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Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) conducts a news conference

Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) conducts a news conference outside the Capitol to reintroduce the Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act on Tuesday, April 27, 2021. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Mondaire Jones Warns Against Watering Down Human Infrastructure Proposals

The New York Democrat is advocating universal programs, not means-tested ones, for programs in the Build Back Better plan.

Andrea Germanos

Democratic Rep. Mondaire Jones on Sunday criticized efforts to include means-testing requirements on programs in his party's reconciliation package as an approach that is not cost-effective and that could exclude those most in need.

The vocal opposition to means-testing from Jones and other progressive Democrats came amid a push by conservative Democrats including Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia to pare back the climate and safety net package by imposing income limits on proposals like Medicare expansion.

"When you force people to prove that they qualify for a social program," Jones (D-N.Y.) told MSNBC's Ali Velshi, "you have to create processes and an entire administration to then verify eligibility."

"We know that that is overly burdensome for the neediest Americans, people who... can't obtain the documentation they need," he said.

A further problem, Jones continued, is that people "may be intimidated by the countless pages that they have to complete in many instances—in many instances complex pages."

"We know that universal programs are popular," he said. "There's a reason why Social Security and Medicare have withstood the test of time despite the best efforts by Republicans to roll those programs back."

Jones echoed some of the arguments against means-testing he made in a Washington Post joint op-ed last week with Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.).

"For [President Joe] Biden’s agenda to meet its potential, we must heed the lessons of the past," Jones and Porter wrote. "That means making our investments universal."

"We can’t, as some have insisted, weaken the proposals by 'means-testing' them: restricting benefits only to those who meet arbitrary income requirements and who have the ability to prove they do."

In that joint op-ed, as well as in his interview with Velshi, Jones pointed to 2011 research from the Center for Economic and Policy Research that found "meanstesting is not an effective route for reducing the cost of Social Security" and could in fact raise the costs of the program.

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