The Biden administration's call for 16 years of non-means tested, guaranteed, fully funded public education for every American citizen certainly is laudable on its face.
It's the White House's rationale for extending schooling by four years - two for Pre-K and two for community college - that should be propelling our B.S. detectors into high alert. Biden's proposed extension, along with his plan for paid family medical leave and child care subsidies which would cap out-of-pocket costs for day care at seven percent of family income, is to ensure that parents can continue to work outside of the home. The "family" plan contains no subsidies that would actually help families spend more leisure time together instead of working till they drop. And it does not make the child tax credit increases permanent; it only extends them to 2025.
In an off-the-record press call with the media to preview Biden's speech before Congress tonight, administration officials were, in fact, selling the $1.9 trillion American Families Plan as a weapon in the US hegemon's arsenal for "competitiveness" with the rest of the civilized world. There was nary a word about enhancing American minds and bodies and spirits. It's all about both directly and indirectly subsidizing corporations and employers while preparing the work force of the future, literally from birth.
Senior Administration Official I couched it in typical neoliberal-speak:
The American Families Plan invests in our children and our families, helping families cover the expenses that so many struggle with now: lowering health insurance premiums; cutting child poverty; and producing a larger, more productive, and healthier workforce in the years ahead....
It will make transformational investments from early childhood to higher education so that all children, young — so that all children and young people are able to learn and grown (sic) and gain the skills they need....
Skill Me Now
The plan will also invest in our teachers, improving teacher training and support so that our schools become engines of growth at every level. It will address teacher shortages, which have only gotten more critical in the context of the pandemic. It’ll improve teacher preparation and strengthen pipelines for teachers of color.
Translation of the above Senior Administration Official Neospeak:
-Children are cattle futures who need skills in order to guarantee oligarchic growth and profit for their future bosses and CEOs who "earn" at least 300 times the salary of the average worker. Children are not cast as curious sentient beings who need to be taught to think critically or to become immersed in art, literature, philosophy. These liberal arts are reserved for the children of the rich. -check.
-Profits will still prevail over people, although some lucky people might have the chance to access more affordable care on the insurance marketplace by at least temporarily paying through only one nostril rather than through the entire nose. For right now, the Biden plan to get us through the pandemic is to continue to generously cut an average of $50 a month from predatory insurance premiums which often cost thousands. - check.
-Child poverty will pragmatically be cut (maybe) but never entirely eliminated in the richest country in the history of the planet. - check.
-With just enough poverty being cut, some lucky children will magnanimously be allowed to grow up into strong mature flesh in the low-income workforce of the future. How can the rich continue getting richer without able-bodied servants to fulfill their every need? If the planter class in the antebellum south could attend to the physical needs of the enslaved for shelter and health care, then so too can our own enlightened elites at least minimally attend to the needs of the hired help - check.
-Schools, transformed in the last, lost decades into engines of capitalism, will continue to be treated as businesses geared more toward the growth of the plutonomy than toward the growth of human minds. And teachers and pupils alike will continue to be tested to ensure that the interests of capital are being properly advanced- check.
And now let's take a look at who and what are being left out of Joe Biden's investments in America's future.
For such a woke administration that so prides itself on its diversity and "inclusiveness," it's quite telling that the middle-aged and elderly of all races and genders are almost entirely excluded from Biden's definition of the American Family. There will be no expansion of Medicare, or a lowering of the eligibility age. There will be no increase in monthly Social Security benefits. There will no negotiations with pharmaceutical companies to lower the price of drugs, which in the US are the highest in the world. There will be no deals to reimport cheaper drugs from Canada and other countries which do negotiate lower prices with manufacturers, and which do have single payer health insurance systems.
On the contrary: the Biden plan would continue to engorge the for-profit health insurance industry by giving billions in direct cash payments to United Healthcare, Blue Cross and other corporations under the "Affordable" Care Act. The White House will ensure that our health care system remains the most expensive in the world while having some of the poorest results in terms of mortality and morbidity. That is really what "competitiveness" is all about.
Even right in the middle of a pandemic.
Meanwhile, there are the usual aspirational echoes of such Obama administration plans as taxing capital gains at a comparable rate to labor, closing the carried interest loophole and reforming the dynasty-friendly inheritance tax code. The $15 minimum wage would be strictly limited to daycare workers, to supplement Biden's recent executive order raising it to $15 for employees of federal contractors.
One reporter in the off-the-record press gaggle did press Senior Administration Official I (or was it II or III?) for more specifics, such as just when those extra four years of schooling might actually come to pass.
Well, when all the Senior Administration Officials got together to iron out the specifics, it turned out that there are so many wrinkles in so much gauze and gossamer that nobody really knows the answer, even if Congress does perform a miracle and actually pass the American Family Plan.
But since there is so much yardage (not to mention gaping holes) in the material, Senior Official One allowed that "broadly speaking, this is a 10-year program — the American Families Plan. That’s the window. And you know, many of these things will become permanent. They — they phase in at different times in different ways."
So, some are immediate. Some, like paid leave, have a ramp-up. Some have, you know, like pre-K — you know, a different share that is paid overtime on a sliding basis by states starting at a, you know, low end, the amount that states pay, and as time goes on, an expectation that they will pay more.
Are we all clear now? No wonder the reporter didn't follow up and inquire whether Senior Administration Official, given Biden's call for Republican input on the American Family Plan, was referring to the dreaded Overton Window. Spread the negotiations out, delay implementation for a decade, give the lobbyists all the time they need to re-rip the closed loopholes on taxation, and ultimately bow to the whims of the august Senate Parliamentarian (a/k/a the Pope-Queen of the United States), and Biden himself is buying all the time he needs to ensure that America's slide off the low end proceeds apace.
Read between the lines. Take the hype and the hope in his first ballyhooed speech to Congress with a grain of salt in your wounds.