“Socialism” or do it for Montana?

HELENA – This is the first in a two-part series on the contents of the Biden administration’s Build Back Better program and what the two U.S. senators from Montana are saying about it.

As Congressional Democrats prepare to tackle President Biden’s ambitious social spending proposal known as Build Back Better, the two U.S. senators from Montana remain on the other side of the political divide – l ‘one calling it “socialism” and the other calling it a vital push to help the economy and working families.

The $ 1.75 trillion plan, in its current form, includes a long list of programs designed to help middle-income families: child care subsidies, universal preschool funding, affordable housing assistance, training professional and expanding health care and assistance coverage.

When asked if the federal government should provide this level of assistance to its citizens, Republican U.S. Senator Steve Daines said no.

“There is a fundamental battle going on, a battle for freedom and less government against a massive expansion of federal government socialism,” he told MTN News in a recent interview. “This bill is the dream bill of Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi.”

Daines also calls the move a “hyper-inflationary bomb” that will put increased inflationary pressure on the economy, with increased federal spending and green energy policies that will drive up the cost of fossil fuels.

Still, Democratic Senator Jon Tester told MTN News that low- and middle-income families are finding it increasingly difficult to afford basic necessities, and giving them a helping hand will not only, directly, help them. but also an economy that is still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I hear a lot about (the shortage of) child care and how that keeps people from working and I hear about companies that can’t recruit people because there is no room for them. He said. “Either you come to Washington, DC to try to do something or you are filibustering. I came here to do something.

Those who call it “socialism” don’t even seem to know what socialism means, Tester says, calling it a patently false statement.

“I think if you look at what we’re trying to do here is we’re trying to make sure the economy is running at full capacity,” he says. “The truth is, the federal government is helping working families, helping small businesses succeed. “

Still, Tester says he expects the plan to go through many changes before it’s finally passed, if he does – and that he wants to make sure he treats the average Montanan well. , including its tax provisions.

The US House could vote on the measure as early as this week, after which it would move on to the US Senate, where Democrats have a slim 51-50 majority – and only if moderates like West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona goes hand in hand.

The tester says it could be finished by the end of the year, but “we’ll see.”

“It’s all very, very moving right now,” he said earlier this week.

The content of the latest version of the bill includes:

Childcare: Funding that would ensure that families do not pay more than 7% of their income for child care. For a family earning $ 75,000 a year, that’s about $ 440 a month – half or less than half the going rate for child care in many towns in Montana. Tester says there may also be money to establish additional child care centers.

Lodging: An extension of rent assistance and down payment assistance for home buyers, and the construction or rehabilitation of more than one million homes nationwide.

Higher Education: Increase of $ 550 in the maximum amount of the Pell grant. About 11,500 Montana students have these grants.

Universal preschool: Funding to provide free preschool for thousands more children in Montana, with parents able to send their children to the school of their choice.

Guaranteed and paid family leave: Some form of this proposal has been included or excluded from the plan, as it undergoes changes. It appears to be in the latest version, with four weeks guaranteed leave, for new parents or to care for a loved one.

Health care: Expands Medicare to cover hearing aids, continues to expand assistance for people who purchase individual health insurance, expands coverage to more low-income citizens, expands home care for the elderly and people with disabilities, and enables Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices.

Professional training: Increased funding for vocational training through grant programs, to reverse a steadily declining federal funding.

Climate change / clean energy: Investments in clean energy technologies, increase of the tax credit for the purchase of electric vehicles made in the United States to $ 12,500 and several other initiatives.

Daines criticizes climate change initiatives, arguing that they will increase the cost of traditional fossil fuels, such as oil, gas and coal – but his overall criticism generally focuses on what he calls “reckless spending” by the government. bill and its tax increase provisions, rather than talking about the programs it would fund.

“It would put more pressure on the economy, in terms of inflation – that’s why I call it a hyperinflationary bomb,” he says. “We have to stop it.”

Tester says his support focuses primarily on four things: child care, affordable housing, reducing prescription drug prices and mitigating climate change.

“I just think if you want to get the workforce back, child care is really important,” he says. “(And) without this housing, there are communities that cannot hire teachers because they have nowhere to live. “

Regarding climate change, Tester says the idea is not to undermine fossil fuels, but to help all types of energy evolve into cleaner products, through investments in research and development and other incentives.

“Look, we developed a vaccine against Covid in a year,” he says. “This country does great things when you unleash power, and I think the federal government can unleash that power with some support through dollars and / or tax incentives.”

Next: How Do Democrats Plan To Pay For The $ 1.75 Trillion 10 Year Plan? What are the tax changes in the bill and how will they affect Montana?

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