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    President Biden Unveils Plan to Raise Corporate Taxes

    #styln-signup .styln-signup-wrapper { max-width: calc(100% – 40px); width: 600px; margin: 20px auto; padding-bottom: 20px; border-bottom: 1px solid #e2e2e2; } The Biden administration unveiled its plan to overhaul the corporate tax code on Wednesday, offering an array of proposals that would require large companies to pay higher taxes to help fund the White House’s economic agenda. […] More

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    Biden’s Tax Plan Aims to Raise $2.5 Trillion and End Profit-Shifting

    The plan detailed by the Treasury Department would make it harder for companies to avoid paying taxes on both U.S. income and profits stashed abroad.WASHINGTON — Large companies like Apple and Bristol Myers Squibb have long employed complicated maneuvers to reduce or eliminate their tax bills by shifting income on paper between countries. The strategy has enriched accountants and shareholders, while driving down corporate tax receipts for the federal government.President Biden sees ending that practice as central to his $2 trillion infrastructure package, pushing changes to the tax code that his administration says will ensure American companies are contributing tax dollars to help invest in the country’s roads, bridges, water pipes and in other parts of his economic agenda.On Wednesday, the Treasury Department released the details of Mr. Biden’s tax plan, which aims to raise as much as $2.5 trillion over 15 years to help finance the infrastructure proposal. That includes bumping the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 21 percent, imposing a strict new minimum tax on global profits and cracking down on companies that try to move profits offshore.The plan also aims to stop big companies that are profitable but have no federal income tax liability from paying no taxes to the Treasury Department by imposing a 15 percent tax on the profits they report to investors. Such a change would affect about 45 corporations, according to the Biden administration’s estimates, because it would be limited to companies earning $2 billion or more per year.“Companies aren’t going to be able to hide their income in places like the Cayman Islands and Bermuda in tax havens,” Mr. Biden said on Wednesday during remarks at the White House. He defended the tax increases as necessary to pay for infrastructure investments that America needs and to help reduce the federal deficit over the long term.Still, his 15 percent tax is a narrower version of the one he proposed in the 2020 campaign that would have applied to companies with $100 million or more in profits per year.Mr. Biden’s proposals are a repudiation of Washington’s last big tax overhaul — President Donald J. Trump’s 2017 tax cuts. Biden administration officials say that law increased the incentives for companies to shift profits to lower-tax countries, while reducing corporate tax receipts in the United States to match their lowest levels as a share of the economy since World War II.Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, in rolling out the plan, said it would end a global “race to the bottom” of corporate taxation that has been destructive for the American economy and its workers.“Our tax revenues are already at their lowest level in generations,” Ms. Yellen said. “If they continue to drop lower, we will have less money to invest in roads, bridges, broadband and R&D.”The plan, while ambitious, will not be easy to enact.Some of the proposals, like certain changes to how a global minimum tax is applied to corporate income, could possibly be put in place by the Treasury Department via regulation. But most will need the approval of Congress, including increasing the corporate tax rate. Given Democrats’ narrow majorities in the Senate and the House, that proposed rate could drop. Already, Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a crucial swing vote, has said he would prefer a 25 percent corporate rate.Mr. Biden indicated he was willing to negotiate, saying: “Debate is welcome. Compromise is inevitable. Changes are certain.” But he added that “inaction is not an option.”At the core of the tax proposal is an attempt to rewrite decades of tax-code provisions that have encouraged and rewarded companies who stash profits overseas.It would increase the rate of what is essentially a minimum tax on money American companies earn abroad, and it would apply that tax to a much broader selection of income. It would also eliminate lucrative tax deductions for foreign-owned companies that are based in low-tax countries — like Bermuda or Ireland — but have operations in the United States.“We are being quite explicit: We don’t think profit-shifting is advantageous from a U.S. perspective,” David Kamin, the deputy director of the National Economic Council, said in an interview. “It is a major problem,” he said, adding that with the proposed changes, “We have the opportunity to lead the world.”Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said that the plan would end a global “race to the bottom” of corporate taxation that has been destructive for the American economy and its workers.Al Drago for The New York TimesThe corporate income tax rate in the United States is currently 21 percent, but many large American companies pay effective tax rates that are much lower than that. Corporations that have operations in multiple countries often shift assets or income — sometimes in physical form, but other times, simply in their accountants’ books — between countries in search of the lowest possible tax bill.Companies also shift jobs and investments between countries, but often for different reasons. In many cases, they are following lower labor costs or seeking customers in new markets to expand their businesses. The Biden plan would create tax incentives for companies to invest in production and research in the United States.Previous administrations have tried to curb the offshoring of jobs and profits. Mr. Trump’s tax cuts reduced the corporate rate to 21 percent from 35 percent in the hopes of encouraging more domestic investment. It established a global minimum tax for corporations based in the United States and a related effort meant to reduce profit-shifting by foreign companies with operations in the country, though both provisions were weakened by subsequent regulations issued by Mr. Trump’s Treasury Department.Conservative tax experts, including several involved in writing the 2017 law, say they have seen no evidence of the law enticing companies to move jobs overseas. Mr. Biden has assembled a team of tax officials who contend the provisions have given companies new incentives to move investment and profits offshore.Mr. Biden’s plan would raise the rate of Mr. Trump’s minimum tax and apply it more broadly to income that American companies earn overseas. Those efforts would try to make it less appealing for companies to book profits in lower-tax companies.That includes discouraging American companies from moving their headquarters abroad for tax purposes, particularly through the practice known as “inversions,” where companies from different countries merge, creating a new foreign-located firm.Under current law, companies with headquarters in low-tax countries can move some of their profits earned by subsidiaries in the United States and send them back to headquarters as payments for things like the use of intellectual property, then deduct those payments from their American income taxes. The Biden plan would disallow those deductions for companies based in low-tax countries.Treasury