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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

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    Photographer Captures Economic Impact of Covid on New York

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Coronavirus OutbreakliveLatest UpdatesMaps and CasesRisk Near YouVaccine RolloutGuidelines After VaccinationAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyTimes InsiderA City Strapped: Photographing a New York in NeedThe pandemic shattered the city’s economy, affecting people’s homes, livelihoods and wallets. One photojournalist documented the hardships, as both a lament and a tribute.Madison Avenue on the Upper East Side, last September.Credit…Ashley Gilbertson for The New York TimesMarch 10, 2021, 5:00 a.m. ETTimes Insider explains who we are and what we do, and delivers behind-the-scenes insights into how our journalism comes together.Last year, as the coronavirus began spreading in New York, I worked closely with Renee Melides, a photo editor on the Business desk, on a photo essay that visualized the city as it became a global epicenter of the pandemic. When that piece was just a concept and life still seemed somewhat normal, the two of us sat over a coffee. To this day, it’s the only time I’ve had an editor green light an idea mid-pitch.“Yes,” Renee said, interrupting me. “Do it. Now.” And I walked outside and started photographing.Back then, anxiety and uncertainty dominated New York, and when the story ran, it led with an image of a man praying during a meal in a Greenwich Village McDonald’s.With that story published, I pulled back from daily assignments as a freelance photographer in an attempt to understand the virus, as well as the risks that my family and I faced. I never stopped working, though. Instead, I moved through many parts of New York on long daily runs. Nine miles out, nine miles back. I’d pass through different neighborhoods, assessing and acknowledging changes by shooting on my iPhone.For a while, the pictures were mostly empty streets, ambulances and those frightening freezer truck morgues. Then the spring surge abated and people started emerging, and the vulnerabilities of our city, exposed by the virus, became more apparent than ever. I would post images to my Instagram account, unsure of what else to do with them or even what I was trying to say.I could see that inequality had become more pronounced, observing the rich and the needy forced to share the same sidewalks. I watched as stores closed down on street corners one by one until nothing but “For Rent” signs remained, and I found myself stunned as I moved through parts of the city that were once thronged by tourists but were now empty. One day in Times Square, as I sat waiting for a pedestrian to pass through a composition I had made, it was quiet enough for me to hear the sounds of the traffic lights changing.The Coronavirus Outbreak More

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    Child Tax Credit, Proposed in Stimulus, Advances an Effort Years in the Making

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }Biden’s Stimulus PlanSenate PassageWhat to Know About the BillWhat the Senate Changed$15 Minimum WageWhere Trump Voters StandAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyIn the Stimulus Bill, a Policy Revolution in Aid for ChildrenThe $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package moving through Congress advances an idea that Democrats have been nurturing for decades: establishing a guaranteed income for families with children.Anique Houpe, a single mother in Georgia, is among the parents whom Democrats are seeking to help with a plan to provide most families with a monthly check of up to $300 per child.Credit…Audra Melton for The New York TimesMarch 7, 2021Updated 5:03 p.m. ETWASHINGTON — A year ago, Anique Houpe, a single mother in suburban Atlanta, was working as a letter carrier, running a side business catering picnics and settling into a rent-to-own home in Stone Mountain, Ga., where she thought her boys would flourish in class and excel on the football field.Then the pandemic closed the schools, the boys’ grades collapsed with distance learning, and she quit work to stay home in hopes of breaking their fall. Expecting unemployment aid that never came, she lost her utilities, ran short of food and was recovering from an immobilizing bout of Covid when a knock brought marshals with eviction papers.Depending on when the snapshot is dated, Ms. Houpe might appear as a striving emblem of upward mobility or a mother on the verge of homelessness. But in either guise, she is among the people Democrats seek to help with a mold-breaking plan, on the verge of congressional passage, to provide most parents a monthly check of up to $300 per child.Obscured by other parts of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package, which won Senate approval on Saturday, the child benefit has the makings of a policy revolution. Though framed in technocratic terms as an expansion of an existing tax credit, it is essentially a guaranteed income for families with children, akin to children’s allowances that are common in other rich countries.The plan establishes the benefit for a single year. But if it becomes permanent, as Democrats intend, it will greatly enlarge the safety net for the poor and the middle class at a time when the volatile modern economy often leaves families moving between those groups. More than 93 percent of children — 69 million — would receive benefits under the plan, at a one-year cost of more than $100 billion.The bill, which is likely to pass the House and be signed by Mr. Biden this week, raises the maximum benefit most families will receive by up to 80 percent per child and extends it to millions of families whose earnings are too low to fully qualify under existing law. Currently, a quarter of children get a partial benefit, and the poorest 10 percent get nothing.While the current program distributes the money annually, as a tax reduction to families with income tax liability or a check to those too poor to owe income taxes, the new program would send both groups monthly checks to provide a more stable cash flow.By the standards of previous aid debates, opposition has been surprisingly muted. While the bill has not won any Republican votes, critics have largely focused on other elements of the rescue package. Some conservatives have called the child benefit “welfare” and warned that it would bust budgets and weaken incentives to work or marry. But Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, has proposed a child benefit that is even larger, though it would be financed through other safety net cuts.While the proposal took center stage in response to the pandemic, supporters have spent decades developing the case for a children’s income guarantee. Their arguments gained traction as science established the long-term consequences of deprivation in children’s early years, and as rising inequality undercut the idea that everyone had a fair shot at a better life.The economic shock and racial protests of the past year brought new momentum to a plan whose reach, while broad, would especially help Black and Latino families, who are crucial to the Democrats’ coalition.Mr. Biden’s embrace of the subsidies is a leftward shift for a Democratic Party that made deep cuts in cash aid in the 1990s under the theme of “ending welfare.” As a senator, Mr. Biden supported the 1996 welfare restrictions, and as recently as August his campaign was noncommittal about the child benefit.The president now promotes projections that the monthly checks — up to $300 for young children and $250 for those over 5 — would cut child poverty by 45 percent, and by more than 50 percent among Black families.“The moment has found us,” said Representative Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat who has proposed a child allowance in 10 consecutive Congresses and describes it as a children’s version of Social Security. “The crystallization of the child tax credit and what it can do to lift children and families out of poverty is extraordinary. We’ve been talking about this for years.”Ms. Houpe’s home state has been crucial to the advance of the benefit. Democrats are in position to enact it only because they won Georgia’s two Senate seats in runoff elections in January, barely gaining control of the chamber. Ms. Houpe decided that she needed to stay home to care for her boys during the pandemic and left a job with the Postal Service that paid nearly $18 an hour.Credit…Audra Melton for The New York TimesWhile Ms. Houpe, an independent, skipped the presidential election, that promise of cash relief led her to vote Democratic in January. “I just felt like the Democrats would be more likely to do something,” she said.Her precarious situation is the kind the subsidy seeks to address. Born to a teenage mother, Ms. Houpe, 33, grew up straining to escape hardship. Though she was young when she had a child, she came close to finishing a bachelor’s degree, found work as pharmacy technician and took a job with the post office to lift her wage to nearly $18 an hour. Raising a son on her own, she took in a nephew whom she regards as a second child.Ms. Houpe seemed on the rise before the pandemic, with the move to a new house. The monthly payment consumed 60 percent of her income, twice what the government deems affordable, but she trimmed the cost by renting out a room and started a side job catering picnics.Biden’s Stimulus PlanFrequently Asked QuestionsUpdated March 6, 2021, 1:58 p.m. ETHow big are the stimulus payments in the bill, and who is eligible?How would the stimulus bill affect unemployment payments?What would the bill do to help people with housing?During the pandemic, she spent six months waiting for schools to reopen until the boys’ plummeting grades — Trejion is 14 and Micah 11 — persuaded her that she could not leave them alone.