President Joe Biden delivered his first address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday that outlined his ambitious legislative proposals, including a $1.8 trillion American Families Plan that would provide millions of Americans with free preschool instruction and free community college.
The proposal invests $200 billion to make preschool instruction free for all three- and four-year-old children, which would help five million children and save the average family $13,000, according to the White House.
The bill would also pump more than $300 billion into expenditures for higher education, including $109 billion for free college to 5.5 million students, increased Pell Grant awards for low-income students, and tuition subsidies for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and Minority Serving Institutions.
Any country that out-educates us will out-compete us, Biden said in his speech.
Jill Biden, the first lady, is a community college professor and will be deeply involved in leading this effort, the president said.
He added, “research shows, when a young child goes to school—not daycare—they’re far more likely to graduate from high school and go to college or something after high school. When you add two years of free community college on top of that, you begin to change the dynamic. We can do that.”
Biden plans to offset the cost of the bill by boosting taxes on the wealthy over fifteen years. The president is expected to propose a slew of tax hikes on the rich, including boosting the top tax rate on the wealthiest Americans to 39.6 percent and boosting taxes on capital gains to 39.6 percent for households earning more than $1 million.
The family plan is the second component of Biden’s two-part, multi-trillion-dollar initiative to rebuild the economy, following the nearly $2 trillion American Jobs Plan that focuses on modernizing infrastructure and creating jobs.
The bill also calls for more affordable child care for American families, as it proposes spending $225 billion to offer parents with children up to the age of thirteen a stronger financial ledge to pay for child care programs. Eligible families, or those making less than 1.5 times their state median income levels, would be exempt from paying for child care, and parents earning above that threshold wouldn’t pay more than seven percent of their income for it. The White House said the initiative would help save the average family $14,800 annually.
Biden is also proposing that Congress drafts a permanent expansion of the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, which permits eligible families to get $4,000 for one child or $8,000 for two or more children under the age of thirteen.
There is broad support from the American people for this approach. There’s broad support from the American people for the investments that these resources will go to, an administration official said.
Rachel Bucchino is a reporter at the National Interest. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, and The Hill.