Department officials estimate the proposed changes to offshore taxation would raise about $700 billion over 10 years.Companies defend their decisions to locate profits and operations offshore, saying they do so for a variety of reasons, including so that they can compete globally.Business groups blasted the proposal on Wednesday, saying that while they agreed that the United States needed to invest in infrastructure, the tax plan would put American firms at a significant competitive disadvantage.Neil Bradley, an executive vice president and the chief policy officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement on Wednesday that the proposal would “hurt American businesses and cost American jobs” and that it would hinder their ability to compete in a global economy.And members of the Business Roundtable, which represents corporate chief executives in Washington, said this week that Mr. Biden’s plan for a global minimum tax “threatens to subject the U.S. to a major competitive disadvantage.”Republican lawmakers also denounced the plan as bad for business, with some on the House Ways and Means Committee saying that “their massive tax hikes will be shouldered by American workers and small businesses.”Still, some companies expressed an openness to certain tax hikes.John Zimmer, the president and a founder of Lyft, told CNN on Wednesday that he supported Mr. Biden’s proposed 28 percent corporate tax rate.“I think it’s important to make investments again in the country and the economy,” Mr. Zimmer said. “And as the economy grows, so too does jobs and so too does people’s needs to get around.”Mr. Biden’s team hopes the proposals will ultimately spur a worldwide change in how and where companies are taxed, which could resolve some of the global competitiveness concerns.The administration is supporting an effort through the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to broker an agreement on developing a new global minimum tax. Ms. Yellen threw her support behind that effort on Monday, and the Biden plan includes measures meant to force other countries to go along with that new tax. Global negotiators are aiming to come to an agreement by July. More

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    Fear of Inflation Finds a Foothold in the Bond Market

    There is little evidence for a big jump in prices, but some economists and bond investors fear President Biden’s policies could lead to inflation.The so-called bond vigilantes may be back, 30 years after they led a sell-off in Treasury securities over the prospect of higher government spending by a new Democratic administration.The Federal Reserve has downplayed the risk of inflation, and many experts discount the danger of a sustained rise in prices. But there is an intense debate underway on Wall Street about the prospects for higher inflation and rising interest rates.Yields on 10-year Treasury notes have risen sharply in recent weeks, a sign that traders are taking the inflation threat more seriously. If the trend continues, it will put bond investors on a collision course with the Biden administration, which recently won passage of a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill and wants to spend trillions more on infrastructure, education and other programs.The potential confrontation made some market veterans recall the 1990s, when yields on Treasury securities lurched higher as the Clinton administration considered plans to increase spending. As a result, officials soon turned to deficit reduction as a priority.Ed Yardeni, an independent economist, coined the term bond vigilante in the 1980s to describe investors who sell bonds amid signs that fiscal deficits are getting out of hand, especially if central bankers and others don’t act as a counterweight.As bond prices fall and yields rise, borrowing becomes more expensive, which can force lawmakers to spend less.“They seem to mount up and form a posse every time inflation is making a comeback,” Mr. Yardeni said. “Clearly, they’re back in the U.S. So while it’s fine for the Fed to argue inflation will be transitory, the bond vigilantes won’t believe it till they see it.”Yields on the 10-year Treasury note hit 1.75 percent last week before falling back this week, a sharp rise from less than 1 percent at the start of the year.Not all the sellers necessarily oppose more government spending — some are simply acting on a belief that yields will move higher as economic activity picks up, or jumping on a popular trade. But the effect is the same, pushing yields higher as prices for bonds fall.Yields remain incredibly low by historical standards and even recent trading. Two years ago, the 10-year Treasury paid 2.5 percent — many bond investors would happily welcome a return to those yields given that a government note bought today pays a relative pittance in interest. And during the Clinton administration, yields on 10-year Treasurys rose to 8 percent, from 5.2 percent between October 1993 and November 1994.Still, Mr. Yardeni believes the bond market is saying something policymakers today ought to pay attention to.“The ultimate goal of the bond vigilante is to be heard, and they are blowing the whistle,” he said. “It could come back to bite Biden’s plans.”Yet evidence of inflation remains elusive. Consumer prices, excluding the volatile food and energy sectors, have been tame, as have wages. And even before the pandemic, unemployment plumbed lows not seen in decades without stoking inflation.Indeed, the bond vigilantes remain outliers. Even many economists at financial firms who expect faster growth as a result of the stimulus package are not ready to predict inflation’s return.“The inflation dynamic is not the same as it was in the past,” said Carl Tannenbaum, chief economist at Northern Trust in Chicago. “Globalization, technology and e-commerce all make it harder for firms to increase prices.”What’s more, with more than nine million jobs lost in the past year and an unemployment rate of 6.2 percent, it would seem there is plenty of slack in the economy.That’s how Alan S. Blinder, a Princeton economist who was an economic adviser to President Bill Clinton and is a former top Fed official, sees it. Even if inflation goes up slightly, Mr. Blinder believes the Fed’s target for inflation, set at 2 percent, is appropriate.“Bond traders are an excitable lot, and they go to extremes,” he said. “If they are true to form, they will overreact.”Indeed, there have been rumors of the bond vigilantes’ return before, like in 2009 as the economy began to creep out of the deep hole of the last recession and rates inched higher. But in the ensuing decade, both yields and inflation remained muted. If anything, deflation was a greater concern than rising prices.It is not just bond traders who are concerned. Some of Mr. Blinder’s colleagues from the Clinton administration are warning that the conventional economic wisdom hasn’t fully accepted the possibility of higher rates or an uptick in prices..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.Robert E. Rubin, Mr. Clinton’s second Treasury secretary, echoed that concern but took pains to support the stimulus package.“There is a deep uncertainty,” Mr. Rubin said in an interview. “We needed this relief bill, and it served a lot of useful purposes. But we now have an enormous amount of stimulus, and the risks of inflation have increased materially.”Mr. Rubin acknowledged that predicting inflation was very difficult, but he said policymakers ought to be ready to fight it. “If inflationary pressures do take off, it’s important to get ahead of them quickly before they take on a life of their own.”The Federal Reserve has plenty of options. Not only is it buying up debt, which keeps yields down, but the Fed chair, Jerome H. Powell, has called for keeping monetary policy relatively loose for the foreseeable future. If higher prices do materialize, the Fed could halt asset purchases and raise rates sooner.