Build Back Better. Wait, What?

Build Back Better. Wait, What?

One of our pet peeves is when proposed bills in Congress are given names that “sound good” but do not provide any clue what the law under discussion would entail. We wrote about this in our May 25, 2021, post on the government principle of Transparency.

The so-called “Build Back Better Act” currently on the table in Congress is a perfect example of a law with a name that misrepresents its true purpose and obscures what really is proposed.

President Biden proposed this legislation, which passed the House of Representatives but got hung up in the 50-50 Senate thanks to Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia. With Congress finishing its holiday break, the issues likely will resurface very soon.

“Build Back” What, Exactly, and Will it Be “Better”?

As with any political decision, Principle Based Politics suggests that the President and Congress apply to the Build Back Better Act a process that includes five steps: (1) Identify the decision or action at issue, (2) determine which principles apply, (3) consider which of the applicable principles control, (4) analyze the impact of principles on outcomes, and (5) decide or act in accordance with this principled analysis.

A simple way to focus this analytic process is to look one at a time at each word in the name of this particular bill:

Build. Everyone likes building things, and political proposals to build infrastructure generally are well received. Remember, though, that the actual, traditional infrastructure provisions were broken out of the Build Back Better Act, passed already by Congress, and signed into law November 15, 2021. Any “building” currently suggested by President Biden is far different. The real issue today is whether American values and principles will be built by the various components of this separate legislation.

As we found in our analysis, “President Biden’s Spending and Tax Proposals” (Sept. 21, 2021), of the remaining aspects of Build Back Better, the climate-related provisions are best supported by our principles. The principle of limited government applies and is satisfied, as only the federal government—cooperating with other nations—can effectively combat climate change. Investment to reduce climate change especially honors the principles of ensuring the future and protecting the vulnerable (which includes all human beings).

Beyond climate change, however, the free child care, paid family leave, free preschool, Medicare expansion, child tax credits, and other entitlements included in Build Back Better should be limited to those who absolutely need assistance that only the federal government can provide. Largely, these entitlements will build only the national debt.

Back. Doesn’t it seem oddly ironic that the so-called “Progressive” wing of the Democratic Party is the faction really pushing most of the Build Back Better Act? We are scratching our heads wondering where progress can be found in the word back, which is a bad, principleless word that should not be included in the title of any federal law.

Better. This is perfect example of why euphemistic law names really stink. What’s a politician who opposes the bill supposed to say—“I’m against ‘better,’ because ‘worse’ is what our country really needs”? Moreover, the wisdom of the specific proposals actually included in the Build Back Better Act varies greatly and is highly debatable. As mentioned above and in our September 21 post, the universal entitlements being proposed all stray far from the applicable and controlling principles like protecting the vulnerable, ensuring the future, service, dignity, freedom, equality, and free enterprise. The law would not all be better.

Comments, Please

Our September 30, 2021, post, “Stuck in the Middle with You”, drew an insightful comment from Rex W. that relates directly to today’s topic:

It does seem like politicians are either “all in” or “all out” these days. Take the Build Back Better Act. I’m sure there is something good in that bill which Republicans could even support. Why is it not possible then for the legislative process to bring such an item out for passage? Wouldn’t that be a “win, win” for both parties? Instead, the minority (whichever side it is) will sit back and torpedo all ideas until it’s their turn as the majority. Hope they’re reading Principle Based Politics.

We quote this comment here for two reasons. First, he is right; it is a shame that many unrelated matters get included in a broad, unhelpfully-named bill like Build Back Better, and then the other party lines up 100 percent against every single aspect of it. Second, we appreciate Rex and all of you who have joined the conversation on the important issues we try to address in this blog.

Please post your comments in the field below, so we all can benefit from your insights.

Written by Quentin R. Wittrock, founder of Principle Based Politics. 

Look for his posts each week, as this blog will explore and promote the idea of principle in politics, both as to individual elected leaders and our federal government as an institution.

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