Categories: Giveaways

Biden’s gifts largely benefit wealthy Americans

During his campaign for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, Joe Biden repeatedly insisted that his primary goal as president would be to help America’s struggling middle class. “Ordinary middle-class Americans built America,” he declared during a Democratic primary debate in June 2019. Under President Donald Trump’s policies, he said, “too many people who are middle-class and who are poor has a sinking bottom”.

To define the “middle class” and the “poor,” a good place to start is median household income. In 2020, the year before Biden became president, the US median was about $67,000, down from $69,000 the year before. The poor presumably earn less than that, and people in the “middle” class, especially those who feel the economic bottom is falling below them, presumably don’t earn much more.

As president, Biden’s attention has often been elsewhere. Under Biden, Democrats have consistently focused their energies on policies designed to benefit households with stable jobs and six-figure annual incomes, not the super-rich, but the affluent upper-middle class.

Shortly after taking office, for example, the Biden administration defended its decision to send $1,400 pandemic relief checks to families making up to $150,000 a year. The checks were part of the American Rescue Plan, a $2 trillion package of handouts to Democratic interest groups that Democrats pushed through Congress on party-line votes shortly after taking control of the House, Senate and House White.

“We have to take care of people who are suffering,” Biden told a group of House Democrats as the legislation took shape in February 2021. At the same time, Jen Psaki, then the White House press secretary, defended Biden’s insistence that the checks go to people with six figures. Biden, he said during a press conference, “thinks that a married couple, let’s say they’re in Scranton, just for the sake of argument – one works as a nurse, the other as a teacher – making $120,000 a year should get a check”.

A two-earner family with stable jobs and good job prospects earning $120,000 a year might be middle class. But such a family in Scranton, Pennsylvania, would have earned nearly double the 2020 US median and more than five times the local median household income of $23,103. It’s hard to believe that the kind of home Psaki described was really “bad.”

Other Biden policies have provided benefits to even higher-income families. The American Rescue Plan included a temporary extension of subsidies offered through the Affordable Care Act, the health care law also known as Obamacare. That expansion spent $34 billion over two years to increase the law’s subsidies for private insurance. The law originally offered subsidies to families reaching 400 percent of the poverty line, or about $106,000 a year in 2021. Biden’s legislation changed the formula for determining the income limit for subsidies. The new cuts varied by locality, but in some cases would allow families making up to $350,000 a year to get insurance subsidies worth more than $20,000 a year.

A household income of $350,000 would place any family in the top 3% of income earners in the United States. Both for the struggling middle class and the poor.

Similarly, as Democrats debated Biden’s 2021 Build Back Better spending package, many blue-state Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–NY), insisted that the agreement included an adjustment to the state and local tax deduction. This deduction primarily benefits high earners in blue states that pay high income and property taxes.

This year, Democrats have pushed Biden to forgive large swathes of student loan debt through executive action. These benefits would go primarily to high-income professionals with advanced degrees. Although no action had been taken at press time, The Washington Post reported in May that the president was considering an income limit for the pardon of up to $300,000 a year.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the makeup of the Democratic Party has recently trended toward high-income, highly educated professionals. In 2020, Biden won 60 percent of college-educated voters, according to Pew Research Center data, and the most educated counties leaned Democratic. These high-income degree holders may be ordinary Democrats, but they are not “ordinary middle-class Americans.”

Peter Suderman is Reason’s Features Editor. This article first appeared on

Photo: Gage Skidmore of Peoria, AZ, United States of America, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons


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