By Ben Jealous
We could all use some good news out of Washington. I’ve got some. The Senate’s passage of the Inflation Reduction Act this month is good news for families, the economy, the planet, and even our democracy. As I write this, the House is poised to pass the bill too, giving Congress and President Biden a major win this summer.
This is a big deal.
For starters, it is the biggest investment in fighting climate change in our country’s history. The bill puts a whopping $360 billion toward developing affordable, clean energy sources.
It creates tax breaks if you buy an electric vehicle. Supporters say it will slash carbon emissions by 40 percent in just eight years; great news for our kids and grandkids, but also great news for all of us right now. Because not only will we have cleaner air and measurable progress against climate change, the investment in renewable energy generation should save families money on their electric bills. It also means we should suffer less from big ups and downs in oil prices caused by turmoil in unstable parts of the world.
I especially like the parts of the bill that include money for cities being hit particularly hard by climate change and for Native American communities. The harms caused by climate change aren’t shared equally. This legislation recognizes that and does something about it.
The bill also promises to put more money back in families’ pockets by using the government’s bargaining power to lower Medicare prescription drug prices. That is great news for seniors in our communities.
And it tackles a nagging problem we’ve had for years: getting big corporations to pay their fair share in taxes. The bill creates a 15 percent minimum tax on corporations that make more than $1 billion in profits. It gives the IRS more money to collect taxes from big businesses and wealthy people who use loopholes and legal tricks to avoid paying what they owe. The bill will also put downward pressure on inflation. It may take a little while to see all the effects, but saving families money on health care, prescriptions and energy – while reducing the deficit – is a firm push in the right direction for the economy.
The bill isn’t perfect. Because of the political compromises necessary to get it passed, some important pieces were dropped. For example, it doesn’t extend the federal Child Tax Credit enacted as part of COVID relief, which had a big impact on children living in poverty.
There is more work to be done, but this bill shows what serious, committed public servants— in this case, Senate Democrats—can accomplish when they work together.
If there’s a cloud around this silver lining, it’s that not one Republican senator voted for this bill. Not one. Maybe they’re worried about ticking off the big drug companies, which fought lower drug prices tooth and nail. Maybe they think voters will forget by November. But I don’t think they will.
I don’t think Americans will forget who voted for lower drug prices, clean energy, and making billionaires and corporations pay their taxes – and who didn’t.
We hear a lot about the growing gulf between the two major parties in America. But there’s a difference between politicians and voters. The people of Kansas just voted to protect the right to abortion care under the state constitution in the face of Republican legislators’ efforts to impose a complete ban on abortion. I think there are a lot of people—including Republicans—who need lower drug costs and smaller energy bills—and think the richest people and companies in America should not get a free pass to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.
When we step into the voting booth, we are voting for individuals. And those individuals have voting records. This fall, voters get to decide whether our elected representatives are serving us or working against our best interests, our families, and our future. If your member of Congress isn’t putting you first, you can vote them out. If they are doing what’s best for you, you can send them back. And that’s the best news of all.
Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way and Professor of the Practice at the University of Pennsylvania. His next book, “Never Forget Our People Were Always Free,” will be published by Harper Collins in December 2022.
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