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Pelosi-PoorPeoplesCampaign

U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) speaks during a press conference with members of the Poor People's Campaign outside the U.S. Capitol August 25, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Democrats' Inept Messaging: It's Not a $3.5 Trillion Bill But $350 Billion a Year

Democrats are misrepresenting the size of their own reconciliation package to their own detriment.

Miles Mogulescu

Why are the Democrats so inept at framing their messages in a way that appeals to people instead of scaring them off? They're busy declaring that they want to pass $3.5 trillion in new federal spending for important and goals like child care, paid family leave, fighting climate change, increased Medicare benefits, lower prescription drug prices, and child tax credits, mostly paid for by higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations. Most of these individual programs are popular with voters, as is taxing the rich. 

Because of obscure Senate rules, they keep promoting their $3.5 trillion plan, a number that scares even some of their supporters and hands Republicans talk points.

But the $3.5 Trillion number sounds astronomical, is scary to many voters, and gives Republicans and conservative Democrats like Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema a huge opening to attack the level of spending which the country allegedly can't afford without disastrous consequences. To tell the truth, a number that large even scares me, a progressive Democrat, who believes the fear of deficits is overblown.

What's astounding, however, is that the Democrats are misrepresenting the size of their own reconciliation package to their own detriment. Democrats are promoting it as a $3.5 trillion bill—which is endlessly repeated by the media—which makes it sound like Democrats want to spend $3.5 trillion in one year. SCARY BUT FALSE!!! The Democratic bill is simply a blueprint for programs to be funded over 10 years. The actual cost of the bill is an average of $350 billion a year—it's a big number, but less than half of what the U.S. spends a year on the military budget.

So why isn't this the Democrat's message: We want to provide child care, universal Pre-K, paid family leave, lower drug prices, clean energy, and child tax credits to make your lives easier; it will cost about $350 billion a year which is less than half of the military budget; we'll pay for most of it by taxing the wealthy and corporations? 

Whatever you do, Democrats, stop promoting it as a $3.5 trillion bill and start promoting it as a $350 billion a year bill.

Let's not get too into the weeds, but the only reason the $3.5 trillion number even comes up is due to the filibuster and other obscure Congressional rules. The only way the Democrats can pass their new programs without 10 Republican votes is through so-called "budget reconciliation" which only requires a simple majority of 51 votes instead of a super-majority of 60 votes in the Senate so long as the legislation is limited to taxes and spending.

But reconciliation rules requiring the Congressional Budget Office to project out changes to budget deficits over ten years necessitates multiplying the average annual number times approximately ten, which turns an average of $350 billion a year into $3.5 trillion over ten years. The military budget for the next ten years is projected to be close to $10 trillion, but no one talks about the "ten trillion dollar military budget."

However, Congressional Democrats just can't get their messaging right. Because of obscure Senate rules, they keep promoting their $3.5 trillion plan, a number that scares even some of their supporters and hands Republicans talk points. And the simple-minded media endlessly repeats the $3.5 trillion number. 

It's time instead for Democrats to talk about a $350 billion a year plan that will help raise the standard of living and improve the security of most Americans. Wake up Democrats, before it's too late.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Miles Mogulescu

Miles Mogulescu

Miles Mogulescu is an entertainment attorney/business affairs executive, producer, political activist and writer.

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