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

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

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    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