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    Biden Devotes $36 Billion to Save Union Workers’ Pensions

    The money comes from last year’s Covid-19 relief package and will avert cuts of up to 60 percent in pensions for 350,000 Teamster truck drivers, warehouse and construction workers and food processors.WASHINGTON — President Biden announced Thursday that he was investing $36 billion in federal funds to save the pensions of more than 350,000 union workers and retirees, a demonstration of commitment to labor just a week after a rupture over an imposed settlement of a threatened rail strike.Mr. Biden gathered top union leaders at the White House to make the commitment, described by the White House as the largest ever award of federal financial support for worker and retiree pension security. The money, coming from last year’s Covid-19 relief package, will avert cuts of up to 60 percent in pensions for Teamster truck drivers, warehouse workers, construction workers and food processors, mainly in the Midwest.“Thanks to today’s announcement, hundreds of thousands of Americans can feel that sense of dignity again knowing that they’ve provided for their families and their future, and it’s secure,” Mr. Biden said, joined by Sean M. O’Brien, president of the Teamsters, and Liz Shuler, president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., as well as Marty Walsh, the U.S. secretary of labor.The Biden PresidencyHere’s where the president stands after the midterm elections.A New Primary Calendar: President Biden’s push to reorder the early presidential nominating states is likely to reward candidates who connect with the party’s most loyal voters.A Defining Issue: The shape of Russia’s war in Ukraine, and its effects on global markets, in the months and years to come could determine Mr. Biden’s political fate.Beating the Odds: Mr. Biden had the best midterms of any president in 20 years, but he still faces the sobering reality of a Republican-controlled House for the next two years.2024 Questions: Mr. Biden feels buoyant after the better-than-expected midterms, but as he turns 80, he confronts a decision on whether to run again that has some Democrats uncomfortable.The pension investment came just a week after Mr. Biden prodded Congress to pass legislation forcing a settlement in a long-running dispute between rail companies and workers, heading off a strike that could have upended the economy just before the holidays. While the agreement included wage increases, schedule flexibility and an additional paid day off, several rail unions had rejected it because it lacked paid sick leave. A move to add seven days of paid sick leave failed in Congress before Mr. Biden signed the bill.The showdown over the rail settlement left Mr. Biden in the awkward position of forcing a deal over the objections of some union members even though he had promised to be the “the most pro-union president you’ve ever seen.” The pension rescue plan announced on Thursday put him back in the more comfortable stance of allying himself with organized labor, a key constituency of the Democratic Party.The $36 billion, drawn from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan passed last year, will go to the Central States Pension Fund, which is largely made up of Teamster workers and retirees. The fund has been the largest financially distressed multi-employer pension plan in the nation. As a result of shortfalls, pensioners were facing 60 percent cuts over the next few years, but the White House said the federal funding will now ensure full benefits through 2051.Many of the affected workers and retirees are clustered in Midwestern states that have been battlegrounds in recent elections, including Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and Minnesota as well as other states like Missouri, Illinois, Florida and Texas.In his remarks, Mr. Biden expressed sympathy for workers and retirees facing cuts not of their own making. “For 30, 40, 50 years you work hard every single day to provide for your family. You do everything right,” he said. “But then imagine losing half of that pension or more through no fault of your own. You did your part. You paid in. Imagine what it does financially to your peace of mind, to your dignity.”Mr. O’Brien hailed Mr. Biden’s move. “Our members chose to forgo raises and other benefits for a prosperous retirement, and they deserve to enjoy the security and stability that all of them worked so hard to earn,” he said in a statement. While much of public policy is determined by big corporations, “it’s good to see elected officials stand up for working families for once.”Republicans called it a politically inspired payoff. Representative Kevin Brady of Texas, the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, dubbed the rescue plan “the largest private pension bailout in American history,” saying it rewarded those who mismanaged their pensions.“Despite years of bipartisan negotiations and recommendations, Democrats rejected protections for union workers in other underfunded multi-employer plans that are not as politically connected as the Teamsters’ Central States plan,” Mr. Brady said. “Now, American taxpayers are being forced to cover promises that pension trustees never should have been allowed to make.” More

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    Democrats Spent $2 Trillion to Save the Economy. They Don’t Want to Talk About It.

