We CAN do medium-sized things.
The Inflation Reduction Act offers the single biggest investment in climate in U.S. history … and that’s a sad comment on our politics.
Senate Democrats erupted in jubilant cheers as Vice President Kamala Harris announced the results of the final vote on the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, the pared-down, Joe Manchin-approved final version molded out of the ashes of Build Back Better. It passed by the slimmest possible margin, 51-50, requiring Harris’s tie-breaking vote. But it passed.
Make no mistake: The Inflation Reduction Act is good policy. The climate, tax, and healthcare bill will invest nearly $400 billion in incentives to lurch our energy economy over to renewable sources. That will focus on consumers, empowering everyday folks to make more sustainable investments in home energy alternatives like solar and wind, or transit, like electric vehicles. On the healthcare front, it will extend Affordable Care Act subsidies until 2025 to 13 million Americans that originated in the pandemic. It also empowers Medicare, for the first time, to negotiate prescription drug prices and caps out-of-pocket prescription drug maximums to $2,000. Finally, it establishes a minimum corporate tax on “book” income, which is critical to preventing major corporations from establishing foreign tax havens.
This is good policy. But it’s not quite the “Big F’ing Deal” it’s being touted as — it’s more like a medium-sized F’ing Deal.
For all the Inflation Reduction Act does, there’s so much that it doesn’t do. For starters, it does nothing about childhood tax credits, Medicare expansion, paid family leave, universal pre-K and so much more that was in the original Build Back Better bill. But even where it does do good, it pulls punches. It offers serious climate carrots, but it doesn’t enforce climate sticks. It extends ACA subsidies, but it doesn’t establish a public option. It allows Medicare to negotiate prescription drugs, but only 10 of them. It caps insulin costs at $35, but only for Medicare beneficiaries. It establishes a corporate minimum tax, but it doesn’t eliminate the carried interest loophole.
I can already hear the grizzled political veterans responding with callous incredulity at my naiveté. “Of course it doesn’t. This is how politics works.”
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