STOP US IF YOU’VE HEARD THIS BEFORE: Sen. Joe Manchin has been huddling with members of Congress, desperate to come up with a plan to avoid a recession. Is Build Back Better really going to get a second life?
THERE’S NO SHORTAGE OF IDEAS THAT ARE IN THE TRIAL BALLOON STAGE as Congress struggles to come up with something as an economic crisis looms. Here are some ideas that are on the table, and our handicapping:
Prescription drug price controls: This has strong public support, and can be sold as a way to reduce inflation. Chances: 55%.
Lifting tariffs: Sounds good in principle, but there are lots of details to work out. With U.S.-China relations still rocky, we don’t expect much between Washington and Beijing — maybe some U.S. tariffs on other countries could be lifted. Chances: 45%.
Gasoline tax break: Most experts consider this a gimmick, but Democrats would gladly accept an end of the 18 cents per gallon gasoline tax, which would win strong public support. Chances: 60%.
Windfall profits tax on energy companies: Progressives love the idea, and it polls pretty well, but there simply aren’t 60 votes to get this passed in the Senate. Chances: 20%.
Tax hike on the wealthy: Larry Summers called yesterday for killing some of Donald Trump’s tax cuts, but the idea of higher taxes with a potential recession coming has very little support. Chances: 25%.
Environmental reforms: Surprisingly, Manchin supports spending more money on clean energy programs, which could win 50 votes in the Senate: Chances: 45%.
TWO VERY BIG OBSTACLES: First, with a modest gun control measure slowing to a crawl, will there be enough time to pass a Build Back Better bill before lengthy recesses shut down Congress later this summer?
SECOND, MANY OF THESE BILLS WOULD SPEND MORE MONEY, and there’s a growing belief in Congress — and among the public — that spending lots of money is what has gotten us into this inflation mess in the first place.
SO WE DON’T SEE ANYTHING DRAMATIC FROM CONGRESS; the Federal Reserve will do the heavy lifting. But if there’s a need to show voters that Congress can do something, a gasoline tax break gets our nod as an idea that might fly.
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