    Polls show voters liked direct payments from President Biden’s 2021 economic rescue bill. But they have become fodder for Republican inflation attacks.In the midst of a critical runoff campaign that would determine control of the Senate, the Rev. Raphael Warnock promised Georgia voters that, if elected, he would help President-elect Biden send checks to people digging out of the pandemic recession.Mr. Warnock won. Democrats delivered payments of up to $1,400 per person.But this year, as Mr. Warnock is locked in a tight re-election campaign, he barely talks about those checks.Democratic candidates in competitive Senate races this fall have spent little time on the trail or the airwaves touting the centerpiece provisions of their party’s $1.9 trillion economic rescue package, which party leaders had hoped would help stave off losses in the House and Senate in midterm elections. In part, that is because the rescue plan has become fodder for Republicans to attack Democrats over rapidly rising prices, accusing them of overstimulating the economy with too much cash.The economic aid, which was intended to help keep families afloat amid the pandemic, included two centerpiece components for households: the direct checks of up to $1,400 for lower- to middle-class individuals and an expanded child tax credit, worth up to $300 per child per month. It was initially seen as Mr. Biden’s signature economic policy achievement, in part because the tax credit dramatically reduced child poverty last year. Polls suggested Americans knew they had received money and why — giving Democrats hope they would be rewarded politically.Liberal activists are particularly troubled that Democratic candidates are not focusing more on the payments to families.“It’s a missed opportunity and a strategic mistake,” said Chris Hughes, a founder of Facebook and a senior fellow at the Institute on Race, Power, and Political Economy at The New School, who is a co-founder of the liberal policy group Economic Security Project Action. “Our public polling and our experience suggest the child tax credit is a sleeper issue that could influence the election, a lot more than a lot of candidates realized.”Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster who has surveyed voters in detail on the child credit, said data suggest the party’s candidates should be selling Americans on the pieces of Mr. Biden’s policies that helped families cope with rising costs.“We have a narrative on inflation,” Ms. Lake said in an interview. “We just aren’t using it.”Many campaign strategists disagree. They say voters are not responding to messages about pandemic aid. Some Democrats worry that voters have been swayed by the persistent Republican argument that the aid was the driving factor behind rapidly rising prices of food, rent and other daily staples.Economists generally agree that the stimulus spending contributed to accelerating inflation, though they disagree on how much. Biden administration officials and Democratic candidates reject that characterization. When pressed, they defend their emergency spending, saying it has put the United States on stronger footing than other wealthy nations at a time of rapid global inflation.Republicans have spent nearly $150 million on inflation-themed television ads across the country this election cycle, according to data from AdImpact. The State of the 2022 Midterm ElectionsWith the primaries over, both parties are shifting their focus to the general election on Nov. 8.The Final Stretch: With less than one month until Election Day, Republicans remain favored to take over the House, but momentum in the pitched battle for the Senate has seesawed back and forth.A Surprising Battleground: New York has emerged from a haywire redistricting cycle as perhaps the most consequential congressional battleground in the country. For Democrats, the uncertainty is particularly jarring.Arizona’s Governor’s Race: Democrats are openly expressing their alarm that Katie Hobbs, the party’s nominee for governor in the state, is fumbling a chance to defeat Kari Lake in one of the most closely watched races.Herschel Walker: The Republican Senate nominee in Georgia reportedly paid for an ex-girlfriend’s abortion, but members of his party have learned to tolerate his behavior.In Georgia alone, outside groups have hammered Mr. Warnock with more than $7 million in attack ads mentioning inflation. “Senator Warnock helped fuel the inflation squeeze, voting for nearly $2 trillion in reckless spending,” the group One Nation, which is aligned with Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, says in an ad that aired in the state in August.Democrats have tried to deflect blame, portraying inflation as the product of global forces like crimped supply chains while touting their efforts to lower the cost of electricity and prescription drugs. They have aired nearly $50 million of their own ads mentioning inflation, often pinning it on corporate profit gouging. “What if I told you shipping container companies have been making record profits while prices have been skyrocketing on you?” Mr. Warnock said in an ad aired earlier this year.Candidates and independent groups that support the stimulus payments have spent just $7 million nationwide on advertisements mentioning the direct checks, the child tax credit or the rescue plan overall, according to data from AdImpact.Far more money has been spent by Democrats on other issues, including $27 million on ads mentioning infrastructure, which was another early economic win for Mr. Biden, and $95 million on ads that mention abortion rights..css-1v2n82w{max-width:600px;width:calc(100% – 40px);margin-top:20px;margin-bottom:25px;height:auto;margin-left:auto;margin-right:auto;font-family:nyt-franklin;color:var(–color-content-secondary,#363636);}@media only screen and (max-width:480px){.css-1v2n82w{margin-left:20px;margin-right:20px;}}@media only screen and (min-width:1024px){.css-1v2n82w{width:600px;}}.css-161d8zr{width:40px;margin-bottom:18px;text-align:left;margin-left:0;color:var(–color-content-primary,#121212);border:1px solid var(–color-content-primary,#121212);}@media only screen and (max-width:480px){.css-161d8zr{width:30px;margin-bottom:15px;}}.css-tjtq43{line-height:25px;}@media