“We’re committed to giving the economy the support that it needs to return as quickly as possible to a state of maximum employment and price stability,” Mr. Powell said at a news conference last week. That help will continue “for as long as it takes.”While most policymakers expect faster growth, falling unemployment and a rise in inflation to above 2 percent, they nonetheless expect short-term rates to stay near zero through 2023.But the Fed’s ability to control longer-term rates is more limited, said Steven Rattner, a veteran Wall Street banker and former New York Times reporter who served in the Obama administration.“At some point, if this economy takes off bigger than any one of us expect, the Fed will have to raise rates, but it’s not this year’s issue and probably not next year’s issue,” he said. “But we are in uncharted waters, and we are to some extent playing with fire.”The concerns about inflation expressed by Mr. Rattner, Mr. Rubin and others has at least a little to do with a generational angst, Mr. Rattner, 68, points out. They all vividly remember the soaring inflation of the 1970s and early 1980s that prompted the Fed to raise rates into the double digits under the leadership of Paul Volcker.The tightening brought inflation under control but caused a deep economic downturn.“People my age remember well the late 1970s and 1980s,” Mr. Rattner said. “I was there, I covered it for The Times, and lived through it. Younger people treat it like it was the Civil War.”Some younger economists, like Gregory Daco of Oxford Economics, who is 36, think these veterans of past inflation scares are indeed fighting old wars. Any rise in inflation above 2 percent is likely to be transitory, Mr. Daco said. Bond yields are up, but they are only returning to normal after the distortions caused by the pandemic.“If you have memories of high inflation and low growth in the 1970s, you may be more concerned with it popping up now,” he said. “But these are very different circumstances today.” More

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    Biden Administration Faces Legal Fight Over State Aid Restrictions on Tax Cuts

    The litigation came amid growing pushback from Republican lawmakers and state officials to a provision in the relief package that the Treasury Department said was constitutional.WASHINGTON — State backlash against a restriction in the $1.9 trillion economic relief legislation that prohibits local governments from using aid money to cut taxes emerged as the Biden administration’s first major legal battle on Wednesday, as Ohio sued to block the provision and other states considered similar action.The litigation came amid growing pushback from Republican lawmakers and state officials, who say that the strings attached to the Covid relief money are a violation of state sovereignty and that imposing tax cut restrictions is an infringement on a state’s right to set its own fiscal policies.On Tuesday, 21 Republican attorneys general wrote a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen seeking clarity on the portion of the law that prevents them from using the federal funds “to either directly or indirectly offset a reduction in the net tax revenue” resulting from state tax cuts.The attorneys general called the provision “the greatest attempted invasion of state sovereignty by Congress in the history of our Republic.”But the Biden administration showed no signs of backing down, saying on Wednesday that the restriction on how states can use their federal funds is constitutional and that those governments should not use stimulus money meant to combat the coronavirus crisis to subsidize tax cuts.The fight could slow the rollout of more than $200 billion in relief funds that states are expected to receive to help cover Covid-related costs, including money for schools and infrastructure investments.States, which are expected to share $220 billion worth of stimulus funds, are anxiously awaiting guidance about whether the restrictions apply to the use of federal dollars to offset new tax cuts, or if it blocks them from cutting taxes for any reason, even if the cuts were in the works before the law passed.In a court filing on Wednesday, Dave Yost, Ohio’s attorney general, sought a preliminary injunction that would bar the federal government’s ability to enforce what he described as the “tax mandate.”“The federal government should be encouraging states to innovate and grow business, not holding vital relief funding hostage to its preferred pro-tax policies,” Mr. Yost, a Republican, said in a statement.Ohio is expected to receive $5.5 billion in federal relief funds. Mr. Yost said that states should not have to choose between accepting the money and maintaining their rights to cut taxes.But the Treasury Department said on Wednesday that if a state that took relief money cuts taxes, that state must repay the amount of lost revenue from those cuts to the federal government.“It is well established that Congress may establish reasonable conditions on how states should use federal funding that the states are provided,” said Alexandra LaManna, a Treasury spokeswoman. “Those sorts of reasonable funding conditions are used all the time — and they are constitutional.”She added that the new law “provided funds to help states manage the economic consequences of Covid-19, and gave states flexibility to use that money for pandemic relief and infrastructure investments.”.css-yoay6m{margin:0 auto 5px;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-yoay6m{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-1dg6kl4{margin-top:5px;margin-bottom:15px;}.css-k59gj9{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-flex-direction:column;-ms-flex-direction:column;flex-direction:column;width:100%;}.css-1e2usoh{font-family:inherit;display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-box-pack:justify;-webkit-justify-content:space-between;-ms-flex-pack:justify;justify-content:space-between;border-top:1px solid #ccc;padding:10px 0px 10px 0px;background-color:#fff;}.css-1jz6h6z{font-family:inherit;font-weight:bold;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.5rem;text-align:left;}.css-1t412wb{box-sizing:border-box;margin:8px 15px 0px 15px;cursor:pointer;}.css-hhzar2{-webkit-transition:-webkit-transform ease 0.5s;-webkit-transition:transform ease 0.5s;transition:transform ease 0.5s;}.css-t54hv4{-webkit-transform:rotate(180deg);-ms-transform:rotate(180deg);transform:rotate(180deg);}.css-1r2j9qz{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-e1ipqs{font-size:1rem;line-height:1.5rem;padding:0px 30px 0px 0px;}.css-e1ipqs a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;}.css-e1ipqs a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}.css-1o76pdf{visibility:show;height:100%;padding-bottom:20px;}.css-1sw9s96{visibility:hidden;height:0px;}#masthead-bar-one{display:none;}#masthead-bar-one{display:none;}.css-1cz6wm{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;font-family:’nyt-franklin’,arial,helvetica,sans-serif;text-align:left;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1cz6wm{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-1cz6wm:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1cz6wm{border:none;padding:20px 0 0;border-top:1px solid #121212;}Frequently Asked Questions About the New Stimulus PackageThe stimulus payments would be $1,400 