Democrats scramble to finalize Build Back Better deal – National & International News – FRI 22Oct2021



Democrats scramble to finalize Build Back Better deal. Why is it so hard to get into nursing school? Biden: U.S. will defend Taiwan against China.




Democrats scramble to finalize Build Back Better deal

After weeks of infighting over the size and details of the once $3.5 trillion Build Back Better package, the plan’s price tag and scope have been whittled down significantly to appease a handful of Senate “moderates”.

President Biden is hopeful that a deal will be finalized by week’s end for a vote later in the fall. Biden was hoping to have the details, and particularly the climate change mitigation provisions, nailed down ahead of the COP26 global climate conference.

What’s in the bill and what’s been cut?

Social spending

The overall price tag has dropped from $3.5 trillion to $2 trillion. This means that the wide array of social spending on healthcare, childcare, housing, and education has to be scaled back. Of these priorities, some have been eliminated while others have been scaled back significantly.

  1. A provision to fund two years of free community college has been dropped entirely.
  2. Another provision to extend the new Child Tax Credit scheme for four years will now only extend the program for one year.
  3. Plans to expand Medicare coverage for dental, hearing and vision care are also unlikely to make the final cut. There is some hope that at least one of these kinds of coverage will make it through.
  4. Democrats remain hopeful of lowering the qualifying age for Medicare somewhat, but details are hazy.
  5.  A plan to guarantee 12 weeks of paid family leave now looks like it will be limited to 4 weeks.
  6. A proposal for universal pre-K proposals seems safe for now.
  7. Affordable housing provisions are still under debate.
  8. A provision that would have allowed Medicare and Medicaid to bargain with pharmaceutical companies to lower prescription drug prices is likely to be cut. This cost-saving measure was cut at the insistence of “moderate” Kyrsten Sinema, who has received at least $750,000 in campaign donations from Big Pharma and private healthcare lobbies.

Climate change

Aside from social safety net spending, the other centerpiece of Biden’s plan consisted of plans to make necessary cuts to the country’s carbon emissions. These plans have also been cut drastically, particularly as they pertained to the power generation sector.

The Build Back Better Plan originally included financial carrots and sticks to encourage utility companies to reduce their use of fossil fuels. Negotiators have cut this provision to appease West Virginia “moderate” Joe Manchin. Manchin has personal stakes totaling millions of dollars in a coal brokerage he founded. He is also the Senate’s #1 recipient of donations from energy sector lobbyists.

Corporate and wealth taxes

Manchin and Sinema have also opposed changes to the 2017 Trump tax cuts which were a key part of paying for the plan. The 2017 cuts largely benefited wealthy Americans and corporations. The Build Back Better plan  proposed raising corporate taxes from the current 21% to 25%. The veto from Manchin and Sinema has left Democrats trying to find alternative means to pay for the bill.

One alternative proposal is a tax specifically targeting capital gains income to billionaires. But it’s unclear whether this will be enough to plug the hole left in the budget by the exclusion of corporate tax increases.

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Amid nursing shortage, applicants are having trouble getting into nursing school

The U.S. nursing shortage has worsened sharply in the last year. Hospitals are now hiring nurses before they’ve even completed nursing school. That’s if an aspiring nurse can even make it that far.

Nursing schools across the country often have hundreds of applicants for every available slot in their education programs. This is part because there is a shortage of instructors for these programs. To teach nursing, an instructor must have a masters or Ph. D, which can be costly to obtain. And nursing instructors often only make half what a hospital nurse makes. 

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Biden says U.S. would defend Taiwan if China attacks

Military tensions between Taiwan and Mainland China have been steadily ratcheting up in recent months. Just recently, Chinese fighter jets conducted hundreds of flyovers of the Taiwan Strait that separates the island of Taiwan from the Mainland. The conflict is threatening to build to a proxy war between China and the West.

After the recent flyovers, President Biden told the press that he had conversed with Chinese leader Xi Jinping and conveyed that both parties had agreed to abide by the “Taiwan agreement”. This referenced a longstanding U.S. policy to respect the status quo in Taiwan, on the condition that China took no military action against the island. These policies do require the U.S. to help Taiwan defend itself. 

In an apparent departure from this policy, Biden now says that the U.S. will defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion. His statement prompted a warning from Beijing to avoid sending the “wrong signals”. Beijing has long maintained that eventual reunification of Taiwan with the Mainland non-negotiable and that any foreign interference is a violation of China’s sovereignty. 

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