only screen and (max-width:480px){.css-tjtq43{line-height:24px;}}.css-x1k33h{font-family:nyt-cheltenham;font-size:19px;font-weight:700;line-height:25px;}.css-ok2gjs{font-size:17px;font-weight:300;line-height:25px;}.css-ok2gjs a{font-weight:500;color:var(–color-content-secondary,#363636);}.css-1c013uz{margin-top:18px;margin-bottom:22px;}@media only screen and (max-width:480px){.css-1c013uz{font-size:14px;margin-top:15px;margin-bottom:20px;}}.css-1c013uz a{color:var(–color-signal-editorial,#326891);-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;font-weight:500;font-size:16px;}@media only screen and (max-width:480px){.css-1c013uz a{font-size:13px;}}.css-1c013uz a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}How Times reporters cover politics. We rely on our journalists to be independent observers. So while Times staff members may vote, they are not allowed to endorse or campaign for candidates or political causes. This includes participating in marches or rallies in support of a movement or giving money to, or raising money for, any political candidate or election cause.Learn more about our process.Mr. Warnock has not cited any of the rescue plan’s provisions in his advertisements, focusing instead on issues like personal character, health care and bipartisanship, according to AdImpact data.Senator Raphael Warnock, who is locked in a tight re-election campaign this year, barely mentions the relief checks.Nicole Craine for The New York TimesFor months after the rescue plan’s passage, Democratic leaders were confident that they had solved an economic policy dilemma that has vexed Democrats and Republicans stretching back to the George W. Bush administration: They were giving Americans money, but voters weren’t giving them any credit.Tax cuts and direct spending aid approved by Mr. Bush, President Barack Obama and President Donald J. Trump failed to win over large swaths of voters and spare incumbent parties from large midterm losses. Economists and strategists concluded that was often because Americans had not noticed they had benefited from the policies each president was sure would sway elections.That was not the case with the direct checks and the child tax credit. People noticed them. But they still have not turned into political selling points at a time of rapid inflation.As the November elections approach, most voters appear to be motivated by a long list of other issues, including abortion, crime and a range of economic concerns.Mr. Warnock’s speech last week to a group of Democrats in an unfinished floor of an office space in Dunwoody, a northern Atlanta suburb, underscored that shift in emphasis.He began the policy section of the rally with a quick nod to the child credit, then ticked through a series of provisions from bills that Mr. Biden has signed in the last two years: highways and broadband internet tied to a bipartisan infrastructure law, semiconductor plants spurred by a China competitiveness law, a gun safety law and aid for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits. He lingered on one piece of Mr. Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act: a cap on the cost of insulin for Medicare patients, which Mr. Warnock cast as critical for diabetics in Georgia, particularly in Black communities.The direct payments never came up.When asked by a reporter why he was not campaigning on an issue that had been so central to his election and whether he thought the payments had contributed to inflation, Mr. Warnock deflected.“We in Georgia found ourselves trying to claw back from a historic pandemic, the likes of which we haven’t seen in our lifetime, which created an economic shutdown,” he said. “And now, seeing the economy open up, we’ve experienced major supply chain issues, which have contributed to rising costs.”Direct pandemic payments were begun under Mr. Trump and continued under Mr. Biden, with no serious talk of another round after the ones delivered in the rescue plan. Most Democrats had hoped the one-year, $100 billion child credit in the rescue plan would be made permanent in a new piece of legislation.But the credit expired, largely because Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia and a key swing vote, opposed its inclusion in what would become the Inflation Reduction Act, citing concerns the additional money would exacerbate inflation.Senator Michael Bennet, Democrat of Colorado, was one of the Senate’s most vocal cheerleaders for that credit and an architect of the version included in the rescue plan. His campaign has aired Spanish-language radio ads on the credit in his re-election campaign, targeting a group his team says is particularly favorable toward it, but no television ads. In an interview last week outside a Denver coffee shop, Mr. Bennet conceded the expiration of the credit has sapped some of its political punch.“It certainly came up when it was here, and it certainly came up when it went away,” he said. “But it’s been some months since that was true. I think, obviously, we’d love to have that right now. Families were getting an average of 450 bucks a month. That would have defrayed a lot of inflation that they’re having to deal with.”Mr. Biden’s advisers say the rescue plan and its components aren’t being deployed on the trail because other issues have overwhelmed them — from Mr. Biden’s long list of economic bills signed into law as well as the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade that has galvanized the Democratic base. They acknowledge the political and economic challenge posed by rapid inflation, but say Democratic candidates are doing well to focus on direct responses to it, like the efforts to reduce costs of insulin and other prescription drugs.Ms. Lake, the Democratic pollster, said talking more about the child credit could help re-energize Democratic voters for the midterms. Mr. Warnock’s speech in Dunwoody — an admittedly small sample — suggested otherwise.Mr. Warnock drew cheers from the audience after he called the child tax credit “the single largest tax cut for middle- and working-class families in American history.”But his biggest ovation, by far, came when the economics section of his speech had ended, and Mr. Warnock had moved on to defending abortion rights. More