“I had to make a decision,” Ms. Houpe said, “my boys or my job.”But when her requests for unemployment were denied, the bottom fell out.While critics fear cash aid weakens work incentives, Ms. Houpe said it might have saved her job by allowing her to hire someone part time to supervise the boys.“I definitely would have kept my job,” she said.If she had been receiving the child benefit last year, Ms. Houpe said, she would have used it to hire someone to help watch her boys so she could have kept her job.Credit…Audra Melton for The New York TimesThe campaign for child benefits is at least a half-century old and rests on a twofold idea: Children are expensive, and society shares an interest in seeing them thrive. At least 17 wealthy countries subsidize child-rearing for much of the population, with Canada offering up to $4,800 per child each year. But until recently, a broad allowance seemed unlikely in the United States, where policy was more likely to reflect a faith that opportunity was abundant and a belief that aid sapped initiative.It was a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, who abolished the entitlement to cash aid for poor families with children. The landmark law he signed in 1996 created time limits and work requirements and caused an exodus from the rolls. Spending on the poor continued to grow but targeted low-wage workers, with little protection for those who failed to find or keep jobs.In a 2018 analysis of federal spending on children, the economists Hilary W. Hoynes and Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach found that virtually all the increases since 1990 went to “families with earnings” and those “above the poverty line.”But rising inequality and the focus on early childhood brought broader subsidies a new look. A landmark study in 2019 by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine showed that even short stints in poverty could cause lasting harm, leaving children with less education, lower adult earnings and worse adult health. Though welfare critics said aid caused harm, the panel found that “poverty itself causes negative child outcomes” and that income subsidies “have been shown to improve child well-being.”Republicans may have unwittingly advanced the push for child benefits in 2017 by doubling the existing child tax credit to $2,000 and giving it to families with incomes of up to $400,000, but not extending the full benefit to those in the bottom third of incomes.Republicans said that since the credit was meant to reduce income taxes, it naturally favored families who earned enough to have a tax liability. But by prioritizing the affluent, the move amplified calls for a more equitable child policy.Efforts to increase the benefit and include the needy drew strong support from Speaker Nancy Pelosi and was led in the Senate by the Democrats Sherrod Brown of Ohio, a progressive, and Michael Bennet of Colorado, a centrist. A majority of Democrats in both chambers were on board when unemployment surged because of the coronavirus.“The crisis gave Democrats an opportunity by broadening the demand for government relief,” said Sarah A. Binder, a political scientist at George Washington University.Welfare critics warn the country is retreating from success. Child poverty reached a new low before the pandemic, and opponents say a child allowance could reverse that trend by reducing incentives to work. About 10 million children are poor by a government definition that varies with family size and local cost of living. (A typical family of four with income below about $28,000 is considered poor.)“Why are Republicans asleep at the switch?” wrote Mickey Kaus, whose antiwelfare writings influenced the 1990s debate. He has urged Republicans to run ads in conservative states with Democratic senators, attacking them for supporting “a new welfare dole.”Under Mr. Biden’s plan, a nonworking mother with three young children could receive $10,800 a year, plus food stamps and Medicaid — too little to prosper but enough, critics fear, to erode a commitment to work and marriage. Scott Winship of the conservative American Enterprise Institute wrote that the new benefit creates “a very real risk of encouraging more single parenthood and more no-worker families.”But a child allowance differs from traditional aid in ways that appeal to some on the right. Libertarians like that it frees parents to use the money as they choose, unlike targeted aid such as food stamps. Proponents of higher birthrates say a child allowance could help arrest a decline in fertility. Social conservatives note that it benefits stay-at-home parents, who are bypassed by work-oriented programs like child care.And supporters argue that it has fewer work disincentives than traditional aid, which quickly falls as earnings climb. Under the Democrats’ plan, full benefits extend to single parents with incomes of $112,500 and couples with $150,000.Backlash could grow as the program’s sweep becomes clear. But Samuel Hammond, a proponent of child allowances at the center-right Niskanen Center, said the politics of aid had changed in ways that softened conservative resistance.A quarter-century ago, debate focused on an urban underclass whose problems seemed to set them apart from a generally prospering society. They were disproportionately Black and Latino and mostly represented by Democrats. Now, insecurity has traveled up the economic ladder to a broader working class with similar problems, like underemployment, marital dissolution and drugs. Often white and rural, many are voters whom Republicans hope to court.“Republicans can’t count on running a backlash campaign,” Mr. Hammond said. “They crossed the Rubicon in terms of cash payments. People love the stimulus checks.”The muted opposition to the proposal, he said, showed that “people on the right are curious about the child benefit — not committed, but movable.”An analysis by Sophie M. Collyer of Columbia University underscored the plan’s broad reach. She found that in Georgia, the child allowance would bring net gains per child of $1,700 for whites, $1,900 for Latinos and $2,100 for Blacks.As a suburban independent in a state that was long red, Ms. Houpe is among those whose loyalties are up for grabs. She rejected the argument that a child subsidy would promote joblessness and warned that some parents had to work too much. “My son had football games every Saturday morning,” she said, “and I wasn’t there for him as much as I wanted to be.”If aid posed risks, Ms. Houpe said, so did the lack of any. Out of money last fall, she suffered debilitating depression, and a panic attack grew so severe she pulled her car to the side of road. “My son was freaking out” looking for her asthma inhaler, she said. Still trying to get unemployment benefits, Ms. Houpe has plans for a baking business called The Munchie Shopp. She has practiced strawberries dipped in white chocolate and honed her red velvet cake. This week, she tried dying one blue but denied making a political statement.“During an election, people say anything to win,” she said. “Let’s see what they do.”AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    To Juice the Economy, Biden Bets on the Poor

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Jobs CrisisCurrent Unemployment RateWhen the Checks Run OutThe Economy in 9 ChartsThe First 6 MonthsAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storynews analysisTo Juice the Economy, Biden Bets on the PoorMr. Biden’s bottom-up $1.9 trillion aid package is a sharp reversal from the tax cut bill that was President Donald J. Trump’s first big legislative victory.Volunteers distributing food on Monday in Warren, Mich. President Biden’s economic relief plan overwhelmingly helps low earners and the middle class and is more focused on people than on businesses.Credit…Elaine Cromie for The New York TimesPublished More

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    They Were on Equal Footing. Then the Ground Shifted.

