Biden's 2025 budget marries progressive tax hikes with populist campaign planks


U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks, during a campaign event focusing on abortion rights at the Hylton Performing Arts Center, in Manassas, Virginia, U.S., January 23, 2024. 

Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

President Joe Biden’s 2025 funding proposal set to be released Monday will repackage his tax hike proposals on billionaires and corporations and many other requests from his 2024 budget, which is still under negotiation on Capitol Hill halfway into the fiscal year.

Like all presidential budgets, Biden’s 2025 plan is more of a wish list than it is a policy document. This year, as the president faces a likely general election rematch against Donald Trump in November, his budget is also a statement of the Biden campaign’s economic platform.

According to the White House, the budget aims to reduce the federal deficit by $3 trillion over the next 10 years largely by imposing a minimum 25% tax rate on the unrealized income of the very wealthiest households and by reshaping the corporate tax code.

Biden will also seek to shore up Medicare and Social Security, in part by relying on new, federal negotiating powers for Medicare prescription drugs and by seeking other savings in housing, health insurance and more.

Biden previewed many of the themes of his budget blueprint in his State of the Union address on Thursday.

“Do you really think the wealthy and big corporations need another $2 trillion in tax breaks? I sure don’t. I’m going to keep fighting like hell to make it fair!” he said in a fiery, partisan speech in the Capitol.

Biden’s populist, progressive, tax-the-rich funding plan is not a novel proposal from his White House.

On the contrary, ever since he took office in 2021, Biden and congressional Democrats have repeatedly proposed increasing taxes on the very wealthiest in order to raise revenue. But the idea made very little headway even when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress.

After Republicans assumed the House majority in 2023, the billionaire tax plans were put on ice, indefinitely.

House Republicans tried to preempt Biden’s budget proposal last week, by passing their own 2025 budget resolution in a party-line committee vote. That proposal would aim to reduce the ballooning federal deficit by some $14 trillion over the next decade, in part by dismantling Biden’s landmark Inflation Reduction Act, which has provided massive investments in clean energy and the green economy.

The two competing budget proposals are no surprise in a deeply divided Washington, one where compromise has been an especially rare commodity during the 2024 fiscal year.

Back-and-forth disagreements in Congress have meant that six months into the fiscal year, lawmakers have still not settled on a permanent budget.

Over the course of the past six months, fierce battles in Congress led to several near-miss government shutdowns, and they cost former Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy his job.

U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., reacts to a reporter’s question as he arrives for a House Republican conference meeting, where they are expected to discuss an attempt by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., to oust him from the speakership, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Oct. 3, 2023.

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

In the meantime, the government had been keeping the lights on via temporary spending bills.

Finally, in late February, lawmakers struck a deal on a $460 billion bill to fund half of the government for the rest of the fiscal year. Funding for the other half must be settled by March 22 or the government will go into partial shutdown.

Despite that dysfunction, Biden did not dilute any part of his progressive budget requests for 2025, though that may have made it easier for the polarized Congress to swallow.

This year, the budget also represents Biden’s economic platform for his reelection campaign. As the president pursues his bid for reelection, there are no signs of softening his pressure campaign against wealthy interests.

“Republicans will cut Social Security and give more tax cuts to the wealthy,” Biden declared at his State of the Union address Thursday. “I will protect and strengthen Social Security and make the wealthy pay their fair share!”

Voter sentiments about Biden’s economy may be starting to brighten, however, after months of gloomy approval ratings, according to recent polls.

In a Wall Street Journal survey taken in February, Biden received his highest grade on the economy during the campaign so far. Forty percent of voters approved of his handling of the economy, a 4-point increase from the same question in December.

Still, Biden has catching up to do in order to compete with voter perceptions of what Trump’s economy was like.

Former US President and 2024 presidential hopeful Donald Trump arrives to speak during a “Get Out the Vote” rally at the Coliseum Complex in Greensboro, North Carolina, on March 2, 2024. 

Ryan Collerd | Afp | Getty Images

In a CBS/YouGov poll also taken in February, 55% of survey respondents said Biden’s policies would make prices more expensive while only 34% said the same of Trump’s policies.

Meanwhile, Biden’s reelection campaign is working relentlessly to try and convince voters that post-pandemic jumps in the cost of living are, in fact, merely a product of unfair corporate pricing tactics, the same ones that the Biden administration has been cracking down on in the past year.

Last week, Biden announced the launch of a “Strike Force on Unfair and Illegal Pricing,” a group that will be jointly led by the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice. It’s goal will be to put pressure on companies to lower prices.

“President Biden is fed up with corporate practices that unfairly raise costs for consumers,” National Economic Council Director Lael Brainard told reporters last week. “And he’s taking action.”

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