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    US National Debt Tops $31 Trillion for First Time

    America’s borrowing binge has long been viewed as sustainable because of historically low interest rates. But as rates rise, the nation’s fiscal woes are getting worse.WASHINGTON — America’s gross national debt exceeded $31 trillion for the first time on Tuesday, a grim financial milestone that arrived just as the nation’s long-term fiscal picture has darkened amid rising interest rates.The breach of the threshold, which was revealed in a Treasury Department report, comes at an inopportune moment, as historically low interest rates are being replaced with higher borrowing costs as the Federal Reserve tries to combat rapid inflation. While record levels of government borrowing to fight the pandemic and finance tax cuts were once seen by some policymakers as affordable, those higher rates are making America’s debts more costly over time.“So many of the concerns we’ve had about our growing debt path are starting to show themselves as we both grow our debt and grow our rates of interest,” said Michael A. Peterson, the chief executive officer of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, which promotes deficit reduction. “Too many people were complacent about our debt path in part because rates were so low.”The new figures come at a volatile economic moment, with investors veering between fears of a global recession and optimism that one may be avoided. On Tuesday, markets rallied close to 3 percent, extending gains from Monday and putting Wall Street on a more positive path after a brutal September. The rally stemmed in part from a government report that showed signs of some slowing in the labor market. Investors took that as a signal that the Fed’s interest rate increases, which have raised borrowing costs for companies, may soon begin to slow.Higher rates could add an additional $1 trillion to what the federal government spends on interest payments this decade, according to Peterson Foundation estimates. That is on top of the record $8.1 trillion in debt costs that the Congressional Budget Office projected in May. Expenditures on interest could exceed what the United States spends on national defense by 2029, if interest rates on public debt rise to be just one percentage point higher than what the C.B.O. estimated over the next few years.The Fed, which slashed rates to near zero during the pandemic, has since begun raising them to try to tame the most rapid inflation in 40 years. Rates are now set in a range between 3 and 3.25 percent, and the central bank’s most recent projections saw them climbing to 4.6 percent by the end of next year — up from 3.8 percent in an earlier forecast.Federal debt is not like a 30-year mortgage that is paid off at a fixed interest rate. The government is constantly issuing new debt, which effectively means its borrowing costs rise and fall along with interest rates.Inflation F.A.Q.Card 1 of 5What is inflation? More

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    Factory Jobs Are Booming Like It’s the 1970s

