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    Even With $900 Billion Stimulus, Biden Faces Fragile Economy

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Presidential TransitionliveLatest UpdatesElectoral College ResultsBiden’s CabinetInaugural DonationsAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main story$900 Billion Won’t Carry Biden Very FarDespite new pandemic aid, he confronts an economic crisis unlike any since he last entered office in 2009. And political headwinds have only stiffened.The challenges greeting President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. rival those of the Great Recession, when he became vice president.Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York TimesJan. 4, 2021Updated 5:48 p.m. ETWith his presidential inauguration just weeks away, Joseph R. Biden Jr. is confronting an economic crisis that is utterly unparalleled and yet eerily familiar.Millions of Americans are out of work, small businesses are struggling to survive, hunger is rampant, and people across the country fear getting kicked out of their homes. The moment was similarly perilous exactly 12 years ago, when Mr. Biden was the vice president-elect and preparing to take office.“I remember the utter terror,” said Cecilia Rouse, who was an economic adviser in the Obama White House and has been chosen to lead Mr. Biden’s Council of Economic Advisers.The $900 billion pandemic relief plan that moderate lawmakers powered through Congress last month provides the incoming administration with some breathing room. This second tier of aid will deliver $600 stimulus checks, assist small businesses and extend federal unemployment benefits through mid-March.But as Mr. Biden has made clear, it is simply a “down payment” — a brief bridge to get through a dark winter and not nearly enough to restore the economy’s health.Roughly 19 million people are receiving some type of unemployment benefit, and many business owners wonder whether they will be able to survive the year. The coronavirus crisis has worsened longstanding inequalities, with workers at the lower end of the income spectrum — who are disproportionately Black and Hispanic — bearing the brunt of the pain.At the same time, bottlenecks in the Covid-19 vaccines’ rollout as well as fears about a much more transmissible variant of the virus could further delay the revival of large swaths of the economy like restaurants, travel, live entertainment and sports.“We are in for some choppy waters, even as we continue to get to the other side of the pandemic,” Ms. Rouse said.Yet despite the scorched earth left by the coronavirus, the economy is on a more stable footing in several ways than it was at the start of 2009.Instead of hurtling down a hole with no clear view of the bottom, Mr. Biden is taking office when the economy is on an upward trajectory. However anemic the growth, most analysts predict that 2021 will end better than it began even if there are stumbles along the way.While this pandemic-related recession was larger in terms of initial job losses and closings, it is what Ms. Rouse labeled “collateral damage” from a health emergency and not a crack in the underlying global financial system.“Now we know what to do: Provide the kind of social safety net for households, businesses and communities so they can get to the other side of the pandemic intact,” Ms. Rouse said.The Biden administration will also focus on attacking the deep-rooted inequalities that this crisis aggravated, she added.Volunteers distributing food donations in Bradenton, Fla. Four million U.S. workers have been unemployed for at least six months.Credit…Eve Edelheit for The New York TimesA closed flower shop in Tampa, Fla. The pandemic has shut down more businesses than the Great Recession did.Credit…Eve Edelheit for The New York TimesAdding to the positive side of the ledger, many households have socked away money, lifting the savings rate to a 40-year high. In contrast, the Great Recession razed storehouses of wealth, in retirement accounts and homes, virtually overnight.“Walking in this time, there is at least a cushion,” said Jason Furman, who led President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers and is now an economist at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.The Presidential TransitionLatest UpdatesUpdated Jan. 4, 2021, 6:43 p.m. ETSenator Kelly Loeffler of Georgia says she will join the vote to overturn Biden’s electors.The leader of the far-right Proud Boys was arrested in Washington.In Georgia, Jon Ossoff warns Trump not to ‘mess with our voting rights.’But if the Biden administration will have a bit more running room on the economy, it is likely to have a lot less politically than Mr. Obama did in the first two years of his presidency, when his party controlled both houses of Congress.If the Democrats retake control of the Senate by winning both seats in the Georgia runoff election on Tuesday, Mr. Biden’s path will be much easier. Otherwise, the new president will have to deal with a Republican Senate led by Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who has stymied legislation from the Democratic-controlled House.In that case, the administration will have an uphill slog persuading lawmakers to approve more aid when this round ends. With a Democrat headed for the Oval Office, many Republicans who put aside their concerns about debt when it came to cutting taxes in 2017 have rediscovered their inner deficit hawk.Mr. McConnell successfully resisted President Trump’s calls — echoed by Democrats — to increase the latest stimulus payments to $2,000 from $600.The failure to extend or expand federal aid when it expires this spring not only would cause significant hardships and needless suffering but could seriously scar the economy, said Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist.Even though economic activity will most likely be on an upswing, the economy will remain weakened, Mr. Stiglitz said. Eviction moratoriums and mortgage forbearance have prevented families from losing their homes, but their housing debt has been accumulating even if it has not yet shown up on household balance sheets.Covid-19 vaccinations are crucial to getting the economy back on track.Credit…Alex Welsh for The New York TimesA coronavirus testing site in Los Angeles. Cities and states also have a big role to play in distributing vaccines. Credit…Alex Welsh for The New York TimesMany small businesses, particularly in the hard-hit service sector, which has been a source of low-wage jobs, will not survive. Economic inequality will increase.“There’s been a lot of long-term damage,” Mr. Stiglitz said.At the same time, the ranks of workers who have been unemployed for six months or longer have swelled to more than four million, increasing the chances that they may never find another job. Growing numbers of men and women are also dropping out of the labor force altogether.None of those problems can really begin to be addressed without widely distributing the vaccines and reopening the schools so that parents, particularly mothers, can return to the work force.That is why economists say that funneling direct aid to state and local governments is so crucial.“That sector has been gutted,” said Abigail Wozniak, a labor economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, but it “is the sector that allows all the other sectors to operate.”States and localities will play a critical role in the vaccine rollout and in providing emergency medical personnel. They will also be responsible for sending teachers back to classrooms that are safe, and helping disadvantaged students regain lost ground.Senate Republicans have been dead set against providing that kind of direct aid. Mr. McConnell has criticized it as a “blue-state bailout,” even though many red and blue states — and rural areas in particular — have lost revenues and public sector jobs.Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader, has opposed direct aid to state and local governments.Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York TimesEconomists say Congress and the White House must recognize the differences as well as the similarities between the pandemic and the Great Recession.Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York TimesEconomists on the right and left agree that while there are echoes from the Great Recession, there are also important distinctions. Restoring the economy this time, they warn, will require a kind of economic serenity prayer: recognizing the similarities, identifying the contrasts, and having the wisdom to know the difference.For Michael R. Strain, an economist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, the economy has repaired itself more quickly than expected. He worries that some aid proposals, particularly those that prop up specific industries, would keep some dying businesses alive and “slow down the process of adjustment to a new post-virus economy.“The faster that process happens, the faster the economy heals,” Mr. Strain said.Many liberal economists, though, including those on the Biden team, warn against ignoring a crucial lesson from the last recession: Failing to move quickly to provide sufficient money to the people and businesses that need it can damage the economy far into the future.Brian Deese, whom Mr. Biden has picked to lead the National Economic Council, where he worked as an assistant during the Obama administration, said making public investments was necessary to ensure economic growth.“We’re in a moment where the risk of doing too little outweighs the risk of doing too much,” he said.AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    Buried in Covid Relief Bill: Billions to Soothe the Richest

