Here’s what the Biden-Harris $5.8T budget proposal could mean for Black Americans

OPINION: Donna Brazile writes that President Biden's proposed budget advances equity and justice with increased funding for housing, education and health care.

U.S. President Joe Biden
U.S. President Joe Biden answers questions, alongside Director of the Office of Management and Budget Shalanda Young, after introducing his budget request for fiscal year 2023 in the State Dining Room of the White House on March 28, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

The $5.8 trillion federal budget the Biden-Harris administration proposed this week contains lots of good news for Black Americans. The spending plan advances equity and racial justice, and funds many programs to benefit low-income and middle-class families while asking the rich and corporations to pay their fair share of taxes.

This is quite a change from the budgets proposed by defeated former President Donald Trump and supported by congressional Republicans that added $2 trillion in deficit spending as the result of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and corporations, helping the rich get richer while cutting vital programs for Americans in need.

The budget proposal by President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris for the federal fiscal year that begins in October would boost spending on domestic programs by 7% to fund critical priorities that would improve life for hard-working Black and other families, including: 

  • Increasing the supply of affordable housing for low-income Americans, including expanding rental assistance to serve an additional 200,000 families beyond the 2.3 million families now getting such aid. Funding to prevent and reduce homelessness would also increase, as would funding to expand homeownership that would benefit first-time homebuyers with moderate incomes. Programs to fight housing discrimination would be expanded.
  • Doubling the maximum size of Pell Grants, which help students from families making less than $50,000 a year go to college. Nearly 60% of Black college students get these grants. The budget also provides increased funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other institutions educating large numbers of minority students. Funding would also be increased for public schools, including $12.2 billion for the Head Start program. And funding for the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights would increase by 18%.
Students walking on the campus of Howard University
Students walking on the campus of Howard University. (Photo: Jessica Floyd)
  • Improving public health by making major investments in mental health care, advancing health equity, accelerating medical research, and making sure we are prepared for future pandemics. Funds would be provided to continue COVID-19 vaccinations, treatment and research; seek an end to cancer; lower the cost of prescription medications; and make health care more affordable in other ways.
  • New investments in clean energy infrastructure and environmental justice to fight climate change and reduce pollution.

On top of all this increased domestic investment, the Biden-Harris budget would boost defense spending by 10% to $773 billion in the face of Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine and the increasing threat China poses. Members of the armed forces, about 20% of whom are Black, would get a 4.6% pay raise under the budget. 

You might think all these investments would increase the federal deficit. But the Biden-Harris administration projects the budget would reduce the deficit by $1 trillion over a decade — on top of a record-setting deficit reduction this year expected to amount to $1.3 trillion.

The budget would cut the deficit next year by bringing more fairness to our tax system. It would raise the top marginal tax rate on the richest Americans from the current 37% to 39.6%. It would also create a Billionaire Minimum Tax of 20%, applying to only the top one-hundredth of 1% of Americans. Importantly, no one making less than $400,000 a year would see their federal taxes increase.

Billionaires currently pay an average of only 8% of their income in federal taxes. According to Forbes magazine, there were only seven Black billionaires in the U.S. last year. My congratulations to all super-rich folks — including African Americans Oprah Winfrey, Kanye West, Michael Jordan, Jay-Z and Tyler Perry — for their great success and generous charitable giving, but the billionaires of all races will still have more than enough money left to pay their bills if they pay their fair share of taxes. 

Jay-Z and Oprah Winfrey attend the HBO Documentary Film “Beyonce: Life Is But A Dream” New York Premiere at the Ziegfeld Theater on February 12, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Parkwood Entertainment)

As for corporations, the president said Monday: “In 2020, there were 50 Fortune 500 companies that made $40 billion in profit combined but didn’t pay a single, solitary cent in federal taxes.” Something is seriously wrong with our tax system when a mom-and-pop convenience store pays more in federal taxes than a giant multibillion-dollar corporation.

Of course, we can count on Republicans in the House and Senate to oppose Biden’s call for tax fairness. Their long-time goal has been to cut taxes for their wealthy political campaign donors as much as they can get away with, no matter how much this adds to the deficit and cuts funding available for programs benefitting the American people. Billionaire Trump and other Republican presidents made cutting taxes for the rich a top priority.

It’s also important to note that some Democrats and independents are opposing the Biden-Harris budget for entirely different reasons than the Republicans, such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who opposes big increases in defense spending.

Budgeting is a messy and contentious process, but vitally important. All sides will need to make painful compromises and the Biden-Harris budget is sure to undergo changes before it wins congressional approval. But the proposed budget is a good one, expanding needed domestic programs, funding a strong national defense and creating a fairer tax system. 

Donna Brazile Headshot
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Donna Brazile is an ABC News Contributor, veteran political strategist, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, and the King Endowed Chair in Public Policy at Howard University. She previously served as interim Chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and of the DNC’s Voting Rights Institute. She managed the Gore campaign in 2000 and has lectured at more than 225 colleges and universities on race, diversity, women, leadership and restoring civility in politics. Brazile is the author of several books, including the New York Times’ bestseller “Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House.” @DonnaBrazile

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