WASHINGTON – Six days after his inauguration, President Biden vowed that his administration would see through the lens of racial equality anything that would make it an “issue of the entire government.”
On Friday, his $ 6 trillion budget began delivering on that promise.
Spread across the president’s enormous spending plan are dozens of tens of billions of dollars of programs specifically designed to strengthen the fortunes of blacks, Asians, tribal communities, and other historically underserved groups in the United States.
Mr Biden is not the first President to spend money on such programs. And civil rights activists said the budget released on Friday fell short in some critical areas like student loans, where even more money is needed to address a longstanding lack of fairness and a one-sided burden from minorities.
“It is a step in the right direction, but it is not a perfect document,” said Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP.
He added, however, that his organization was pleased that the President “continues to make one of his priorities fairer” through the budget.
This idea – paying special attention to the distribution of taxpayers’ money to racial groups – has never been approached as methodically as Mr Biden this year, proponents say. When asked about the president’s justice agenda on Friday, Shalanda Young, acting president of budgetary director, said her department “built this into the overall spending plan” by “giving clear instructions to our authorities to use this lens in implementation.” these programs. “
“It’s not something we have to shout,” she said. “This should pervade the way the government does business.”
Much of the president’s huge budget directs expenses that are not explicitly racially allocated: health care, education, military, transportation, agriculture, retirement programs, and foreign affairs, among others.
But in all of these programs, Mr. Biden’s team has suggested higher spending to ensure colored folks and others who often lag behind get a bigger share of the total cake.
Among the large and small budget items driven by equity:
$ 3 billion to reduce maternal mortality and end racial disparities in maternal mortality.
15 billion US dollars for “Highways to Neighborhoods”, a program that aims to reconnect districts that were cut off by infrastructure projects developed decades ago.
$ 900 million to fund tribal efforts to expand affordable housing.
$ 936 million for an initiative to accelerate environmental and economic justice at the Environmental Protection Agency.
$ 110 million for a Thriving Communities initiative to promote traffic equity through grants to underserved communities.
$ 39 billion in student grants for low- and middle-income students who traditionally attend black colleges and universities and who serve other minority groups.
Mr Biden foreshadowed these kinds of budget decisions in his early days in office. In a speech announcing his “equity agenda,” the president said he was determined to go further than his predecessors in addressing groups he said had been left behind too often.
“We must open America’s promise to every American,” he said during the January 26 speech. “And that means we don’t have to make racial justice an issue for just one government department.”
This approach has sparked anger among conservatives who accuse the president and his advisors of pursuing a racist agenda against white Americans. Fox News a headline accusing Biden of trying to “advance the nationwide division with ‘Racial Justice'”. And The New York Post published an editorial titled “In Push for Woke ‘Equity” Biden Abandons Equality “accusing the president of being” un-American “.
A group called America First Legal, led by Stephen Miller and Mark Meadows, two top advisors to former President Donald J. Trump, this week received an injunction from a Texas judge against the efforts of Mr Biden’s Small Business Administration To Prioritize, it won grants from its $ 28.6 billion restaurant revitalization fund to companies belonging to minority or underserved groups.
“This order is another powerful blow to the unconstitutional decision of the Biden government to choose winners and losers based on skin color,” the group said in a statement.
The president is unlikely to give in. Speaking days after his inauguration, he promised that “every component of the White House and every agency will be involved in this work because promoting justice must be everyone’s responsibility.”
Despite all of Mr. Biden’s haunted rhetoric – he once promised to “no longer fester a narrow, narrow view of this nation’s promise” – his government made little effort on Friday to draw attention to this principle or to highlight details on how a stock-based approach would change the way the government spends its money.
- A new year, a new budget: Fiscal year 2022 for the federal government begins October 1, and President Biden has announced what he plans to spend from that point on. But all expenses require the approval of both chambers of Congress.
- Ambitious total expenditure: President Biden wants the federal government to spend $ 6 trillion in fiscal year 2022 and total spending to rise to $ 8.2 trillion by 2031. That would push the United States to its highest sustained federal spending level since World War II over the next ten years, exceeding $ 1.3 trillion.
- Infrastructure plan: The budget outlines the desired first year of the President’s investment in his American Jobs Plan, which aims to fund improvements to roads, bridges, public transportation and more for a total of $ 2.3 billion over eight years.
- Family plan: The budget also addresses the other major spending proposal that Biden has already launched, his American Families Plan, which aims to strengthen the United States’ social safety net by expanding access to education, lowering childcare costs, and bringing women in the world of work are supported.
- Compulsory programs: As usual, mandatory spending on programs like Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare is a significant part of the proposed budget. They grow as America’s population ages.
- Discretionary issues: Funds for the individual budgets of the agencies and executive programs would reach around $ 1.5 trillion in 2022, an increase of 16 percent over the previous budget.
- How Biden would pay for it: The president would fund his agenda in large part by increasing taxes on businesses and high earners, which would begin to reduce budget deficits in the 2030s. Administrative officials said tax increases would fully offset employment and family plans over the course of 15 years, which the budget request supports. In the meantime, the budget deficit would stay above $ 1.3 trillion each year.
During a budget launch press conference on Friday, Ms. Young and Cecilia Rouse, the White House Chairpersons of the National Economic Council – both black women – did not mention the president’s justice agenda until a reporter asked.
And the budget itself does not seek to quantify the impact of following the president’s direction to make decisions based on a sense of racial justice. There is no “Equity” section in the budget. Aides did not send out fact sheets to reporters on Friday to encourage “equity spending” in the president’s inaugural budget.
This left some outreach to civil rights groups and other advocates who were quick to point out examples of spending that would benefit communities traditionally left behind by previous presidents.
Sara Chieffo, the chief lobbyist of the environmentalist League of Conservation Voters, pointed out the $ 936 million initiative at the Environmental Protection Agency to accelerate environmental and economic justice, which aims to clean up the environment in underserved communities.
“The importance of this government’s proposal to make the largest ever investment in colored and low-income communities that have been exposed to environmental racism for decades cannot be overstated,” said Ms. Chieffo.
Marcela Howell, President of In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, commended the president for investing in programs that specifically benefit black women.
“Kudos also go to President Biden for funding important programs to combat racial equality and economic security,” she said in a statement, adding that “we are making the proposed investments in infrastructure and job creation, affordable childcare and welcome workforce training and education. ”and more.
The Planned Parenthood Federation of America issued a statement thanking Mr. Biden for the “important investments” it believes would help “combat the maternal mortality crisis and its devastating effects on colored communities.”