President Joe Biden addressed a joint session of Congress Wednesday night unveiling key details of his administration’s education and child care reform bill, the American Families Plan. Biden used his speech to signal a seismic shift in the way the federal government supports Americans.

“We have to prove democracy still works, that our government still works, and we can deliver for our people,” Biden said standing beside Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California). Biden’s address to Congress was the first time in American history a president addressed Congress with two women on the dais.

Only 200 of the traditional 1,600 officials attended Biden’s speech on advice of the Capitol physician. Compared to State of the Union addresses where presidents’ voices usually boom over sweeping crowds, Biden was able to maintain a friendly tone throughout the intimate speech, at some points whispering his words.


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Biden spoke with sadness about the COVID-19 pandemic, which has now killed more than 575,000 Americans, but optimism about the country’s future. “Now, after just 100 days, I can report to the nation: America is on the move again,” Biden said. “Turning peril into possibility. Crisis into opportunity. Setbacks into strength. We all know life can knock us down. But in America, we never, ever, ever stay down.”

Biden also made a heartfelt gesture to transgender Americans who have been the target of Republican-led bills to restrict their access to bathrooms or recreational sports. “For all transgender Americans watching at home,” Biden said, “especially young people who are so brave, I want you to know that your president has your back.”

Biden’s optimism surfaced repeatedly in his speech as he detailed the key provisions of the upcoming American Families Plan education, child care and paid leave reform bill. Marking the death of former President Ronald Reagan’s idea of stimulating growth by cutting taxes on the wealthy, Biden declared, “trickle-down economics has never worked.”

“We’re going to reform corporate taxes, so they pay their fair share and help pay for the public investments their businesses will benefit from as well,” Biden said. “And we’re going to reward work, not just wealth.”

Among the president’s tax change proposals is to increase the tax rate for America’s top 1% income earners from 37% to 39.6% and amending capital gains tax for people with more than $1 million in investments. Biden’s tax reforms will help fund the upcoming American Families Plan to finance universal prekindergarten education, paid family and medical leave programs, child care subsidies, expansions to the Affordable Care Act, aid for colleges that historically serve non-white communities and free community college for all.

“I believe what I’ve proposed is fair, fiscally responsible,” Biden said. “It raises revenue to pay for the plans I’ve proposed that will create millions of jobs that will grow the economy and enhance our financial standing in the country.”

“When you hear someone say they don’t want to raise taxes on the wealthiest 1 percent or corporate America, ask them, whose taxes do you want to raise instead, and whose are you going to cut?” Biden added.

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