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Coronavirus OutbreakliveLatest UpdatesMaps and CasesRisk Near YouVaccine RolloutNew Variants TrackerAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyThey Were on Equal Footing. Then the Ground Shifted.A year of pandemic restrictions has meant some friends are flush and others foundering.Robin Arnone, Tim Gallagher, Traci Warner, and Julie Stark are among the millions of Americans whose lives and careers have been upended by the pandemic.CreditFeb. 27, 2021, 5:00 a.m. ETRobin Arnone, a part-time trainer before the coronavirus pandemic, hasn’t set foot in the Colosseum Gym in Columbia, Md., since the virus shut it down almost a year ago. The gym is open again, but she doesn’t need the work. Things are going gangbusters in her other job as a home appraiser, and she hasn’t looked back.For Julie Stark, one of Ms. Arnone’s best friends and a professional dog walker, things are not so rosy. With many clients stuck at home in the pandemic and taking care of their own pets, her services are no longer in demand. Instead of walking seven dogs each day, she now walks three.Ms. Stark has had to economize, eliminating dance and gymnastics classes for her children to save $350 a month. She doesn’t know when her clients will want her back, but it’s not something she discusses with Ms. Arnone. “We don’t talk about money,” Ms. Stark said.“It would be awkward if she were a dog walker and doing unbelievably well,” she added. “I’m happy for her.”And there is a lot in Ms. Arnone’s life to be happy about. She replaced her used Lexus with a new one last year, and in December she indulged herself with a $550 Dyson hair dryer. “It felt a little ridiculous,” she said of the purchase. “But I worked hard, and if there’s any year I’m going to do it, it’s this year.”Robin Arnone and Julie Stark are among the millions of friends who were on a relatively equal financial footing before last March — people who would have thought nothing of splitting the check on a night out — and now find themselves on vastly different trajectories. Lockdowns changed what Americans can do as well as what services they need, and in the process created divergent fates for many workers.The pandemic has wreaked havoc on many who were already struggling. Nearly 10 million fewer people have jobs, and some 26 million reported not always having enough to eat, according to Census Bureau data.For the 50 percent or so of the population that make up the middle class — defined by Pew Research Center as having an income ranging from around $45,000 to $135,000 for a household of three — the toll has been uneven. Like a tornado, the pandemic can devastate one household and leave neighboring ones unscathed.Ms. Arnone’s world, in the Washington-Baltimore area, exemplifies that. The gym where she worked, the Colosseum, is owned by her friend Tim Gallagher. His monthly income at the gym is down 25 to 30 percent, and a quarter of the gym’s members have suspended their accounts. To save money, he has lowered the thermostat at home to 60 degrees from 65, and while his truck has more than 340,000 miles on it, he has no plans to replace it.“You just got to scrape along and gut it out,” he said. “We’re really struggling to get by.”But in Ms. Arnone’s other field, home appraising, her friends and colleagues are reaping rewards from the booming housing market, where January sales were up 23.7 percent from a year earlier, according to the National Association of Realtors. Ultralow mortgage rates have prompted a wave of refinancings, which require fresh appraisals.“I don’t have much to complain about,” said Traci Warner, a friend of Ms. Arnone’s and a home appraiser in Waldorf, Md., south of Washington. After her husband was laid off from his sales job in April, Ms. Warner’s work picked up the slack.It’s not that things are perfect, but unlike Mr. Gallagher, she does not feel that she is barely hanging on.This contrast is mirrored in the larger economy. Weekly unemployment claims by newly laid-off workers remain at historically elevated levels even as stock indexes reach record highs.Vaccines have arrived, but their slow rollout means it will be months before anything resembling normal activity can resume at restaurants, hotels, gyms, airports, malls and other businesses that depend on bringing people together.“It’s very uneven,” said Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics, a forecasting and research group. “The recovery for the most vulnerable parts of the population will take years.” Not only are wages and salaries down for the hardest-hit segments of the work force, he noted, but so are overall employment and participation in the labor force.At the very top, the gains have been staggering. In eight months after the pandemic hit the United States, the wealth of the country’s roughly 650 billionaires grew by $1 trillion, according to a November study by the Institute for Policy Studies and other progressive groups. That included a $70 billion lift for just one of those magnates: the founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos.White-collar employees, having emerged mostly unscathed from the sharp downturn in 2020, are looking forward to what they hope will be a robust recovery in 2021 once most people are vaccinated. Service workers, devastated by the idling of entire industries amid lockdowns and other restrictions, just want the pain to abate.The split was evident in the latest jobs report from the Labor Department. While professional and business services employment jumped by 97,000 in January, that job growth was almost entirely offset in the private sector by losses in retail, leisure and hospitality industries, among others.So while lines at food banks lengthen, new Teslas dot parking lots, and there are waiting lists for Peloton machines so the most fortunate can keep up with their workouts from home.Peter Atwater, a lecturer in economics at the College of William & Mary, has popularized a term for this phenomenon: the K-shaped recovery. While one arm of the K ascends, the other is driving lower. “There’s an enormous divide in confidence,” he said. “And we buy and spend based on how we feel.”Janet L. Yellen, the newly confirmed Treasury secretary, extended the metaphor during her confirmation hearings. “We are living in a K-shaped economy, one where wealth built upon wealth, while working families fell farther and farther behind,” she said.Life on the UpsideRobin Arnone replaced her used Lexus with a new one last year.Ms. Arnone misses her days at the gym, especially spending time with clients. It is the first time since she was 15 that she hasn’t worked as a trainer, she said. But she is feeling pretty good otherwise.Before the pandemic, she would train people in the morning and shift to her real estate work in the afternoon. Now she rises at 6 a.m. to start writing up appraisals before hitting the road to visit as many as eight homes in a day.“I’ve declined a boatload of appraisal jobs,” she said. “I just didn’t have the time.”After typically handling 500 appraisals a year, she did 635 last year. She is paid by the banks that issue the mortgages, and last year she estimates she earned roughly $250,000 for her services, up from about $185,000 in previous years.The Coronavirus Outbreak More

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    Biden’s Pick for Trade Representative Promises Break With Past Policy

    AdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyBiden’s Pick for Trade Representative Promises Break With Past PolicyKatherine Tai, the nominee to be America’s chief trade negotiator, declined to give policy specifics on tariffs and trade agreements, but laid out a broad vision of a more equitable trade policy.Katherine Tai, center, President Biden’s nominee for trade representative, with her mother on Capitol Hill on Thursday.Credit…Pool photo by Tasos KatopodisFeb. 25, 2021Updated 5:22 p.m. ETWASHINGTON — Katherine Tai, President Biden’s pick for United States trade representative, promised lawmakers during her confirmation hearing on Thursday that she would work with Congress to help reinvigorate the economy and aggressively enforce American trade rules against China, Mexico and other trading partners.Ms. Tai, in testimony before the Senate Finance Committee, said her background challenging China’s unfair trade practices in the Obama administration had given her knowledge of “the opportunities and limitations in our existing toolbox.” She promised to work with allies and enforce the terms of the trade deal that President Donald J. Trump signed with Beijing last year, while working to develop a more “strategic and coherent plan” for competing with China’s state-directed economy.As trade representative, Ms. Tai would work toward several of the Biden administration’s key goals, including helping to restore American alliances abroad and reforming and enforcing American trade rules to help alleviate inequality and mitigate climate change.In her testimony Thursday morning, Ms. Tai promised to ensure that trading partners adhered to new trade rules, including the agreement that Mr. Trump signed with China last year and new measures included in the revised North American trade deal, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.She declined to give many specifics on the trade policies the Biden administration would pursue, saying instead she would review existing tariffs and trade negotiations. But she laid out a philosophy on trade that would support broader, more equitable growth and “recognize that people are workers and wage earners, not just consumers,” which she said would be a significant departure from the past.Mr. Biden and other Democrats have complained that the trade policies of previous presidents were often driven by the interests of corporations and lobbyists, and ended up surrendering the interests of lower-wage workers for the benefit of certain businesses and exporters.Trade policy for the past several decades had often fallen “into a pattern where one sector of our economy and one segment of our workers feel like their livelihoods and their opportunities are sacrificed to another part of our economy,” Ms. Tai said.She said the administration would try “to break out of that pattern, so that what we are doing in trade is coordinated with what we are doing in other areas, but also not forcing us to pit one of our segments of our workers and our economy against another.”Asked about the tariffs that Mr. Trump had placed on foreign metals, Ms. Tai said that tariffs were “a legitimate tool in the trade toolbox,” but that the global steel and aluminum industries faced larger problems with overcapacity that might require other policy solutions. She also said that she was aware of “the many concerns” that had arisen with the process of companies applying for exclusions from the tariffs, and said that reviewing that system with an eye to transparency, predictability and due process would be “very high on my radar.”Ms. Tai most recently worked as the chief trade counsel of the House Ways and Means Committee, where she helped to hammer out reforms that ultimately brought Democrats on board with U.S.M.C.A., which was negotiated by Mr. Trump. Before that, she served in the trade representative’s general counsel office, where she brought several successful cases against China’s trade practices at the World Trade Organization.If confirmed, Ms. Tai would be the first woman of color and first Asian-American to serve in the position.Ms. Tai also said that she wanted take a role in a new Biden administration effort to strengthen critical supply chains, saying that past trade policy had focused on efficiency rather than resilience, and needed to be rethought. 