Biden Infrastructure Plan Includes Billions For 'Gun Violence Prevention'

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

President Joe Biden unveiled his plans for a $2-trillion infrastructure plan on Wednesday, but the bloated proposal doesn’t just feature money to improve roads and bridges across the country. Included in the president’s plan is $5-billion earmarked for “gun violence prevention groups“.

Now, this money wouldn’t go to gun control organizations like Everytown for Gun Safety and Brady. Instead the cash is meant to be directed to local programs that work to prevent violence within their communities, typically through violence intervention, de-escalation, outreach to gang members, and so on.

“The way that we really turn the tide on this is by investing in solutions that work, and we’ve been making this case as a coalition, as a campaign, for months and years now,” Greg Jackson of the Community Justice Action Fund said on a group call with a number of those leaders. “And it is beyond inspiring to see that we’ve finally been heard and that action is happening.”

Biden’s proposal would give the first significant federal funding for gun violence prevention programs, keep it going for eight years, and would directly help minorities in low-income communities, Antonio Cediel of the LIVE FREE Campaign said. Biden was outlining the proposal in Pittsburgh after the White House released a fact sheet on the plan.

Traditionally there have been smaller grants within the Justice Department budget, such as $10 million or $15 million at a time, and they are highly competitive, so that funding usually lasts for a short time even for the few programs that can get it, Cediel said.

Many violence prevention programs in areas with high homicide rates have strategies with good track records of success, only to struggle for money to keep going or expand, Cediel said. A mayor changes and local funding evaporates or philanthropic money dries up, “so people have been just really kind of been piecing together a little bits of money as we go,” Cediel added.

I actually don’t have a problem in theory with most of these local efforts, which tend to focus on violent offenders and not on legal gun owners. Cediel is right that some programs have seen success in reducing shootings when they’re in place. However, just like with Biden’s COVID-19 stimulus bill, the infrastructure plan offered by the president throws in a ton of money for non-infrastructure related projects, and that includes these types of local efforts.

If Biden’s multi-billion dollar giveaway to these local groups is such a good idea, then there’s no reason to try to hide it within the massive infrastructure plan. A standalone measure could easily pass the House, and would likely be easier to pass the Senate than the overall $2-trillion plan. As it is, even the New York Times admits that the proposed increase to the corporate tax rate won’t cover the cost of Biden’s big idea.

Despite his ambitious programs, Mr. Biden had pledged that his long-term economic agenda would not add further to the growing national debt. But the fact that his proposed tax increases would not cover his spending over the same period shows the challenge he has in balancing his big goals and the deficit.

Mr. Biden pitched the first phase of his plan in a variety of terms, including global competitiveness, racial justice and the fight against climate change. But he also appealed to Americans’ daily routines, promising higher wages, less expensive internet service and new transit lines that would reduce commuting times.

“These are investments we have to make,” he said.

Mr. Biden’s proposals include raising the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 21 percent and efforts to force multinational corporations to pay significantly more in tax to the United States on profits they earn and book overseas. The corporate tax rate had been cut under President Donald J. Trump to 21 percent from 35 percent. Mr. Biden said on Wednesday that his proposed tax changes on global income alone would raise $1 trillion over the span of 15 years.

Republicans and business groups criticized those tax proposals, calling them non-starters for bipartisan negotiations. Mr. Biden acknowledged the criticism, even as he defended asking companies to pay more in taxes. And he said he would continue to work on winning Republican support for his proposal. He had already spoken with Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, about the bill and planned to invite other Republicans to the White House.

Mr. Biden challenged critics to offer their own proposals to pay for the plan. “I’m open to other ideas,” he said, “so long as they do not impose any tax increase on people making less than $400,000.”

Biden’s plan isn’t likely to survive in its original form, and I hope that Republicans try to separate out the non-infrastructure parts of his proposal, including the $5-billion for local “gun violence prevention” efforts. It should go without saying that not a dollar of federal money should be spent on any new gun control efforts, whether at the federal, state, or local level. For local programs targeting violence instead of legal gun owners, Congress should have a real debate on any federal grants, including how we’re going to pay for them.

 

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