    U.S. manufacturing is experiencing a rebound, with companies adding workers amid high consumer demand for products.WASHINGTON — Ever since American manufacturing entered a long stretch of automation and outsourcing in the late 1970s, every recession has led to the loss of factory jobs that never returned. But the recovery from the pandemic recession has been different: American manufacturers have now added enough jobs to regain all that they shed — and then some.The resurgence has not been driven by companies bringing back factory jobs that had moved overseas, nor by the brawny industrial sectors and regions often evoked by President Biden, former President Donald J. Trump and other champions of manufacturing.Instead, the engines in this recovery include pharmaceutical plants, craft breweries and ice-cream makers. The newly created jobs are more likely to be located in the Mountain West and the Southeast than in the classic industrial strongholds of the Great Lakes.American manufacturers cut roughly 1.36 million jobs from February to April of 2020, as Covid-19 shut down much of the economy. As of August this year, manufacturers had added back about 1.43 million jobs, a net gain of 67,000 workers above prepandemic levels.Data suggest that the rebound is largely a product of the unique circumstances of the pandemic recession and recovery. Covid-19 crimped global supply chains, making domestic manufacturing more attractive to some companies. Federal stimulus spending helped to power a shift in Americans’ buying habits away from services like travel and restaurants and toward goods like cars and sofas, helping domestic factory production — and with it, job growth — to bounce back much faster than it did in the previous two recessions.Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said that the recovery of manufacturing jobs was a result of the unique nature of the recession, which was induced by the pandemic, and the robust federal response, including legislation like the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan of 2021.“We had a huge shift away from services and into goods that spurred production and manufacturing and very rapid recovery in the U.S. economy,” Ms. Yellen told reporters during a trip to Detroit this month. The support for local economies and small businesses included in Mr. Biden’s rescue plan, she said, “has been tremendously helpful in restoring the health of the job market and given the shifting in spending patterns, I think that’s been to the benefit of manufacturing.”American manufacturers, like many industries, have struggled to find raw materials, component parts and skilled workers. And yet, they have continued to create jobs at a rate that has surprised even some longtime promoters of American factory employment.“We have 67,000 more workers today than we had in February 2020,” said Chad Moutray, the chief economist for the National Association of Manufacturers. “I didn’t think we would get there, to be honest with you.”In recessions over the last half century, factories have typically laid off a greater share of workers than other employers in the economy, and they have been slower to add jobs back in recoveries. Often, companies have used those economic inflection points to accelerate their pace of outsourcing jobs to foreign countries, where wages are significantly lower, and to invest in technology that replaces human workers.The State of Jobs in the United StatesEconomists have been surprised by recent strength in the labor market, as the Federal Reserve tries to engineer a slowdown and tame inflation.August Jobs Report: Job growth slowed in August but stayed solid, suggesting that the labor market recovery remains resilient, even as companies pull back on hiring.Job Market Trends: The labor market appears hot, but the supply of labor has fallen short, holding back the economy. Here is why.Gig Workers: Labor activists hoped President Biden would tackle gig worker issues aggressively. But a year and a half into his presidency, little has been done at the federal level.Black Employment: Black workers saw wages and employment rates go up in the wake of the pandemic. But as the Federal Reserve tries to tame inflation, those gains could be eroded.This time was different. Factory layoffs roughly matched those in the services sector in the depth of the pandemic recession. Economists attribute that break in the trend to many U.S. manufacturers being deemed “essential” during pandemic lockdowns, and the ensuing surge in demand for their products by Americans.Manufacturing jobs quickly rebounded in the spring of 2020, then began to climb at a much faster pace than has been typical for factory job creation in recent decades. Since June 2020, under both Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden, factories have added more than 30,000 jobs a month.Sectors that hemorrhaged employment in recent recessions have fared much better in this recovery. Furniture makers, who eliminated a third of their jobs in the 2008 financial crisis and its aftermath, have nearly returned to their prepandemic employment levels. So have textile mills, paper products companies and computer equipment makers.Manufacturers say the numbers could be even stronger, if not for their continued difficulties attracting and hiring skilled workers amid 3.7 percent unemployment.Fernando Torres, vice president of operations for Greene Tweed, a Pennsylvania-based manufacturer of materials and components used by the aerospace and semiconductor industries, said his company has had to become more flexible to attract new workers and offer more attractive salaries and benefits. He has been looking for employees with different backgrounds that the company can train to develop the skills to fill open jobs, and said that it has been hard to retain staff because competitors are aggressively trying to lure them away.But Mr. Torres said that Greene Tweed, which employs just fewer than 2,000 workers, did not plan to give up, considering the demand for his company’s products.“We are looking for lots of employees,” Mr. Torres said. “We are not looking at slowing down.”Chuck Wetherington, president of BTE Technologies, a manufacturer of medical devices based in Maryland, said that he was trying to expand his work force of around 40 by 10 percent. A lack of workers, he said, has become a bigger problem than supply chain disruptions.“Our backlog continues to grow,” Mr. Wetherington said at a National Association of Manufacturers briefing. “I just can’t find the employees.”Mr. Biden has pushed a variety of legislative initiatives to boost domestic manufacturing, including direct spending on infrastructure, tax credits and other subsidies for companies like battery makers and semiconductor factories, and new federal procurement requirements that benefit manufacturers located in the United States. Biden administration officials say those policies could play a decisive role in further encouraging factory job growth in the coming months and years, in hopes of continuing the expansion and possibly pushing factory employment back to pre-2008 levels.Other factors could help hasten more American manufacturing. Delayed deliveries, sky-high shipping prices and other supply chain issues during the pandemic have encouraged some chief executives to think about moving production closer to home. The average price to ship a 40-foot container internationally has fallen sharply in recent months, but it is still three times higher than it was before the pandemic, according to tracking by the freight booking platform Freightos.A container ship at the Port of Los Angeles. As Covid-19 crimped global supply chains, domestic manufacturing became more attractive to some companies.Stella Kalinina for The New York TimesBusinesses are also beginning to question the wisdom of producing so many goods in China, amid rising tensions between Washington and Beijing over trade and technology. The Chinese government’s insistence on a zero-Covid policy, despite the severe disruptions it has caused for the economy, has especially shaken many executives’ confidence in their ability to operate in China. Mr. Biden has also maintained many tariffs on Chinese imports imposed by Mr. Trump.“The pandemic response by China has definitely prompted more than a rethink on where to put new money. I think we are actually beginning to see action,” said Mary Lovely, a professor of economics at Syracuse University and a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. How much of that investment came to the United States was unclear. “I don’t think anyone really knows,” she added.Ed Gresser, the vice president of trade and global markets at the Progressive Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank, said that the United States had seen a noticeable uptick in new manufacturing establishments since 2019, especially in the pharmaceutical sector, which might be a response to the pandemic. Food and beverage establishments have also continued to grow.But while growth in the U.S. manufacturing sector was strong last year, so were imports of manufactured goods, Mr. Gresser said. That suggests, he said, that the growth of manufacturing probably reflects strong consumer demand in the United States through the pandemic, rather than a shift to production in the United States.While attitudes toward doing business in China have quickly soured, patterns of production have been slower to change. A survey of 117 leading companies released in August by the U.S. China Business Council found that business optimism had reached record lows, but U.S. corporations remained overwhelmingly profitable in China, which is still home to the world’s most expansive ecosystem of factories and a lucrative consumer market.Eight percent of the surveyed companies reported moving segments of their supply chain out of China to the United States in the past year, while another 16 percent had moved some operations to other countries. But 78 percent of the companies said they had not shifted any business away from China.The Biden administration is hopeful that new policies — including a manufacturing competitiveness law and a climate law the president signed this summer — will encourage more companies to leave China for the United States, particularly cutting-edge industries like clean energy and advanced computing.Brian Deese, the director of the National Economic Council, said in an interview that the laws were already changing the calculus for investment and job creation in the United States. In recent weeks, White House officials have promoted factory announcements from automakers, battery companies and others, directly linked to the climate bill.“One of the most striking things that we are seeing now,” Mr. Deese said, “is the number of companies — U.S. companies and global companies — that are committing to build and expand their manufacturing footprint in the United States, and doing so based on their view that not only did the pandemic highlight the need for more resilience in their supply chains, but that the United States is creating a policy environment that makes long term investment here in the United States more attractive.” More

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    Pandemic Aid Cut U.S. Poverty to New Low in 2021, Census Bureau Reports

    A measure that accounts for all federal subsidies also showed a reduction of almost half in the number of children below the poverty level.A second year of emergency pandemic aid from the federal government drove poverty to the lowest level on record in 2021 and cut the number of poor children by nearly half, the Census Bureau reported on Tuesday.The poverty rate fell to 7.8 percent, down from 9.2 percent the previous year, according to the Supplemental Poverty Measure, a yardstick that includes wages, taxes and the fullest account of government aid. In addition, the share of children in poverty sank to another record low of 5.2 percent, down 4.5 percentage points from 2020, a sharp acceleration of a long-term trend. In large part, those changes reflect the trillions of stimulus dollars approved by Congress, culminating in the Democrats’ American Rescue Plan of March 2021, especially the expanded child tax credit, which temporarily provided an income guarantee to families with children.Real median household income reached $70,800, not significantly different from 2020, as increases in full-time employment were offset by rising inflation and decreases in unemployment insurance, which had been supplemented above normal levels through the summer of 2021. The “official” poverty rate, generally considered outdated because it omits hundreds of billions spent on programs like tax credits and housing assistance, also did not change significantly from the previous year.How Poverty Has DecreasedThe official poverty rate was 11.6 percent last year, but the supplemental rate — which accounts for the impact of government programs — fell to 7.8 percent.

