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Rep. Katie Porter

Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) speaks during a House Financial Services Committee hearing on Tuesday, October 22, 2019. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images)

Mondaire Jones, Katie Porter Urge Fellow Democrats to Reject Means-Testing Folly

"Means testing is a choice to deprive millions of our neighbors of what they need simply to cope with a budget artificially limited by regressive tax policy."

Andrea Germanos

Democratic Reps. Mondaire Jones and Katie Porter are again pushing back against any effort to implement means-testing to water down potentially historic social investments proposed in their party's Build Back Better plan.

Making the proposed investments in the social safety net—including child care and Medicare expansion—universal is both "good policy and good politics," they wrote in a Washington Post op-ed published Thursday.

Jones (D-N.Y.) and Porter (D-Calif.) made their case a day after they joined other leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in which they similarly pushed for universal programs in the reconciliation package over "complicated methods of means-testing that the wealthy and powerful will use to divide us."

The op-ed also followed reporting indicating that President Joe Biden and some Democrats, including Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, are open to or are directly pushing for means-testing—income caps—on certain programs to lower the plan's overall costs.

However, wrote Jones and Porter, the argument that means-testing aligns with "fiscal responsibility" just doesn't hold water.

"Means-tested programs cost more to administer, because complex systems, processes, and entire offices must be created to determine who qualifies," in contrast to "universal programs [that] allow us to maximize our investment in the American people," they wrote.

In addition, while means-testing proponents point to a need to exclude wealthier households from receiving benefits, Jones and Porter wrote that the practice "often excludes the most vulnerable poor, who aren’t always able to jump through the required hoops to prove their eligibility."

Universal programs, the two lawmakers argue, "build solidarity that helps them stand the test of time—when we all have a stake in the success of a public program, it can withstand changing political winds."

The op-ed noted as an example former President Donald Trump's campaign pledge not to cut the widely popular universal programs Medicare and Social Security, as well as the cutting of means-tested programs such as SNAP and TANF by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Simply put, Jones and Porter wrote, "means testing is a choice to deprive millions of our neighbors of what they need simply to cope with a budget artificially limited by regressive tax policy."

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