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    To Build Support for Infrastructure Plan, Biden Offers His Own Take on ‘Bipartisan’

    President Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure proposal is a test of his belief that he can generate popular backing across the country as Republicans seek to block him on Capitol Hill.WASHINGTON — President Biden’s attempt to muscle through a $2 trillion plan to rebuild the country’s infrastructure — along with the tax increases to pay for it — will be a defining test of his belief that bipartisan support for his proposals can overwhelm traditional Republican objections in Congress.Instead of paring back his ambitions in an effort to limit opposition from Republicans in the Senate or appease moderate Democrats in the House, Mr. Biden and his allies on Capitol Hill are barreling ahead with unapologetically bold, expensive measures, betting that they can build bipartisanship from voters nationwide rather than from elected officials in Washington.Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, and other members of his party are working to brand the bill as a liberal wish list of wasteful spending and a money grab from a Democratic administration that will drag down the economy with tax hikes.But Mr. Biden is predicting that the broad appeal of wider roads, faster internet, high-speed trains, ubiquitous charging stations for electric cars, shiny new airport terminals and upgraded water pipes will undercut the expected barrage of ideological attacks that are already coming from Republican lawmakers, business groups, anti-tax activists and President Donald J. Trump.In his first cabinet meeting at the White House on Thursday, Mr. Biden directed several of his top officials to travel the country during the next several weeks to sell the benefits of the infrastructure spending. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, also told reporters that the president would host Democrats and Republicans in the Oval Office to discuss the plan and their ideas.“I hope and believe the American people will join this effort — Democrats, Republicans and independents,” Mr. Biden said in Pittsburgh on Wednesday as he formally announced his plan. He compared it to the popularity of the nearly $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill that passed last month, saying, “If you live in a town with a Republican mayor, a Republican county executive or a Republican governor, ask them how many would rather get rid of the plan.”But generating sustained support for the proposal is shaping up to be a major challenge for the White House. The business lobby is preparing to wage a full-scale campaign against the tax increases in the president’s plan, with influential groups like the Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce warning lawmakers against raising taxes as the United States emerges from a deep economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.But across the country, some local Republican officials are already embracing the prospect of millions of dollars in new infrastructure spending flowing into their communities, even as they are careful to express concern about new taxes.The president is betting that the broad appeal of wider roads, faster internet, high-speed trains, charging stations for electric cars, new airport terminals and upgraded water pipes will undercut the expected ideological attacks from Republicans.Todd Heisler/The New York TimesIn Fresno, Calif., Mayor Jerry Dyer said the president’s proposals, if passed into law, would allow the city to accelerate plans for a high-speed rail station linking it to job centers in the Bay Area. He said the city had struggled to electrify its fleet of buses and provide robust internet, especially to poorer communities.“These dollars are going to be welcomed in terms of repairing a lot of our infrastructure,” said Mr. Dyer, a Republican. He said he was concerned about the effects of higher taxes on businesses but added that he hoped the issue would be worked out in Washington.“There’s no question the need is there,” he said.Mayor John Giles of Mesa, Ariz., called the president’s proposal “a very good thing” for his city. With the money, Mesa could upgrade a 1970s-era airport tower, widen roads, extend broadband and expand a regional light rail network. He said he was disappointed by the Republican opposition in Congress.“It was only a few months ago that we all agreed that infrastructure was a bipartisan issue,” Mr. Giles said. “That attitude shouldn’t shift just because there’s a new administration in the White House.”But Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, another Republican who has called for a vast infusion of spending on infrastructure, accused Mr. Biden of using the legislation to advance $1.4 trillion in liberal programs.“It still has a lot of good things, but it also has a lot of things that have absolutely nothing to do with infrastructure,” Mr. Hogan said. “They’re like, ‘No, we just want to jam through all of our priorities.’”Mr. Biden and those closest to him understand that passage of the legislation will take place in Washington, not in Fresno or Mesa or Maryland. In announcing his plan, the president sought to cast congressional Republicans as longtime champions of infrastructure, both inviting them to negotiate and daring them to oppose his proposal.“We’ll have a good-faith negotiation with any Republican who wants to help get this done,” Mr. Biden said. “But we have to get it done.”That last line was a not-so-subtle hint about his legislative strategy. If the president cannot win backing from Republican lawmakers, Democrats appeared poised to once again use a parliamentary budget tool known as reconciliation to push through the tax and spending plan with a simple majority vote and most likely only Democratic support.At an event in his home state on Thursday, Mr. McConnell called Mr. Biden “a first-rate person” whom he liked personally. But he argued that the president was running a “bold, left-wing administration” and warned “that package that they’re putting together now, as much as we would like to address infrastructure, is not going to get support from our side.”For Mr. Biden, who spent more than three decades in the Senate, the political calculations are far different than they were 12 years ago, when a similar measure was under consideration.Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, warned that his conference would not support Mr. Biden’s proposal.Anna Moneymaker for The New York TimesPresident Barack Obama took office in 2009, in the middle of an economic crisis with a Senate firmly in Democratic control. Only weeks into his term, he pushed through an $825 billion stimulus bill devised to jump-start the economy — legislation that is now seen by many progressives as far too timid.Mr. Obama and his aides spent weeks feverishly negotiating with conservative Democrats and a handful of Republicans in Congress, who pressed the president to limit the size of the spending plan. Rahm Emanuel, Mr. Obama’s chief of staff at the time, said conservative Democrats like Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska insisted that the president win Republican support.Mr. Biden appears to have taken from that experience the lesson that there are limited benefits from seeking to woo a small number of Republicans — and that the key is to sell the benefits of the plan to Americans and not get hung up on the process to pass it.“The politics was different, the policy was different, the public was different,” Mr. Emanuel said, praising Mr. Biden’s approach. Even before the president unveiled his plan, Republicans argued that Democrats were not genuinely interested in bipartisan negotiations, particularly after they pushed the pandemic relief package into law without any Republican votes.Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, has asked the Senate parliamentarian to offer guidance on how many times senators can pursue reconciliation this fiscal year, which several Republicans took as a sign that they were preparing to bypass the 60-vote filibuster threshold.“It is disingenuous for the president to invite Republicans to the White House and the Oval Office to discuss this when he’s made it very clear — and Democrats in Congress have made it very clear — they have no intention of working with Republicans on this package,” said Representative Kevin Brady of Texas, the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee.In an interview, Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, said she appreciated the outreach from the administration leading up to Mr. Biden’s announcement, including multiple bipartisan briefings for lawmakers and individual conversations with cabinet officials.But Ms. Collins, a member of a bipartisan Senate group that is eager to strike compromises on a number of issues, said bipartisan negotiations would most likely falter if the administration refused to budge on the overall price tag or composition of the package.Senator Susan Collins said she appreciated the outreach from the administration leading up to Mr. Biden’s announcement.Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times“Everyone knows what bipartisanship means: It means that you get members of Congress from both parties working on and voting for important legislation,” she said, adding: “It’s not like it’s some relic of ancient times. We acted in a bipartisan manner on the most important issue last year: the pandemic.”If Democrats are already considering using reconciliation, Ms. Collins said, “that raises questions about whether there is a sincere interest in crafting a bipartisan infrastructure package.”Some Democrats have said that the proposal is not enough to address both infrastructure needs and inequities across the country, and they have counseled the White House against winnowing down a legislative package to win a handful of Republican votes.“I’m not particularly hopeful that we’re going to see a giant awakening from Republicans who decide that they want to pass an infrastructure package that actually addresses climate,” Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington, the chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told reporters before Mr. Biden’s speech. More

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    Democrats Look to Smooth the Way for Biden’s Infrastructure Plan