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,” adding, “I’d want to accomplish similar goals in a more effective, process-driven manner.”She pledged to re-engage the United States at the World Trade Organization, which the Trump administration largely bypassed or ignored, but acknowledged that the global trade group faced big challenges to its effectiveness.The United States can’t afford not to be a leader in the organization, she said, but “the W.T.O. does need reform.”Ms. Tai also expressed interest in resolving a long-running trade dispute between the European Union and the United States at the World Trade Organization over subsidies given to the plane makers Boeing and Airbus, which has resulted in a volley of tariffs.“If confirmed, I would very much be interested in figuring out — pardon the pun — how to land this particular plane,” Ms. Tai said.Senators of both parties were mostly complimentary of Ms. Tai’s experience and trade knowledge, though several Republican senators expressed concerns about her failure to commit to free trade in principle, and to pledge to aggressively drive forward new trade negotiations.Senator Mike Crapo, a Republican from Idaho, praised Ms. Tai’s extensive experience in trade, but raised concerns about Mr. Biden’s pledges to address domestic priorities first before signing any new trade deals.“Our businesses and workers are ready to sell American to all foreign customers right now,” Mr. Crapo said. “Our businesses need that access more than ever because other countries are not standing still.”Ms. Tai said she planned to review the trade negotiations with Britain, saying that the country’s departure from Europe, the coronavirus pandemic and other developments since negotiations started in 2018 demanded new consideration.Asked about rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a multicountry trade deal negotiated by President Obama that Mr. Trump withdrew from, Ms. Tai said that she would work with like-minded countries in the Asia-Pacific on the issue of China, but stopped short of calling for rejoining the T.P.P.The “basic formula for the T.P.P.,” of the United States engaging with countries with shared strategic and economic interests with the challenge of China in mind “is still a sound formulation,” she said.“I think what I would add is a lot has changed in the world in the past five or six years, and a lot has changed in terms of our own awareness of some of the pitfalls of the trade policies that we’ve pursued as we’ve pursued them over the most recent years.”AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    The Jobs the Pandemic May Devastate

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Coronavirus OutbreakliveLatest UpdatesMaps and CasesVaccine RolloutSee Your Local RiskNew Variants TrackerAdvertisementContinue reading the main storyUpshotSupported byContinue reading the main storyThe Jobs the Pandemic May DevastateAn updated forecast by the Bureau of Labor Statistics has alarming news for people with a high school diploma or less.The 10 occupations with the largest projected declines relative to the baseline estimates include restaurant work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.Credit…Alessandro Grassani for The New York TimesFeb. 22, 2021, 5:00 a.m. ETProjecting how many people will work in hundreds of detailed occupations in 2029 is a bold exercise — even without the uncertainty of the pandemic.But labor experts within the U.S. government try to do just that. And their latest assessment of which jobs will grow over the next decade has alarming implications for jobs requiring less education — while also forecasting a boom for epidemiologists and other health-science jobs.That assessment, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, emphasizes all the uncertainty that accompanies projections, and it stresses that these are estimates of structural changes, not forecasts of cyclical booms and busts. Long-term projections are often wrong, especially for more volatile sectors like mining and construction, but the agency’s estimates are typically well reasoned and sober.The original B.L.S. projections, made last year without taking pandemic effects into account, called for cumulative economywide job growth of 3.7 percent from 2019 to 2029. The new pandemic-informed projections cut that to 2.9 percent in the “moderate impact” pandemic outlook and 1.9 percent in the “strong impact” one.Both of these new outlooks assume more remote work and higher demand for relevant technology services; less in-person entertainment and travel; and more investment in public health than would have happened without the pandemic.In the “strong impact” projection, there would be 25 percent more epidemiologists in 2029 than the original baseline projection for 2029, the largest increase among nearly 800 detailed occupations. The 10 occupations with the biggest increase in projected employment relative to the baseline projection are all in medical, health-science and technology fields. The 10 occupations with the largest declines relative to the baseline projection include restaurant, hotel and transportation jobs.
    [embedded content]On balance, the new projections modestly speed up the occupational shifts from the original baseline projections. For instance, the pandemic is poised to accelerate the originally projected fast growth in software developer jobs, and to hasten a previously expected decline in cashier jobs.The projected employment changes because of the pandemic are concentrated in a relatively small number of sectors. Three-quarters of all jobs are in occupations where projected employment in the strong-impact scenario differs from the original baseline scenario by less than 2 percent.For the most part, the sectors originally projected to grow fastest over the next decade in the baseline projection — like nurse practitioners, home health aides and many other health care occupations — are still projected to grow fastest.The Coronavirus Outbreak More

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    Bidenomics 101: Inside the White House’s Plans to Bring Jobs Back

    Credit…Rose WongFeatureBidenomics 101: Inside the White House’s Plans to Bring Jobs BackIn public and private, Biden and his advisers have signaled some dramatic interventions to revive U.S. manufacturing. Will they really happen?Credit…Rose WongSupported byContinue reading the main storyFeb. 11, 2021, 5:00 a.m. ETListen to This ArticleAudio Recording by AudmTo hear more audio stories from publishers like The New York Times, download Audm for iPhone or Android.Anyone searching for an economic road map to the Biden presidency might find hints of one in a 40-page research paper written, appropriately enough, by the United Automobile Workers union. The document, originally published in 2018 and titled “Taking the High Road: Strategies for a Fair E.V. Future,” argued that even in the face of foreign competition, the American automobile industry could continue to provide well-paying manufacturing jobs — but only if the government invested huge sums in electric vehicles. The technology highlighted in the report, like prismatic cells for storing electrical charges, was cutting-edge, but the economic thinking behind it was decidedly old-school. Some passages, in their America First-ness, read as if they could have appeared in a Ross Perot ad from 1992 — or, for that matter, a Trump ad from 2016. The U.A.W.’s researchers insisted, for example, that critical parts like batteries must be produced at home, not by rival industrial powers. “The economic potential of E.V.s will be lost if their components are imported,” they wrote. “Advanced vehicle technology should be treated as a strategic sector to be protected and built in the U.S.”Last spring, the document drew the attention of Joe Biden’s presidential campaign. Biden had begun his run with fewer sweeping economic proposals than his rivals: His would in many ways be a return-to-normalcy campaign, offering to take voters back to some vague status quo ante, when the steady hand of the Obama administration guided the country. Then the pandemic struck, and millions were fired or furloughed. By last April, the economy was in free fall, and Biden’s policy ambitions were growing. He wanted a plan that felt big enough for the moment. Campaign aides began to spitball. Biden had already suggested initiatives in areas like infrastructure, claiming that spending on highways and broadband would lift the economy. Now they wondered: Should he continue in this vein? Emphasize longstanding concerns like working families? The middle class? Before long, Ron Klain, a senior adviser and now President Biden’s chief of staff, intervened to urge that they focus primarily on jobs. Trump’s approval rating on the economy had stayed improbably high even as the pandemic raged, and Klain believed that a jobs plan would allow Biden to attack Trump’s perceived strength. Biden agreed and instructed his team to think both expansively and practically. In Zoom call after Zoom call, he pleaded with them to identify jobs in manufacturing and energy that would not require workers to undergo years of retraining or uproot their families. When aides eventually described the ideas in the U.A.W. paper, Biden became animated. The notion that spending billions to upgrade plants and subsidize car-buying could save the livelihoods of today’s workers — not merely create jobs for their kids — excited him. It promised a marriage of present and future. “His view matched up so well with the U.A.W. paper,” says Gene Sperling, a former top White House economic adviser who helped Biden develop his economic plan. “It fit his view that a ‘jobs of the future’ strategy had to include retooling factories and giving current workers a path to keep working.” In the end, the paper’s ideas weren’t just endorsed by Biden. Its ethos came to suffuse the entirety of his broader economic agenda, known as Build Back Better. This plan, unveiled by the campaign last July, called for $400 billion in government procurement to go to American-made equipment and $300 billion for research and development, with hundreds of billions more in subsidies to promote the making and purchase of domestic products. “I do not buy for one second that the vitality of American manufacturing is a thing of the past,” Biden said in his speech introducing the agenda.After the election, it became clear that these themes had been more than mere campaign flourishes. One of Biden’s first high-profile meetings of the transition included Mary Barra, the chief executive of General Motors, and Rory Gamble, the U.A.W. president. “He took a very strong position on electric vehicles,” Gamble told me. “He said we had to keep manufacturing in this country. I was really happy to hear that.”If Gamble sounded pleasantly surprised, it was for good reason. The prospect of using the government to bring about a major economic transformation is something of a departure for Biden. Throughout his career, he has kept to the center of the road. News coverage and political opponents alike have long noted the way he stakes out positions that are overwhelmingly popular within the Democratic Party. As the party has moved to the left on economic issues since the Obama era, so has Biden, putting forward a gigantic pandemic-relief bill, for example, and a call for a $15-per-hour minimum wage. But resolving to invest vast amounts in American industries isn’t an exercise in difference-splitting, like positioning yourself halfway between those who would spend $1 trillion and $3 trillion. For that matter, it isn’t even an obvious lurch to the left. It’s a shift toward the kind of economic nationalism that has, over the decades, found support across the ideological spectrum. What Biden wants to do represents a rethinking of the country’s economic posture: seeking to promote certain sectors — like green-energy production and the manufacture of wind turbines, say — so as not to cede them to competitors in Europe and Asia. It is a deviation from the free-trade gospel that the two most recent Democratic presidents preached and that Biden embraced at earlier points in his career. It is a form of chauvinism in some ways more ambitious than Trump’s, as manifested through haphazard tariffs and trade wars. “The package that they put together is the closest thing we’ve had to a broad industrial policy for generations, really,” says Scott Paul, the president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, a trade association founded by the United Steelworkers union and a handful of large manufacturers.The approach is far from riskless, even within Biden’s own base: A focus on building up American industry can conflict with other progressive priorities, like addressing climate change more immediately or reining in corporate power. And it might encounter resistance from some of Biden’s own advisers and much of the party’s policymaking elite, who tend to consider such economic nationalism counterproductive and passé. Biden’s new Treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, said just last year that the manufacturing diaspora has been a major boon for the global economy. As one of few people to both lead Treasury and serve as the chair of the Federal Reserve, she is likely to exert enormous influence, both through her public utterances and her private recommendations. But if Biden and his more activist advisers are able to make good on their promises, the White House’s economic policy over the next four years will look very different from that of the most recent Democratic administration. They hope to modernize key industries and counter an economic threat from China, swiftly emerging as the world’s other superpower. They may even scramble political coalitions at home. “There are a lot of areas of potential overlap,” says Oren Cass, a former Republican policy aide and the founder of American Compass, which pushes to make conservatism more worker-friendly. Cass, whose research and advocacy group has argued for rebuilding manufacturing and reducing Wall Street’s influence over the economy, adds: “There’s a hypothetical governing majority to be drawn around the things we’re talking about that doesn’t exist within either party.”Janet Yellen, Biden’s new Treasury secretary, was previously the Federal Reserve chair.Credit…Getty ImagesRelief and recovery. They sound vaguely synonymous, but in the months since Biden and his aides began using them to describe their economic agenda, they have invested each term with a distinct meaning. Relief refers to the money Biden has proposed to spend in order to end the pandemic and tide over the millions of people suffering through it. Recovery describes the administration’s hopes for transforming the economy after the health crisis so that it is cleaner and more equitable than before.The phrasing goes back at least to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who promoted a similar agenda of relief and recovery during the Great Depression. (He included a third variable in his equation: “reform.”) The terms as Biden deploys them hint at a distinction that runs deeper than just short-term versus long-term: They signify two very different philosophies of government. Biden’s relief plan, an opening offer in the current legislative negotiations, is largely an expression of modern liberalism, which holds that the federal government must spend more and expand its influence during times of acute need. The proposed plan, which totals $1.9 trillion, allocates money to fight the pandemic and its depredations in various ways: to accelerate vaccinations; to increase access to testing, health care and child care; to help schools reopen safely; to prop up small businesses; to enable the hardest hit to stay in their homes; and to make unemployment benefits and food stamps more generous. (The plan also includes a few unorthodox ideas, like hiring 100,000 public-health workers.)Seen in that light, it is mostly the size of Biden’s Covid-relief plan that is truly remarkable. Back in 2009, President Barack Obama proposed to address what was then the worst economic crisis since the 1930s with a relief plan less than half as large as what Biden has asked for. Yet even many Democrats at the time worried about its effect on the deficit. Two of the top figures on Obama’s economic team, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag, urged Obama to demonstrate, after its passage, that he was reducing the deficit.Today, while it’s likely that Congress will shave money from Biden’s relief package, there is broad agreement in his party and among a wide range of economists that there is little risk from running a substantially larger deficit to end the crisis. “Fiscal room is not the constraint,” says Jason Furman, an economics professor at Harvard and former White House aide, using economist-speak to mean deficit concerns. “I was always in favor of more stimulus in 2009. I don’t think fiscal space was a constraint then. But it was more of a constraint then than now.” (Furman’s White House colleague Lawrence Summers recently said in a column that Biden should consider shrinking his relief bill to avoid the risk of inflation, though Summers agrees that a large bill is helpful.)After the relief, however, the Biden team will put forward a recovery plan that includes some uncontroversial ideas, like fixing roads and bridges, but also contains elements that go beyond the comfort zone of many center-left economists. The sticking point is what’s known as industrial policy, meaning large-scale efforts to build up particular industries or sectors. While industrial policy is by no means foreign to the United States — any federally subsidized or managed expansion of an industry might qualify (think military contractors) — the caricature that comes to mind, even for many liberals, is Soviet-era central planning. The term carries with it a whiff of stigma. The prospect of using industrial policy to shrink the economy’s carbon footprint has circulated for years as a kind of theoretical ambition. The phrase “Green New Deal” has been around since at least 2007, when the New York Times opinion columnist Thomas L. Friedman used it to describe a hypothetical “huge industrial project” to slow climate change. The Obama administration took a modest first step, spending about $90 billion on green-energy projects in its 2009 stimulus package. But in recent years, the notion has gathered momentum on the left flank of the Democratic Party. In early 2019, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York introduced a resolution calling for a Green New Deal that would put the economy on a path to zero net greenhouse-gas emissions while investing in the “industry of the United States” and creating “millions of good, high-wage jobs,” though it was vague on details. Later that year, a plan from Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, then a presidential candidate, said the government should spend $1.5 trillion over a decade to buy American-made clean-energy technology. The same day, Biden announced a climate plan that referred favorably to the Green New Deal, although it was not as focused on manufacturing and jobs.That such proposals migrated, in the span of less than a year, from the party’s left to its centrist nominee underscores how quickly Biden’s economic philosophy has been evolving. They are also somewhat controversial, even on the left, unlike the relief portion of his agenda. In part, that’s because these provisions would most likely increase the price of clean technologies, which can be imported more cheaply from abroad. “My view is, if you think climate change is the biggest challenge facing the country, you’d want to have the most efficient and cheapest infrastructure to deal with it,” Furman says. “You should want to make sure a lot of solar and wind energy is produced in the United States. You shouldn’t care nearly as much where panels and turbines are produced.”When mainstream economists question the idea of singling out particular businesses, sectors or industries, as a widely cited 1990 paper by the economist Anne O. Kruger did, they argue that government intervention is likely to prop up companies that can’t otherwise justify such investment or to pad the margins of those that can succeed on their own. Yet recent research — a study of government support for British manufacturers, for example, or a study of government support for Chinese industries like plastics and computers — has found that subsidies can make industries healthier or more productive even over the long term.“Manufacturing has an outsize contribution to overall innovation and productivity,” says Dani Rodrik, an economist at Harvard. He is part of a small group within the profession’s mainstream that clashed for decades with fellow economists by detailing the drawbacks of free trade and the benefits of industrial policy. A growing body of evidence on the harm done to workers by a trade agreement with China, which other economists played down at the time, has increasingly vindicated him. The idea of spending government funds to preserve or create domestic manufacturing jobs has a well-documented political appeal, especially among blue-collar workers, even as economists insisted that it was futile or self-defeating. But now, Rodrik says, even some economists are more open-minded: “Lo and behold, people start to do research on Chinese policy, and it turns out some of it is quite effective.” Brian Deese, Biden’s top economic aide, was previously Obama’s senior adviser on climate and energy policy.Credit…Getty ImagesAs a rising political star in the 1980s, Biden sometimes channeled the self-consciously centrist thinking that was then coming into vogue among Democrats like Gary Hart. He warned about the risks of micromanaging the economy and chided unions that defended the status quo. But even when he aligned with the new centrists — Biden and Hart shared a political strategist — Biden retained a distinctly blue-collar sensibility. He called for a “new era of American economic nationalism” in the speech that framed his 1988 presidential campaign. He derided fundamentalist beliefs in free trade and proposed using tariffs on imports to fund retraining for workers. He consistently backed pro-union legislation. “If you came into our waiting room in 1973 or 1978,” says Ted Kaufman, Biden’s longtime Senate chief of staff, “you’d see a group of people from the A.F.L.