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Biden Says Rich Americans Should Pay “Fair Share” to Help Fund Free College

Biden has proposed making two years of community college free in his American Families Plan.

President Joe Biden speaks following a tour of Tidewater Community College in Norfolk, Virginia, on May 3, 2021.

President Joe Biden said on Monday that he wants to prioritize making the rich pay their fair share and giving aid to the working class during a press conference on a tour promoting his infrastructure plan.

“The choice is about who the economy serves. And so I plan on giving tax breaks to the working-class folks and making everybody pay their fair share,” said Biden. “Do we want to give the wealthiest people in America another tax cut or do you want to give every high school graduate the ability to earn a community college degree?”

The president emphasized that he wanted to give every American a “full chance” to get a college education if they so desired. Making the top 1 percent of Americans pay the same tax rate that they paid under former President George Bush, Biden said, could pay for most of his plan to make two years of community college free.

The idea for free community college is part of his $1.5 trillion American Families Plan, which contains proposals to lower the cost of child care, establish universal prekindergarten, and create a program to provide paid family and medical leave to nearly all workers.

Biden is planning to raise funds for the American Families Plan and its over $2 trillion infrastructure counterpart, the American Jobs Plan, by raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy. The White House has put forth moderate plans to raise the highest marginal tax rate, corporate tax rate and capital gains tax on the rich. Biden is also requesting more funds for the Internal Revenue Service to crack down on wealthy and corporate tax evaders.

The president’s remarks came just as a new report by Bloomberg has found that the wealthiest 100 Americans added a combined $195 billion to their wealth during Biden’s first 100 days in office. That report and other recent reports on the rich getting richer during the pandemic underscore the progressive goal — adopted by Biden — to cut down the wealth of the richest Americans in order to redistribute their funds among the lower and middle classes.

Biden also reiterated his rejection of trickle down economics and Reaganism on Monday, saying that the outmoded concept “has never worked.” The president had criticized the concept last week during his first address to a joint session of Congress. “For too long we’ve had an economy that gives every break in the world to the folks who need it the least,” he said. “It’s time to grow the economy from the bottom up and the middle out.”

The normally moderate president’s rejection of trickle down economics and shift to proposals like free college and better labor standards is, as some commentators and politicians have noted, a result of the progressive movement.

“Biden’s list of policy proposals represents something of a rewiring of the American experience, from work to family to school to medicine and science, from transportation to elder care,” wrote William Rivers Pitt for Truthout. “Much of what he proposed came thanks to the sustained pressure of progressives, which started the minute Biden won the nomination.”

Still, Biden could be pushed further. His proposal to raise the corporate tax rate, for instance, while promising, is still relatively small; while Biden has proposed raising taxes for corporations from 21 to 28 percent, it pales in comparison to the 35 percent rate that was in place before former President Donald Trump took office. It pales even further when compared to historical corporate tax rates through most of the 20th century and in the 1960s and 70s when it reached nearly 53 percent.

Biden has surprised the left in his first 100 days in office with several progressive stances on issues, but there is still much work to be done, says members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Progressives in Congress have filed a number of bills to rival Biden’s plans and proposals, including bills to establish universal child care, invest $10 trillion in climate justice and infrastructure, raise taxes on the wealthy even further, and much more.

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