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    Biden’s New Vaccine Push Is a Fight for the U.S. Economy

    The effort reflects the continuing and evolving threat the coronavirus pandemic poses to the economic recovery.WASHINGTON — President Biden’s aggressive move to expand the number of vaccinated Americans and halt the spread of the Delta variant is not just an effort to save lives. It is also an attempt to counter the continuing and evolving threat that the virus poses to the economy.Delta’s rise has been fueled in part by the inability of Mr. Biden and his administration to persuade millions of vaccine-refusing Americans to inoculate themselves against the virus. That has created another problem: a drag on the economic recovery. Real-time gauges of restaurant visits, airline travel and other services show consumers pulled back on some face-to-face spending in recent weeks.After weeks of playing down the threat that a new wave of infections posed to the recovery, the president and his team blamed Delta for slowing job growth in August. “We’re in a tough stretch,” he conceded on Thursday, after heralding the economic progress made under his administration so far this year, “and it could last for a while.”The virus threatens the recovery even though consumers and business owners are not retrenching the way they did when the coronavirus began to spread in the United States in the spring of 2020. Far fewer states and cities have imposed restrictions on business activity than in previous waves, and administration officials vowed on Thursday that the nation would not return to “lockdowns or shutdowns.”But a surge in deaths crippled consumer confidence in August and portends a possible chill in fall spending as people again opt for limited in-person commerce. The unchecked spread of the virus has also contributed to a rapid drop in the president’s approval ratings — even among Democrats.The explosion of new cases and deaths also appears to have deterred many would-be workers from accepting open jobs in businesses across the country, economists say. That comes as businesses and consumers are complaining about a labor shortage and as administration officials pin their hopes on rising wages to power consumer spending in place of fading government support for distressed families.The plan Mr. Biden announced on Thursday would mandate vaccinations for federal employees and contractors and for millions of health care workers, along with new Labor Department rules requiring vaccines or weekly tests for employees at companies with more than 100 employees. It would push for more testing, offer more aid to small businesses, call on schools to adopt vaccine requirements and provide easy access to booster shots for eligible Americans. The president estimated the requirements would affect 100 million Americans, or about two-thirds of all workers.“We have the tools to combat the virus,” he said, “if we can come together and use those tools.”Mr. Biden faces political risks from his actions, which drew swift backlash from many conservative lawmakers who accused him of violating the Constitution and abusing his powers.But administration officials have always viewed vaccinating more Americans as the primary strategy for reviving the recovery.“This is an economic downturn that has been spawned from a public health crisis,” Cecilia Rouse, the chairwoman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said last month in an interview. “So we will get back to economic health when we get past the virus, when we return to public health as well.”That is likely true even in places that already have high inoculation rates. Mr. Biden’s inability thus far to break through vaccine hesitancy, particularly in conservative areas, has also become a psychological spending drag on those in highly vaccinated areas. That is because vaccinated Americans appear more likely to pull back on travel, dining out and other activity out of fear of the virus.“People who vaccinate themselves very early are people who are already very careful,” said Jesús Fernández-Villaverde, a University of Pennsylvania economist who has studied the interplay between the pandemic and the economy. “People who do not vaccinate themselves are less careful. So there is a multiplier effect” when it comes to those kinds of decisions.The economic effect from the virus varies by region, and it has changed in key ways over the course of the pandemic. In some heavily vaccinated parts of the country — including liberal states packed with Mr. Biden’s supporters — virus-wary Americans have pulled back on economic activity, even though infection rates in their areas are low. In some less-vaccinated states like Texas that have experienced a large Delta wave, data suggest rising hospitalization and death rates are not driving down activity as much as they did in previous waves.“It appears the latest Covid surge has been less impactful on the economy than previous surges in Texas,” said Laila Assanie, a senior business economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, which surveys employers in the state each month about their activity during the pandemic.Business owners, Ms. Assanie said, “said they were better prepared this time around.”The threat of the Delta variant has caused consumers to pull back on some face-to-face spending.Brittainy Newman for The New York TimesRespondents to the survey said consumer spending had not fallen off as much this summer, compared with the initial spread of the coronavirus in March 2020 or a renewed spike last winter, even as case and hospitalization rates neared their previous peak from January. But many employers reported staffing pressures from workers falling ill with the virus. The share of businesses reporting that concerns about the pandemic were an impediment to hiring workers tripled from July to August.Data from Homebase, which provides time-management software to small businesses, show that employment in entertainment, dining and other coronavirus-sensitive sectors has fallen in recent weeks as the Delta variant has spread. But the decline is smaller than during the spike in cases last winter, suggesting that economic activity has become less sensitive to the pandemic over time. Other measures likewise show that economic activity has slowed but not collapsed as cases have risen..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-w739ur{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;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-w739ur{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-9s9ecg{margin-bottom:15px;}.css-16ed7iq{width:100%;display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-align-items:center;-webkit-box-align:center;-ms-flex-align:center;align-items:center;-webkit-box-pack:center;-webkit-justify-content:center;-ms-flex-pack:center;justify-content:center;padding:10px 0;background-color:white;}.css-pmm6ed{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-align-items:center;-webkit-box-align:center;-ms-flex-align:center;align-items:center;}.css-pmm6ed > :not(:first-child){margin-left:5px;}.css-5gimkt{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:0.8125rem;font-weight:700;-webkit-letter-spacing:0.03em;-moz-letter-spacing:0.03em;-ms-letter-spacing:0.03em;letter-spacing:0.03em;text-transform:uppercase;color:#333;}.css-5gimkt:after{content:’Collapse’;}.css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transition:all 0.5s ease;transition:all 0.5s ease;-webkit-transform:rotate(180deg);-ms-transform:rotate(180deg);transform:rotate(180deg);}.css-eb027h{max-height:5000px;-webkit-transition:max-height 0.5s ease;transition:max-height 0.5s ease;}.css-6mllg9{-webkit-transition:all 0.5s ease;transition:all 0.5s ease;position:relative;opacity:0;}.css-6mllg9:before{content:”;background-image:linear-gradient(180deg,transparent,#ffffff);background-image:-webkit-linear-gradient(270deg,rgba(255,255,255,0),#ffffff);height:80px;width:100%;position:absolute;bottom:0px;pointer-events:none;}.css-uf1ume{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;}.css-wxi1cx{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-flex-direction:column;-ms-flex-direction:column;flex-direction:column;-webkit-align-self:flex-end;-ms-flex-item-align:end;align-self:flex-end;}.css-12vbvwq{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;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}That trend has helped bolster overall consumer spending and hiring in the short term and helped keep the economy on track for its fastest annual growth in a quarter century. But there is a risk that it will be undercut by a continued pandemic dampening of labor force participation. Economists who have tracked the issue say that even if consumers have grown more accustomed to shopping or dining out as cases rise, there is little sign that would-be workers, even vaccinated ones, have become more accepting of the risks of returning to service jobs as the pandemic rages.