    House Democrats face hurdles to pushing through the president’s big spending plans, including Republican opposition and resistance from their own ranks.WASHINGTON — Senior Democrats on Monday proposed a tax increase that could partly finance President Biden’s plans to pour trillions of dollars into infrastructure and other new government programs, as party leaders weighed an aggressive strategy to force his spending proposals through Congress over unified Republican opposition.The moves were the start of a complex effort by Mr. Biden’s allies on Capitol Hill to pave the way for another huge tranche of federal spending after the $1.9 trillion stimulus package that was enacted this month. The president is set to announce this week the details of his budget, including his much-anticipated infrastructure plan.He is scheduled to travel to Pittsburgh on Wednesday to describe the first half of a “Build Back Better” proposal that aides say will include a total of $3 trillion in new spending and up to an additional $1 trillion in tax credits and other incentives.Yet with Republicans showing early opposition to such a large plan and some Democrats resisting key details, the proposals will be more difficult to enact than the pandemic aid package, which Democrats muscled through the House and Senate on party-line votes.In the House, where Mr. Biden can currently afford to lose only eight votes, Representative Tom Suozzi, Democrat of New York, warned that he would not support the president’s plan unless it eliminated a rule that prevents taxpayers from deducting more than $10,000 in local and state taxes from their federal income taxes. He is one of a handful of House Democrats who are calling on the president to repeal the provision.And in the Senate, where most major legislation requires 60 votes to advance, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, was exploring an unusual maneuver that could allow Democrats to once again use reconciliation — the fast-track budget process they used for the stimulus plan — to steer his spending plans through Congress in the next few months even if Republicans are unanimously opposed.While an aide to Mr. Schumer said a final decision had not been made to pursue such a strategy, the prospect, discussed on the condition of anonymity, underscored the lengths to which Democrats were willing to go to push through Mr. Biden’s agenda.The president’s initiatives will feature money for traditional infrastructure projects like rebuilding roads, bridges and water systems; spending to advance a transition to a lower-carbon energy system, like electric vehicle charging stations and the construction of energy-efficient buildings; investments in emerging industries like advanced batteries; education efforts like free community college and universal prekindergarten; and measures to help women work and earn more, like increased support for child care.The proposals are expected to be partly offset by a wide range of tax increases on corporations and high earners.In Pittsburgh, Mr. Biden will lay out “the first of two equally critical packages to rebuild our economy and create better-paying jobs for American workers,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters on Monday.“He’ll talk this week about investments we need to make in domestic manufacturing, R & D, the caregiving economy and infrastructure,” she added. “In the coming weeks, the president will lay out his vision for a second package that focuses squarely on creating economic security for the middle class through investments in child care, health care, education and other areas.”Mr. Biden’s budget office is also expected this week to release his spending request for the next fiscal year, which is separate from the infrastructure plan. White House officials said it would lay out funding levels agency by agency, so that congressional committees could begin to write appropriations bills for next year. For the first time in a decade, they will not be limited by spending caps imposed by Congress. (Lawmakers have agreed to break those caps in recent years.)That request will not include Mr. Biden’s tax plans, the officials said. The administration’s full budget will be presented to Congress this spring.For now, some Democrats are already jockeying to make sure that their proposals are part of the plan.Construction in Miami this month. Mr. Biden’s plan will include investments in traditional infrastructure projects, as well as climate change initiatives and social programs.Joe Raedle/Getty ImagesSenator Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland, and a group of liberal Democrats on Monday proposed scaling back a provision in the tax code that allows wealthy heirs to reduce what they pay on assets they inherit, known as stepped-up basis. The proposal reflects one of Mr. Biden’s campaign promises, and officials have suggested that it could be used to fund his infrastructure plans.Current law reduces the taxes that heirs owe on assets that appreciate over time. Say a person buys $1 million worth of stock, and the value of that stock rises to $10 million before the person dies. If the person sold the stock before death, she would owe taxes on a $9 million gain. But if she died first, and her heirs immediately sold the stocks she gave them, they would not owe any capital gains taxes. Under the new proposal, which exempts $1 million in gains, the heirs would owe taxes on the remaining $8 million gain.The full exemption reduces federal tax revenues by more than $40 billion a year. It was unclear on Monday how much the Democratic plan would raise in revenues to help Mr. Biden’s spending efforts.Other Democrats pushed the president to include further tax cuts in his plan.Mr. Suozzi of New York said in an interview on Monday that he would not support changes to the tax code without a full repeal of the so-called SALT cap, which limits the amount of local and state taxes that can be deducted from federal income taxes. That change largely hurt higher-income households in high-tax states like California, Maryland and New York.House Democrats passed legislation in 2019 that would have temporarily removed the cap, but it stalled in the Senate and attempts to include it in pandemic relief legislation were unsuccessful.“It has to be elevated as part of the conversation,” Mr. Suozzi said. “There’s a lot of different talk about going big and going bold and making significant changes to the tax code. I want to make SALT part of the conversation.”.css-yoay6m{margin:0 auto 5px;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-yoay6m{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-1dg6kl4{margin-top:5px;margin-bottom:15px;}.css-k59gj9{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-flex-direction:column;-ms-flex-direction:column;flex-direction:column;width:100%;}.css-1e2usoh{font-family:inherit;display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-box-pack:justify;-webkit-justify-content:space-between;-ms-flex-pack:justify;justify-content:space-between;border-top:1px solid #ccc;padding:10px 0px 10px 0px;background-color:#fff;}.css-1jz6h6z{font-family:inherit;font-weight:bold;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.5rem;text-align:left;}.css-1t412wb{box-sizing:border-box;margin:8px 15px 0px 15px;cursor:pointer;}.css-hhzar2{-webkit-transition:-webkit-transform ease 0.5s;-webkit-transition:transform ease 0.5s;transition:transform ease 0.5s;}.css-t54hv4{-webkit-transform:rotate(180deg);-ms-transform:rotate(180deg);transform:rotate(180deg);}.css-1r2j9qz{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-e1ipqs{font-size:1rem;line-height:1.5rem;padding:0px 30px 0px 0px;}.css-e1ipqs a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;}.css-e1ipqs a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}.css-1o76pdf{visibility:show;height:100%;padding-bottom:20px;}.css-1sw9s96{visibility:hidden;height:0px;}#masthead-bar-one{display:none;}#masthead-bar-one{display:none;}.css-1cz6wm{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;font-family:’nyt-franklin’,arial,helvetica,sans-serif;text-align:left;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1cz6wm{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-1cz6wm:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1cz6wm{border:none;padding:20px 0 0;border-top:1px solid #121212;}Frequently Asked Questions About the New Stimulus PackageThe stimulus payments would be $1,400 for most recipients. Those who are eligible would also receive an identical payment for each of their children. To qualify for the full $1,400, a single person would need an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or below. For heads of household, adjusted gross income would need to be $112,500 or below, and for married couples filing jointly that number would need to be $150,000 or below. To be eligible for a payment, a person must have a Social Security number. Read more. Buying insurance through the government program known as COBRA would temporarily become a lot cheaper. COBRA, for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, generally lets someone who loses a job buy coverage via the former employer. But it’s expensive: Under normal circumstances, a person may have to pay at least 102 percent of the cost of the premium. Under the relief bill, the government would pay the entire COBRA premium from April 1 through Sept. 30. A person who qualified for new, employer-based health insurance someplace else before Sept. 30 would lose eligibility for the no-cost coverage. And someone who left a job voluntarily would not be eligible, either. Read moreThis credit, which helps working families offset the cost of care for children under 13 and other dependents, would be significantly expanded for a single year. More people would be eligible, and many recipients would get a bigger break. The bill would also make the credit fully refundable, which means you could collect the money as a refund even if your tax bill was zero. “That will be helpful to people at the lower end” of the income scale, said Mark Luscombe, principal federal tax analyst at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting. Read more.There would be a big one for people who already have debt. You wouldn’t have to pay income taxes on forgiven debt if you qualify for loan forgiveness or cancellation — for example, if you’ve been in an income-driven repayment plan for the requisite number of years, if your school defrauded you or if Congress or the president wipes away $10,000 of debt for large numbers of people. This would be the case for debt forgiven between Jan. 1, 2021, and the end of 2025. Read more.The bill would provide billions of dollars in rental and utility assistance to people who are struggling and in danger of being evicted from their homes. About $27 billion would go toward emergency rental assistance. The vast majority of it would replenish the so-called Coronavirus Relief Fund, created by the CARES Act and distributed through state, local and tribal governments, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. That’s on top of the $25 billion in assistance provided by the relief package passed in December. To receive financial assistance — which could be used for rent, utilities and other housing expenses — households would have to meet several conditions. Household income could not exceed 80 percent of the area median income, at least one household member must be at risk of homelessness or housing instability, and individuals would have to qualify for unemployment benefits or have experienced financial hardship (directly or indirectly) because of the pandemic. Assistance could be provided for up to 18 months, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Lower-income families that have been unemployed for three months or more would be given priority for assistance. Read more.He is among the Democrats who have requested a meeting with Mr. Biden to discuss repealing the cap, according to a letter obtained by The New York Times.“No SALT, no dice,” declared another Democrat, Representative Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey.“There’s plenty of ways, in my opinion, to raise revenue and reinstate SALT,” he said in an interview, adding that he wanted to see the full details of the proposal.Ms. Psaki said on Monday that administration officials “look forward to working with a broad coalition of members of Congress to gather their input and ideas, and determine the path forward, create good jobs and make America more competitive.”While members of both parties have said they support a major infrastructure initiative, Republicans have balked at the details of Mr. Biden’s opening bid, which includes not only sweeping investments in traditional public works but also more ambitious proposals to tackle climate change and education, and tax increases to help offset the considerable costs.