President Biden’s tweet Saturday that “My Build Back Better Agenda costs zero dollars” is reminiscent of President Obama’s June 2009 claim that, under his Affordable Care Act, “if you like the plan you have, you can keep your health care plan.”
It’s not only that Mr. Obama’s phrase won PolitiFact’s 2013 “Lie of the Year” award and that Mr. Biden’s tweet likely deserves that honor as well. More important, the ACA lie was also a major factor in one of the greatest midterm massacres ever, when Democrats lost six seats in the Senate, 63 in the House, six governorships and a record 680 state legislative seats in 2010.
Mr. Biden’s over-the-top claim about this week’s reconciliation bill may contribute to a similar result, and for some of the same reasons. Not only did many Americans disbelieve Mr. Obama; they were offended that he thought they were stupid enough to buy his pitch.
Democratic shenanigans around the reconciliation bill’s cost are similarly insulting. What Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer are trying to jam through Congress is a gigantic expansion of the welfare state, financed by huge tax increases and riddled with accounting gimmicks. Voters are really supposed to think that adds up to zero dollars? Democrats are desperate to conceal the measure’s true cost, which we won’t know for sure until the Congressional Budget Office issues its estimate and outside monitors like the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget identify the tricks and scams embedded in the bill that hide its real price tag.
Mr. Biden’s standing—and by extension his party’s—with voters will also suffer from other mistakes repeated from Mr. Obama’s ACA and his 2009 stimulus. The Build Back Better Act is certainly suffering from “process fouls” like the ones that enraged voters during Mr. Obama’s presidency. Remember Mrs. Pelosi’s famous injunction about ObamaCare: “We have to pass the bill, so that you can find out what is in it—away from the fog of the controversy.” Does anyone believe individual representatives will have digested the BBB bill’s 2,465 pages, which the House Budget Committee posted Saturday night, before voting?
Mr. Obama promised his 2009 stimulus was filled with “shovel-ready projects.” They never materialized. But Democrats were also damaged by provisions in that bill and the ACA that showered political friends with taxpayer dollars. Readers may recall companies like Solyndra and catch phrases like “Cornhusker Kickback,” “Louisiana Purchase” and “Florida Flim-Flam,” to name a few.
Fast forward to this year. As Democrats slowly make more details public, Americans are learning about the gifts Mr. Biden is bestowing on his political allies in the BBB—including a special tax deduction for union dues and an extra $4,500 tax credit for purchasing union-made electric vehicles. There are undoubtedly countless other provisions stuffed into the nearly 2,500-page monstrosity.
Democrats who dismiss these problems are deluding themselves. They’ve talked themselves into believing the only way to maintain their congressional control in 2022 is to jam through the bill, thinking passage will produce a wave of voter gratitude for all the new “free” stuff.
While bread and circuses may have worked in ancient Rome for a time, it won’t cut it in modern America. Think of the effects on millions of small businesses that are pass-throughs and would face higher taxes. Or consider the tens of millions of investors who would see asset prices fall, many of them average Americans whose retirement savings and investment accounts would suffer under weightier capital-gains taxes. Then there are workers whose wage and benefit increases would slow as inflation heats up. The White House may call it “unfair and absurd,” but companies will raise prices and slash costs to pay Mr. Biden’s higher corporate tax rates.
The passing of a gigantic stimulus and a huge government healthcare expansion weren’t rewarded in 2010 by Americans eager to repay Washington’s generosity by voting Democrat. Just the opposite. Failing to pass the reconciliation bill may actually save some Democratic seats.
Mr. Biden evidently paid lots of attention to the Obama administration’s political methods when he was vice president, but missed the political fallout. When he told Mr. Obama that signing the Affordable Care Act was “a big f—ing deal,” Mr. Biden also described the scope of the law’s political devastation.
That could well describe the Democrats’ losses in 2022. They’re likely to get shellacked whether or not they pass BBB, though perhaps not quite as badly if it fails. Apparently some leaders never learn.