“It’s becoming increasingly clear that employers are eager to hire,” said Andrew Atkeson, an economist at the University of California at Los Angeles who has released several papers on the economics of the pandemic. “The problem is not that people aren’t spending. It’s that people are still reluctant to go back to work”The Delta wave also appears to be sidelining some workers by disrupting child care and, in some cases, schools — forcing parents to take time off or to delay returning to jobs.Some forecasters believe the combination of rising vaccination rates and a growing share of Americans who have already contracted the virus will soon arrest the Delta wave and set the economy back on track for rapid growth, with small-business hiring and restaurant visits rebounding as soon as the end of this month. “Now is the time to start thinking about the post-Delta world,” Ian Shepherdson, the chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, wrote in a research note this month.Other economists see the possibility that a continued Delta wave — or a surge from another variant in the months to come — will substantially slow the recovery, because potential workers in particular remain sensitive to the spread of the virus.“That’s a very real danger,” said Austan Goolsbee, a former head of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Barack Obama whose research earlier in the pandemic showed fear, not government restrictions, was the driving force behind lost economic activity from the virus.“At the same time,” Mr. Goolsbee said, “it also shows promise: the fact that when we get control of the spread of the virus, or even stabilize the spread of the virus, the economy wants to come back.”The greatest lift to the country, and likely to Mr. Biden’s popularity, from finally curbing the virus would not be regained business sales or jobs created. It would be stemming a death toll that has climbed to about 650,000 since the pandemic began.“I always tell undergraduates, when they take economics with me, that economics is not about optimizing output,” said Mr. Fernández-Villaverde, the University of Pennsylvania economist. “It’s about optimizing welfare. And if you’re dead, you’re not getting a lot of welfare.”Ben Casselman More

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    Biden's Infrastructure Plan: Scarcity of Skilled Workers Poses Challenge

    One estimate says the bill would add $1.4 trillion to the U.S. economy over eight years, but without enough workers, efforts to strengthen roads and public transit could be set back.WASHINGTON — The infrastructure bill that President Biden hopes to get through Congress is supposed to create jobs and spur projects for companies like Anchor Construction, which specializes in repairing aging bridges and roadways in the nation’s capital.But with baby boomers aging out of the work force and not enough young people to replace them, John M. Irvine, a senior vice president at Anchor, worries there will not be enough workers to hire for all those new projects.“I’d be surprised if there’s any firm out there saying they’re ready for this,” said Mr. Irvine, whose company is hiring about a dozen skilled laborers, pipe layers and concrete finishers. If the bill passes Congress, he said, the company will most likely have to double the amount it is hiring.“We will have to staff up,” Mr. Irvine said. “And no, there are not enough skilled workers to fill these jobs.”Mr. Biden has hailed the $1 trillion infrastructure bill as a way to create millions of jobs, but as the country faces a dire shortage of skilled workers, researchers and economists say companies may find it difficult to fill all of those positions.The bill could generate new jobs in industries critical to keeping the nation’s public works systems running, such as construction, transportation and energy. S&P Global Ratings estimated that the bill would lift productivity and economic growth, adding $1.4 trillion to the U.S. economy over eight years. But if there is not enough labor to keep up with the demand, efforts to strengthen the nation’s highways, bridges and public transit could be set back.“Do we have the work force ready right now to take care of this? Absolutely not,” said Beverly Scott, the vice chair of the President’s National Infrastructure Advisory Council..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-1kpebx{margin:0 auto;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1kpebx{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-1gtxqqv{margin-bottom:0;}.css-19zsuqr{display:block;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}.css-12vbvwq{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;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}A recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce survey found that 88 percent of commercial construction contractors reported moderate-to-high levels of difficulty finding skilled workers, and more than a third had to turn down work because of labor deficiencies. The industry could face a shortage of at least two million workers through 2025, according to an estimate from Construction Industry Resources, a data firm in Kentucky.The pandemic has compounded labor shortages, as sectors like construction see a boom in home projects with more people teleworking and moving to the suburbs. Contractors have also faced a scarcity of supplies as prices soared for products like lumber and steel.Job openings in construction have picked up at a rapid clip after the sector lost more than one million jobs at the beginning of the pandemic. According to an Associated Builders and Contractors analysis, construction job openings have increased by 12 percent from prepandemic levels. But the sector is still down about 232,000 jobs from February 2020, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.The issue underscores a perennial challenge for the skilled trades. Not enough young people are entering the sectors, a concern for companies as older workers retire from construction, carpentry and plumbing jobs. And although many skilled trade positions have competitive wages and lower educational barriers to entry, newer generations tend to see a four-year college degree as the default path to success.Infrastructure workers tend to be older than average, raising concerns about workers retiring and leaving behind difficult-to-fill positions. The median age of construction and building inspectors, for instance, is 53, compared with 42.5 for all workers nationwide. Only 10 percent of infrastructure workers are under 25, while 13 percent of all U.S. workers are in that age group, according to a Brookings Institution analysis.