“Unfortunately, it looks like this is not going to head in the direction I had hoped,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, said at an event in his state. “My advice to the administration is: If you want to do an infrastructure bill, let’s do an infrastructure bill. Let’s don’t turn it into a massive effort to raise taxes on businesses and individuals.”“I’d love to do an infrastructure bill,” he added. “I’m not interested in raising taxes across the board on America. I think it will send our economy in the wrong direction.”Should Democratic lawmakers try to move Mr. Biden’s plan through the regular legislative process and overcome the 60-vote filibuster threshold, at least 10 Republicans would need to join them.But the reconciliation process allows a fiscal package included in the budget resolution to be shielded from a filibuster. Mr. Schumer has asked the Senate’s top rule-enforcer whether Democrats can revisit the budget blueprint that was approved last month to include the infrastructure plan, which would enable them to undertake a second reconciliation process before the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30 and pass it with a simple majority.Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and other top Democrats are arguing that a key congressional law allows them to essentially redo the budget blueprint for the current fiscal year.Anna Moneymaker for The New York TimesBecause there is no precedent for passing two reconciliation packages in the same budget year with the same blueprint, Elizabeth MacDonough, the parliamentarian, will have to issue guidance on whether doing so is permissible under Senate rules.If Democrats succeed, they could potentially use the reconciliation maneuver at least two more times this calendar year to push through more of Mr. Biden’s agenda. More

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    A Year After Ending Her Presidential Bid, Warren Wields Soft Power in Washington

    The progressive Democrat’s proposals for taxing the rich will take center stage as talks on paying for an infrastructure bill ramp up.WASHINGTON — At Adewale Adeyemo’s confirmation hearing last month, Senator Elizabeth Warren pressed the deputy Treasury secretary nominee to commit to using the department’s regulatory powers to scrutinize the private equity industry, which she said posed a risk to low-income communities when buyout firms strip companies of assets, load them with debt and fire workers.Ms. Warren, a progressive Democrat from Massachusetts, has been a mentor to Mr. Adeyemo, who served as her chief of staff when she was establishing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau a decade ago. But when he gave a noncommittal answer, she did not let him off the hook.“I don’t think you should waver about this,” Ms. Warren said emphatically. “Treasury should not be a bystander in this.”The exchange underscored Ms. Warren’s role in the new Washington, where the Biden administration and congressional Democrats control the levers of power. A year after ending her own presidential bid, and with her aspirations of becoming Treasury secretary unfulfilled, Ms. Warren now wields influence in her own way. She has shepherded a pipeline of progressive former staff members into powerful jobs across the government, and she releases a steady stream of legislative proposals that have kept her progressive ideas at the forefront of the policy conversation.Two months into the Biden presidency, it is not yet clear how much Ms. Warren’s sway will yield in terms of policy results. But many of her ideas for raising trillions of dollars of revenue by taxing the wealthy and big corporations will soon take center stage as the Biden administration and Congress consider ways to pay for the multitrillion-dollar infrastructure plan that they hope to pass this year.Marcus Stanley, the policy director of Americans for Financial Reform, an advocacy group, said the upcoming infrastructure and jobs legislation would be a real test of Ms. Warren’s influence.“We probably have a big bill coming up in the next couple of months, so when you talk about winning the policy fights, we’re going to see there,” Mr. Stanley said.If personnel is policy, as Ms. Warren likes to say, then she is winning so far. Many of the top officials and senior staff members at the nation’s most powerful economic policymaking and regulatory agencies are ideological allies who have been groomed by Ms. Warren.In addition to Mr. Adeyemo at the Treasury Department, Ms. Warren has worked closely in the past with Bharat Ramamurti, the deputy director of the National Economic Council, and Rohit Chopra, President Biden’s nominee to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.The impact of the hires can be seen in the progressive tilt of the $1.9 trillion economic relief law, which dismissed concerns about deficits and focused heavily on poverty reduction. Ms. Warren and her allies hope that having strong advocates for progressive views within the administration will help those ideas find purchase in a White House that thus far has been more open to tacking to the left than previous Democratic administrations.But it remains to be seen how far the Biden White House is willing to go, particularly with regard to tax increases, which is an area where the two former candidates disagreed.Although she has been off the campaign trail for more than a year, Ms. Warren has been reviving proposals that she promoted in Iowa and New Hampshire.This month, Ms. Warren and two House Democrats introduced legislation for an “ultra-millionaire tax” that is modeled after what she proposed as a candidate. The 2 percent annual wealth tax on the net worth of households and trusts valued at $50 million to $1 billion was unveiled with polling data to back up its popularity and letters supporting its constitutionality.This week, Ms. Warren plans to pitch new legislation to increase taxes on big companies. Her “real corporate income tax,” which was also part of her campaign platform, would require the most profitable companies to pay a 7 percent tax on their annual book value — the earnings that they report to their investors but not the Internal Revenue Service — above $100 million. The idea, which is similar to a proposal that Mr. Biden put forward during his campaign, is intended to stop companies from using accounting loopholes to lower their tax bills.When it appeared that Democrats were likely to lose the Senate after the 2020 election, some industry groups were relieved that Ms. Warren would not become the Treasury secretary. These days, however, they acknowledge that they are watching her moves closely.“Senator Warren is certainly well positioned to have an outsized influence in the Senate and the administration,” said James Maloney, a managing partner of Tiger Hill Partners, a public affairs firm focused on financial services. “Every item that she’s focused on should be a focus area for the industries whose policies can potentially be impacted.”Mr. Maloney, whose firm represents some private equity companies, noted that allies of Ms. Warren were spread across the Biden administration. He said businesses were closely watching the letters that Ms. Warren sends to regulatory agencies and the responses she receives.Mr. Biden has so far not been persuaded by her argument for using executive authority to waive student debt. And the White House has given mixed signals on Ms. Warren’s wealth tax.Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, whose nomination Ms. Warren supported, has expressed skepticism about the feasibility of putting a wealth tax in place. Ms. Yellen’s recent hiring of Natasha Sarin, a protégé of Lawrence H. Summers who has been skeptical about how much revenue a wealth tax would generate, to join her economic policy team raised eyebrows among some in Ms. Warren’s orbit.In an interview, Ms. Warren said she was heartened by the early returns of the Biden era after four years of President Donald J. Trump’s deregulation and tax cuts.“People like progressive ideas and want to see them enacted,” Ms. Warren said. “That’s going to happen. Washington is beginning to catch up.”She said she planned to have a private conversation with Ms. Yellen about how to establish the tax.During the 2020 primary campaign, Ms. Warren and President Biden appeared to be at opposite ends of the Democratic Party’s ideological spectrum.Chang W. Lee/The New York Times“If that’s her biggest problem then we’re good,” Ms. Warren said. “It’s easy to implement. We just need to sit down and talk about it.”Ms. Warren acknowledged that helping to seed federal agencies with progressives was part of her strategy of making her policies happen. She said she made her staffing recommendations to the White House privately and repeated her refrain that “personnel is policy.”During the 2020 primary campaign, Ms. Warren and Mr. Biden appeared to be at opposite ends of the Democratic Party’s ideological spectrum. But their shared interest in uplifting the middle class and reducing income inequality has helped forge a strong working relationship.Jeff Hauser, the director of the Revolving Door Project, suggested that Ms. Warren’s ties to former Senator Ted Kaufman, Mr. Biden’s longtime Senate chief of staff who led his presidential transition team, had helped her steer many of her acolytes to important jobs. In 2008, when Ms. Warren was a Harvard Law School professor, she was appointed to join a congressional panel that was overseeing the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program. When she left that job to stand up the consumer protection bureau, Mr. Kaufman replaced her and continued her rigorous oversight work.Allies of Ms. Warren say she is playing the long game with policy proposals such as the wealth tax, nudging them from European fringe ideas to the political mainstream in hopes that Democrats will have the votes to pass such legislation sooner rather than later.“She’s doing what she always does, which is going person by person in the Senate, person by person in the administration, explaining policy advantages, explaining the political advantages, making the case,” said Mike Lux, a Democratic political strategist and a friend of Ms. Warren’s.In the meantime, Ms. Warren feels a sense of relief after four years of being on defense. On the day she voted to advance Mr. Chopra’s nomination to lead the consumer bureau, she reflected on how different his tenure would be from that of Mick Mulvaney, whom Mr. Trump appointed to neuter the agency in 2017.Mr. Chopra helped Ms. Warren establish the bureau and worked for five years as its assistant director and student loan ombudsman. Mr. Mulvaney tried to cut its funding and scrambled its acronym out of spite.“Mick Mulvaney was doing everything he could to try to undercut the consumer agency, and he made no secret about that,” Ms. Warren said. “Now there’s someone who will be in charge of the C.F.P.B. who sees the need for a level playing field and a fair set of rules and who has the backbone to get in there and make it happen.” More

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    In Washington, ‘Free Trade’ Is No Longer Gospel

