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Biden Will Unveil Plan Intended To Make U.S. Economy More Fair

NOEL KING, HOST:

President Biden is delivering his first address to a joint session of Congress tonight. This is an annual tradition for all U.S. presidents, but it has been delayed for months because of the pandemic and security concerns after the January 6 insurrection. Tonight he'll unveil a plan the White House says will make the U.S. economy more fair. NPR White House correspondent Ayesha Rascoe is following this one. Good morning, Ayesha.

AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: Good morning.

KING: So what are we expecting tonight?

RASCOE: The centerpiece of Biden's speech will unveil what the White House calls the American Families Plan. This is a plan all about reducing income inequality. There is direct aid for child care. The White House wants to make sure that low- and middle-income families spend no more than 7% of their income on child care. There's universal preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds, two years of community - of free community college and more money for Pell Grants. There would also be training for preschool teachers and other teachers to help address the teacher shortage and better wages.

And there would also be a paid leave program that eventually would provide paid leave, 12 weeks of paid leave, to care for a new child or a sick family member. And there would be tax cuts for low- and middle-income families, lower health insurance costs. So this is a really long list of really big investments. And that's why my - you know, I was almost out of breath.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: So how much is it going to cost?

RASCOE: It would be massive. It's about $1 trillion of spending over 10 years, along with $800 billion in tax cuts for low- and middle-income families. And remember; this comes after Congress already passed Biden's first big COVID aid package, which was $1.9 trillion, and Biden has already proposed $2 trillion in spending on infrastructure and jobs - on his infrastructure and jobs plans just last month.

KING: Those numbers are actually breathtaking as well. How does Biden propose paying for all this?

RASCOE: The White House says it will be fully paid for over 15 years. That's because Biden will also propose a bunch of changes to the tax system for the richest people in the country. The top tax bracket would go back to what it was before the Trump tax cuts, and for millionaires, the income that they make from capital gains, like selling stocks, would be taxed at the same rate as wages. And the White House has been, you know, making the case for this change already. Here's Brian Deese, Biden's top economic adviser, talking to reporters earlier this week.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BRIAN DEESE: This change will only apply to three-tenths of a percent of taxpayers, which is not the top 1%. It's not even the top one-half of 1%. We're talking about three-tenths of a percent. That's about 500,000 households in the country that we're talking about.

RASCOE: So he's making the point that only the richest Americans are going to be affected by the loopholes. You should expect to hear more about that in the coming weeks. And the White House says that they can get $700 billion in taxes from wealthy people who are evading paying taxes by beefing up the IRS enforcement.

KING: OK, so taxes are about to become very interesting. But how likely is it in the end that Congress gets behind this plan?

RASCOE: It's going to be difficult. Republicans are already calling this radical and saying it would wreck the economy. Democrats have also expressed - some Democrats have expressed concern about the cost and some of the changes. So it's going to be a tough sell. But Biden's going to try to go out on the road and sell it to the American people.

KING: NPR White House correspondent Ayesha Rascoe. Thanks, Ayesha.

RASCOE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.