for most recipients. Those who are eligible would also receive an identical payment for each of their children. To qualify for the full $1,400, a single person would need an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or below. For heads of household, adjusted gross income would need to be $112,500 or below, and for married couples filing jointly that number would need to be $150,000 or below. To be eligible for a payment, a person must have a Social Security number. Read more. Buying insurance through the government program known as COBRA would temporarily become a lot cheaper. COBRA, for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, generally lets someone who loses a job buy coverage via the former employer. But it’s expensive: Under normal circumstances, a person may have to pay at least 102 percent of the cost of the premium. Under the relief bill, the government would pay the entire COBRA premium from April 1 through Sept. 30. A person who qualified for new, employer-based health insurance someplace else before Sept. 30 would lose eligibility for the no-cost coverage. And someone who left a job voluntarily would not be eligible, either. Read moreThis credit, which helps working families offset the cost of care for children under 13 and other dependents, would be significantly expanded for a single year. More people would be eligible, and many recipients would get a bigger break. The bill would also make the credit fully refundable, which means you could collect the money as a refund even if your tax bill was zero. “That will be helpful to people at the lower end” of the income scale, said Mark Luscombe, principal federal tax analyst at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting. Read more.There would be a big one for people who already have debt. You wouldn’t have to pay income taxes on forgiven debt if you qualify for loan forgiveness or cancellation — for example, if you’ve been in an income-driven repayment plan for the requisite number of years, if your school defrauded you or if Congress or the president wipes away $10,000 of debt for large numbers of people. This would be the case for debt forgiven between Jan. 1, 2021, and the end of 2025. Read more.The bill would provide billions of dollars in rental and utility assistance to people who are struggling and in danger of being evicted from their homes. About $27 billion would go toward emergency rental assistance. The vast majority of it would replenish the so-called Coronavirus Relief Fund, created by the CARES Act and distributed through state, local and tribal governments, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. That’s on top of the $25 billion in assistance provided by the relief package passed in December. To receive financial assistance — which could be used for rent, utilities and other housing expenses — households would have to meet several conditions. Household income could not exceed 80 percent of the area median income, at least one household member must be at risk of homelessness or housing instability, and individuals would have to qualify for unemployment benefits or have experienced financial hardship (directly or indirectly) because of the pandemic. Assistance could be provided for up to 18 months, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Lower-income families that have been unemployed for three months or more would be given priority for assistance. Read more.The Treasury Department rejected the idea that the provision, which was added to the relief legislation at the last minute, was prohibiting states from cutting taxes. States are free to decline the federal funds, or they can repay the money if they are in fiscal shape to cut taxes.“The law does not say that states cannot cut taxes at all, and it does not say that if a state cut taxes, it must pay back all of the federal funding it received,” Ms. LaManna said. “It simply instructed them not to use that money to offset net revenues lost if the state chooses to cut taxes. So if a state does cut taxes without replacing that revenue in some other way, then the state must pay back to the federal government pandemic relief funds up to the amount of the lost revenue.”The amount of aid that a state will receive is tied to its jobless rate, and there are strict requirements to ensure that the money is used for purposes related to the coronavirus or to offset revenues that have been lost because of the health crisis. The Treasury Department plans to closely scrutinize how the money is spent.In their letter to Ms. Yellen, the attorneys general said that if they did not receive a formal response by March 23, they would take “appropriate additional action.”More lawsuits could soon follow. Attorney General Patrick Morrisey of West Virginia said such action would include seeking a court ruling “that the unprecedented and micromanaging provision violates the U.S. Constitution.”At a briefing with reporters on Wednesday, Mr. Morrisey said he had been working on a draft of a complaint. He has been talking to other states about the mechanics of the legal challenge and where it should be filed.“There are huge legal and constitutional problems with this provision,” Mr. Morrisey said. “This may be one of the greatest attempted invasions of state sovereignty by Congress in the history of our Republic.” More

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    Biden, Pitching Stimulus, Promises Milestones for Covid-19 Vaccines and Checks

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }Biden’s Stimulus PlanBiden’s AddressWhat to Know About the BillAnalysis: Economic RescueBenefits for Middle ClassAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyBiden, Pitching Stimulus, Promises Milestones for Vaccines and ChecksThe president kicked off a week of events to promote his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan by appointing Gene Sperling, a longtime Democratic aide, to oversee spending under the bill.“The American Rescue Plan is already doing what it was designed to do: make a difference in people’s everyday lives,” President Biden said in a brief address from the White House on Monday.Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York TimesJim Tankersley and March 15, 2021Updated 8:23 p.m. ETWASHINGTON — President Biden said on Monday that his administration was on pace to achieve two key goals by March 25: 100 million shots of Covid-19 vaccines since his inauguration and 100 million direct payments under his economic relief bill.The announcement was the first in what promises to be a series of end-zone dances that Mr. Biden and administration officials are set to stage this week as they promote the $1.9 trillion package that the president signed into law last week.“Shots in arms and money in pockets. That’s important,” Mr. Biden said in a brief address from the White House. “The American Rescue Plan is already doing what it was designed to do: make a difference in people’s everyday lives.”Over the weekend, the Treasury Department began issuing direct electronic payments of $1,400 per person, as authorized by the law, to low- and middle-income Americans. The United States has administered 92.6 million vaccine doses since Jan. 20, when Mr. Biden took office, according to data released on Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At the current pace of vaccinations, the country will pass 100 million doses before the end of the week, well ahead of the president’s promise of March 25.Mr. Biden had set the goal of 100 million doses before taking office, and he has repeatedly heralded the country being on pace to meet it, though many public health experts say it is relatively easily attainable.The relief plan also includes dozens of other provisions that have yet to be carried out, such as new monthly checks for parents, $350 billion for state and local governments and additional relief for the unemployed.With so much money at stake and Republicans criticizing the package as wasteful, Mr. Biden vowed to bring “fastidious oversight” to the relief bill in order to ensure that it is distributed quickly and equitably.He introduced Gene Sperling, a longtime Democratic policy aide who advised Mr. Biden’s presidential campaign last year, as his pick to oversee spending from the relief package. Mr. Sperling will be a senior adviser to the president and a White House employee, operating independently from an oversight commission established by Congress during the pandemic that consists of inspectors general from various agencies.