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    Share of the population living in poverty
    The supplemental rate adjusts for geographic differences. It also includes wage income, taxes and the fullest account of government aid.Sources: Census Bureau; Columbia UniversityKarl RussellThis data covers a year that was profoundly influenced by a set of emergency programs that have largely expired. Since then, many families have again found themselves under financial strain.Progressives see the reduction in poverty — even if temporary — as evidence that the federal government has the power to give people a better standard of living and that it should continue to do so in the future.“Man, I’m just grinning ear to ear,” said Luke Shaefer, who runs a center on poverty at the University of Michigan and sees the expanded child tax credit as a blueprint for a permanent program. “Americans wonder if the government can shape successful policies that address poverty. This offers incontrovertible evidence that it can.”Inflation F.A.Q.Card 1 of 5What is inflation? More

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    Economic Aid, Once Plentiful, Falls Off at a Painful Moment

    Food insecurity is rising again as relief provided by President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package wanes.PORTLAND, Ore. — For the better part of last year, the pandemic eased its grip on Oregon’s economy. Awash in federal assistance, including direct checks to individuals and parents, many of the state’s most vulnerable found it easier to afford food, housing and other daily staples.Most of that aid, which was designed to be a temporary bridge, has run out at a particularly bad moment. Oregon, like states across the nation, has seen its economy improve, but prices for everything from eggs to gas to rent have spiked. Demand is growing at food banks like William Temple House in Northwest Portland, where the line for necessities like bread, vegetables and toilet paper stretched two dozen people deep on a recent day.“I’m very worried, like I was in the first month of the pandemic, that we will run out of food,” said Susannah Morgan, who runs the Oregon Food Bank, which helps supply William Temple House and 1,400 other meal assistance sites.In March 2021, President Biden signed into law a $1.9 trillion aid package aimed at helping people stay afloat when the economy was still reeling from the coronavirus. In addition to direct checks, the package included rental assistance and other measures meant to prevent evictions. It ensured free school lunches and offered expanded food assistance through several programs.Those programs helped the U.S. economy recover far more quickly than many economists had expected, but they have run their course as prices soar at the fastest pace in 40 years. The Federal Reserve, in an attempt to tame inflation, is rapidly raising borrowing costs, slowing the economy’s growth and stoking fears of a recession. While the labor market remains remarkably strong, the Fed’s interest rate increases risk slamming the brakes on the economy and pushing millions of people out of work, which would hurt lower-wage workers and risk adding to evictions and food insecurity.Several factors have driven prices higher in the last year, including a shift in spending toward goods like couches and cars and away from services. Supply chain snarls, a buying frenzy in the housing market and an oil price spike surrounding the Russian invasion of Ukraine have also contributed. While gas prices have fallen in recent months, rent continues to rise, and food and other staples remain elevated.Another factor fueling inflation, at least in small part, is the stimulus spending that helped speed the economy’s recovery and keep people out of poverty. More money in people’s bank accounts translated into more consumer spending.While the extent to which the rescue package fed inflation remains a matter of disagreement, almost no one, in Washington or on the front lines of helping vulnerable people across the country, expects another round of federal aid even if the economy tips into a recession. Lawmakers have grown increasingly concerned that more stimulus could exacerbate rising prices.In the meantime, the progress that the Biden administration hailed in fighting poverty last year has faded. The national child poverty rate and the food hardship rate for families with children, which dipped in 2021, have both rebounded to their highest levels since December 2020, according to researchers at Columbia University’s Center on Poverty and Social Policy. Two in five Americans surveyed by the Census Bureau at the end of July said they had difficulty paying a usual household expense in the previous week, the highest rate in two years of the survey.What is happening at the William Temple House is emblematic of the economic situation. Demand for food is swelling again, and officials here blame rising prices and lost federal aid. The people seeking help come from a wide variety of backgrounds: parents, retirees struggling to stretch Social Security benefits, immigrants who speak Mandarin, college graduates with jobs.Inflation F.A.Q.Card 1 of 5Inflation F.A.Q.What is inflation? More

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    White House Struggles to Talk About Inflation, the ‘Problem From Hell’

