The Pre-Pandemic Status Quo Wasn’t Good Enough

It was just a year ago that across the nation, cars lined up for miles outside of foodbanks and one in five households faced eviction. Before the pandemic, many of us were just scraping by and endured immediate hardship after losing all or part of our wages. All of us have yet to recover, though the richest among us are flourishing.

President Biden has proposed to “build back better” not only with jobs-creating infrastructure investments, but also by investing in people by expanding the Child Tax Credit, investing in education, expanding access to health care, providing greater supports for home health workers, and so much more. To partly fund these investments, he has proposed increasing the corporate tax rate, raising the top marginal rate for households earning more than $400,000 a year, and closing the capital gains loophole. In so doing, he has put forth a vision of an economy in which the nation’s prosperity is more widely shared.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, however, has said any tax increases are a non-starter. And earlier this year, Republican lawmakers blocked a minimum wage increase. Currently, the GOP remains steadfast in its conviction that deep investments in people and communities are a bridge too far, indicating they are content with the pre-pandemic normal. And therein lies the problem.

The pre-pandemic “normal,” was an economy in which rising stock market values and low unemployment masked precarious financial circumstances for a large majority of us. “Normal” was an economy in which the rich amassed more and more wealth while four in 10 of the rest of us didn’t have ready access to $400 to cover an emergency expense. Complacency with the status quo reflects a failure of imagination. The United States is among the world’s richest nations. It can do better.

Our elected officials should take a hard look at these and other facts and concede that this isn’t a status quo worth returning to.

The president’s proposals are a marked change in what and who our country prioritizes. Biden’s proposed Child Tax Credit expansion would reduce child poverty by half. His corporate tax reform measures would close the gap on zero-tax-paying corporations and raise revenue for investments in infrastructure, healthcare and education. Proposals to increase currently low taxes on the wealthy would ensure those who benefit most from a robust economy are contributing their fair share.

The pre-pandemic economy was working fine for an elite few, but ordinary people can’t afford to go back to “normal.”