“We have to prove to the American people that their government can deliver for them, and do it without waste or fraud,” Mr. Biden said.His remarks came as his team prepared to fan out across the country for a week of sales pitches for a bill that has proved very popular with voters but garnered zero Republican votes.Mr. Biden will visit Delaware County, Pa., on Tuesday and appear with Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday in Atlanta, which helped deliver Democrats the Senate majority that made the relief plan possible.A group of administration officials, including the first lady, Jill Biden, and Ms. Harris’s husband, Doug Emhoff, will make their own trips. Ms. Harris and her husband landed in Las Vegas for an event on Monday afternoon, while Dr. Biden finished an event in New Jersey.The road show is an effort to avoid the messaging mistakes of President Barack Obama’s administration, which Democrats believe failed to continue vocally building support for his $780 billion stimulus act after it passed in 2009. The challenge for the Biden administration will be to highlight less obvious provisions, including the largest federal infusion in generations of aid to the poor, a substantial expansion of the child tax credit and increased subsidies for health insurance.Mr. Sperling’s challenge will be to meet Mr. Biden’s promises of transparency and accountability for those programs.The president and White House officials called Mr. Sperling well qualified for the task. He was the director of the National Economic Council under Mr. Obama and President Bill Clinton. In the Obama administration, where he first served as a counselor in the Treasury Department, Mr. Sperling helped to coordinate a bailout of Detroit automakers and other parts of the administration’s response to the 2008 financial crisis..css-yoay6m{margin:0 auto 5px;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-yoay6m{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-1dg6kl4{margin-top:5px;margin-bottom:15px;}.css-k59gj9{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-flex-direction:column;-ms-flex-direction:column;flex-direction:column;width:100%;}.css-1e2usoh{font-family:inherit;display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-box-pack:justify;-webkit-justify-content:space-between;-ms-flex-pack:justify;justify-content:space-between;border-top:1px solid #ccc;padding:10px 0px 10px 0px;background-color:#fff;}.css-1jz6h6z{font-family:inherit;font-weight:bold;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.5rem;text-align:left;}.css-1t412wb{box-sizing:border-box;margin:8px 15px 0px 15px;cursor:pointer;}.css-hhzar2{-webkit-transition:-webkit-transform ease 0.5s;-webkit-transition:transform ease 0.5s;transition:transform ease 0.5s;}.css-t54hv4{-webkit-transform:rotate(180deg);-ms-transform:rotate(180deg);transform:rotate(180deg);}.css-1r2j9qz{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-e1ipqs{font-size:1rem;line-height:1.5rem;padding:0px 30px 0px 0px;}.css-e1ipqs a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;}.css-e1ipqs a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}.css-1o76pdf{visibility:show;height:100%;padding-bottom:20px;}.css-1sw9s96{visibility:hidden;height:0px;}#masthead-bar-one{display:none;}#masthead-bar-one{display:none;}.css-1cz6wm{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;font-family:’nyt-franklin’,arial,helvetica,sans-serif;text-align:left;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1cz6wm{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-1cz6wm:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1cz6wm{border:none;padding:20px 0 0;border-top:1px solid #121212;}Frequently Asked Questions About the New Stimulus PackageThe stimulus payments would be $1,400 for most recipients. Those who are eligible would also receive an identical payment for each of their children. To qualify for the full $1,400, a single person would need an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or below. For heads of household, adjusted gross income would need to be $112,500 or below, and for married couples filing jointly that number would need to be $150,000 or below. To be eligible for a payment, a person must have a Social Security number. Read more. Buying insurance through the government program known as COBRA would temporarily become a lot cheaper. COBRA, for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, generally lets someone who loses a job buy coverage via the former employer. But it’s expensive: Under normal circumstances, a person may have to pay at least 102 percent of the cost of the premium. Under the relief bill, the government would pay the entire COBRA premium from April 1 through Sept. 30. A person who qualified for new, employer-based health insurance someplace else before Sept. 30 would lose eligibility for the no-cost coverage. And someone who left a job voluntarily would not be eligible, either. Read moreThis credit, which helps working families offset the cost of care for children under 13 and other dependents, would be significantly expanded for a single year. More people would be eligible, and many recipients would get a bigger break. The bill would also make the credit fully refundable, which means you could collect the money as a refund even if your tax bill was zero. “That will be helpful to people at the lower end” of the income scale, said Mark Luscombe, principal federal tax analyst at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting. Read more.There would be a big one for people who already have debt. You wouldn’t have to pay income taxes on forgiven debt if you qualify for loan forgiveness or cancellation — for example, if you’ve been in an income-driven repayment plan for the requisite number of years, if your school defrauded you or if Congress or the president wipes away $10,000 of debt for large numbers of people. This would be the case for debt forgiven between Jan. 1, 2021, and the end of 2025. Read more.The bill would provide billions of dollars in rental and utility assistance to people who are struggling and in danger of being evicted from their homes. About $27 billion would go toward emergency rental assistance. The vast majority of it would replenish the so-called Coronavirus Relief Fund, created by the CARES Act and distributed through state, local and tribal governments, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. That’s on top of the $25 billion in assistance provided by the relief package passed in December. To receive financial assistance — which could be used for rent, utilities and other housing expenses — households would have to meet several conditions. Household income could not exceed 80 percent of the area median income, at least one household member must be at risk of homelessness or housing