    Like its predecessor, the Biden administration has largely dispensed with the idea of free trade as a goal in and of itself.WASHINGTON — For decades, the principle of “free trade” inspired a kind of religious reverence among most American politicians. Lawmakers, diplomats and presidents justified their policies through the pursuit of freer trade, which, like the spread of democracy and market capitalism, was presumed to be a universal and worthy goal.But as the Biden administration establishes itself in Washington, that longstanding gospel is no longer the prevailing view.Political parties on both the right and left have shifted away from the conventional view that the primary goal of trade policy should be speeding flows of goods and services to lift economic growth. Instead, more politicians have zeroed in on the downsides of past trade deals, which greatly benefited some American workers but stripped others of their jobs.President Donald J. Trump embraced this rethinking on trade by threatening to scrap old deals that he said had sent jobs overseas and renegotiate new ones. His signature pacts, including with Canada, Mexico and China, ended up raising some barriers to trade rather than lowering them, including leaving hefty tariffs in place on Chinese products and more restrictions on auto imports into North America.The Biden administration appears poised to adopt a similar approach, with top officials like Katherine Tai, Mr. Biden’s nominee to run the Office of the United States Trade Representative, promising to focus more on ensuring that trade deals protect the rights and interests of American workers, rather than exporters or consumers.The Senate is expected to vote on Ms. Tai’s nomination on Wednesday, and supporters say she will be easily confirmed.Mr. Biden and his advisers have promised to review the impact that past trade policies have had on economic and racial inequality, and put negotiating new trade deals on the back burner while they focus on improving the domestic economy. And they have not yet made any moves to scale back Mr. Trump’s hefty tariffs on foreign products, saying that they are reviewing them, but that tariffs are a legitimate trade policy tool.In her hearing before the Senate Finance Committee on Feb. 25, Ms. Tai emphasized that she would help usher in a break with past policies that would “pit one of our segments of our workers and our economy against another.”While Ms. Tai reassured senators that she would work with them to promote exports from their districts, she called for a policy that would focus more on how trade affects Americans as workers and wage earners.When asked by Senator Patrick J. Toomey, a Republican of Pennsylvania and a noted free trader, whether the goal of a trade agreement between two modern, developed economies should be the elimination of tariffs and trade barriers, Ms. Tai declined to agree, saying she would want to consider such agreements on a case-by-case basis.“Maybe if you’d asked me this question five or 10 years ago, I would have been inclined to say yes,” Ms. Tai responded. But after the events of the past few years — including the pandemic, the Trump administration’s trade wars and a failed effort by the Obama administration to negotiate a Pacific trade deal — “I think that our trade policies need to be nuanced, and need to take into account all the lessons that we have learned, many of them very painful, from our most recent history,” she said.Katherine Tai, the Biden administration’s nominee for trade representative, promised a break with past policies that had “pit one of our segments of our workers and our economy against another.”Pool photo by Bill O’LearyIn his first major foreign policy speech on March 3, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken also said that the calculus on free trade had changed.“Some of us previously argued for free trade agreements because we believed Americans would broadly share in the economic gains,” he said. “But we didn’t do enough to understand who would be negatively affected and what would be needed to adequately offset their pain.”“Our approach now will be different,” Mr. Blinken said.Clyde Prestowitz, a U.S. negotiator in the Reagan administration, called the administration’s statements on trade “a revolution.” While Robert E. Lighthizer, Mr. Trump’s trade representative, also parted with the conventional wisdom on trade, he was seen as an exception, a former steel industry lawyer steeped in protectionism, said Mr. Prestowitz.“Now here is Ms. Tai, with a mostly government official career behind her, talking without making any of the formerly necessary gestures toward the sanctity and multitudinous bounties of free trade,” Mr. Prestowitz said. “The conventional wisdom on trade no longer has an iron grip on policymakers and thinkers.”Like Ms. Tai and Mr. Lighthizer, many past presidents and trade officials emphasized fair trade and the idea of holding foreign countries accountable for breaking trade rules. But many also paid homage to the conventional wisdom that free trade itself was a worthy goal because it could help lift the economic fortunes of all countries and enhance global stability by linking economies.That idea reached the height of its popularity under the presidencies of George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, where the United States negotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement, led the talks that gave the World Trade Organization its modern format, granted China permanent normal trading relations, and sealed a series of trade agreements with countries in Latin America, Africa and the Middle East.President Barack Obama initially put less emphasis on free trade deals, instead focusing on the financial crisis and the Affordable Care Act. But in his second term, his administration pushed to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which came under criticism from progressive Democrats for exposing American workers to foreign competition. The deal never won sufficient support in Congress.For Democrats, the downfall of that deal was a turning point, propelling them toward their new consensus on trade. Some, like Dani Rodrik, a professor of political economy at Harvard, argue that recent trade deals have largely not been about cutting tariffs or trade barriers at all, and instead were focused on locking in advantages for pharmaceutical companies and international banks.David Autor, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said that economic theory had never claimed that trade makes everybody better off — it had said that trade would raise overall economic output, but lead to gains and losses for different groups.But economists and politicians alike underestimated how jarring some of those losses could be. Mr. Autor’s influential research shows that expanded trade with China led to the loss of 2.4 million American jobs between 1999 and 2011. China’s growing dominance of a variety of global industries, often accomplished through hefty government subsidies, also weakened the argument that the United States could succeed through free markets alone.Today, “people are much more sensitive to the idea that trade can have very, very disruptive effects,” Mr. Autor said. “There’s no amount of everyday low prices at Walmart that is going to make up for unemployment.”But Mr. Autor said that while the old consensus was “simplistic and harmful,” turning away from the ideal of free trade held dangers too. “Once you open this terrain, lots of terrible policies and expensive subsidies can all march in under the banner of the protection of the American worker,” he said.Some have argued that the approach could forgo important economic gains.William Reinsch, the Scholl Chair in International Business at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, wrote that Americans had come to understand that the argument that “a rising tide would lift all boats” is not always correct.“A rising tide does not lift all boats; it only lifts some boats, and for a long time, workers’ boats have been stuck in the muck while the owners’ yachts flow free,” he wrote. However, Mr. Reinsch added, “no tide lifts no boats. In economic terms, if we forgo the expansion of trade, we do not get the benefits trade provides, and there is nothing to distribute.”Workers making iron bars in a steel factory in China last month.Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesIt remains to be seen how much the Biden administration will adhere to the Trump administration’s more protectionist policies — like keeping the tariffs on foreign metals and products from China.While the Biden administration has tried to distance its trade policy from that of the previous administration, many former Trump administration officials say the direction appears remarkably similar.In an interview in January, Mr. Lighthizer said that the Trump administration had reoriented trade policy away from the interests of multinational businesses and the Chamber of Commerce and toward working-class people and manufacturing, goals that Democrats also support. He said the Biden administration would try to make trade policy look like their own, but ultimately “stay pretty close.”“The goal is creating communities and families of working people, rather than promoting corporate profits,” Mr. Lighthizer said. “I think the outlines of what we’ve done will stay. They will try to Biden-ize it, make it their own, which they should do, but I’d be surprised if they back away from the great outline of what we’ve done and how we’ve changed the policy.”Ms. Tai has acknowledged some similarities between the Biden and Trump administration’s goals, but emphasized the difference in their tactics.In her confirmation hearing, she said that she shared the Trump administration’s goal of bringing supply chains back to America, but that the prior administration’s policies had created “a lot of disruption and consternation.”“I’d want to accomplish similar goals in a more effective, process-driven manner,” she said. More

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    How the U.S. Got It (Mostly) Right in the Economy’s Rescue

