Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.com.
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As the nation's political press obsesses over the fate of the administration's Build Back Better proposal, nothing less than the ultimate success or failure of Joe Biden's presidency is said to be at stake. And yet here's the great paradox: taken separately, the elements of the Democrats' social spending proposals poll extremely well.
According to a recent CBS News poll, support for federal funding to reduce prescription drug prices is favored by 88 percent of American voters. Adding Medicare coverage of dental, eye and hearing polls at 84 percent. Another 73 percent back expanding paid family and medical leave. And 67 percent think that universal pre-kindergarten programs for three and four year olds are a good idea.
Similarly, more than two thirds of voters support tax increases on corporations and high-income individuals to pay for these reforms.
And yet, only ten percent of Americans—ten percent!—know that all of these elements are major parts of the Build Back Better bill Democrats have been haggling over for months. (Along with free community college tuition,, a $3600 tax credit for each child under six, a $3000 credit for kids between 7 and 18, and enhanced child nutrition programs.)
Yet only 36 percent believe the bill's passage would be good for their families, while another one-third believe they'd be hurt. A bit more than half want the Biden initiative to pass.
What Americans do know, partly because of the news media's relentless focus on the bottom line, is the White House bill's proposed $3.5 trillion cost. Most appear only dimly aware that's a ten year projection. In short, the voting public is at best lukewarm over Joe Biden's signature issue.
No wonder the bill has been on life support, along with, allegedly, the Biden presidency itself. No wonder too that the president's overall approval numbers are seen as anemic—although recent polls from CNN and Fox News placed his favorability at 50 percent, higher than his predecessor ever achieved.
CNN, for its part, has downplayed its own favorable numbers. Correspondents cherry-pick weaker poll results to keep Wolf Blitzer fully apprised of Washington insider conventional wisdom.
And how has it come to this? Partly, it's the habitual ignorance and inattention of the American public. People have only a vague idea of what they want, and no idea how to get it.
Partly too, it's the fault of congressional Republicans, and the accursed Senate filibuster—so determined to wage political war against a Democratic president that the administration was forced to combine its entire legislative agenda into a single, one-size-fits-all reconciliation bill to have any chance of passing. (Reconciliation bills can't be filibustered.)Under "normal" political conditions, which we may never see again, Democrats could have passed a trillion dollar bipartisan infrastructure plan rebuilding roads, bridges, water and sewer lines, and high-speed internet, and then considered the component parts of the Build Back Better plan one or two at a time—Medicare improvements in one bill, child tax credits in another, etc.Instead, they decided that Mitch McConnell's determination to prevent any and all Democratic bills from coming to a Senate vote made bundling them into a single reconciliation bill the only way to pass anything.
The Biden White House agreed.
Media critic Eric Boehlert blames the Beltway news media for failing to enlighten the public. Writing on his Press Run"website, Boehlert argues that "as Democrats work to pass both a huge infrastructure bill and even bigger social spending bill, dubbed Build Back Better, the Beltway press continues to do a great job ignoring the contents of the historic effort. Focusing instead on its cost and obsessively documenting the vote-counting process, the press has walked away from its job of explaining legislation."
Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne agrees, writing "the relentless focus on the single number of $3.5 trillion has left most Americans clueless about what Biden wants to do."
Up to a point, I agree. Also with Dionne's larger point that the Democratic party "needs to spend less time on cultural issues and more on fighting for direct benefits to the working and middle classes, a cause that unites voters across racial and regional lines."
But the real fault here isn't with the news media, it's with the White House's inexplicable failure to sell its plan. People don't know what's in the Build Back Better plan mainly because President Biden hasn't told them enough: simply, clearly and repeatedly. If you want the public to understand the legislation, you've got to tell them you're going to tell them, tell them, and then remind them you told them. Over and over until it sinks in.
But the bully pulpit has been vacant. It's incredible that Democrats have gotten suckered into talking about nothing but the ten-year price tag—as if $3.5 trillion were even comprehensible to people. It's as tone-deaf and self-destructive as "Defund the Police."
To succeed, Democrats will first need to get out of their own way.
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By Humeyra Pamuk
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Vaccines for kids between the ages of 5 and 11 will likely be available in the first half of November, top U.S. infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said on Sunday, predicting a timetable that could see many kids getting fully vaccinated before the end of the year.
"If all goes well, and we get the regulatory approval and the recommendation from the CDC, it's entirely possible if not very likely that vaccines will be available for children from 5 to 11 within the first week or two of November," Fauci said in an interview with ABC's This Week.
Food and Drug Administration officials are reviewing the Pfizer/BioNTech application seeking authorization of its 2-dose vaccine for younger children, with its panel of outside advisers scheduled to weigh in on October 26.
The FDA typically follows the advice of its panel but is not required to do so.
Advisers to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will weigh in on recommendations for the vaccine at a meeting on November 2 and November 3, helping to inform a final decision by its director.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, speaking on Fox News Sunday, also said the agency wanted to act swiftly.
"After they (FDA) are able to review all the science and conduct the regulatory action and the CDC will meet, and if all of that goes smoothly ... we will act quickly," she said.
"We know how many parents are interested in getting their children between 5 and 11 vaccinated and we intend to act as quickly as we can," she added.
Once authorized, roughly 28 million more children in the United States would be eligible to receive what would be the first U.S. COVID-19 vaccine for younger kids. The Pfizer/BioNTech shot is already available to those ages 12-17, and the companies are still studying it for children younger than 5.
While children have a lower rate of death from COVID-19, many face illness and long-term symptoms that are still being studied. Many adults who have been hesitant or opposed to the COVID-19 vaccine, and even some who did not oppose the vaccine for themselves, are expected to resist giving the shot to their children.
Asked if schools should mandate a vaccine for kids, Walensky said: "Right now we are at authorization. We're having discussions about authorization. I think we need to get children vaccinated through this authorization and get to approval before we can make a judgment there."
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Mark Porter)
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