    Inflation is upending voter confidence and posing a glaring political liability that looms over the Biden administration’s major policy decisions.WASHINGTON — President Biden was at a private meeting discussing student debt forgiveness this year when, as happens uncomfortably often these days, the conversation came back to inflation.“He said with everything he does, Republicans are going to attack him and use the word ‘inflation,’” said Representative Tony Cárdenas, Democrat of California, referring to Mr. Biden’s meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in April. Mr. Cárdenas said Mr. Biden was aware he would be attacked over rising prices “no matter what issue we’re talking about.”The comment underscored how today’s rapid price increases, the fastest since the 1980s, pose a glaring political liability that looms over every major policy decision the White House makes — leaving Mr. Biden and his colleagues on the defensive as officials discover that there is no good way to talk to voters about inflation.The administration has at times splintered internally over how to discuss price increases and has revised its inflation-related message several times as talking points fail to resonate and new data comes in. Some Democrats in Congress have urged the White House to strike a different — and more proactive — tone ahead of the November midterm elections.But the reality the White House faces is a hard one: There is little politicians can do to quickly bring price increases to heel. Federal Reserve policy is the nation’s main solution to inflation, but the central bank tempers price gains by making money more expensive to borrow to cool off demand, a slow and potentially painful process for the economy.“For a president, inflation is the problem from hell — you can’t win,” said Elaine Kamarck, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the founding director of the Center for Effective Public Management. “Because it’s so difficult economically, politically it is even worse: There’s nothing you can do in the short run to solve it.”Consumer prices increased by 8.3 percent in the year through April, and data this week is expected to show inflation at 8.2 percent in May. Inflation averaged 1.6 percent annual gains in the five years leading up to the pandemic, making today’s pace of increase painfully high by comparison. A gallon of gas, one of the most tangible household costs, hit an average of $4.92 this week. Consumer confidence has plummeted as families pay more for everyday purchases and as the Fed raises interest rates to cool the economy, which increases the risk of a recession.A gallon of gas surpassed $5 at a Sunoco station in Sloatsburg, N.Y., last month.An Rong Xu for The New York TimesThe White House has long realized that rising prices could sink Mr. Biden’s support, with that risk telegraphed in a series of confidential memos sent to Mr. Biden last year by one of his lead pollsters, John Anzalone. Inflation has only continued to fuel frustration among voters, according to a separate memo compiled by Mr. Anzalone’s team last month, which showed the president’s low approval rating on the economy rivaling only his approach to immigration.“Economic sentiment among the public remains poor, with most worried about both inflation and the possibility of a recession in the coming months,” according to the memo, dated May 20. The information was sent to “interested parties,” and it was not clear if the White House had received or reviewed the memo.The polling data shows that about eight in 10 Americans “consider the national economy to be in poor condition” and that “concerns are high about the potential for an economic recession in the near future.”Economic anxieties have been echoed by members of Congress, leading academics and pop culture standard bearers. “When y’all think they going to announce that we going into a recession?” Cardi B, the Grammy-winning rapper, wrote in a tweet that went viral this weekend.The White House knows it is in a tricky position, and the administration’s approach to explaining inflation has evolved over time. Officials spent the early stages of the current price burst largely describing price pressures as temporary.When it became clear that rising costs were lasting, administration officials began to diverge internally on how to frame that phenomenon. While it was clear that much of the upward pressure on prices came from supply chain shortages exacerbated by continued waves of the coronavirus, some of it also tied back to strong consumer demand. That big spending had been enabled, in part, by the government’s stimulus packages, including direct checks to households, expanded unemployment insurance and other benefits.Some economists in the White House have begun to emphasize that inflation was a trade-off: To the extent that Mr. Biden’s stimulus spending spurred more inflation, it also aided economic growth and a faster recovery.“Inflation is absolutely a problem, and it’s critical to address it,” Janet L. Yellen, the Treasury secretary, recently told members of Congress. “But I think at the same time, we should recognize how successful that plan was in leading to an economy where instead of having a large number of workers utterly unable to find jobs, exactly the opposite is true.”Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said she supports relaxing tariffs on Chinese goods to ease prices.Jason Andrew for The New York TimesBut the president’s more political aides have tended to sharply minimize that the March 2021 package, known as the American Rescue Plan, helped to goose inflation, even as they have claimed credit for strong economic growth.“Some have a curious obsession with exaggerating impact of the Rescue Plan while ignoring the degree high inflation is global,” Gene Sperling, a senior White House adviser overseeing the implementation of the stimulus package, wrote on Twitter last week, adding that the law “has had very marginal impact on inflation.”Brian Deese, the director of the National Economic Council, acknowledged in an interview last week that there were some disagreements among White House economic officials when it came to how to talk about and respond to inflation, but he portrayed that as a positive — and as something that is not leading to any kind of dysfunction.“If there wasn’t healthy disagreement, debate and people feeling comfortable bringing issues and ideas to the table, then I think we would be not serving the president and the public interest well,” he said.He also pushed back on the idea that the administration was deeply divided on the March 2021 package’s aftereffects, saying in a separate emailed comment that “there is agreement across the administration that many factors contributed to inflation, and that inflation has been driven by elevated demand and constrained supply across the globe.”How to portray the Biden administration’s stimulus spending is far from the only challenge the White House faces. As price increases last, Democrats have grappled with how to discuss their plans to combat them.The president and his top political aides have trotted out a few main talking points, including blaming President Vladimir V. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine for what Mr. Biden calls the “Putin price hike,” pointing to deficit reduction as a way to lower inflation and arguing that Republicans have a bad plan to deal with rising costs. Mr. Biden regularly acknowledges the pain that higher prices are causing and has emphasized that the problem of taming inflation rests largely with the Fed, an independent entity whose work he has promised not to interfere with.The administration has also highlighted that inflation is widespread globally, and that the United States is better off than many other nations.Student Loans: Key Things to KnowCard 1 of 4Corinthian Colleges. More

