By David Dayen, The American Prospect

A couple of days ago, I took to The New York Times to lay out a concept for thinking about the Build Back Better Act. We had a pandemic that exposed real cracks in our social policy, in areas like health care, family care, housing, and cash assistance in an emergency. We showed ourselves unprepared for a crisis, with another slow-motion crisis—our warming planet—looming on the horizon. So the imperative was to reduce these vulnerabilities for Americans with simple, meaningful, permanent programs, in ways that could earn back the trust of the nation.

After six months of wrangling, we have a framework from the White House on the Build Back Better Act. It’s unclear whether this includes everything that will be in the final bill (in particular, drug prices and the state and local tax deduction are big wild cards), when the final bill text will be produced, and whether all 50 Democratic senators are on board (neither Joe Manchin nor Kyrsten Sinema has actually said that they would vote for this). It seems pretty clear that a framework, by itself, won’t be enough to get the House to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill, although that’s what will be asked of progressives today; in fact, that appears to be the purpose of this announcement.

Pres. Biden against a background of blowing papers and a green circle
Photo by US Sec. of Defense

But this is close enough to the final tally for the Biden agenda that we can assess it. There will be a lot of focus on what didn’t make the cut; paid family and medical leave and Medicare negotiation of prescription drug prices are the biggest omissions. But what about what’s in here? Does it cohere to this standard of building back better?

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