it as a lavish benefit package.

“If the economy continues to weaken, the safety net will be appreciated, but no one will think it’s a response to economic weakness,” says Brodnitz. “And if the economy goes the other way and roars for strong growth, we won’t get credit.” The best message, Brodnitz says, is for Democrats to talk about the bill’s benefits, such as childcare, as engines of economic growth that allow employees to rejoin the workforce. Republicans, on the other hand, “want to let the market fix it, which won’t work,” says Brodnitz. “We have to point out that the GOP strategy has destroyed the economy twice in our life.”

Democrats may also want to fine-tune BBB to support an ambitious middle-class message of success. While the bill is generous in its support for the “economics of care, “With billions of dollars in childcare, universal preschool, paid leave, aged care and child tax credit, it offers nothing to entrepreneurs and small business owners, nor does it address middle-class issues such as home ownership or retirement, and its benefits to educational and national services deserve more attention.

Another poll by pollster Stefan Hankin, president of the public opinion firm Lincoln Park Strategies, shows that voters fear that the life of America’s middle class is slipping relative to other countries. This isn’t surprising news, but the details are sobering. When Hankin asked voters whether they are better off in the US or elsewhere on seven measures, including “getting a well-paying job”, “being able to retire comfortably” and “starting a new business,” only 25% of respondents said the United States was the best on all of these metrics. Only 41% said they are better off in America when it comes to retirement security. White men with no college education were the most pessimistic about all of these measures (only 58% of these voters, for example, thought they were better off in America than elsewhere to get a well-paying job).

Hankin, who is a Democrat, believes the correct agenda is one in which “the United States will be the economic and moral leader for the next 100 years. The other side is winning because we are not making a clear juxtaposition between building for the future and looking back. “

Finally, pausing BBB has the advantage of keeping Democrats from trampling on their message. Congress returns on November 15, just as Biden is planning a cross-country public relations blitz promote the infrastructure package. The Democrats risk blowing their infrastructural victory lap by running back in disorder by Manchinema-versus-House-progressives, which the press covers ad nauseam to the exclusion of what’s actually in these bills. And suppose, by some miracle, the Democrats in the House do to be able to pass their BBB social spending bill in November, as they hope, and the Senate quickly dismisses it. If so, Democrats still risk overwhelming voters with the breadth of legislation, even if its new benefits take time to materialize.

Democrats have the opportunity to prop up the economy and improve the safety net. But they should ensure that “better rebuilding” is an electoral success as well as a substantial one. The party doesn’t need a repeat of 2010, when the Obama administration passed a health care bill that was met with more skepticism than applause, and the Democrats were massacred in mid-term. (Ultimately, of course, Americans embraced the Affordable Care Act.)

Having already delivered two monumental achievements: the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the American rescue plan (remember that?) – Democrats shouldn’t be rushing past BBB this week. Instead, they should take a breath and better reconstruct this account.

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