Build back better for families: A conversation with Secretary Pete Buttigieg

by Nate Morris
Pete Buttigieg AP

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg is all in on President Biden’s Build Back Better plan. The Secretary, who himself just became a father of twins, told The Black Wall Street Times in an interview that he believed enacting the plan is critical for parents and families across America.

Buttigieg said, if passed, the two spending bills before Congress “will go down in history”.  He said the progressive policies and trillions in funding will “reshape what it means to raise a child in this country” by alleviating the financial burden on families.

“I know my lane is supposed to be transportation,” Buttigieg said with a laugh. “But it’s just as important that we invest in families and invest in people. As a new dad, I’m thinking of that more than ever.”

Pete Buttigieg, with his hand on the Bible held by Chasten Buttigieg, is sworn in as Transportation Secretary by Vice President Kamala Harris in the Old Executive Office Building in the White House complex in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Biden administration seeks to overcome defeats with passage of historic legislation

The Secretary’s optimism comes during what has been, at best, a hard week for Biden and the Democrats.

Last Wednesday, a relieved President Biden told the nation a deal had been reached on two key spending bills. But on Monday, after fighting to cut a combined three trillion from the two bills, Joe Manchin blew everything up. While the president was overseas, the West Virginia Senator told reporters he wouldn’t commit to voting on Biden’s social spending bill.

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Then on Tuesday, Democrats took a stinging loss when Republicans swept elections across Virginia.

All of this comes as COVID cases have stopped their decline, gas prices continue to rise and economic recovery slows.

Now, with Congress careening toward the holiday recess, it’s a do-or-die moment for the Biden agenda. This administration, and the country, need a win.

For Secretary Buttigieg, the spending bills slowly moving through the legislature represent an “exciting” opportunity to meet “an urgent moment”.

Universal Pre-K, a trillion dollars for infrastructure, billions to fight climate change and 1.5 million new jobs are all on the line

“The biggest thing I want people to think about is how their lives will be improved by this bill,” Buttigieg said.

The bill expands the Child Tax Credit for another year, providing direct monthly payments to parents of young children. It also makes preschool universal for 3 and 4 year olds and ensures no family has to pay more than 7% of their income on child care. These two measures alone could cut the cost of childcare in half for most Americans.

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The Secretary also discussed a planned $12,500 electric vehicle tax credit.

“We have to stop having electric vehicles viewed as a luxury item,” he said. “We need to make sure any family can see themselves being able to get one and never have to worry about gas prices again.”

The tax credit is one piece of a larger effort in both bills to combat global warming. Buttigieg said it “represents the most our country has done, by far, on climate change.”

The spending package funds green infrastructure development, solar power tax credits and the creation of a Civilian Climate Corps. It also contains tens of billions in funding to replace lead pipes and improve public transit nationwide.

When asked about environmental justice, Buttigieg re-emphasized Biden’s commitment to equity. That commitment includes ensuring “40% of these [climate] investments would go to support underserved, overburdened communities,” he said.

Estimates even suggest the Build Back Better agenda would create 1.5 million new jobs each year for a decade.

Wonky policy aside, Buttigieg simply wants to assure parents that these bill will help their families.

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“Think about how your life will be different with these policies and this support,” the Secretary said. “This bill can make raising a child easier and more affordable at a time where we clearly need to do that.”

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