President Joe Biden is planning to call on Congress to send several economic proposals to the White House in his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, including measures to expand an insulin price cap for all Americans and implement a minimum tax on the richest Americans.
According to a preview of the speech from the White House, Biden will call for a recently-passed provision capping out-of-pocket insulin payments at $35 a month to be extended to all Americans. Congress had passed a $35 insulin cap for Medicare beneficiaries in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) last year after Senate Republicans had blocked a wider proposal from passing.
Many progressive advocates and lawmakers have pointed out that limiting the proposal to Medicare beneficiaries would still leave tens of millions of people in the U.S. with diabetes in the lurch, with some having to shell out hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars each month for insulin. The high costs of insulin have spurred California to explore making its own generic insulin for residents so that people no longer have to ration their insulin or risk death due to the drug’s unaffordability.
Biden is also expected to call for the passage of other provisions that could help protect the working class amid high inflationary pressures. The president is going to call for quadrupling the corporate stock buyback tax from 1 percent — as passed in the IRA — to 4 percent, in order to discourage companies from taking advantage of inflation to price gouge and enrich their shareholders.
“Stock buybacks enable corporations to funnel tax-advantaged payouts to wealthy and foreign investors, instead of paying dividends that shareholders are required to pay taxes on. In addition, a number of experts have argued that CEOs — who are compensated mostly in stock — use buybacks to enrich themselves to the detriment of the long-term growth of the company,” the White House wrote in the preview of the speech.
The White House specifically points to the oil and gas industry as some of the biggest offenders in this realm. Indeed, recently-released year-end reports by Big Oil majors reveal that the fossil fuel industry made off extremely well last year, with multiple companies shattering their records for their highest-ever yearly profits.
As gas prices soared across the U.S., Exxon, which is planning to spend $50 billion on stock buybacks through the end of 2024, collected a net profit of $56 billion, the highest yearly profit ever recorded for a western oil company. Meanwhile, Chevron posted its largest-ever profit of $37 billion and is tripling its stock buyback budget to $75 billion — one of the largest stock buyback plans ever announced.
Levying larger taxes on these programs could help disincentivize companies from price gouging in order to fund their shareholder enrichment programs.
Biden will also call for the passage of his Billionaire Minimum Income Tax proposal, which was included in his 2023 budget request but nixed by Congress. The proposal would implement a 20 percent minimum tax rate for households worth over $100 million. It would levy a tax not only on salaries, but also unrealized gains from assets like stocks, borrowing an element from wealth tax proposals.
“In a typical year, billionaires pay an average tax rate of just 8 percent,” the White House wrote. “This minimum tax would make sure that the wealthiest Americans no longer pay a tax rate lower than teachers and firefighters.”
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