The president, who has struggled to respond to a surge of migrants at the southwestern border since taking office, highlighted his proposed overhaul of the immigration system, discussed his goals to stem climate change and urged legislation to expand voting rights.
While Mr. Biden promoted his decision to pull all troops out of Afghanistan by Sept. 11 after nearly 20 years of war there, he said little new about how he would address challenges from increasingly antagonistic adversaries like China, Russia, Iran and North Korea other than repeating his intent to take a tough line when necessary while seeking cooperation where possible.
But as striking as anything else in the speech was Mr. Biden’s vision of a profound pivot in America’s eternal debate about the role of government in society. Four decades after President Ronald Reagan declared that government was the problem, not the solution, Mr. Biden aimed to turn that thesis on its head, seeking to empower the federal state as a catalyst to remake the country and revamp the balance between the richest and the rest.
The “American Families Plan,” as he called his latest, $1.8 trillion proposal, would follow the “American Rescue Plan,” a $1.9 trillion package of spending on pandemic relief and economic stimulus that he has already signed into law, and the “American Jobs Plan,” a $2.3 trillion program for infrastructure, home health care and other priorities that remains pending.
The families plan includes $1 trillion in new spending and $800 billion in tax credits. It would finance universal prekindergarten for all 3- and 4-year-olds, a federal paid family and medical leave program, efforts to make child care more affordable, free community college for all, aid for students at colleges that historically serve nonwhite communities and expanded subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.
The plan would also extend key tax breaks included as temporary measures in the coronavirus relief package that benefit lower- and middle-income workers and families, including the child tax credit, the earned-income tax credit, and the child and dependent care tax credit.
To pay for that, the president proposed increasing the marginal income tax rate for the top 1 percent of American income earners, to 39.6 percent from 37 percent. He would increase capital gains and dividend tax rates for those earning more than $1 million a year. And he would eliminate a provision in the tax code that reduces capital gains on some inherited assets, like vacation homes, that largely benefits the wealthy.