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Coronavirus OutbreakliveLatest UpdatesMaps and CasesThe Stimulus DealThe Latest Vaccine InformationF.A.Q.AdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyBuried in Pandemic Aid Bill: Billions to Soothe the RichestThe voluminous coronavirus relief and spending bill that blasted through Congress on Monday includes provisions — good, bad and just plain strange — that few lawmakers got to read.Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, at the Capitol last week. He said leadership intentionally waited until the last minute to unveil final proposals to the spending bill.Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York TimesLuke Broadwater, Jesse Drucker and Dec. 22, 2020WASHINGTON — Tucked away in the 5,593-page spending bill that Congress rushed through on Monday night is a provision that some tax experts call a $200 billion giveaway to the rich.It involves the tens of thousands of businesses that received loans from the federal government this spring with the promise that the loans would be forgiven, tax free, if they agreed to keep employees on the payroll through the coronavirus pandemic.But for some businesses and their high-paid accountants, that was not enough. They went to Congress with another request: Not only should the forgiven loans not to be taxed as income, but the expenditures used with those loans should be tax deductible.“High-income business owners have had tax benefits and unprecedented government grants showered down upon then. And the scale is massive,” said Adam Looney, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former Treasury Department tax official in the Obama administration, who estimated that $120 billion of the $200 billion would flow to the top 1 percent of Americans.The new provision allows for a classic double dip into the Payroll Protection Program, as businesses get free money from the government, then get to deduct that largess from their taxes.And it is one of hundreds included in a huge spending package and a coronavirus stimulus bill that is supposed to help businesses and families struggling during the pandemic but, critics say, swerved far afield. President Trump on Tuesday night blasted it as a disgrace and demanded revisions.“Congress found plenty of money for foreign countries, lobbyists and special interests, while sending the bare minimum to the American people who need it,” he said in a video posted on Twitter that stopped just short of a veto threat.The measure includes serious policy changes beyond the much-needed $900 billion in coronavirus relief, like a simplification of federal financial aid forms, measures to address climate change and a provision to stop “surprise billing” from hospitals when patients unwittingly receive care from physicians out of their insurance networks.But there is also much grumbling over other provisions that lawmakers had not fully reviewed, and a process that left most of them and the public in the dark until after the bill was passed. The anger was bipartisan.“Members of Congress have not read this bill. It’s over 5000 pages, arrived at 2pm today, and we are told to expect a vote on it in 2 hours,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, tweeted on Monday. “This isn’t governance. It’s hostage-taking.”Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, agreed — the two do not agree on much.“It’s ABSURD to have a $2.5 trillion spending bill negotiated in secret and then—hours later—demand an up-or-down vote on a bill nobody has had time to read,” he tweeted on Monday.The items jammed into the bill are varied and at times bewildering. The bill would make it a felony to offer illegal streaming services. One provision requires the C.I.A. to report back to Congress on the activities of Eastern European oligarchs tied to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. The federal government would be required to set up a program aimed at eradicating the murder hornet and to crack down on online sales of e-cigarettes to minors.It authorizes 93 acres of federal lands to be used for the construction of the Teddy Roosevelt Presidential Library in North Dakota and creates an independent commission to oversee horse racing, a priority of Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader.Mr. McConnell inserted that item to get around the objections of a Democratic senator who wanted it amended, but he received agreement from other congressional leaders.Alexander M. Waldrop, the chief executive of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, said on Tuesday that Mr. McConnell had “said many times he feared for the future of horse racing and the impact on the industry, which of course is critical to Kentucky.”The Coronavirus Outbreak More