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }Biden’s Stimulus PlanBiden’s AddressWhat to Know About the BillAnalysis: Economic RescueBenefits for Middle ClassShoppers at a mall in Los Angeles. Consumer spending is nearly back to its prepandemic level.Credit…Mark Abramson for The New York TimesAnalysisHow the U.S. Got It (Mostly) Right in the Economy’s RescueThough the recession has been painful, policymakers cushioned the pandemic’s blow and opened the way to recovery.Shoppers at a mall in Los Angeles. Consumer spending is nearly back to its prepandemic level.Credit…Mark Abramson for The New York TimesSupported byContinue reading the main storyMarch 15, 2021Updated 2:31 p.m. ETWhen the coronavirus pandemic ripped a hole in the economy a year ago, many feared that the United States would repeat the experience of the last recession, when a timid and short-lived government response, in the view of many experts, led to years of high unemployment and anemic wage growth.Instead, the federal government responded with remarkable force and speed. Within weeks after the virus hit American shores, Congress had launched a multitrillion-dollar barrage of programs to expand unemployment benefits, rescue small businesses and send checks to most American households. And this time, unlike a decade ago, Washington is keeping the aid flowing even as the crisis begins to ease: On Thursday, President Biden signed a $1.9 trillion aid bill that will pump still more cash into households, businesses, and state and local governments.The Federal Reserve, too, acted swiftly, deploying emergency tools developed in the financial crisis a decade earlier. Those efforts helped safeguard the financial system — and the central bank has pledged to remain vigilant.The result is an economy far stronger than most forecasters expected last spring, even as the pandemic proved much worse than feared. The unemployment rate has fallen to 6.2 percent, from nearly 15 percent in April. Consumer spending is nearly back to its prepandemic level. Households are sitting on trillions of dollars in savings that could fuel an epic rebound as the health crisis eases.Yet not everyone made it into the lifeboats unscathed, if at all. Millions of laid-off workers waited weeks or months to begin receiving help, often with lasting financial consequences. Aid to hundreds of thousands of small businesses dried up long before they could welcome back customers; many will never reopen. Long lines at food banks and desperate pleas for help on social media reflected the number of people who slipped through the cracks.“The damage that has been done has occurred in a disparate fashion,” said Michelle Holder, a John Jay College economist who has studied the pandemic’s impact. “It’s occurred among low-income families. It’s occurred among Black and brown families. It’s certainly occurred among families that did not have a lot of resources to fall back on.”For many white-collar workers, Dr. Holder said, the pandemic recession may one day look like a mere “bump in the road.” But not for those hit hardest.“It wasn’t just a bump in the road if you were a low-wage worker, if you were a low-income family,” she said. “Their ability to recover is just not the same as ours.”Jesus Quinonez lost his job as a manager at a warehouse in the San Diego area early in the pandemic. He quickly found another job — with a company that shut down before he could begin work. He hasn’t worked since.It took Mr. Quinonez, 62, three months to fight his way through California’s overwhelmed unemployment insurance system and begin receiving benefits. Less than two months later, a $600-a-week unemployment supplement from the federal government expired, leaving Mr. Quinonez, his wife and his four children trying to subsist on a few hundred dollars a week in regular unemployment benefits.By January, Mr. Quinonez was four months behind on rent on the one-bedroom trailer he shares with his family. He had raided his 401(k) account, leaving no savings a few years before his intended retirement. Government nutrition assistance kept his family fed, but it didn’t help with the car payment, or pay for toilet paper.“I started falling behind on my bills, plain and simple,” he said.A closed storefront in Newark. Not everyone made it into the lifeboats unscathed.Credit…Bryan Anselm for The New York TimesFor hundreds of thousands of small businesses, government aid dried up long before they could welcome back customers. Many will never reopen.Credit…Bryan Anselm for The New York TimesBut in December, Congress passed a $900 billion aid package, which included a second round of direct checks to households and revived the expanded unemployment programs. By January, Mr. Quinonez was able to pay off at least part of his debt, enough to hold on to the trailer and his car. The next round of aid should carry Mr. Quinonez until he can work again.“As soon as they lift the restrictions and more people get vaccinated, I see things coming back good,” he said. “I expect to get a job, and I expect to continue working until I retire.”Whether Mr. Quinonez’s story — and millions more like it — should count as a success or failure for public policy is partly a matter of perspective. Mr. Quinonez himself is unimpressed: He worked and paid taxes for decades, then found himself subject to a decrepit state computer system and a divided Congress.“Now that we need them, there’s no freaking help,” he said.Research from Eliza Forsythe, an economist at the University of Illinois, found that from June until Feb. 17, only 41 percent of unemployed workers had access to benefits. Some of the rest were unaware of their eligibility or couldn’t navigate the thicket of rules in their states. Others simply weren’t eligible. Asian workers, Black workers and those with less education were disproportionately represented among the nonrecipients.The gaps and delays in the system had consequences.“The impact of that is folks’ having to move out of their apartments because they have this money that’s supposed to be coming but they just haven’t received it,” said Rebecca Dixon, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, a worker advocacy group. Others kept their homes because of eviction bans, but had their utilities shut off, Ms. Dixon added, or turned to food banks to avoid going hungry — measures of food insecurity surged in the pandemic.Still, the federal government did far more for unemployed workers than in any previous recession. Congress expanded the safety net to cover millions of workers — freelancers, part-time workers, the self-employed — who are left out in normal times. At the peak last summer, the state and federal unemployment systems were paying $5 billion a day in benefits — money that helped workers avoid evictions and hunger and that flowed through the economy, preventing an even worse outcome.The record of other federal responses is similarly mixed. The Paycheck Protection Program helped hundreds of thousands of small businesses but was plagued by administrative hiccups and, at least according to some estimates, saved relatively few jobs. Direct checks to households similarly helped keep families afloat, but sent billions of dollars to households that were already financially stable, while failing to reach some of those who needed the help the most — in some cases because they had not filed tax returns or did not have bank accounts.Beyond the successes and failures of specific programs, any evaluation of the broader economy needs to start with a question: Compared with what?Relative to a world without Covid-19, the economy remains deeply troubled. The United States had 9.5 million fewer jobs in February than a year earlier, a hole deeper than in the worst of the last recession. Gross domestic product fell 3.5 percent in 2020, making it among the worst years on record.Relative to the rosy predictions early in the pandemic — when economists hoped a brief shutdown would let the country beat the virus, then get quickly back to work — the downturn has been long and damaging. But those hopes were dashed not by a failure of economic policy but by the virus itself, and the failure to contain it.“If you want to think back on what we got wrong, really the fundamental errors were about the spread of the virus,” said Karen Dynan, a Harvard economist and Treasury Department official during the Obama administration. But relative to the outcome that forecasters feared in the worst moments last spring, the rebound has been remarkably strong. In May, economists at Goldman Sachs predicted that the unemployment rate would be 12 percent at the end of 2020 and wouldn’t fall below 6 percent until 2024. The same team now expects the rate to fall to 4 percent by the end of this year. Other forecasters have similarly upgraded their projections..css-yoay6m{margin:0 auto 5px;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-yoay6m{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-1dg6kl4{margin-top:5px;margin-bottom:15px;}.css-k59gj9{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-flex-direction:column;-ms-flex-direction:column;flex-direction:column;width:100%;}.css-1e2usoh{font-family:inherit;display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-box-pack:justify;-webkit-justify-content:space-between;-ms-flex-pack:justify;justify-content:space-between;border-top:1px solid #ccc;padding:10px 0px 10px 0px;background-color:#fff;}.css-1jz6h6z{font-family:inherit;font-weight:bold;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.5rem;text-align:left;}.css-1t412wb{box-sizing:border-box;margin:8px 15px 0px 15px;cursor:pointer;}.css-hhzar2{-webkit-transition:-webkit-transform ease 0.5s;-webkit-transition:transform ease 0.5s;transition:transform ease 0.5s;}.css-t54hv4{-webkit-transform:rotate(180deg);-ms-transform:rotate(180deg);transform:rotate(180deg);}.css-1r2j9qz{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-e1ipqs{font-size:1rem;line-height:1.5rem;padding:0px 30px 0px 0px;}.css-e1ipqs a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;}.css-e1ipqs a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}.css-1o76pdf{visibility:show;height:100%;padding-bottom:20px;}.css-1sw9s96{visibility:hidden;height:0px;}#masthead-bar-one{display:none;}#masthead-bar-one{display:none;}.css-1cz6wm{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;font-family:’nyt-franklin’,arial,helvetica,sans-serif;text-align:left;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1cz6wm{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-1cz6wm:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1cz6wm{border:none;padding:20px 0 0;border-top:1px solid #121212;}Frequently Asked Questions About the New Stimulus PackageThe stimulus payments would be $1,400 for most recipients. Those who are eligible would also receive an identical payment for each of their children. To qualify for the full $1,400, a single person would need an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or below. For heads of household, adjusted gross income would need to be $112,500 or below, and for married couples filing jointly that number would need to be $150,000 or below. To be eligible for a payment, a person must have a Social Security number. Read more. Buying insurance through the government program known as COBRA would temporarily become a lot cheaper. COBRA, for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, generally lets someone who loses a job buy coverage via the former employer. But it’s expensive: Under normal circumstances, a person may have to pay at least 102 percent of the cost of the premium. Under the relief bill, the government would pay the entire COBRA premium from April 1 through Sept. 30. A person who qualified for new, employer-based health insurance someplace else before Sept. 30 would lose eligibility for the no-cost coverage. And someone who left a job voluntarily would not be eligible, either. Read moreThis credit, which helps working families offset the cost of care for children under 13 and other dependents, would be significantly expanded for a single year. More people would be eligible, and many recipients would get a bigger break. The bill would also make the credit fully refundable, which means you could collect the money as a refund even if your tax bill was zero. “That will be helpful to people at the lower end” of the income scale, said Mark Luscombe, principal federal tax analyst at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting. Read more.There would be a big one for people who already have debt. You wouldn’t have to pay income taxes on forgiven debt if you qualify for loan forgiveness or cancellation — for example, if you’ve been in an income-driven repayment plan for the requisite number of years, if your school defrauded you or if Congress or the president wipes away $10,000 of debt for large numbers of people. This would be the case for debt forgiven between Jan. 1, 2021, and the end of 2025. Read more.The bill would provide billions of dollars in rental and utility assistance to people who are struggling and in danger of being evicted from their homes. About $27 billion would go toward emergency rental assistance. The vast majority of it would replenish the so-called Coronavirus Relief Fund, created by