“The challenge is, how are we going to replace — not just grow, but replace — many of the workers who are retiring or leaving jobs?” said Joseph W. Kane, a fellow at the Brookings Institution. “​A lot of people, especially younger people, just aren’t even aware that these jobs exist.”Community colleges, which offer a variety of vocational training programs, have suffered steep declines in enrollment. A recent estimate from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center found that community colleges were the hardest hit among all colleges, with enrollment declining by 9.5 percent this spring. More than 65 percent of the total undergraduate enrollment losses this spring occurred at community colleges, according to the report.John M. Irvine, a senior vice president at Anchor Construction, worries there will not be enough workers to hire for new projects.Alyssa Schukar for The New York TimesNicholas Kadavy, a third-generation mason who owns Nebraska Masonry in Lincoln, Neb., has seen his workload triple since April. He said his company had already scheduled out work until June 2022.He wants to hire more skilled masons to finish the projects sooner, but he can’t find enough people to fill the dozen positions he has open, even though he is willing to pay up to $50 an hour — twice what he offered before the pandemic. He checks his email daily, waiting for more applications to come in.“My biggest struggle is finding guys that want to work,” Mr. Kadavy said.Even when he does hear from applicants, Mr. Kadavy said, he is unable to hire many of them because they are not qualified enough. He was already seeing a shortage of skilled masons before the pandemic, he said, and he worries that the craft is “dying” because newer generations are not pursuing the field.The nation’s public transit systems would receive $39 billion under the infrastructure bill, allowing agencies to expand service and upgrade decades-old infrastructure. But transit agencies are dealing with worker shortages of their own, facing a dearth of bus drivers, subway operators and maintenance technicians.Metro Transit in Minneapolis is trying to hire about 100 bus drivers by the end of the year, said Brian Funk, the agency’s acting chief operating officer. The agency had originally aimed to hire 70 workers by the end of June, but it met only about half of that goal.Although he is optimistic that the agency will be able to fill those remaining positions after ramping up efforts to promote the openings, he said he was still wary about some workers choosing to leave.“We know that every day that goes by, there’s the potential that somebody else is looking at either retirement or another job,” Mr. Funk said.Some are optimistic that policymakers will be able to scale up work force development programs to keep up with the demand the infrastructure bill would create. Projects could take several months to get started, economists said, giving the country time to train workers who are not yet qualified.“These problems are not insurmountable,” said Nicole Smith, the chief economist at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. “Not having a sufficiently trained work force is something that can be addressed.”But others are worried that the bill does not do enough to draw more people into infrastructure fields, especially historically underrepresented groups like women and people of color. Although Mr. Biden originally proposed a $100 billion investment in work force development, that funding was left out in the latest version of the bipartisan infrastructure bill. The funding would have invested in job training for formerly incarcerated people and created millions of registered apprenticeships, among other things.Last week, the National Skills Coalition and more than 500 other organizations sent a letter to congressional leadership calling on it to include the funding in a separate reconciliation bill.“President Biden promised that economic recovery was going to be predicated on equity,” said Andy Van Kleunen, the chief executive of the National Skills Coalition. “Work force training has to be part of that answer.” More

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    U.S. Debt Default Could Come in October, Yellen Warns

    WASHINGTON — The United States could default on its debt sometime in October if Congress does not take action to raise or suspend the debt limit, Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen warned on Wednesday.The “extraordinary measures” that the Treasury Department has been employing to finance the government on a temporary basis since Aug. 1 will be exhausted next month, Ms. Yellen said in a letter to lawmakers. She added that the exact timing remained unclear but that time to avert an economic catastrophe was running out.“Once all available measures and cash on hand are fully exhausted, the United States of America would be unable to meet its obligations for the first time in our history,” Ms. Yellen wrote.To delay a default, Treasury has in the last month suspended investments in the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund, the Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund and the Government Securities Investment Fund of the Federal Employees Retirement System Thrift Savings Plan.The distribution of pandemic relief payments this year and uncertainty over incoming tax payments this month have made it more challenging than usual to predict when funds will run out. Ms. Yellen said that a default would cause “irreparable harm” to the U.S. economy and to global financial markets and that even coming close to defaulting could be harmful.“We have learned from past debt limit impasses that waiting until the last minute to suspend or increase the debt limit can cause serious harm to business and consumer confidence, raise short-term borrowing costs for taxpayers and negatively impact the credit rating of the United States,” she wrote.Democratic leaders have been insisting for months that Republicans join them in raising the debt ceiling, saying the government hit its last debt limit because of the spending and tax cutting of the Trump administration, what Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California on Wednesday called “the Trump credit card.”But Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, has been just as emphatic that he will keep Senate Republicans from helping Democrats on the issue. Democrats may try to attach the increase to measures such as an emergency spending bill to pay for relief and reconstruction after Hurricane Ida, wildfires and heat waves from the summer — daring senators from Louisiana and Western states to vote no.The showdown has again put the parties into a game of chicken, with a debt default and potential economic crisis as the consequence.Ms. Pelosi, at her weekly news conference on Wednesday, said emphatically that Democrats would not include a statutory increase in the government’s borrowing authority in a budget bill being drafted this month. That bill, under complicated budget rules, could pass without Republican votes in the Senate.Instead, Democratic leaders will dare Senate Republicans to filibuster a bill that does raise the debt ceiling.“We Democrats supported lifting the debt ceiling” during the Trump administration, she said, “because it was the responsible thing to do.” She added, “I would hope that the Republicans would act in a similarly responsible way.”Democrats have several options they are considering. The government will run out of operating funds at the end of the month, so a debt ceiling increase could be attached to a stopgap spending measure — meaning a Republican filibuster would not only jeopardize the government’s full faith and credit, it could shut down the government.Democrats could also attach it to a major infrastructure bill that passed the Senate with bipartisan support and is supposed to get a House vote by Sept. 27. More

