During an address from the White House Rose Garden, President Joe Biden criticised the conservative fiscal legacies of his predecessors and “trickle-down” policies that have enshrined economic inequality in the US for decades.
The Democratic president – joined by White House officials and Democratic congressional leadership on Friday to celebrate the passage of a massive $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package – said the legislation “changes the paradigm” for American economic policy.
“For the first time in a long time, this bill puts working people in this nation first,” he said.
Mr Biden signed the legislation into law on Thursday, triggering billions of dollars in aid to schools and state and local governments for vaccine distribution, extending federal unemployment payments for jobless Americans, and baking into US tax code an expanded child tax credit for families with children, among other provisions to combat the Covid-19 crisis and its economic fallout.
“The theory was, we’ve all heard it, especially the last 15 years, cut taxes and those at the top and the benefits they got will trickle down,” Mr Biden said on Friday. “We’ve seen time and time again that trickle-down does not work … All it has done is make those that the top richer in the past and everyone else has fallen behind. This time, it’s time we build an economy that grows from the bottom up and the middle out.”
Mr Biden’s signature legislation is more than twice as expensive as the stimulus package passed by Barack Obama’s administration in 2009 to kickstart the US economy as it recovered from the Great Recession and housing and financial crises.
The White House has touted the American Rescue Plan as “the most progressive piece of legislation in history” as economic forecasts report that its initiatives will lift as many as a third of Americans currently living below the poverty line above it – including cutting child poverty in the US by half.
Vice President Kamala Harris, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke alongside the president at the White House, where 22 congressional Democrats joined the ceremony. No Republican attended – none supported passage of the legislation.
Senator Schumer said the bill is “the most significant piece of legislation in so many ways in decades, and we are just getting started.”