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    Coronavirus Stimulus Bolsters Biden, Shows Potential Path for Agenda

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Coronavirus OutbreakliveLatest UpdatesMaps and CasesThe Stimulus DealThe Latest Vaccine InformationF.A.Q.AdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyNEWS AnalysisPandemic Aid Bolsters Biden and Shows Potential Path for His Agenda in CongressWorking together with the president-elect, bipartisan groups in the Senate and House helped push feuding leaders to compromise. It could be a template for the future.Rather than face an immediate and dire need to act on a pandemic package, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his team can take time to try to fashion a more far-reaching recovery program next month.Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York TimesDec. 21, 2020Updated 7:10 p.m. ETProducing it was a torturous, time-consuming affair that did nothing to improve Congress’s reputation for dysfunction. But the agreement on a new pandemic aid package showed the ascendance of moderates as a new force in a divided Senate and validated President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s belief that it is still possible to make deals on Capitol Hill.Along with struggling Americans and businesses, the new president was a major beneficiary of the $900 billion pandemic stimulus measure that Congress haltingly but finally produced on Sunday and was on track to approve late Monday, which will give him some breathing room when he enters the White House next month. Rather than face an immediate and dire need to act on an emergency economic aid package, Mr. Biden and his team can instead take a moment to try to fashion a more far-reaching recovery program and begin to tackle other issues.“President-elect Biden is going to have an economy that is healthier,” said Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia and one of the chief players in a breakaway effort by centrists in the Senate and House that led to the compromise. “This is a significant financial injection into the economy at a time that is critical.”The group of moderates was essential to the outcome, pushing Senate and House leaders of both parties into direct personal negotiations that they had avoided for months, and demonstrating how crucial they are likely to be to Mr. Biden. “I’m glad we forced the issue,” said Senator Susan Collins, the Maine Republican who, along with Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, were leaders of a monthslong effort to break the impasse over pandemic aid even as the virus exacted a growing economic and health toll on the country.Given the slender partisan divides that will exist in both the Senate and House next year, the approach could provide a road map for the Biden administration if it hopes to break through congressional paralysis, especially in the Senate, and pass additional legislation. Mr. Biden has said another economic relief plan will be an early priority.“I believe it is going to be the only way we are going to accomplish the president-elect’s agenda in the next two years,” said Representative Josh Gottheimer, Democrat of New Jersey and a leader of the 50-member bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus that took part in forging the compromise. “In the long run, this is the way to govern.”But the extraordinarily difficult time Congress had in coming to agreement over pandemic legislation again showed the difficulty of the task Mr. Biden faces. Almost every influential member of the House and Senate acknowledged that the relief was sorely needed, but it was impeded in part by last-minute Republican attempts to undercut Mr. Biden’s future authority. Some Republicans are already suggesting that the latest package should tide over the nation for an extended period, with no additional relief necessary for some time.Senators Mark Warner of Virginia, left, Susan Collins of Maine and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia were part of a moderate bipartisan group that helped negotiate the legislation.Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York TimesMr. Biden on Sunday applauded the willingness of lawmakers to “reach across the aisle” and called the effort a “model for the challenging work ahead for our nation.” He was also not an idle bystander in the negotiations.With Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate far apart on how much they were willing to accept in new pandemic spending, Mr. Biden on Dec. 2 threw his support behind the $900 billion plan being pushed by the centrist group. The total was less than half of the $2 trillion that Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, had been insisting on.The Coronavirus Outbreak More

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    A $900 Billion Plan Would Help the Economy, but Not Fix It

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Coronavirus OutbreakliveLatest UpdatesMaps and CasesC.D.C. Shortens Quarantine PeriodsVaccine TrackerFAQAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storynews analysisA $900 Billion Plan Would Help the Economy, but Not Fix ItWhile a compromise package gaining steam in Congress would provide urgent help to the economy, some people and businesses would be left out in the cold.The framework of a $908 billion stimulus plan includes several types of assistance that economists have been calling on Congress to approve for months.Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York TimesBy More

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    A Trump Fed Pick Squeaks Through Senate Confirmation

    AdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyA Trump Fed Pick Squeaks Through Senate ConfirmationChristopher Waller will be the fifth Trump pick on the Fed’s seven-member Board of Governors.Christopher Waller was the more conventional of President Trump’s two pending picks for the Fed board; the other has increasingly faint hopes for approval.Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York TimesBy More