-C.I.O. on one side of the room and a group from the Chamber of Commerce on other side.”In the 2000s, as globalization coincided with significant job losses and the decline of industrial towns in the United States, Biden’s populist sympathies appeared to gradually supplant the centrist instincts that had led him to back — albeit without much passion — the major trade agreements of the Clinton era. “Everybody who was involved in business or government in the 1980s or 1990s has seen some of the promise of globalization come through, but a lot of the harm has been unexpectedly broader, sharper, deeper,” says Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, a longtime Biden friend and ally. “He believes we need to change direction on trade.” That view now appears to be ascendant, if not yet the consensus, among the Democrats’ policymaking class. Indeed, one lingering divide within the party is between those who have undergone a similar evolution as Biden and those who have not; Biden’s economic advisers come from both camps.Gene Sperling exemplifies those who have, like Biden, moved left. As President Bill Clinton’s top economic adviser in the late ’90s, he shared Clinton’s view that free-trade deals would benefit the country if accompanied by worker training and a more generous safety net. After Republicans largely rejected such spending, Sperling and Clinton believed it was still worth expanding trade with China, as long as the deals included ways to protect against floods of cheap imports. But when it became clear in the 2000s that the rise in Chinese imports was producing “such devastating impacts,” as Sperling writes in a recent book, he changed his position.As Obama’s top White House economic adviser, Sperling began making the case in 2011 for directing support to manufacturers through government subsidies. In 2016, he encouraged Hillary Clinton to campaign in opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the 12-country trade deal that the Obama administration had spent years negotiating, later saying on television that Clinton wanted to “put T.P.P. in the rearview mirror” and prioritize “clear job-creating measures.” “I got a lot of [expletive] for that,” Sperling says, alluding to the reaction of his former White House colleagues. While Sperling has not joined the Biden administration, he has been a mentor to several senior economic aides who have.One of them, also in what might be called the more nationalist camp of advisers, is Brian Deese; he now fills the role that Sperling did for Obama, as the top economic aide in Biden’s White House. Deese got his start in Democratic policy circles as an assistant to Sperling in the early 2000s. As a member of Obama’s auto-industry task force in 2009, he was responsible for establishing a program that would help hundreds of suppliers threatened by the looming collapse of the American auto industry. “I got to see up front what the stakes were,” Deese says. “If you let go of this industrial company, it directly employs about 50,000 hourly employees. But you also have more than one million jobs and a bunch of spillover economic benefits at stake.” He helped persuade Obama to save Chrysler over the opposition of some of the president’s economists.When Deese became Obama’s senior adviser on climate and energy policy in the final years of the administration, it began to dawn on him that two of his interests were merging: government support for manufacturing, and forestalling the climate apocalypse. “Some of the biggest opportunities,” he says, “were at the intersection of strategic procurement, what some people would call straight-out industrial policy, and the work we needed to do as a country to scale markets for clean-energy innovation.” A number of Biden’s advisers have arrived at similar positions. Jennifer Granholm, who was the governor of Michigan during the auto bailout and who has close ties to both organized labor and manufacturers, is Biden’s pick for energy secretary. Katherine Tai, Biden’s choice for U.S. trade representative, helped negotiate the stricter worker protections in the revision of the North American Free Trade Agreement that passed Congress last year, a priority for labor. Stef Feldman and Jared Bernstein, two current White House officials who helped shape the campaign’s economic proposals, worked for Biden during his days as vice president, when he oversaw the implementation of Obama’s stimulus package and had close contact with unions. The other camp of Biden advisers, though, seems to be more sanguine about the benefits of globalization and more skeptical about indulging populist economic ideas. Wally Adeyemo, for example, who is Biden’s pick for deputy Treasury secretary, helped negotiate a provision in the Trans-Pacific Partnership and was defending the pact even as Sperling was panning it on TV in 2016. Adeyemo, who started in the Obama administration as an aide to Geithner at Treasury before rising to become a top White House official, made the rounds in Washington that year arguing the benefits of free trade and raising concerns about protectionism. He has appeared to shun the idea of the government investing directly in domestic industries: “It’s critical that the private sector play the leading role in deciding how to allocate capital,” he said at a forum in 2016. Still, Adeyemo has also worked for Elizabeth Warren and, colleagues say, has close relationships with figures on the left.One early answer to the question of where Biden will come down on these issues is his promise to tighten rules requiring the government to buy American-made goods. In January, he signed executive orders directing his administration to review the waivers that let agencies to do business with foreign suppliers and contractors. The most consequential of these loopholes, known as the trade-pact waiver, is one that allows federal agencies to essentially treat companies in dozens of countries as American suppliers if they have trade relations with the United States. When the U.S. government buys cars from Japan or washing machines from Mexico, for example, it is satisfying current federal Buy American requirements.Those who support revoking the waiver — which could create a backlash among many allies who see the move as a form of protectionism — are cheered by Biden’s initial action but worry that he might lose his nerve, at a moment when the government is about to spend trillions of dollars. “This is a fine first step: It lays out the right vision,” says Lori Wallach, a trade expert at the liberal group Public Citizen. “But it would be a huge policy problem and political liability to offshore a chunk of the Covid stimulus because of the Buy American trade-pact waiver.”Wally Adeyemo, Biden’s deputy Treasury secretary, was previously a top White House official.Credit…Getty ImagesThe fear that Biden might recoil from more activist policies dates back to the campaign. Last spring, when aides became concerned that Biden might get sticker shock from the price of the economic plans his advisers were floating, one of them had an idea: He reached out to the most recent Federal Reserve chair, Janet Yellen, and asked her what she thought about spending a few trillion dollars to prop up the economy, end the health crisis and ignite a recovery. She answered promptly. “What I told the campaign,” Yellen recalled to me recently, “was this is something we can afford, and in a way, we can’t afford not to do it.” Biden was reassured. Yellen, a former economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and the first woman to serve as either Fed chair or Treasury secretary, is in some respects a typical Biden appointee: acceptable to both the establishment and liberal wings of the party, admired for her competence and experience. Unlike many of her colleagues, however, she often inspires genuine enthusiasm across the ideological spectrum. Hedge-fund managers concerned about the overall lack of financial-market experience on Biden’s team were effusive in praising her to me. At the same, she also warms many hearts on the left, a rarity in a Treasury secretary, whose job is to oversee areas like tax policy, bank regulation, the sale of government debt and economic ties with other countries. “You had to have somebody in the Treasury role who could look the American people in the eye as an incredibly esteemed, gravitas-wielding macroeconomist,” says Felicia Wong, the president of the Roosevelt Institute, a progressive nonprofit. She has also, Wong notes, “done a lot to try diversifying the economics profession.”Yellen may even be the rare technocrat with feminist-icon meme potential, in the tradition of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (“Notorious R.B.G.”) and Elizabeth Warren (“Nevertheless, she persisted”). A few days after Yellen’s Senate confirmation hearing, a “Hamilton”-esque tribute by the rapper Dessa premiered on public radio; it has since been played online more than 200,000 times. (“She’s 5-foot-nothing, but hand to God/She can pop a collar, she can rock a power bob.”) The comparison with Warren is instructive. Just as Warren, from her perch atop a congressional panel overseeing the Wall Street bailout in 2008 and 2009, second-guessed the insiders who ran the banks, Yellen has made her reputation partly through dissenting from the groupthink of the financial establishment. A few years earlier, at the Fed, where she ran its West Coast regional bank, Yellen pointed out to colleagues that the housing boom looked increasingly like a mania. “One of the reasons she actually had a much better ability to see what was happening was that she was in San Francisco; she was an outsider; she was not in the Washington bubble,” says Dennis Kelleher, the chief executive of Better Markets, a Wall Street watchdog group. Warren appeared to recognize a fellow traveler when, in 2013, she led a group of senators who publicly urged Obama to elevate Yellen to the Fed chair over Lawrence Summers. She also backed Yellen’s appointment to Treasury last fall. In this way, Yellen has become the most visible edge of Warren’s personnel-based strategy of nudging the party leftward; she has quietly lobbied to place sympathetic