the CARES Act and distributed through state, local and tribal governments, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. That’s on top of the $25 billion in assistance provided by the relief package passed in December. To receive financial assistance — which could be used for rent, utilities and other housing expenses — households would have to meet several conditions. Household income could not exceed 80 percent of the area median income, at least one household member must be at risk of homelessness or housing instability, and individuals would have to qualify for unemployment benefits or have experienced financial hardship (directly or indirectly) because of the pandemic. Assistance could be provided for up to 18 months, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Lower-income families that have been unemployed for three months or more would be given priority for assistance. Read more.The recovery proved so strong in part because businesses were able to adapt better — and Americans, for better or worse, were willing to take more risks — than many people expected, allowing a faster rebound in activity over the summer. But the biggest factor was that Congress responded more quickly and forcefully than in any past crisis — a particularly remarkable outcome given that both the White House and Senate were controlled by Republicans, a party traditionally skeptical of programs like unemployment insurance.Millions of laid-off workers waited weeks or months to begin receiving help, a lag that often left financial consequences.Credit…Bryan Woolston/ReutersLong lines at food banks provided a hint of the number of people who slipped through the cracks.Credit…Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times“The dominant narrative about Washington and about legislating and public policy is one of dysfunction, one of not being able to rise to meet challenges, one of not being able to get it together to address glaring problems, and I think it’s a well-earned narrative,” said Michael R. Strain, an economist at the American Enterprise Institute. “But when I look back over the last year, that is just not what I see.”Congress didn’t prevent a recession. But its intervention, along with aggressive action from the Federal Reserve, may have prevented something much worse.“We could have experienced another Great Depression-like event that took years and years to recover from, and we didn’t,” Dr. Strain said.Washington’s moment of unity didn’t last. Democrats pushed for another multitrillion-dollar dose of aid. Republicans, convinced that the economy would rebound largely on its own once the pandemic eased, wanted a much smaller package. The stalemate lasted months, allowing aid to households and businesses to lapse. Economists are still debating the long-term impact of that delay, but there is little doubt it resulted in thousands of business failures.“We had this grand success that policymakers acted so quickly in passing two significant pieces of legislation early in the pandemic, and then they flailed through the whole fall in just the most frustrating of ways,” said Wendy Edelberg, director of the Hamilton Project, an economic-policy arm of the Brookings Institution. “That was just such an unforced error and created confusion and needless panic.”But unlike in 2009, when Republican opposition prevented any significant economic aid after President Barack Obama’s first few months in office, Congress did eventually provide more help. The $900 billion in aid passed in late December prevented millions of people from losing unemployment benefits, and helped sustain the recovery at a moment when it looked like it was faltering.The $1.9 trillion plan that Democrats pushed through Congress this month could help the United States achieve something it failed to do after the last recession: ensure a robust recovery.If that happens, it could fundamentally shift the narrative around the pandemic recession. The damage was deeply unequal, and the economic response, though it helped many families weather the storm, didn’t come close to overcoming that inequity. But a recovery that restores jobs quickly could help workers like Mr. Quinonez get back on track.“It’s just a bad year, and you just close the page and move on and try to make the best of the new days and new years,” he said. “Things are going to get better.”AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    A Last-Minute Add to Stimulus Bill Could Restrict State Tax Cuts

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }Personal TaxesNew Pandemic ChangesHelp for Working FamiliesEstate Tax PlanningSmall-Business TipsWorking RemotelyAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyA Last-Minute Add to Stimulus Bill Could Restrict State Tax CutsRepublicans say Congress is infringing on state sovereignty by trying to limit the ability of local governments to control their finances.President Biden signing the $1.9 trillion economic relief plan into law on Thursday at the White House. The restriction is intended to ensure that states use federal funds to keep their local economies humming.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York TimesMarch 12, 2021Updated 7:02 p.m. ETWASHINGTON — A last-minute change in the $1.9 trillion economic relief package that President Biden signed into law this week includes a provision that could temporarily prevent states that receive government aid from turning around and cutting taxes.The restriction, which was added by Senate Democrats, is intended to ensure that states use federal funds to keep their local economies humming and avoid drastic budget cuts and not simply use the money to subsidize tax cuts. But the provision is causing alarm among some local officials, primarily Republicans, who see the move as federal overreach and fear conditions attached to the money will impede upon their ability to manage their budgets as they see fit.Officials are scrambling to understand what strings are attached to the $220 billion that is expected to be parceled out among states, territories and tribes and are already pressing the Treasury Department for guidance about the restrictions they will face if they take federal money.Under the new law, $25 billion will be divided equally among states, while $169 billion will be allocated based on a state’s unemployment rate. States can use the money for pandemic-related costs, offsetting lost revenues to provide essential government services, and for water, sewer and broadband infrastructure projects.But they are prohibited from depositing the money into pension funds — a key worry of Republicans in Congress — and cannot use funds to cut taxes by “legislation, regulation or administration” through 2024.Democrats slipped the new language into the legislation last week after several senators from the party’s moderate wing expressed concern that some states would seize on the opportunity to use emergency relief money to subsidize tax cuts. They worked with Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, on language for the amendment, according to a Democratic Senate aide.Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, explained why he pushed for the language in a briefing this week, arguing that states should not be cutting taxes at a time when they need more money to combat the virus. He urged states to postpone their plans to cut taxes.“How in the world would you cut your revenue during a pandemic and still need dollars?” Mr. Manchin said.Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, said the funds were meant “to keep teachers and firefighters on the job and prevent the gutting of state and local services that we saw during the Great Recession.”“It’s important that there are guardrails to prevent these funds from being used to cut taxes for those at the top,” he added.But some Republican-led states are pointing to the apparent prohibition as a violation of their sovereignty and calling for that part of the law to be repealed. They see the requirement that states refrain from cutting taxes as an unusual intervention by the federal government in state tax policy.“It is an intrusion into what would traditionally be a state prerogative of how we balance our budget,” said Ben Watkins, the director of the Florida Division of Bond Finance. “If they want to give us this money to deal with Covid, then they should just give it to us with no strings attached.”Funding for state and local governments was one of the most contentious issues during stimulus talks, with Republicans saying Democrat-led states were being rewarded for mismanaging their finances and labeling the aid as a “blue-state bailout.”Those concerns were amplified in the latest legislation, which allocates money to a state based on a formula that considers its unemployment rate rather than its population. Conservative-leaning states, many of which had less onerous coronavirus restrictions and did not shut down as much business activity, claim they are essentially being penalized for prioritizing their economies during the pandemic.But early analyses of the bill show that both conservative-leaning and liberal-leaning states will receive big chunks of cash. California, Florida, New York and Texas will each get more than $10 billion in aid, according to a Tax Foundation tally.Still, the tax language has angered Republicans — none of whom voted for the rescue package — and on Thursday, Senator Mike Braun, Republican of Indiana, introduced legislation to reverse it.“Democrats are trying to ban states from cutting taxes with a sneaky amendment to the $1.9 trillion so-called Covid relief package,” Mr. Braun said. “Not only did this blue-state bailout bill penalize states for reopening by calculating state funds based on unemployment, now they are trying to use it as a back door to ban states from cutting taxes.”The restrictions have created a conundrum for states because, while many cities are facing budget crunches, state finances have turned out to be relatively healthy.A New York Times analysis this month found that, on balance, state revenues were generally flat or down slightly last year compared with 2019 as expanded unemployment benefits allowed consumer spending and tax revenues to keep flowing.“Idaho would potentially subsidize poorly managed states simply because we are using our record budget surplus to pursue historic tax relief for our citizens,” Gov. Brad Little of Idaho said this week. “We achieved our record budget surplus after years of responsible, conservative governing and quick action during the pandemic, and our surplus should be returned to Idahoans as I proposed.”Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican of West Virginia, criticized Mr. Manchin in an interview this week with CNN..css-yoay6m{margin:0 auto 5px;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-yoay6m{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-1dg6kl4{margin-top:5px;margin-bottom:15px;}.css-k59gj9{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-flex-direction:column;-ms-flex-direction:column;flex-direction:column;width:100%;}.css-1e2usoh{font-family:inherit;display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-box-pack:justify;-webkit-justify-content:space-between;-ms-flex-pack:justify;justify-content:space-between;border-top:1px solid #ccc;padding:10px 0px 10px 0px;background-color:#fff;}.css-1jz6h6z{font-family:inherit;font-weight:bold;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.5rem;text-align:left;}.css-1t412wb{box-sizing:border-box;margin:8px 15px 0px 15px;cursor:pointer;}.css-hhzar2{-webkit-transition:-webkit-transform ease 0.5s;-webkit-transition:transform ease 0.5s;transition:transform ease 0.5s;}.css-t54hv4{-webkit-transform:rotate(180deg);-ms-transform:rotate(180deg);transform:rotate(180deg);}.css-1r2j9qz{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-e1ipqs{font-size:1rem;line-height:1.5rem;padding:0px 30px 0px 0px;}.css-e1ipqs a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;}.css-e1ipqs a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}.css-1o76pdf{visibility:show;height:100%;padding-bottom:20px;}.css-1sw9s96{visibility:hidden;height:0px;}#masthead-bar-one{display:none;}#masthead-bar-one{display:none;}.css-1cz6wm{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;font-family:’nyt-franklin’,arial,helvetica,sans-serif;text-align:left;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1cz6wm{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-1cz6wm:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1cz6wm{border:none;padding:20px 0 0;border-top:1px solid #121212;}How Has the Pandemic Changed Your Taxes?Nope. The so-called economic impact payments are not treated as income. In fact, they’re technically an advance on a tax credit, known as the Recovery Rebate Credit. The payments could indirectly affect what you pay in state income taxes in a handful of states, where federal tax is deductible against state taxable income, as our colleague Ann Carrns wrote. Read more. Mostly.  Unemployment insurance is generally subject to federal as well as state income tax, though there are exceptions (Nine states don’t impose their own income taxes, and another six exempt unemployment payments from taxation, according to the Tax Foundation). But you won’t owe so-called payroll taxes, which pay for Social Security and Medicare. The new relief bill will make the first $10,200 of benefits tax-free if your income is less than $150,000. This applies to 2020 only. (If you’ve already filed your taxes, watch for I.R.S. guidance.) Unlike paychecks from an employer, taxes for unemployment aren’t automatically withheld. Recipients must opt in — and even when they do, federal taxes are withheld only at a flat rate of 10 percent of benefits. While the new tax break will provide a cushion, some people could still owe the I.R.S. or certain states money. Read more. Probably not, unless you’re self-employed, an independent contractor or a gig worker. The tax law overhaul of late 2019 eliminated the home office deduction for employees from 2018 through 2025. “Employees who receive a paycheck or a W-2 exclusively from an employer are not eligible for the deduction, even if they are currently working from home,” the I.R.S. said. Read more. Self-employed people can take paid caregiving leave if their child’s school is closed or their usual child care provider is unavailable because of the outbreak. This works similarly to the smaller sick leave credit — 67 percent of average daily earnings (for either 2020 or 2019), up to $200 a day. But the caregiving leave can be taken for 50 days. Read more. Yes. This year, you can deduct up to $300 for charitable contributions, even if you use the standard deduction. Previously, only people who itemized could claim these deductions. Donations must be made in cash (for these purposes, this includes check, credit card or debit card), and can’t include securities, household items or other property. For 2021, the deduction limit will double to $600 for joint filers. Rules for itemizers became more generous as well. The limit on charitable donations has been suspended, so individuals can contribute up to 100 percent of their adjusted gross income, up from 60 percent. But these donations must be made to public charities in cash; the old rules apply to contributions made to donor-advised funds, for example. Both provisions are available through 2021. Read more. “He’s hurting his own people in the state of West Virginia,” Mr. Justice said. “I do not condone it.”The provision is also raising questions about what actually constitutes a tax cut and whether the law could prevent states from other types of tax relief. The language of the legislation appears to offer states little wiggle room.Jared Walczak, the vice president for state projects at the Tax Foundation’s Center for State Tax Policy, said that the fine print in the law raised many complicated questions for states that, in some cases, would be awarded money for things that they either do not need or that they already had plans to pay for out of their budgets. It is not clear, for example, if a state could use aid money for an expense related to the coronavirus that it was already planning to pay for and then offer tax credits with the additional surplus.“If the federal government intends to forbid any sort of revenue negative tax policy, no matter what its size, because a state received some funding, that would be a radical federal entanglement in state fiscal policy that may go beyond what was intended,” Mr. Walczak said.Such questions will largely hinge on how Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen interprets the legislation and what guidance the Treasury Department gives to states.A department official noted that the law says that states and territories that receive the aid cannot use the funds to offset a reduction in net tax revenue as a result of tax cuts because the money is intended to be used to support the public health response and avoid layoffs and cuts to public services. More guidance on the matter is coming, the official said.The lack of clarity also raises the risk that states use the money for projects or programs that do not actually qualify under the law and then are forced to repay the federal government. States are required to submit regular reports to the Treasury Department accounting for how the funds are being spent and to show any other changes that they have made to their tax codes. The department will also be setting up a system of monitoring how the funds are being used.Emily Swenson Brock, the director of the Federal Liaison Center at the Government Finance Officers Association, said that the eligible uses of the federal aid appeared to be relatively limited for the states and that some might actually find it challenging to deploy the money in a useful way.“It’s complicated here for the states,” Ms. Brock said, adding that her organization had asked the Treasury Department for an explanation. “Congress is reaching in and telling these states how they can and can’t use that money.”Before they receive federal funds, states will have to submit a certification promising to use the money according to the law. They could also decline funding or, if they are set on tax cuts, they could offset them with other sources of revenue that do not include the federal funds.For many states, the federal money is welcome even if they do not necessarily need it for public health purposes.Melissa Hortman, the speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives, said that she was hopeful that the federal government gives states the flexibility to use the money to make up for lost revenue from the virus. She suggested that the state should look to make new investments in education and transportation. Minnesota is expected to have a budget surplus for the next two years and will receive more than $2 billion in aid.“It’s not too much money,” said Ms. Hortman, a Democrat. “Our country has just lived through a once-in-a-hundred-year pandemic.”AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    Biden, Champion of Middle Class, Comes to Aid the Poor

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }Biden’s Stimulus PlanWhat to Know About the BillSenate PassageWhat the Senate Changed$15 Minimum WageChild Tax CreditAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyWith Relief Plan, Biden Takes on a New Role: Crusader for the PoorPresident Biden’s new role as a crusader for Americans in poverty is an evolution for a politician who has focused on the working class and his Senate work on the judiciary and foreign relations.President Biden at a round-table discussion on the American Rescue Plan this month. The House passed the measure on Wednesday and cleared it for his signature.Credit…Al Drago for The New York TimesMichael D. Shear, Carl Hulse and March 11, 2021, 3:00 a.m. ETWASHINGTON — Days before his inauguration, President-elect Biden was eying a $1.3 trillion rescue plan aimed squarely at the middle class he has always championed, but pared down to attract some Republican support.In a private conversation, Senator Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat who is now the majority leader, echoed others in the party and urged Mr. Biden to think bigger. True, the coronavirus pandemic had disrupted the lives of those in the middle, but it had also plunged millions of people into poverty. With Democrats in control, the new president should push for something closer to $2 trillion, Mr. Schumer told Mr. Biden.On Friday, “Scranton Joe” Biden, whose five-decade political identity has been largely shaped by his appeal to union workers and blue-collar tradesmen like those from his Pennsylvania hometown, will sign into law a $1.9 trillion spending plan that includes the biggest antipoverty effort in a generation.The new role as a crusader for the poor represents an evolution for Mr. Biden, who spent much of his 36 years in Congress concentrating on foreign policy, judicial fights, gun control and criminal justice issues by virtue of his committee chairmanships in the Senate. For the most part, he ceded domestic economic policy to others.But aides say he has embraced his new role. Mr. Biden has done so in part by following progressives in his party to the left and accepting the encouragement of his inner circle to use Democratic power to make sweeping rather than incremental change. He has also been moved by the inequities in pain and suffering that the pandemic has inflicted on the poorest Americans, aides say.“We all grow,” said Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the No. 3 House Democrat, whose endorsement in the primaries was crucial to Mr. Biden winning the presidency. “During the campaign, he recognized what was happening in this country, this pandemic. It is not like anything we have had in 100 years. If you are going to address Covid-19’s impact, you have to address the economic disparities that exist in this country.”A vast share of the money approved by Congress will benefit the lowest-income Americans, including tax credits and direct checks, of which nearly half will be delivered to people who are unemployed, below the poverty line or barely making enough to feed and shelter their families. Billions of dollars will be used to extend benefits for the unemployed. Child tax credits will largely benefit the poorest Americans.