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    Democrats and Lobbyists to Battle Over Tax Increases for Biden’s Social Policy Bill

    Congressional committees this week begin drafting tax increases on the wealthy and corporations to pay for a $3.5 trillion social policy bill, but the targets are putting up a fight.WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats always knew their battle plan for raising taxes on corporations, large inheritances and the superwealthy would not survive initial contact with the enemy.They just didn’t realize that enemy would be North Dakota-nice Heidi Heitkamp.The Democratic former senator has emerged as the smiling face of a well-financed effort to defeat a proposed tax increase that is crucial to funding the $3.5 trillion social spending bill at the heart of President Biden’s agenda. Her effort is indicative of the difficult slog ahead as the business lobby mobilizes to chip away at Democrats’ tax-raising ambitions, which some lawmakers say will have to be scaled back to maintain party unity, an assessment the White House has disputed.On Thursday, the House Ways and Means Committee is set to begin formally drafting its voluminous piece of the 10-year measure to combat climate change and reweave the nation’s social safety net, with paid family and medical leave, expanded public education, new Medicare benefits and more. The committee’s purview includes much of that social policy, but also the tax increases needed to pay for it.Democrats had hoped that the tax side would be more than notations on an accounting ledger. They regard it as an opportunity to fundamentally change policies to address growing income inequality, reduce incentives for corporations to move jobs and profits overseas, and slow the amassing of huge fortunes that pass through generations untaxed.But corporate interests, led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable and Americans for Tax Reform, have mobilized a multifaceted lobbying and advertising blitz to stop the tax increases — or at least mitigate them.“They’re lobbying to try to escape their obligation to pay the taxes they owe, leaving working families to pay a larger share of the burden,” Mr. Biden said at the White House on Friday. “Somebody has got to pay.”The $3.5 trillion social spending bill would help fund expanded public education.Clara Mokri for The New York TimesMembers of the Senate Finance Committee will meet this week to go over more than two dozen tax proposals. Some of them are well on their way toward inclusion in the measure, which under a complex budget process known as reconciliation would be able to pass Congress without a single Republican vote.Lobbyists expect the top individual income tax rate to return to 39.6 percent from the 37 percent rate that President Donald J. Trump’s tax cuts created in 2017. The corporate income tax rate will also rise from the 21 percent in the Trump tax cuts, though not to the 35 percent rate of the Obama years. Lawmakers say a 25 percent rate is more likely.Many Democrats are determined to tax the wealth of America’s fabulously rich, much of which goes untaxed for decades before being passed along to heirs. Currently, for instance, when large estates are passed on at death, heirs are allowed to value the stocks, real estate and other assets at the price they would fetch at the time of the original owner’s death. They pay taxes only on the gain in value from that point once the assets are sold. If the assets are not sold, they are not taxed at all..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-1kpebx{margin:0 auto;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1kpebx{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-1gtxqqv{margin-bottom:0;}.css-19zsuqr{display:block;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}.css-12vbvwq{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;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}Mr. Biden wants to have heirs to large fortunes pay taxes when the original owner dies. Those taxes would be levied on inherited assets based on the gain in value from when those assets were initially purchased.Ms. Heitkamp, who said she was recruited to the opposition campaign by the Democratic former senator-turned-superlobbyist John Breaux, is adamant that taxation upon death, regardless of wealth, is deadly politics. Ms. Heitkamp said she was finding a receptive audience among potential swing voters in rural areas, especially owners of family farms, even though Democrats say such voters would never be affected by the changes under consideration. Lobbyists already expect this piece of the estate tax changes to wash out in the lobbying deluge.“This is very consistent with my concern about revitalizing the Democratic Party in rural America,” Ms. Heitkamp said. “You may want to do this,” she said she had counseled her former colleagues, “but understand there will be risk, and risk is the entire agenda.”Even more significantly, the Finance Committee is looking at taxing the accumulated wealth of billionaires, regardless of whether it is sold. Extremely wealthy Americans like the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos would have a decade to pay a one-time tax on the value of assets like stocks that have been accruing value for years. They would then pay taxes each year on the annual gain in value of their stocks, bonds and other assets, much like many Americans pay property taxes on the annually assessed value of their homes.Another key component is the international tax code. The Biden administration has called for doubling the tax that companies pay on foreign earnings to 21 percent, so the United States complies with an international tax deal that the administration is brokering, which would usher in a global corporate minimum tax of at least 15 percent.The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development announced in July that more than 130 countries had agreed to the new framework, which aims to eliminate tax havens and end a race to the bottom on corporate tax rates. Officials have been rushing to confirm the details before the Group of 20 leaders meet in Rome in October.Extremely wealthy Americans like the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos would have a decade to pay a one-time tax on the value of assets such as stocks that have been accruing value for years.Mandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesBut countries such as France are concerned that the United States will not be able to live up to its end of the bargain if Congress cannot raise the minimum tax.The moment of truth is approaching. Representative Lloyd Doggett of Texas, a senior Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, and 40 other members of his party on Tuesday backed the White House. Yet some Democratic lawmakers have expressed concern that U.S. companies would still be at a competitive disadvantage if other countries enacted minimum tax rates as low as 15 percent and the United States had a higher rate.Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen addressed those concerns in a Twitter post on Friday.“As Congress begins to finalize their legislation, I urge them to remember the historic opportunity that we have to end the race to the bottom and finally have a foreign policy and a tax code that works for the middle class,” she wrote.Republicans are already on the attack. After the disappointing monthly jobs report on Friday, Representative Kevin Brady of Texas, the ranking Republican on the Ways and Means Committee, said the slowing economy would “only get worse if the Democrats’ trillions in tax hikes and welfare spending is rammed through Congress in September.”Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the chairman of the Finance Committee, said he understood that business groups and Republicans would howl that the tax increases would kill jobs, stifle the economy and hurt ordinary, struggling Americans.“The big lobbies are going to attack you under any circumstance,” he said, “and half the time they’re just making it up.”But he insisted that the politics had changed. Americans who struggled during the coronavirus pandemic can see how rich others have become. New revelations from a trove of tax records leaked to ProPublica showed that household names like Mr. Bezos and Elon Musk paid virtually no federal taxes.Other lawmakers are not so sure, especially in the House, where midterm campaigns loom and a razor-thin Democratic majority is clearly at risk. Among the most vulnerable members are those from conservative-leaning districts where tax increases are particularly unpopular.“No one wants to throw the House away,” said Representative Donald S. Beyer Jr., Democrat of Virginia, a member of the Ways and Means Committee. “We’re all mindful of our frontline candidates.”Estate and capital gains tax changes proposed by the president and embraced by Mr. Wyden are aimed at the superrich, but the campaign against them frames the issue around family farms and small businesses. Ms. Heitkamp rebuffed Mr. Wyden’s assurance that he could structure the changes to affect only the very wealthy and the gain in value of their assets without taxation.“People don’t believe that, because they believe that rich people always have the lane to get into Congress,” she said. “I get that you’re trying to deal with a huge disparity in wealth in this country, and I get that you are concerned about that for the future of America. I share the concern. Taxing unrealized capital gains is not the path forward.”Some lawmakers and tax lobbyists are already circulating a document handicapping which measures are likely to survive — and which are not. A corporate tax rate increase at home and abroad is likely to pass, though it may not be as high as some Democrats would like. So is a higher top income tax rate on individuals. Capital gains tax rates are expected to rise somewhat, though not to the ordinary income tax rate of 39.6 percent for the very rich, as Mr. Biden has proposed.A measure to increase tax law enforcement, which fell out of a separate bipartisan infrastructure bill, is likely to reappear in the reconciliation bill.But lobbyists expect the proposal to make heirs pay immediate taxes on inheritances based on asset purchase prices to fall out of the plan.They also see a straight, 15 percent minimum tax on overseas income as imperiled. Even some measures that looked like slam dunks may still be rejected because of the back-room lobbying campaign that has just begun.“They’re lobbying to try to escape their obligation to pay the taxes they owe, leaving working families to pay a larger share of the burden,” Mr. Biden said of corporate interests on Friday at the White House.Stefani Reynolds for The New York TimesThat includes closing the so-called carried interest loophole, which allows richly compensated private equity and hedge fund managers to claim the fees they charge clients as investment income, subject to low capital gains tax rates, not income tax rates. Every president since Barack Obama has denounced the provision and demanded its closure, only to lose to influential lobbyists.The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday started a campaign to stop the loophole from being closed, saying doing so “would reduce investment, lead to widespread job losses and decrease tax revenues.” Mr. Wyden called the assertions “insulting to the intelligence of every American.”Administration officials insisted that taxing the rich and corporations would help sell the bill.“Should we let millions of children grow up in poverty in order to protect offshore tax loopholes?” Kate Bedingfield, the White House communications director, wrote to House Democrats in a memo on Tuesday. “Should we let middle-class families bear crushing costs for child care and elder care rather than asking the very richest among us to pay their fair share? Those are the questions before us.” More

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    From Cradle to Grave, Democrats Move to Expand Social Safety Net

    The $3.5 trillion social policy bill that lawmakers begin drafting this week would touch virtually every American, at every point in life, from conception to old age.WASHINGTON — When congressional committees meet this week to begin formally drafting Democrats’ ambitious social policy plan, they will be undertaking the most significant expansion of the nation’s safety net since the war on poverty in the 1960s, devising legislation that would touch virtually every American’s life, from conception to aged infirmity.Passage of the bill, which could spend as much as $3.5 trillion over the next decade, is anything but certain. President Biden, who has staked much of his domestic legacy on the measure’s enactment, will need the vote of every single Democrat in the Senate, and virtually every one in the House, to secure it. And with two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, saying they would not accept such a costly plan, it will challenge Democratic unity like nothing has since the Affordable Care Act.That is largely because the proposed legislation would be so transformative — a cradle-to-grave reweaving of a social safety net frayed by decades of expanding income inequality, stagnating wealth and depleted governmental resources, capped by the worst public health crisis in a century.The pandemic loosened the reins on federal spending, prompting members of both parties to support showering the economy with aid. It also uncorked decades-old policy desires — like expanding Medicare coverage or paid family and medical leave — that Democrats contend have proved to be necessities as the country has lived through the coronavirus crisis.“Polls have shown for a very long time that these issues to support American families were important, and were popular, but all of a sudden they became not a ‘nice to have’ but a ‘must have,’” said Heather Boushey, a member of Mr. Biden’s Council of Economic Advisers who has been developing such policies for decades.Democrats say they will finance their spending with proposed tax increases on corporations — which has already incited a multifaceted, big-budget effort by business groups working to kill the idea — and by possibly taxing wealth in ways that the United States has never tried before.“We’re talking about free or affordable child care where no one pays more than 7 percent of their income; we’re talking about universal pre-K programs with two years of formal instruction; we’re talking about two years of postsecondary education,” said Representative Jamaal Bowman of New York, a former teacher and principal who is vice chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. “This is how you build a strong nation.”To Republicans, who are readying a counteroffensive, the Democratic plans are nothing short of socialism. They say they are concerned that the plan is financially unsustainable and would undermine economic growth, by rendering Americans too dependent on the government for their basic needs.“What are Democrats trying to do to this country?” Representative Bruce Westerman, Republican of Arkansas, asked on Thursday, as the House Natural Resources Committee began drafting its portion of the sprawling bill.Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia said he could not support the bill at its current size. Stefani Reynolds for The New York TimesTo grasp the intended measure’s scope, consider a life, from conception to death. Democrats intend to fund paid family and medical leave to allow a parent to take some time off during pregnancy and after a child’s birth.When that parent is ready to return to work, expanded funding for child care would kick in to help cover day care costs. When that child turns 3, another part of the bill, universal prekindergarten, would ensure public education can begin at an earlier age, regardless of where that child lives.Most families with children would continue to receive federal income supplements each month in the form of an expanded child tax credit that was created temporarily by Mr. Biden’s pandemic-rescue law and would be extended by the new social policy bill. School nutrition programs, expanded on an emergency basis during the pandemic, would continue to offer more children free and reduced-price meals long after the coronavirus retreats.And at high school graduation, most students would be guaranteed two years of higher education through expanded federal financial aid, geared toward community colleges.Even after that, income supplements and generous work force training programs — including specific efforts to train home health and elder-care workers — would keep the government present in many adult lives. In old age, people would be helped by tax credits to offset the cost of elder care and by an expansion of Medicare to cover dental, hearing and vision services.“Many of us feel that this is the biggest opportunity we will have in our careers to do something deeply structural and transformational to our economy,” Representative Donald S. Beyer Jr., Democrat of Virginia, said, “and we should not miss it.”To critics, the legislation represents a fundamental upending of American-style governance and a shift toward social democracy. With it, they worry, would come European-style endemic unemployment and depressed economic dynamism.“There’s always been difference of opinion on the role of government in people’s lives, and the United States has long taken a different approach than Western Europe,” said N. Gregory Mankiw, a Harvard economist who was chairman of President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers. “This is clearly designed to take a big step toward the Western European model.”Defenders shrug off such concerns. Representative Robert C. Scott of Virginia, chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, said the legislation would promote economic growth, with child care subsidies that would get parents back into the work force, education spending to more equitably prepare all Americans to work, and job training to improve labor mobility.“We are making the American economy more dynamic and more globally competitive,” he said.Besides, in the longstanding struggle to balance economic growth against equality and equity, Democrats are ready to shift toward the latter.“The route we’ve taken has led to the concentration of wealth in the hands of a very few people while the rest have just struggled to survive,” Mr. Bowman said. “It’s time to try something else.”“This is how you build a strong nation,” said Representative Jamaal Bowman, a former teacher and principal who is vice chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee.Desiree Rios for The New York TimesIn a mechanical sense, the legislation is not as much of a sea change as the creation of Medicare and Medicaid in the 1960s, or Social Security in the 1930s. Even the Affordable Care Act of 2010 created an entirely new government infrastructure, a federally operated or regulated exchange where Americans could buy private health insurance that has to conform to government strictures on coverage and cost, noted Michael R. Strain, an economist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.In contrast, the new legislation would largely augment existing programs. Childcare support would come through the Community Development Block Grant to states, cities and counties. Universal pre-K would be secured through block grants and expanded funding to Head Start. Two years of higher education are supposed to become accessible through more generous Pell grants and other existing financial aid programsBut if it passes, Mr. Strain said the legislation could fundamentally change the relationship between the state and its citizens: “Its ambition is in its size.”Most Americans traditionally have seen the federal government’s involvement in their finances once a year, at tax time, when they claim a child credit, get a write-off for the truck they may have bought for their business, or receive a check for an earned income credit, to name a few.That would change profoundly if the social policy bill were enacted. The expanded child tax credit has begun to provide monthly checks of up to $300 per child to millions of families, but is slated to expire in 2022. Its extension for as long as a decade could make it a fixture of life that would be very difficult for future Congresses to take away. The same goes for the Child and Dependent Care Credit, which now offers up to $8,000 in child care expenses but also expires in a year.And the federal government, not private employers, would pay most of the salaries of people qualifying for family and medical leave.“If we get this passed, a decade from now, people are going to see many more touch points of government supporting them and their families,” Ms. Boushey said.One major difference between the social economy that Mr. Biden and congressional Democrats hope to create and the welfare state in Europe is how it would be paid for. Most European countries ask their citizens broadly to fund their social welfare programs, largely through a value added tax, a sales tax levied at each stage of a consumer good’s production.At the president’s insistence, the House and Senate tax-writing committees are to finance the bill’s spending with taxes on corporations and individuals with incomes over $400,000 a year.To that end, the Senate Finance Committee is considering groundbreaking ways to tax wealth, including changing how estates are taxed so that heirs must pay more taxes on inherited assets. The committee is also looking at taxing the accumulated wealth of billionaires — things like homes, boats, stocks and other assets, regardless of whether they are sold — a new frontier of tax policy that would be difficult to achieve. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the Finance Committee chairman, said such measures are the only way to ensure that the superrich must pay their fair share of taxes each year. “I’m going to bring the caucus into that discussion, but I believe billionaires ought to pay taxes every year, just like nurses and firefighters do” out of each paycheck, Mr. Wyden said. More

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    Unemployment Benefits to Millions Are About to End