policymakers in key administration positions, often with former Warren aides serving beneath them. (Neera Tanden, a former Hillary Clinton aide who is Biden’s pick for budget director, is also a sometime Warren ally; Yellen has hired a former Warren aide as a deputy chief of staff.) The efforts of politicians like Warren have been abetted by a network of increasingly vocal groups — including the Roosevelt Institute and the Revolving Door Project — clamoring for progressive nominees over more business-friendly choices.The way Yellen has used her bully pulpits over the years suggests that her priorities overlap with Warren’s, even if her views are not quite as populist. In one of her early speeches as Fed chair, a position Yellen held from 2014 to 2018, she dwelled on the topic of rising inequality and “whether this trend is compatible with values rooted in our nation’s history.” The speech prompted criticism from a prominent House Republican, who accused Yellen of “sticking your nose in places that you have no business.” But like many center-left economists, Yellen tends to emphasize the struggles of those near the bottom more than the excesses of the 1 percent. When I spoke with her in January, she riffed at length about policies like training that could help workers without a college degree, but she didn’t mention raising taxes on the wealthy, a major goal of progressives. (Yellen, who earned more than $7 million giving speeches to large banks and other businesses as a private citizen over the past two years, appeared during her confirmation process to embrace Biden’s proposal to raise taxes on investment income for those making more than $1 million.) Yellen has struck a similar stance — that of the reformer rather than the revolutionary — when it comes to regulating Wall Street. In 2017, she was in her third year as Fed chair, and Trump said he was considering reappointing her to a second four-year term. If she was intent on keeping the job, it might have suited her to muse publicly about a possible rollback of Obama-era financial reforms, which the Fed played a central role in implementing — and which Trump had derided. Yellen leaned mostly in the opposite direction instead, arguing in a speech that the reforms had made the financial system much safer. Still, Yellen has stopped short of championing certain progressive causes, for example resisting calls from the left to break up large banks. But the issue on which Yellen has arguably been most out of step with both the left and her new boss is globalization, particularly the questions of whether to subsidize the building of domestic factories or to let American firms outsource their manufacturing needs to workers abroad. At an event with the World Bank president in February 2020, Yellen, a self-proclaimed free-trader, worried that a populist backlash was threatening the benefits of globalization and said that “the growth of trade that we have seen over the last 50 years in development of global supply chains has been one of the most important factors boosting growth all around the world.” Biden has essentially called for slowing this 50-year trend, so it’s easy to imagine a rift opening between them that could deprive him of Yellen’s greatest asset as Treasury secretary — her ability to confer credibility on his main economic initiatives, both with financial markets and among wavering legislators.Even as she has risen in the world of government, Yellen has retained a distinctly academic sensibility. She speaks in the language of medians and distributions and will refer to investment returns that are “far in excess of” zero (as opposed to, you know, “high”). She is not a professorial prude, however, oblivious to shifting realities. One topic that consumed her days as the chief economist in the Clinton White House was the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 global agreement to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. At the time, many economists were concerned about how much it would cost to lower emissions as quickly as environmentalists recommended and were skeptical about committing to formal targets. Clinton’s own Treasury Department was initially resistant. But Vice President Al Gore and Clinton himself were enthusiastic about the agreement, and Yellen was eager to make the economic case. “I definitely saw the need to do it,” she told me. “There were debates about what was the right pace.”When I asked Yellen whether she had concerns about Biden’s Buy American agenda, which didn’t seem to square with her opinions about international trade, she emphasized views that were more in line with the president’s. “The trend toward globalization has resulted in losses for workers, and the time has come to really remedy that — the impact has been simply so negative on such a large share of the population,” she said. “The focus needs to be on inequality and low-wage workers and improving their lot.”And what about the sort of industrial policy that would entail large government backing for, say, making electric-car batteries domestically? “One would want to look at the specifics of any particular proposal,” she said, “but generally, I think there is a case for it.” Katherine Tai, Biden’s choice for U.S. trade representative, helped negotiate stricter worker protections in the revision of NAFTA. Credit…Getty ImagesIn the days after the Democrats clinched control of Congress by winning two Senate seats in Georgia, Representative Peter DeFazio of Oregon, the powerful chairman of the transportation committee, exchanged several texts with Steve Ricchetti, who would soon be a top Biden White House aide. Biden’s team had spent the transition gaming out legislation, but the exercises had an air of unreality as long as Republicans appeared likely to control the Senate. Now the plans were suddenly viable, and DeFazio wanted to gauge the timetable that Ricchetti and his colleagues had in mind. “I originally said, ‘I can be ready to go by March or April,’” DeFazio recalls. “He said, ‘We want to go faster than that.’”DeFazio is one of a small handful of lawmakers who will have an outsize influence on what Biden is able to accomplish economically. To call him a supporter of far-reaching economic legislation would be an understatement. He was one of the few members of Congress who voted against Obama’s stimulus package because he found it too timid, and last year he helped shepherd a $1.5 trillion bill through the House that included large pots of money for rail, broadband internet, zero-emission buses and charging stations. (It did not pass the Senate.) As big as that price tag was, he was not averse to increasing it. When I pointed out that Biden’s campaign proposal appeared to call for spending more on equipment like electric vehicles, he quickly proclaimed himself open to the amount. But powerful allies invariably have their own priorities too, and DeFazio is no exception. He rhapsodized to me about new bridges and tunnels and talked up the benefits of pedestrian-friendly streets. Then he added this pitch: For less than $10 billion, the U.S. Postal Service could convert its delivery vehicles to an all-electric fleet. “The fleet is decrepit, dirty, falling apart,” he said. “It’s over 30 years old.” With Democrats in control of Congress, the problem for Biden may not be passing some version of his economic agenda so much as sorting through the sheer volume of asks suddenly pouring in from hundreds of members and industry groups. Representative Ro Khanna of California, for one, has introduced a bill that would spend $100 billion over five years to fund research in industries like quantum computing, robotics and biotechnology and to situate tech hubs in areas hit hard by deindustrialization. Most of “the top 20 universities in the world are American — places like the University of Wisconsin, University of Michigan, which are dispersed across the country,” says Khanna, who represents parts of Silicon Valley and was a co-chair of Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign. “There’s no reason we can’t see innovation and next-generation technology in these communities.” Wind-turbine manufacturers, whose supply chain goes through Europe, Asia and Canada, are seeking tax breaks for domestic production. So is the solar industry, which currently imports most of its assembled panels from Malaysia and Vietnam. The semiconductor industry has lobbied for tens of billions of dollars to upgrade production facilities and build new ones, on the grounds that semiconductors are a foundational technology — sort of like mechanically engineered stem cells that power everything from 5G mobile networks to autonomous vehicles and the internet of things. John Neuffer, the chief executive of the Semiconductor Industry Association, says supply shortages during the pandemic have focused minds in Washington on the importance of domestic production. Many of these proposals — and dozens more, like money to manufacture medical equipment, to buy e-scooters and other “micromobility” vehicles, to build “smart” pavement that can digitally connect cars to roads — made cameo appearances in Biden’s campaign, and the administration has expressed interest in pursuing them.Deese, who has been overseeing Biden’s economic plans, told me that the priority when it comes to industrial support will be those areas where subsidies can encourage companies to spend money on factories and technology in the near term that they might not otherwise spend for years — “pulling forward” their investments, as he puts it.Rodrik, the Harvard economist who is sympathetic to industrial policy, says the practice should really be seen as a way to ensure that American companies continue to innovate, more than as a means of vastly increasing employment. But Deese argues that the transition to a cleaner economy — installing solar panels, plugging abandoned oil wells, retrofitting buildings to make them more efficient — will generate lots of new jobs, even if manufacturing equipment doesn’t produce as many as desired. And he adds that we shouldn’t underestimate the job-creation potential of new equipment either.As a rough model, he points to a Senate bill, based partly on the U.A.W. electric-vehicles paper, that would spend some $400 billion over a decade on cash rebates for consumers who buy U.S.