instability, and individuals would have to qualify for unemployment benefits or have experienced financial hardship (directly or indirectly) because of the pandemic. Assistance could be provided for up to 18 months, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Lower-income families that have been unemployed for three months or more would be given priority for assistance. Read more.He advised Mr. Biden’s campaign informally in 2020, helping to hone the campaign’s “Build Back Better” policy agenda. Friends have described Mr. Sperling in recent months as eager to join the administration; he had been mentioned as a possible appointee to lead the Office of Management and Budget after Mr. Biden’s first nominee for that position, Neera Tanden, withdrew amid Senate opposition.Mr. Sperling’s challenge with the rescue plan will be different than the one Mr. Biden faced in 2009, because the relief bill differs starkly from Mr. Obama’s signature stimulus plan. The Biden plan is more than twice as large as Mr. Obama’s. It includes money meant to hasten the end of the pandemic, including billions for vaccine deployment and coronavirus testing. The plans also have similarities, including more than $400 billion each in total spending for school districts and state and local governments.Oversight of the $1.9 trillion relief legislation is currently expected to rely on the byzantine oversight architecture that was established in the stimulus packages Congress passed last year.The new effort will continue to rely on the Government Accountability Office and the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, a panel of inspectors general from across the federal government.Less clear is the fate of the Congressional Oversight Commission, the five-person bipartisan panel that was created to oversee the $500 billion Treasury Department fund that supported the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending programs and loans to airlines and companies that are critical to national security. The commission currently has only three members, and the Fed programs concluded at the end of last year.The commission’s report in January said that it planned to continue “analyzing loans, loan guarantees and investments that were made prior to program termination” and producing reports.It is not clear if the existing mechanisms will be sufficient for overseeing the money in the new relief package, which will pump billions of dollars into states and cities. Additional oversight measures are likely to be needed.A Treasury official said that the department would set up a process to monitor the use of funds that are being sent to states to ensure that they are used according to the eligibility requirements in the law.Like many Americans in the pandemic, Mr. Sperling will have to coordinate and navigate those efforts virtually, at least at first. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said on Monday that Mr. Sperling would work remotely from his home in California until he is vaccinated.AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    Treasury to Invest $9 Billion in Minority Communities

    AdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyTreasury to Invest $9 Billion in Minority CommunitiesTreasury Secretary Janet Yellen is making Community Development Financial Institutions central to achieving an inclusive economy.Sunshine Foss at her wine and spirits store, Happy Cork, in Brooklyn in November. Her store focuses on Black- and other minority-owned labels.Credit…Joshua Bright for The New York TimesMarch 4, 2021Updated 4:13 p.m. ETWASHINGTON — The Biden administration unveiled a plan on Thursday to invest $9 billion in minority communities, taking an initial step in fulfilling its promise to ensure that those who have been hit hardest by the pandemic have access to loans as the economy recovers.The Treasury Department said it was opening the application process for its Emergency Capital Investment Program, which will provide a major infusion of funds to Community Development Financial Institutions and Minority Depository Institutions as they look to step up lending.The effort is a priority of Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, who has warned that the fallout from the pandemic is exacerbating inequality in the United States.“America has always had financial services deserts, places where it’s very difficult for people to get their hands on capital so they can, for example, start a business,” Ms. Yellen said in a statement. “But the pandemic has made these deserts even more inhospitable.”She added: “The Emergency Capital Investment Program will help these places that the financial sector hasn’t typically served well.”Ms. Yellen has for years been an advocate for Community Development Financial Institutions, arguing that they are an important tool for fostering a more inclusive economy.The relief programs that were rolled out in 2020, such as the Paycheck Protection Program, for small businesses, drew criticism from minority groups, who said Black- and other minority-owned businesses were at a disadvantage in applying for a limited pool of funds because many had weaker banking relationships than their white-owned counterparts. A Federal Reserve Bank of New York study last year found that Black-owned businesses suffered the sharpest rate of closures in the first part of 2020.The Treasury Department is using funds that were approved in the $900 billion stimulus package that was passed in December and signed by former President Donald J. Trump.Community Development Financial Institutions, which provide affordable lending options to low-income consumers and businesses, were largely neglected under Mr. Trump and his Treasury Department. President Biden and Ms. Yellen have signaled that they will be critical for improving racial equity in the United States.The new program will make direct investments in local lenders that support small businesses and consumers in low-income communities. The investments will have low interest rates and provide lenders with greater incentives to offer small loans to those who are most in need, both in rural areas and in places where poverty is persistent.Treasury officials said they wanted the new program to reinforce the health of Community Development Financial Institutions. The department is also putting in place two separate programs to that will provide an additional $3 billion in grants and other support to the lenders.AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    What the Bond Market Is Telling Us About the Biden Economy