“Millions of people out of work through no fault of their own,” the president said moments after the relief act passed the Senate over the weekend. “I want to emphasize that: through no fault of their own. Food bank lines stretching for miles. Did any of you ever think you’d see that in America, in cities all across this country?”Mr. Biden touring a food bank in Houston last month. “Food bank lines stretching for miles,” he said after the relief act passed the Senate over the weekend. “Did any of you ever think you’d see that in America, in cities all across this country?”Credit…Doug Mills/The New York TimesThe president’s closest advisers insist that the far-reaching antipoverty effort — a core tenet of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party — is less of an ideological shift from Mr. Biden’s middle-class roots than it is a response to the moment he finds himself in: presiding over a historic health crisis that has vastly increased the number of poor Americans.They are quick to note that the president’s American Rescue Plan also directs enormous sums of money to middle-income people who have jobs but are struggling. Working families making up to $150,000 will receive direct payments, help for child care and expanded child tax credits that will bolster their annual incomes during the pandemic.Mr. Biden is planning a public relations blitz across the country during the next several weeks to promote the benefits of the relief package and his role in pushing it through Congress. His campaign will begin on Thursday with a prime-time address from the Oval Office for the first anniversary of the Covid restrictions imposed by President Donald J. Trump.After that, aides say Mr. Biden will travel to communities that benefit from the provisions of the new law, in part to build the case for making some of the temporary measures a permanent part of the social safety net.Congressional Democrats are also determined to make sure the public understands what is in the new bill. In a letter sent on Tuesday to his colleagues, Mr. Schumer said that “we cannot be shy in telling the American people how this historic legislation directly helps them.”Among the lessons Democrats say they have learned from the political backlash in 2010 to their handling of the economic crisis in 2009 is that they were not aggressive enough in selling the benefits of their stimulus package to voters a decade ago. It is not a mistake they intend to make again.Even as Mr. Biden’s stimulus victory lap will be embraced by the left, he remains in the cautious middle so far on foreign policy, easing off on punishing the crown prince of Saudi Arabia for ordering the killing of a Washington Post journalist and imposing only modest sanctions on Russia for the poisoning and jailing of Aleksei A. Navalny, the opposition leader there.Mr. Biden’s former Senate colleagues also acknowledge that historically he was never a driver of liberal economic policy.Once a 29-year-old Senate candidate who pushed for civil rights and opposed the Vietnam War, Mr. Biden later drifted toward the middle, adapting to the political moment in 1996 by backing a bipartisan welfare overhaul supported by President Bill Clinton but opposed by many liberals who saw it as punitive and politically driven. Mr. Biden is now embracing a sweeping expansion of the welfare state with a price tag that is just under half of what the entire federal government spent in 2019.“He has gotten in front of it and put his stamp on it,” said Rahm Emanuel, the former Chicago mayor and former White House chief of staff..css-yoay6m{margin:0 auto 5px;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-yoay6m{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-1dg6kl4{margin-top:5px;margin-bottom:15px;}.css-k59gj9{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-flex-direction:column;-ms-flex-direction:column;flex-direction:column;width:100%;}.css-1e2usoh{font-family:inherit;display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-box-pack:justify;-webkit-justify-content:space-between;-ms-flex-pack:justify;justify-content:space-between;border-top:1px solid #ccc;padding:10px 0px 10px 0px;background-color:#fff;}.css-1jz6h6z{font-family:inherit;font-weight:bold;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.5rem;text-align:left;}.css-1t412wb{box-sizing:border-box;margin:8px 15px 0px 15px;cursor:pointer;}.css-hhzar2{-webkit-transition:-webkit-transform ease 0.5s;-webkit-transition:transform ease 0.5s;transition:transform ease 0.5s;}.css-t54hv4{-webkit-transform:rotate(180deg);-ms-transform:rotate(180deg);transform:rotate(180deg);}.css-1r2j9qz{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-e1ipqs{font-size:1rem;line-height:1.5rem;padding:0px 30px 0px 0px;}.css-e1ipqs a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;}.css-e1ipqs a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}.css-1o76pdf{visibility:show;height:100%;padding-bottom:20px;}.css-1sw9s96{visibility:hidden;height:0px;}#masthead-bar-one{display:none;}#masthead-bar-one{display:none;}.css-1cz6wm{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;font-family:’nyt-franklin’,arial,helvetica,sans-serif;text-align:left;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1cz6wm{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-1cz6wm:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1cz6wm{border:none;padding:20px 0 0;border-top:1px solid #121212;}Frequently Asked Questions About the New Stimulus PackageThe stimulus payments would be $1,400 for most recipients. Those who are eligible would also receive an identical payment for each of their children. To qualify for the full $1,400, a single person would need an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or below. For heads of household, adjusted gross income would need to be $112,500 or below, and for married couples filing jointly that number would need to be $150,000 or below. To be eligible for a payment, a person must have a Social Security number. Read more. Buying insurance through the government program known as COBRA would temporarily become a lot cheaper. COBRA, for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, generally lets someone who loses a job buy coverage via the former employer. But it’s expensive: Under normal circumstances, a person may have to pay at least 102 percent of the cost of the premium. Under the relief bill, the government would pay the entire COBRA premium from April 1 through Sept. 30. A person who qualified for new, employer-based health insurance someplace else before Sept. 30 would lose eligibility for the no-cost coverage. And someone who left a job voluntarily would not be eligible, either. Read moreThis credit, which helps working families offset the cost of care for children under 13 and other dependents, would be significantly expanded for a single year. More people would be eligible, and many recipients would get a bigger break. The bill would also make the credit fully refundable, which means you could collect the money as a refund even if your tax bill was zero. “That will be helpful to people at the lower end” of the income scale, said Mark Luscombe, principal federal tax analyst at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting. Read more.There would be a big one for people who already have debt. You wouldn’t have to pay income taxes on forgiven debt if you qualify for loan forgiveness or cancellation — for example, if you’ve been in an income-driven repayment plan for the requisite number of years, if your school defrauded you or if Congress or the president wipes away $10,000 of debt for large numbers of people. This would be the case for debt forgiven between Jan. 1, 2021, and the end of 2025. Read more.The bill would provide billions of dollars in rental and utility assistance to people who are struggling and in danger of being evicted from their homes. About $27 billion would go toward emergency rental assistance. The vast majority of it would replenish the so-called Coronavirus Relief Fund, created by the CARES Act and distributed through state, local and tribal governments, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. That’s on top of the $25 billion in assistance provided by the relief package passed in December. To receive financial assistance — which could be used for rent, utilities and other housing expenses — households would have to meet several conditions. Household income could not exceed 80 percent of the area median income, at least one household member must be at risk of homelessness or housing instability, and individuals would have to qualify for unemployment benefits or have experienced financial hardship (directly or indirectly) because of the pandemic. Assistance could be provided for up to 18 months, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Lower-income families that have been unemployed for three months or more would be given priority for assistance. Read more.Tom Daschle, the former Senate Democratic leader and a longtime colleague of Mr. Biden’s, acknowledged that the president — who was the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee from 1987 to 1995 and the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 2001 to 2003 — was not a leader in those years on economic policy. But he said it was natural that Mr. Biden would aggressively tackle it now, given conditions in the country.“Times have changed,” Mr. Daschle said, noting that “economic and racial disparities have become more acute, more understood and more important in recent years.” He pointed to the new $3,000 child tax credit, a temporary benefit included in the package, and compared its transformational potential to the Medicare program enacted under President Lyndon B. Johnson should it become permanent.“If or when it does,” Mr. Daschle said, “Joe Biden will be seen as the L.B.J. for low-income families in dramatically improving their economic circumstances.”Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, at a news conference last week. “We cannot be shy in telling the American people how this historic legislation directly helps them,” he wrote in a letter sent on Tuesday to colleagues.Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York TimesDuring the presidential campaign, Mr. Biden spoke about “rebuilding the backbone of the nation,” a phrase that sometimes appeared to include a promise to provide significant help for people at the bottom of the economic ladder.“Ending poverty won’t be just an aspiration, but a way to build a new economy,” he said in 2019, as he campaigned for the Democratic nomination. Once in the Oval Office, Mr. Biden hung a picture of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and invoked the Depression-era president in his private conversations with lawmakers.The plight of the middle class has long animated Mr. Biden. He lamented their fortunes when he ran for president in 1988, during the Reagan era, and was often a lonely voice for the same constituency while serving as vice president, when he was President Barack Obama’s de facto liaison to organized labor.To that end, Mr. Biden has also emphasized the parts of the relief package dedicated to making life easier for the working- and middle-class voters he has always courted.“For a typical middle-class family of four — husband and wife working, making $100,000 a year total with two kids — will get $5,600, and it’ll be on the way soon,” Mr. Biden told reporters on Saturday.But for now, his path forward is clear. Even though Mr. Biden listened politely last month when a group of Senate Republicans visited the Oval Office and pitched him on a smaller compromise deal on the relief package, he held fast to the ambitious proposal put forth by congressional Democrats. In his first major act as president, Mr. Biden leveraged the pandemic to fulfill some of the left’s longstanding goals.Representative Pete Aguilar of California, a member of the Democratic leadership, announced at a news conference on Tuesday that the relief law “represents the boldest action taken on behalf of the American people since the Great Depression.” And Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the fourth-ranking House Democrat, praised the president.“Joe Biden has been clear that we have to go big at a moment like this,” he said.AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More