According to a November 3rd poll conducted by Invest in America and Data for Progress, 61% of Americans strongly or somewhat support the Build Back Better (BBB) bill. Among registered Republicans, no measurable percentage strongly supported the BBB bill, and only 26% supported it, and 61% either somewhat or strongly opposed the legislation.
It is ironic that, while most Republican voters support the most significant individual provisions of the BBB bill, they are opposed to the BBB bill itself. So, what is behind Republican voters’ strong opposition to the BBB bill?
Take a recent interview that Ohio Representative Jim Jordan did with Fox and Friends. “[The Democrats] economic plan has basically been ‘lock down the economy, spend like crazy, pay people not to work.’ And now for everyone who has been working, oh, they’re getting ready to raise your taxes. Such a deal,” Jordan said.
In many ways, Jordan’s depiction of the Build Back Better bill is inaccurate. While he would like to scare Americans into thinking that the government is raising taxes on regular citizens, a surtax will apply only to taxpayers whose adjusted gross income (AGI) exceeds $10 million. But in the world of political messaging this inaccuracy doesn’t really matter. It is the message that counts, and this messaging has successfully pushed Republican voters to recoil at the bill in its entirety.
Another Fox News headline read “Biden’s socialist Build Back Better bolstering IRS to ‘spy’ on Americans’ bank accounts”. Another Fox read “Dems’ Build Back Better plan blocks religious schools from using infrastructure money to improve facilities”, without defining “facilities”. In fact, only facilities that are used primarily for sectarian instruction or religious worship are excluded.
Newsmax, which reaches over 75 million homes via cable – and many more via streaming on the internet – is manipulating tax data to turn their readers and viewers against the Build Back Better plan. The network is warning its audience that the average top tax rate on personal income in the United States would hit 57.4% under the plan.
Newsmax fails to mention that the highest marginal (not average) tax rate only applies to that portion of income that is over $539,900 for individuals, $628,300 for families. Studies have shown that most people don’t understand the difference between marginal and effective tax rates. Newsmax also fails to mention that taxpayers earning less than $10 million will not see their taxes increase under the plan.
The fact is the average median U.S. household income is $75,235. After the standard deduction of $25,900 the average family pays less than 12% in Federal income tax. Most Americans would see their tax burden and cost of living decrease because of several provisions in the BBB bill including Child and Affordable Care Act premium tax credits, and further cost of living reductions resulting from Affordable Child Care, Universal Pre-K, Paid Family and Medical Leave, and other provisions.
But the right-wing propaganda machine rages on against Build Back Better. They employ their capital to turn their viewers and readers against BBB when, paradoxically, most Republican voters support the most significant provisions in the bill.
Here are some examples of key provisions of the bill supported by Democrats and Republicans alike:
Paid Family Medical Leave: In a survey commissioned in 2018 by the National Partnership for Women & Families and conducted by Research firms PerryUndem (non-partisan) and Bellwether (Republican), 84% of American voters, including 74% of Republican voters stated they support Paid Family Medical Leave. Surveys taken since then have corroborated these findings.
Affordable Child Care and Child Tax Credit: According to December 2020 polling conducted by First Five Years Fund (FFYF), a nonprofit that advocates for affordable early education, 78% of Republican voters say they support subsidized child care programs for working families. 79% of Republican voters said they support tax credits to help working families pay for child care. Other polls have corroborated these findings.
Clean Energy and Climate Resilience: In a poll conducted by Joseph Rainey Center for Public Policy in July, 76% of Americans, including 68% of Republicans polled support increased Federal investments in energy research and development. Other polls corroborate these findings.
Climate-Related Tax Breaks: In a December 2019 survey conducted by Global Strategy Group (GSG), 89% of voters support extending clean energy tax incentives for solar, wind, and energy storage, including 83% of Republicans. Voters overwhelmingly believe that these tax credits are an effective tool to combat climate change and benefit the economy and public health.
There may be provisions in the BBB bill that Republicans, Independents, and Democrats do not support. For example, there is broad opposition to raising the cap on state and local tax deductions for federal tax purposes that was enacted with the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Many believe such a cap will benefit only the wealthiest taxpayers.
But such topics are not being discussed on conservative airwaves. Why? One can only speculate that their motive is strictly political – to defeat the bill in the Senate, and subsequently deal the Democrats blows in the 2022 and 2024 elections that enable Republicans to take back the reins of power in Washington.
Why can’t Republican voters see how ingenuine it is of the conservative/right wing media machine to deny them legislation that can greatly improve their lives, strictly for partisan political reasons? Why don’t they consult other less-biased media sources to understand exactly what is in the Build Back Better bill? Or read the bill themselves if they really do not trust mainstream media?
Concerns that the infusion of an additional $2.4 trillion into the economy over a 10-year period could further exacerbate inflation are valid. However, seventeen winners of the Nobel prize in economics support Build Back Better and say that it will not affect inflation. But there are other ways of dealing with inflationary pressure without denying American’s legislation that can truly improve their lives.
Rich Zacaroli has served for over 30 years on numerous boards of non-governmental organizations in the education, cultural exchange, community development, and banking sectors. He is chair of the board of directors of Greenheart International. He is a member of Rotary International, a Paul Harris Fellow, is President-elect of the Rotary Club of South Sacramento, and serves on the Pastoral Council for the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament.