Oh, Right, Governance
I’ve noted before that I am posting less about politics these days, primarily because I find it largely enervating, and there are only so many ways to say “The current GOP is a white supremacist authoritarian cult who threw away any pretense at seriousness to grovel at the feet of an actual seditious criminal” before one starts to sound like a broken record. That said, for people who have an interest in actual governance, today wasn’t a bad day: President Biden got to sign into law the Inflation Reduction Act, which is actually mostly a climate and medical care bill, but, sure, call it the Inflation Reduction Act if you like, why not.
The act, now law, actually gets us a reasonable distance to meeting our climate remediation goals (knocks on wood) and helps shave down drug prescription and other medical costs, mostly for seniors. It covers a lot of ground, raises revenues to pay for the plans, and generally is a decent bill that does things as well as can be done when one entire party won’t vote for anything the other party proposed even if it were to build a golden shrine to Ronald Reagan on a national park land leased for its oil rights.
Is it a perfect bill? Not at all — Joe Manchin, who you see at left in the photo, and who was given the honor of the signing pen by Biden — made sure there were some oil and gas giveaways, and Krysten Sinema made sure very rich people continued to get a tax carveout on investments. Lots of stuff I would have been okay with was tossed over the side, and the whole thing in general is substantially smaller than it was when first proposed. From my point of view it could have been better, if, for example, the Democrats had had 52 senators and not 50.
But they didn’t have 52 senators, they had 50, and perfect is the enemy of good, and sometimes, if you can get half a loaf, you take half a loaf, because half a loaf is better than nothing. Then you find a way to stretch that loaf into something closer to what you might have originally wanted. Climate folks, for example, say that the bill just passed has the potential to achieve 90% of the climate goals of the original Build Back Better proposals, which, if accurate, seems a pretty good deal, all things considered. “I get everything I want or I set it all on fire” is not actually a good way to govern.
It also means that at this point Biden has done an actually pretty good job of carrying out his campaign goals, in terms of the legislation that’s gotten through Congress. He’s done a very poor job of communicating that fact to this point, because none of this legislation is really what you’d call sexy; it’s mostly blandly practical at best, and also, it’s debatable whether people actually want to hear about it. Biden was voted into office as much if not more to deny Trump a second term than anything else. But when you add up everything that’s gotten through Congress to be signed into law, well. Turns out Biden’s been pretty effective when no one’s been paying attention. Who knew?
What would be nice is if this actually turned into momentum for the Democrats keeping control of Congress; midterm elections rarely favor the party in power, and the GOP in particular has been busy trying to stack the House with gerrymandered districts. The Democrats will need every advantage they can get to hold that side of the Hill. Whether actual effective governance will be heard over the noise of criminal investigations of the former president (for starters) is what we get to find out. Remember to vote, folks.
But if the GOP does take the Hill, wholly or partially, and the brakes are applied to Biden’s legislative plans, he’s got these things done. We’re closer to not baking in our own juices over the next few decades, and we’ll keep some folks from not having to choose between rent, food or medications. It’s not nothing. In fact, it’s a lot of something. It’s not everything, but it’s more than I would have counted on even a couple of months ago. And it’s worth noting, and remembering when it’s time to cast your ballot.