    AdvertisementContinue reading the main storyUpshotSupported byContinue reading the main storyWhat the Bond Market Is Telling Us About the Biden EconomyA recent rise in interest rates hints that a recovery is on the way, but it could also mean harder choices ahead on spending.Feb. 23, 2021, 5:00 a.m. ETTreasury Secretary Janet Yellen, right, at a White House meeting this month. She has emphasized that interest rates are crucial in determining how much the government should borrow and spend.Credit…Carlos Barria/ReutersWhile Washington debates the size of a new economic rescue plan, the bond market is sending a message: A meaningful acceleration in both growth and inflation in the years ahead looks more likely now than it did just a few weeks ago.That would be mostly good news, suggesting an economy recovering quickly from the pandemic. Interest rates remain very low by historical standards, even for the longest-term securities. Bond prices imply that inflation will be consistent with the Federal Reserve’s target of 2 percent annual rises in consumer prices, not a more worrisome spiral.[embedded content]But the surge in rates has brought an end to a period of several months when borrowing was essentially free, seemingly far into the future. For the Biden administration and the Federal Reserve, that implies that the free-lunch stage of the crisis is ending, and there could be harder questions ahead.In particular, it means that the downside of bad policy — federal spending that doesn’t generate much economic activity, for example — is higher than it was as recently as December.“We’re at a place where the markets are starting to grapple with the question of whether there are trade-offs between more stimulus today and potentially higher rates and more inflation down the road,” said Nathan Sheets, chief economist of PGIM Fixed Income and a former official at the Treasury and the Fed.The yield on 10-year Treasury bonds — the rate the United States government must pay to borrow money for a decade — was 1.37 percent Monday, low by historical standards but well above its recent low of 0.51 percent in August and 0.92 percent at the end of December. Those higher Treasury rates generally translate into higher mortgage rates and corporate borrowing costs, so the surge could take some of the air out of bubbly housing and financial markets.The inflation-adjusted interest rate the United States Treasury must pay to borrow money for 30 years was negative for much of the last year, meaning the government would pay investors back less in inflation-adjusted terms than it borrowed. Last week, the rate rose into positive territory for the first time since June and closed at 0.06 percent Monday. (For shorter time horizons, the “real yield” remains in negative territory.)That’s particularly striking given that Fed officials have repeatedly said they expect the short-term interest rate target they control to be near zero for quite some time — and bond investors appear to believe them. The yield on two-year Treasuries has barely budged in the same span.What is happening is known as a “steepening of the yield curve,” with long-term rates rising as short-term rates hold still. It tends to presage faster economic growth; it is the opposite of a “yield curve inversion,” which is known as a harbinger of recessions.But the flip side is that the moment appears to have passed when bond markets were giving the government an all-clear signal to do whatever was necessary to boost the economy, essentially making endless funding available at extraordinarily low cost. That could have implications for how the Biden administration approaches the rest of its economic agenda.Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has emphasized that low interest rates, which keep the cost of debt service low, are important in her thinking about how much the government can comfortably borrow and spend.At The New York Times’s DealBook conference on Monday, Ms. Yellen, after noting that the government’s ratio of debt to the size of the economy is much larger than it was before the global financial crisis, said: “Look at a different metric, which is more important, which is what is the cost of that debt. Look for example at interest payments on the debt as a share of G.D.P.,” which is below 2007 levels.“So I think we have more fiscal space than we used to because of the interest rate environment,” Ms. Yellen told the Times’s Andrew Ross Sorkin.By implication, the further that bond yields rise, and inflation expectations along with them, the more the Biden administration would view their potential spending to be constrained. Congress is now at work on a $1.9 trillion pandemic aid package, which Democratic leaders hope to pass in March. They envision a large-scale infrastructure plan after that.Jerome Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, will face questions from Congress on Tuesday about the central bank’s policies. In other recent appearances, he has emphasized the importance of returning the economy to full health above all other goals, and stressed that inflation has been persistently too low rather than too high over the last decade.“Fed Chair Powell has taken each and every opportunity to reassure investors that the Fed would consider near-term inflationary pressure to be transitory,” said Katie Nixon, chief investment officer at Northern Trust Wealth Management. “The market is taking the Fed at its word that short rates will be anchored at zero for a considerable time.”The gap between the prices of regular and inflation-protected bonds as of Friday’s close imply that the Consumer Price Index is expected to rise 2.29 percent a year over the next five years, and 1.99 percent a year for the five years after that. The Fed aims for 2 percent annual inflation as measured by a different index that tends to be somewhat lower, meaning these so-called “inflation break-evens” are broadly consistent with the central bank’s goals.Put it all together, and the surge in rates so far is basically an optimistic sign that the post-pandemic economy will mark the end of a long period of sluggish growth. But the speed of the adjustment is a reminder that the line between too hot and just right is a narrow one.AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    How Full Employment Became Washington’s Creed

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Jobs CrisisCurrent Unemployment RateThe First Six MonthsPermanent LayoffsWhen a $600 Lifeline EndedAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyHow Full Employment Became Washington’s CreedPolicymakers are eager to return to the period of low unemployment that preceded the pandemic and are less concerned than in previous eras about sparking inflation and taking on debt.People wait in line to receive donations at a food pantry in New York City earlier this month. Policymakers agree that a return to a hot job market should be a central goal.Credit…Mohamed Sadek for The New York TimesJan. 18, 2021, 3:29 p.m. ETAs President-elect Joseph R. Biden, Jr. prepares to take office this week, his administration and the Federal Reserve are pointed toward a singular economic goal: Get the job market back to where it was before the pandemic hit.The humming labor backdrop that existed 11 months ago — with 3.5 percent unemployment, stable or rising work force participation and steadily climbing wages — turned out to be a recipe for lifting all boats, creating economic opportunities for long-disenfranchised groups and lowering poverty rates. And price gains remained manageable and even a touch on the low side. That contrasts with efforts to push the labor market’s limits in the 1960s, which are widely blamed for laying the groundwork for runaway inflation.Then the pandemic cut the test run short, and efforts to contain the virus prompted joblessness to skyrocket to levels not seen since the Great Depression. The recovery has since been interrupted by additional waves of contagion, keeping millions of workers sidelined and causing job losses to recommence.Policymakers across government agree that a return to that hot job market should be a central goal, a notable shift from the last economic expansion and one that could help shape the economic rebound.Mr. Biden has made clear that his administration will focus on workers and has chosen top officials with a job market focus. He has tapped Janet L. Yellen, a labor economist and the former Fed chair, as his Treasury secretary and Marty Walsh, a former union leader, as his Labor secretary.In the past, lawmakers and Fed officials tended to preach allegiance to full employment — the lowest jobless rate an economy can sustain without stoking high inflation or other instabilities — while pulling back fiscal and monetary support before hitting that target as they worried that a more patient approach would cause price spikes and other problems.That timidity appears less likely to rear its head this time around.Mr. Biden is set to take office as Democrats control the House and Senate and at a time when many politicians have become less worried about the government taking on debt thanks to historically low borrowing costs. And the Fed, which has a track record of lifting interest rates as unemployment falls and as Congress spends more than it collects in taxes, has committed to greater patience this time around.