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    Persistent Inflation Puts Yellen in the Spotlight

    WASHINGTON — At her confirmation hearing in early 2021, Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen told lawmakers that it was time to “act big” on a pandemic relief package, playing down concerns about deficits at a time of perpetually low interest rates and warning that inaction could mean widespread economic “scarring.”A year and a half later, prices are soaring and interest rates are marching higher. As a result, Ms. Yellen’s role in crafting and selling the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which Congress passed in March of last year, is being parsed amid an intensifying blame game to determine who is responsible for the highest rates of inflation in 40 years. After months of pinning rising prices on temporary supply chain problems that would dissipate, Ms. Yellen acknowledged last week that she had gotten it “wrong,” putting the Biden administration on the defensive and thrusting herself into the middle of a political storm.“I think I was wrong then about the path that inflation would take,” Ms. Yellen said in an interview with CNN, adding that the economy had faced unanticipated “shocks” that boosted food and energy prices.Republican lawmakers, who have spent months blaming President Biden and Democrats for rising prices, gleefully seized upon the admission as evidence that the administration had mismanaged the economy and should not be trusted to remain in political control.The Treasury Department has scrambled to clarify Ms. Yellen’s remarks, saying her acknowledgment that she misread inflation simply meant that she could not have foreseen developments such as the war in Ukraine, new variants of the coronavirus or lockdowns in China. After a book excerpt suggested Ms. Yellen favored a stimulus package smaller than the $1.9 trillion that Congress approved last year, the Treasury released a statement denying that she had urged more spending restraint.At this tenuous moment in her tenure, Ms. Yellen is expected to face tough questions on inflation when she testifies before the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday and the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday. The hearings are ostensibly about the president’s budget request for the 2023 fiscal year, but Republicans are blaming Mr. Biden’s policies, including the $1.9 trillion stimulus package, for high prices for consumer products, and Ms. Yellen’s comments have given them grist to cast his first term as a failure.“How can Americans trust the Biden administration when the same people that were so wrong are still in charge?” said Tommy Pigott, rapid response director for the Republican National Committee.Understand Inflation and How It Impacts YouInflation 101: What is inflation, why is it up and whom does it hurt? Our guide explains it all.Measuring Inflation: Over the years economists have tweaked one of the government’s standard measures of inflation, the Consumer Price Index. What is behind the changes?Inflation Calculator: How you experience inflation can vary greatly depending on your spending habits. Answer these seven questions to estimate your personal inflation rate.Interest Rates: As it seeks to curb inflation, the Federal Reserve began raising interest rates for the first time since 2018. Here is what that means for inflation.The glare is particularly uncomfortable for Ms. Yellen, an economist and former chair of the Federal Reserve, who prides herself on giving straight answers and staying above the political fray.In recent weeks, Ms. Yellen has had to defend the Biden administration’s economic policies even as fault lines have emerged within the economic team. She has expressed reservations about the lack of progress in rolling back some of the Trump administration’s China tariffs, which she views as taxes on consumers that were “not strategic,” and she has been reluctant to support student debt forgiveness proposals, which could further fuel inflation if people have more money to spend.Over the weekend, Ms. Yellen came under fire again after an excerpt from a forthcoming biography of her indicated that she had sought unsuccessfully to pare down the pandemic aid bill because of inflation concerns. The Treasury Department released a rare Saturday statement from Ms. Yellen denying that she argued that the package was too big.“I never urged adoption of a smaller American Rescue Plan package,” she said, insisting that the funds have helped the United States economy weather the pandemic and the fallout from Russia’s war in Ukraine.Throughout the last year, Ms. Yellen has been an ardent public defender of the Biden administration’s economic agenda. She has clashed publicly at times with critics such as Lawrence H. Summers, a former Treasury secretary, who warned that too much stimulus could overheat the economy.For months, Ms. Yellen — and many other economists — talked about inflation as “transitory,” saying rising prices were the result of supply chain problems that would dissipate and “base effects,” which were making the monthly numbers look worse in comparison with prices that were depressed during the early days of the pandemic.By May of last year, Ms. Yellen appeared to acknowledge that the Biden administration’s spending proposals had the potential to overheat the economy. She noted at The Atlantic’s Future Economy Summit that the policies could spur growth and that the Fed might have to step in with “modest” interest rate increases if the economy revved up too much.“It may be that interest rates will have to rise somewhat to make sure that our economy doesn’t overheat, even though the additional spending is relatively small relative to the size of the economy,” Ms. Yellen said.But economic indicators still suggested that inflation remained under control through much of that spring. In an interview with The New York Times last June, Ms. Yellen said she believed that inflation expectations were in line with the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent target and that while wages were increasing, she did not see a “wage price spiral” on the horizon that could cause inflation to become entrenched.“We don’t want a situation of prolonged excess demand in the economy that leads to wage and price pressures that build and become endemic,” she said, adding that she did not see that happening.Inflation F.A.Q.Card 1 of 5What is inflation? More