-assembled electric or hybrid cars. The bill, proposed by Senators Chuck Schumer of New York and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, would also spend close to $50 billion funding the construction of charging stations nationally and provide nearly $20 billion in subsidies to help manufacturers build new plants and upgrade existing ones. “It’s the basic theory of the case,” Deese says. “Significant consumer incentives coupled with retooling for factories and a build-out of infrastructure.” The deal for manufacturers would become still more compelling with regulations mandating lower vehicle emissions and a commitment by the government to buy clean energy and clean equipment — a process Biden initiated with an executive order he signed in late January. Or, put another way, the Postal Service may soon be in luck. “It’s the largest fleet operator in the federal government,” DeFazio says. “It would be a huge boost to get production going on made in America, from the little delivery vans up through the semis.”Jennifer Granholm, Biden’s energy secretary, was the governor of Michigan during the auto bailout.Credit…Getty ImagesEven as Biden emphasized “unity” at the very start of his presidency — he used the word eight times in his inaugural speech, precisely seven times more than his predecessor on the same occasion — he has been prepared all along to pass his agenda on a party-line vote if necessary. David Kamin, now a White House aide, spent time during the campaign figuring out how to enact key economic plans through a maneuver known as reconciliation, in the event that Democrats came to control the Senate. This allows spending- and tax-related legislation to pass the chamber with a simple majority, rather than the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. (It is a quirk of Senate nomenclature that “reconciliation” expressly does not require a party to make nice with the other.) Still, as Biden knows well from his decades as a senator, it would almost certainly behoove him to expand the coalition beyond his partisan ranks. Given the party’s threadbare margin — which literally comes down to Vice President Kamala Harris’s tiebreaking vote — it’s far from assured that he can secure his agenda with only Democratic support. It’s not hard to spot the possible defections. On the left, Biden may face grumbling from environmentalists who favor a more aggressive timetable for reducing emissions, which would mean importing a large supply of solar panels and car batteries from abroad, not the more pedestrian pace that would allow American manufacturers to scale up. “It’s a very real tension,” says Jason Walsh, a former Obama Energy Department official who now leads the BlueGreen Alliance, a coalition of unions and environmental groups that advocates a low-carbon economy that also increases the number of union workers. “You’re describing my job.” Even with electric cars, the problem is clear: Schumer’s bill provides the bulk of its incentives for vehicles assembled in the United States, even if the battery — the most valuable component — comes from abroad. That’s partly out of necessity, because it could take years to build up the capacity of domestic battery plants. A growing number of progressives have also been focusing, in recent years, on reining in corporate giants like Google and Amazon; their position is that these companies abuse their market power to kneecap competitors and take advantage of consumers. Some of the activists and politicians involved in this effort are skeptical that industrial policy will amount to much more than funneling taxpayer money to wealthy corporations. “I worry about it,” says Matt Stoller, the research director for the American Economic Liberties Project, an antimonopoly advocacy group. “I hope when they put this together, they’re not just giving money to monopolists.” Stoller concedes that industrial policy can be effective, but only if designed and implemented correctly. He cites the successful creation of coronavirus vaccines as an example. In that case, the pharmaceutical companies that produced a viable vaccine stood to earn far bigger profits than those that didn’t. “The government didn’t just write checks to Pfizer,” Stoller says. “It told seven companies: ‘Go develop a vaccine — it’s a competition. Compete.’”And then there is the near-inevitability that one or two senators will use their decisive vote to dictate the terms of a bill — most likely when a conservative Democrat balks at the cost. By contrast, says Rahm Emanuel, who served as Obama’s first chief of staff, the possibility of passing legislation with Republican votes shifts power back into Biden’s hands. “If they think you’re assembling something bigger,” Emanuel says, “you slightly dilute their leverage.”There is a pool of Republicans who, at least in theory, may support investments in emissions-reducing technologies. Several Republican senators hail from states that would directly benefit, including Kansas and the Dakotas, located in one of the largest wind corridors in North America. And as fossil-fuel companies continue losing wealth and stature, their influence over the Republican Party may recede. For the moment, it’s much easier to imagine Republicans backing industrial policy that steers clear of climate change. Several Republicans have partnered with Democrats on legislation that promotes other fields, like robotics and biotechnology, including Khanna’s research-and-development funding bill. Last year, Schumer, now the Democratic majority leader, worked with Republicans to add a measure to the annual military spending bill in order to create multiple programs that will invest in advanced semiconductors. The amendment passed 96 to 4, though the government has yet to allocate money to the new programs, which would cost tens of billions to fund fully. “The idea of keeping America No.1 in cutting-edge technology does not have a partisan division,” Schumer told me. “It’s sort of like the old days on defense.”Neera Tanden, Biden’s budget director, was previously a Hillary Clinton aide.Credit…Getty ImagesThe analogy is even more apt than he suggests. When Republicans think about American industry, they tend to invoke a single geopolitical adversary: China. “The emergence of China as an economic power, as well as a military and geopolitical power, is perhaps the greatest issue we face in this decade and the next one,” Senator Mitt Romney of Utah told me in late January. “We innovate; they steal innovation. We play by the trade rules; they play by their own rules.”A handful of other Republican senators, including Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Josh Hawley of Missouri and Marco Rubio of Florida, have taken similar positions. At times they have made statements and put out reports that, with only minor alterations, could have been issued by an industrial union. Two years ago, the Senate’s small-business committee, which Rubio led, produced a report arguing that manufacturing jobs are better-paying and more stable than the service-sector alternatives for typical workers, and that manufacturing brings greater economic benefits to communities. Romney and other Republican hawks on China tend to tell a story about American passivity. There is data that supports their view. From 2001 to 2007, the number of U.S. manufacturing jobs, which had hovered near 18 million for more than a generation, dropped by more than three million. According to a 2012 paper titled “The Surprisingly Swift Decline of U.S. Manufacturing Employment,” the plunge was most likely a result of the U.S. decision to permanently normalize trade relations with China in 2000. This allowed the Chinese to ramp up production of export goods without fear that they would be abruptly locked out of American markets.Many economists argue that the so-called China shock was a historical anomaly, driven by the rapid industrialization of a very large and very poor country, and that it was mostly over by the early part of the last decade. “Since then, one also sees that trade growth slowed down considerably, at the same time as in the U.S. the loss of manufacturing jobs basically ended,” says David Dorn, an economist at the University of Zurich. But that doesn’t mean Chinese companies can’t continue to seize market share from their American rivals. A 2012 book by the Harvard business professors Gary Pisano and Willy Shih made the case that when it comes to manufacturing, strength yields strength, and weakness yields weakness. They showed that the offshoring to Asia of the consumer-electronics industry, which executives believed was becoming too commoditized to be worth keeping entirely in the U.S., had weakened America’s so-called industrial commons — the ecosystem of research, engineering and manufacturing know-how that creates innovative products. In effect, getting out of the business of making stereos and TVs in the 1960s and ’70s made it harder for American manufacturers to produce more sophisticated technologies like advanced batteries. The Chinese, of course, took the other side of the bet — gaining know-how by starting with simpler products, which then led to the making of more sophisticated ones. That’s partly why the China shock started with exports of products like textiles and steel and eventually included smartphones. Rubio has noted with alarm that the Chinese government is now poised for far more ambitious conquests — robotics, electric vehicles, biotech — through a program called Made in China 2025. In his committee’s report, Rubio referred to this as “a foreign actor’s plan for the domination of critical commercial sectors at the expense of American industries.” A RAND study describes the Chinese effort to compete with companies like Boeing by partnering with suppliers to develop rival products that Chinese customers are then required to buy. “They have the ability to pressure Chinese airlines, which are state-owned, into buying the COMAC product,” Shih says, referring to the state-owned airplane maker.Biden has raised similar concerns about China’s industrial ambitions, while Yellen, at her confirmation hearing, called out China’s “illegal subsidies to corporations,” among other practices. And yet the response favored by Biden and even some Republicans is not so different from the subsidies that Yellen denounced. China is effectively forcing other countries to adopt some of its own industrial policies, because a free market in which only one side plays by the rules isn’t so much a market as a sucker’s game. “In a world of state competition for valuable industries, a domestic policy of neutrality is itself a selection of priority,” Rubio’s report concluded.There is good reason to doubt whether these bipartisan concerns will result in cooperation on actual policy. It may be revealing that in my correspondence with Rubio’s office, his aides showed no interest in commenting on the substantial overlap between Biden’s extensive manufacturing agenda and their boss’s.Still, after decades of free-market orthodoxy in which protectionism became taboo among both parties’ elites, it is the rise of China, above all else, that is bringing nationalistic management of the economy back into the political mainstream. “Twenty years ago, we would have had a huge ideological fight that this was ‘industrial policy,’” Chris Coons told me, referring to Biden’s economic agenda. “Today our No. 1 competitor globally is — look up ‘industrial policy’ in the dictionary: It’s a unitary, state-controlled economy.”Noam Scheiber is a Chicago-based reporter for The Times who covers labor and the workplace. He is the author of “The Escape Artists,” a book about Barack Obama’s first term.Headshots: Mark Wilson/Getty Images; Alex Wong/Getty Images; Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images; Jim Watson-Pool/Getty ImagesAdvertisementContinue reading the main story More