Fact check: Biden's Build Back Better plan won't add '$5 trillion' to national debt

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House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy made a misleading claim about Biden's plan in a Fox News appearance on Monday.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy falsely claimed on Monday that President Joe Biden's spending plan would add $5 trillion to the national debt. But he has previously acknowledged that it is funded by raising taxes on the rich and corporations.

On Fox News, the California Republican slammed the proposed Build Back Better plan — which would invest about $3.5 trillion in climate change, clean energy, health care, paid leave, child care, and free community college and pre-K — and the $550 billion bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act."

McCarthy charged that the bill was funded "by putting a debt onto the next generation of Americans. That's how it's paid for."

When McCarthy was asked whether any Republican would join the Democratic majority in voting to address the debt ceiling and avert a national default, he answered, "There won't be [any]. They [Democrats] want to add another $5 trillion just this week.

"Our debt as we speak today is $28 trillion. We've got about another two to sell and they want to add another five," McCarthy added.

But McCarthy is way off on these numbers.

The cost of the bipartisan infrastructure plan — which passed the Senate 69-30 in August and would invest billions in transportation, water systems, broadband, and electrical grid infrastructure — is at least partially offset by savings and additional revenue. According to a partial analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, more than half of it is paid for.

And Biden has repeatedly promised that the $3.5 trillion plan would be paid for by increasing taxes on corporations and those making $400,000 or more annually. "It adds zero dollars to the national debt," he tweeted on Saturday.

 

In an April press release denouncing "Biden's radical tax and spend agenda," McCarthy claimed Biden "plans to 'Build Back Better' by growing the government, raising taxes on American families and investments, destroying jobs, and saddling future generations with a massive debt — an agenda that will inevitably crush economic opportunity."

In May, McCarthy accused Biden of "proposing the largest tax increase in American history, including making our corporate tax rate the highest in the world."

The United States added $7.8 trillion to the national debt during former President Donald Trump's time in office — much of it with support from Republicans in Congress. In 2019, McCarthy and a bipartisan House majority opted to suspend the debt limit for the remainder of Trump's term.

The GOP's 2017 tax cut plan, which largely benefited the wealthiest Americans, increased the same budget shortfalls by severely cutting tax revenue. In 2018, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the Republican tax cuts would add roughly $1.9 trillion to the federal deficit between 2018 and 2028.

"In 2017, Republicans lowered taxes & let you keep more of your own money," McCarthy tweeted earlier this month. "Now, Democrats want to take America backward. They are going to vote to raise your taxes so they can spend more on socialist pet projects."

The proposed debt limit increase is not about paying for the new plans; it is needed to allow the government to pay for the commitments made already by this and previous Congresses and for the interest on the debt already accrued.

According to a recent report from Moody's Analytics, failure to address the debt ceiling could cost the nation's economy up to 6 million jobs, reduce household wealth by nearly $15 trillion, and increase the unemployment rate from 5% to 9%.

A McCarthy spokesperson did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.