    The abrupt loss of pandemic unemployment benefits on a broad scale could have long-term effects not only for the recipients but also for the economy.PHILADELPHIA — Tara Harrison has a master’s degree, yet is applying for the low-paying receptionist jobs she last held as a teenager. Evan Ocheret is considering giving up his career in music. Amanda McCarty is worried about losing her place in the middle class. Amanda Rinehart is considering borrowing money from her grandmother or selling blood plasma to feed herself and her son.Unemployment benefits have helped stave off financial ruin for millions of laid-off workers over the last year and a half. After this week, that lifeline will snap: An estimated 7.5 million people will lose their benefits when federally funded emergency unemployment programs end. Millions more will see their checks cut by $300 a week.The cutoff is the latest and arguably the largest of the benefit “cliffs” that jobless workers have faced during the pandemic. Last summer, the government ended a $600 weekly supplement that workers received early in the crisis, but other programs remained in place. In December, benefits briefly lapsed for millions of workers, but Congress quickly restored them.This time, no similar rescue appears likely. President Biden has encouraged states with high unemployment rates to use existing federal funds to extend benefits, but few appear likely to do so. And administration officials have said repeatedly that they will not seek a congressional extension of the benefits.The politics of this cliff are different in part because it affects primarily Democratic-leaning states. Roughly half of states, nearly all of them with Republican governors, have already ended some or all of the federal benefits on the grounds that they were discouraging people from returning to work. So far, there is little evidence they were right: States that cut off benefits have experienced job growth this summer that was little different from that in states that retained the programs.In the states that kept the benefits, the cutoff will mean the loss of billions of dollars a week in aid when the pandemic is resurgent and the economic recovery is showing signs of fragility. And for workers and their families, it will mean losing their only source of income as other pandemic programs, such as the federal eviction moratorium, are ending. Even under the most optimistic forecasts, it will take months for everyone losing aid to find a job, with potentially long-term consequences for both workers and the economy.“I have no idea what I’m going to do once these benefits stop,” Ms. Rinehart said.When the pandemic began, Ms. Rinehart, 33, was an assistant general manager at a hotel in Allentown, Pa. She held on to her job at first, taking her young son with her to work. But when that proved untenable, she left the job, and has been unemployed ever since, most recently living on about $560 a week in benefits, all of which will end this weekend.A single mother, Ms. Rinehart has been unwilling to send her son, now 8, back to the classroom because he has asthma and several other health conditions that make him especially vulnerable to the coronavirus. He is too young to be vaccinated and too young to be left alone, and she has been unable to find a job that would let her work from home.“They should not cut these benefits off until there is a vaccine for all the little humans of all ages, because there are parents like me that have children that are high risk for Covid,” she said.Ms. Rinehart is one of nearly half a million Pennsylvanians who will lose their benefits this weekend, according to estimates from the Century Foundation, a progressive research institute. The state has an unemployment rate of 6.6 percent, well above the national rate of 5.4 percent.Pennsylvania, like the country as a whole, has experienced a significant economic rebound, but a partial one: Domestic tourists this summer again lined up to see Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, and thrill-seekers again rode the roller coasters at Hersheypark. But many downtown offices in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh remain all but empty, and conventioneers have not yet returned to conference hotels, or to the restaurants and bars that relied on their business. Overall, Pennsylvania has regained about two-thirds of the jobs lost in the pandemic, compared with about three-quarters nationally.“There’s been a partial recovery in a lot of the industries that are shut down, but it’s not back to where it was,” said Barney Oursler, director of the Mon Valley Unemployed Committee, a workers’ rights group in Pittsburgh. The committee was formed in the 1980s in response to layoffs in the steel industry; it has had a second life in the pandemic, helping thousands of Pennsylvanians navigate the state’s unemployment system.Mr. Ocheret, 32, is a professional oboist in Philadelphia. Before the pandemic, he cobbled together a living as a freelancer, performing with symphonies and opera companies up and down the Eastern Seaboard, and picking up the occasional gig with pop artists who wanted onstage orchestra sections. It all dried up almost overnight in March 2020.Performances began to return this spring, and Mr. Ocheret recently picked up a once-a-week gig that will last into September with an orchestra in New Jersey. But his calendar remains sparse this fall, and without unemployment benefits to fall back on, he isn’t sure how he will get by. He has signed up for computer coding courses to give him another option — one that he doesn’t want to take, but that he says he may have to consider if the industry doesn’t rebound by the end of the year.“I hate to stop doing the thing I love,” Mr. Ocheret said. “But if things don’t start to improve, I may have to do something different.”Before the pandemic, Evan Ocheret, a professional oboist in Philadelphia, made a living as a freelancer.Hannah Yoon for The New York TimesThree federal programs will end this weekend. One, which extended regular benefits beyond the 26 weeks offered in most states, covers about 3.3 million people, according to the Century Foundation. A second program, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, covers 4.2 million gig workers, the self-employed and others who don’t qualify for standard benefits. Nearly three million additional people will lose a $300 weekly federal supplement to other unemployment benefits.When Congress last renewed the programs in March, as part of Mr. Biden’s American Rescue Plan, policymakers hoped that September would represent a return to normal for the economy. If most Americans were vaccinated and the pandemic was under control, then schools and offices could reopen and people could return to work.But the rise of the Delta variant has complicated that picture. Major employers across the country have shelved their return-to-office plans. International tourism remains largely shut down, and restaurants, which were packed for much of the summer, are seeing reservations slow.“We’re in a different place now than we thought we were going to be,” Ms. McCarty said. “The Sept. 6 deadline made sense maybe in May and June. It seems preposterous now.”Ms. McCarty, 43, was furloughed as a buyer for a large Philadelphia clothing retailer at the start of the pandemic. A few months later, the job loss turned permanent, reshaping the McCartys’ lives.The family moved from Philadelphia to Lancaster County in search of cheaper housing. Ms. McCarty’s husband, a graphic designer, earns enough to pay rent, but they are still figuring out how to cover their other bills without the roughly $900 a week they were getting in unemployment benefits. Their 19-year-old daughter has set aside her college plans. And Ms. McCarty, a cancer survivor, is putting off medical tests until she can afford to pay the deductible on her insurance plan.“You put 10, 15, 20 years into a career and then to suddenly not be able to go see a dentist anymore, it feels like something’s wrong there,” she said. “I think I’m still grieving the loss of my opportunity of being middle class, because that’s gone again.”Regular unemployment benefits, without the $300 add-on, replace only a fraction of workers’ lost wages. In Pennsylvania, the maximum benefit is $580 a week, the equivalent of about $30,000 a year. In some Southern states, the maximum benefit is less than $300 a week.Still, decades of economic research have shown that unemployment benefits are at least a bit of a disincentive to seeking work. When the economy is weak, that negative consequence is offset by the positive impact the benefits have on workers, but many economists argue that it makes sense to ramp down benefits as the economy improves.Cutting off benefits for millions of people all at once, however, is another matter.