“Economic research confirms that with conditions like the crisis today, especially with such low interest rates, taking immediate action — even with deficit finance — is going to help the economy, long-term and short-term,” Mr. Biden said at a news conference on Jan. 8, highlighting that quick action would “reduce scarring in the work force.”Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, said on Thursday that his institution is tightly focused on restoring rock-bottom unemployment rates.“That’s really the thing that we’re most focused on — is getting back to a strong labor market quickly enough that people’s lives can get back to where they want to be,” Mr. Powell said. “We were in a good place in February of 2020, and we think we can get back there, I would say, much sooner than we had feared.”The stage is set for a macroeconomic experiment, one that will test whether big government spending packages and growth-friendly central bank policies can work together to foster a fast rebound that includes a broad swath of Americans without incurring harmful side effects.“The thing about the Fed is that it really is the tide that lifts all boats,” said Nela Richardson, chief economist at the payroll processor ADP, explaining that the labor-focused central bank can set the groundwork for robust growth. “What fiscal policy can do is target specific communities in ways that the Fed can’t.”The government has spent readily to shore up the economy in the face of the pandemic, and analysts expect that more help is on the way. The Biden administration has suggested an ambitious $1.9 trillion spending package.President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has appointed top officials with a job market focus.Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York TimesWhile that probably won’t pass in its entirety, at least some more fiscal spending seems likely. Economists at Goldman Sachs expect Congress to actually pass another $1.1 trillion in relief during the first quarter of 2021, adding to the $2 trillion pandemic relief package passed in March and the $900 billion in additional aid passed in December.That would help to stoke a faster recovery this year. Goldman economists estimate that the spending could help to push the unemployment rate to 4.5 percent by the end of 2021. Joblessness stood at 6.7 percent in December, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said earlier this month.Such a government-aided rebound would come in stark contrast to what happened during the 2007 to 2009 recession. Back then, Congress’s biggest package to counter the fallout of the downturn was the $800 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, passed in 2009. It was exhausted long before the unemployment rate finally dipped below 5 percent, in early 2016.At the time, concern over the deficit helped to stem more aggressive fiscal policy responses. And concerns about economic overheating pushed the Fed to begin lifting interest rates — albeit very slowly — in late 2015. As the unemployment rate dropped, central bankers worried that wage and price inflation might wait around the corner and were eager to return policy to a more “normal” setting.But economic thinking has undergone a sea change since then. Fiscal authorities have become more confident running up the public debt at a time of very low interest rates, when it isn’t so costly to do so.Fed officials are now much more modest about judging whether or not the economy is at “full employment.” In the wake of the 2008 crisis, they thought that joblessness was testing its healthy limits, but unemployment went on to drop sharply without fueling runaway price increases.In August 2020, Mr. Powell said that he and his colleagues will now focus on “shortfalls” from full employment, rather than “deviations.” Unless inflation is actually picking up or financial risks loom large, they will view falling unemployment as a welcome development and not a risk to be averted.That means interest rates are likely to remain near zero for years. Top Fed officials have also signaled that they expect to continue buying vast sums of government-backed bonds, about $120 billion per month, for at least months to come.Fed support could help government spending kick demand into high gear. Households are expected to amass big savings stockpiles as they receive stimulus checks early in 2021, then draw them down as vaccines become widespread and normal economic life resumes. Low rates might make big investments — like houses — more attractive.Still, some analysts warn that today’s policies could result in future problems, like runaway inflation, financial market risk-taking or a damaging debt overhang.In the mid-to-late 1960s, Fed officials were tightly focused on chasing full employment. As they tested how far they could push the job market, they did not try to head inflation off as it crept up and saw higher prices as a trade off for lower joblessness. When America took its final steps away from the gold standard and an oil price shock hit in the early 1970s, price gains took off — and it took massive monetary belt-tightening by the Fed and years of serious economic pain to tame them.Many politicians have become less worried about government borrowing thanks to historically low interest rates.Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York TimesThere are reasons to believe that this time is different. Inflation has been low for decades and remains contained across the world. The link between unemployment and wages, and wages and prices, has been more tenuous than in decades past. From Japan to Europe, the problem of the era is weak price gains that trap economies in cycles of stagnation by eroding room to cut interest rates during time of trouble, not excessively fast inflation.And economists increasingly say that, while there may be costs from long periods of growth-friendly fiscal and monetary policy, there are also costs from being too cautious. Tapping the brakes on a labor market expansion earlier than is needed can leave workers who would have gotten a boost from a strong job market on the sidelines.The period before the pandemic showed just what an excessively cautious policy setting risks missing. By 2020, Black and Hispanic unemployment had dropped to record lows. Participation for prime-age workers, which was expected to remain permanently depressed, had actually picked up somewhat. Wages were climbing fastest for the lowest earners.It’s not clear whether 3.5 percent unemployment will be the exact level America will achieve again. What is clear is that many policymakers want to test what the economy is capable of, rather than guessing at a magic figure in advance.“There’s a danger in computing a number and saying, that means we are there,” Mary C. Daly, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, said at an event earlier this month. “We’re going to learn about these things experientially, and that to me is the right risk management posture.”AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More