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President Biden tells rich to 'pay your fair share'

President Joe Biden on Thursday bit back at Republicans who’d described his economic recovery plan as excessive spending, pointing to their support of his predecessor’s nearly $2 trillion in tax cuts for big corporations and the wealthy.

“Almost none of that $2 trillion tax cut was paid for,” Biden said of former President Donald Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. “It just ballooned the federal deficit.”

At a briefing from the White House Thursday, the president defended his plan to raise taxes on the wealthy in an effort to strengthen the American economy as part of his historic $3.5 trillion infrastructure bill, referred to as his Build Back Better agenda, currently moving through the House. House Democrats unveiled the tax hike Monday as a way to fund the plan.

“The data is absolutely clear: Over the past 40 years, the wealthy have gotten wealthier and too many corporations have lost their sense of responsibility to their workers, their communities, and the country,” Biden said. “Just look at the facts—CEOs used to make about 20 times the average worker in the company that they ran. Today they make more than 350 times what the average worker in their corporation makes.”

Biden's speech comes a week after the president delivered a new wave of federal vaccine mandates to fight the COVID-19 pandemic as the contagious delta variant continues to spread across the country. His six-prong plan aims to push millions of private-sector employees and federal contractors toward vaccination, after his approval rating had dropped the week before due to backlash from a controversial and hasty military exit from Afghanistan.

The president further emphasized America’s wealth disparities, saying that since the pandemic, billionaires have collectively seen their wealth go up by $1.8 trillion and that 55 of the country’s largest companies don’t pay a penny in federal income taxes.

He proposes raising the top tax rate from 37% to 39.6%, and capping itemized deductions at 28% on those earning more than $400,000. Americans with an adjusted income above $5 million a year would have a 3% surtax and wealthy businesses would see the corporate tax rate rise from 21% to 26.5% on revenues beyond $5 million.

“All I'm asking is you pay your fair share,” Biden said, outlining his plan to give the IRS the ability to crack down on the wealthiest Americans by mandating that they provide what amounts go in and out of their bank accounts to the federal regulator. Currently, the government can’t see what the wealthy make and “can‘t tell if they’re cheating,” the president said. 

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According to the White House, economists have estimated the amount of evaded federal taxes could be somewhere around $160 billion and audit rates on those making over $1 million every year dropped by 80% between 2011 to 2018.

Biden emphasized that Americans earning less than $400,000 a year would not see taxes go up, and around 50 million in the middle class would receive tax breaks. He also reiterated that his Build Back Better plan would lower the cost of day care, child care and elder care to make it possible for people, mostly women, to return to the workforce.

While maintaining that his first priority is getting the COVID-19 pandemic under control, Biden emphasized that passing the infrastructure plan could change the trajectory of America for years, maybe even decades, to come.

“For a long time, this economy was great for those at the very top, but ordinary, hard-working Americans, the people who built this country, have been basically cut out of the deal,” Biden said, noting his administration is also continuing to investigate areas of the economy where corporate giants are controlling more and more of the marketplace, like agriculture.

House Democrats like Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal of Massachusetts praised Biden’s Build Back Better plan last week as “a once-in-a-generation chance to make transformative, beneficial change.” 

But Republicans have expressed concern that Biden’s plan could cost jobs or worsen federal debt.

One of Neal’s Republican counterparts on the committee, Congressman Kevin Brady of Texas, said Biden’s plan is “leading America on an economic surrender to China, Russia, Europe and the Middle East.”

House members will return next week to continue working on legislative agendas, including the infrastructure package.

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C-SPAN

President Joe Biden explains his plan to increase taxes on Americans making more than $400,000 as part of his Build Back Better plan on Thursday.