“Losing a job is something that we know from research is one of the most damaging things to your financial and personal well-being over the long run,” said Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation. “We’ve avoided those kinds of long-term impacts to a large part during the pandemic because we’ve been aggressive with our forms of support. Now we’re pulling it back, we’re putting people at risk.”Ms. Harrison, despite her master’s degree, has already lost her job twice since the pandemic began. She was furloughed from her human resources job early on. She eventually found work helping to run a Covid-testing business, but was laid off again in March as the pandemic began to ebb. Now she spends her days scouring job boards and sending applications.“It’s going to end,” she said of the unemployment benefits. “You know it’s going to end. So you can’t just sit around and twiddle your thumbs.”Her husband has diabetes and high blood pressure, and they live with her mother, so Ms. Harrison, 47, is reluctant to return to in-person work until the pandemic is under control. Despite having a master’s degree and senior-level experience, she is applying for positions as a receptionist or an administrative assistant — jobs she last did decades ago.“I spent years in school — I spent money out of my own pocket to better educate myself — so that I would be able to be a good breadwinner and take care of my family,” she said. “Never did I think I would be applying to be somebody’s receptionist. But if somebody called me to be their receptionist, I’m taking it.”Jim Tankersley More

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    Businesses Push Biden to Develop China Trade Policy

    Seven months into a new administration, companies want the White House to drop tariffs on Chinese goods and provide clarity about a critical trade relationship.WASHINGTON — More than seven months into the Biden administration, American businesses say they are growing increasingly frustrated by the White House’s approach to China, with confrontational policies imposed during the Trump era still in place and President Biden offering little clarity about economic engagement with the world’s second-largest economy.The relationship between the two economic superpowers remains deeply fractured. American import duties still exist on roughly $360 billion worth of Chinese goods, and almost all of the exemptions that shielded more than 2,000 products from those tariffs have expired. A thicket of export controls and bans are still in place, leaving U.S. technology giants such as Qualcomm, Intel and Google in the lurch over how to approach the Chinese market and offering little hope that the decoupling of the world’s two largest economies will be reversed anytime soon.To the dismay of some American business leaders, Mr. Biden has amplified some of the Trump administration’s punitive moves. In July, the Biden administration expanded the list of Chinese officials under sanctions by the United States for their role in undermining Hong Kong’s democratic institutions. In June, the president issued an executive order adding more Chinese companies to a prohibition on American investments in Chinese firms that have links to the country’s military or that sell surveillance technology used to repress dissent or religious minorities.Yet Mr. Biden and his top advisers have yet to elucidate how they view economic relations with Beijing, saying they will make the administration’s approach known once a broad review of China trade policy concludes. But the review has stretched on for months with no public timeline for its conclusion.As a result, businesses are lobbying heavily for the tariffs to be removed, which would make it easier for them to rely on factories in China instead of making investments in the United States or elsewhere. And they want assurances that they can do business with a financially important market.“There has been frustration for the business community at the lack of concrete China economic policy,” said Charles Freeman, the senior vice president for Asia at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “It’s not as if this crowd came in without any experience or any preconceived thinking about China.”The future of the U.S. trade relationship with China is one of the biggest global economic questions confronting Mr. Biden and his advisers. China has thrown huge resources behind its economic ambitions and plans to dominate cutting-edge industries like artificial intelligence and robotics by providing government subsidies to Chinese firms and using other tactics, including espionage. While the Trump administration signed an initial trade deal with China that included purchase commitments for agricultural and other goods, the agreement failed to address a number of major concerns, including China’s state-owned enterprises and industrial subsidies.During his White House bid, Mr. Biden assailed President Donald J. Trump over his trade war and promised to enlist allies to counter China over its trade practices. Since taking office, Mr. Biden has resolved a longstanding trade spat with the European Union and persuaded European officials to adopt a more assertive trade policy toward China this year. And he has pitched his infrastructure plan as a way to counter Beijing, saying it would “put us in a position to win the global competition with China in the upcoming years.”But the administration has said little about whether it intends to restart economic talks and address outstanding issues, including tariffs. At times, officials have offered somewhat discordant views.Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen told The New York Times this summer that tariffs had harmed American consumers, but she has also warned that Chinese subsidies for exporters pose a challenge for the United States. The United States trade representative, Katherine Tai, has described the tariffs as providing leverage..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-w739ur{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;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-w739ur{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-9s9ecg{margin-bottom:15px;}.css-uf1ume{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;}.css-wxi1cx{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-flex-direction:column;-ms-flex-direction:column;flex-direction:column;-webkit-align-self:flex-end;-ms-flex-item-align:end;align-self:flex-end;}.css-12vbvwq{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;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}Asked on Wednesday about the administration’s review of the tariffs, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said, “I don’t have any timeline for you on when that review will be completed.”Business impatience with the administration’s approach is mounting. Corporate leaders say they need clarity about whether American companies will be able to do business with China, which is one of the biggest and fastest-growing markets. Business groups say their members are being put at a competitive disadvantage by the tariffs, which have raised costs for American importers.“We should be doing everything we can to increase China’s use and dependence on American technology products,” Patrick Gelsinger, the chief executive of Intel, said in an interview last week. The administration is “struggling to lay out a framework for how they have a policy-driven engagement with China,” he said.“To me, just saying, ‘Let’s be tough on China,’ that’s not a policy, that’s a campaign slogan,” he added. “It’s time to get to the real work of having a real policy of trade relationships and engagement around business exports and technology with China.”In early August, a group of influential U.S. business groups sent a letter to Ms. Yellen and Ms. Tai urging the administration to restart trade talks with China and cut tariffs on imported Chinese goods.“The main kind of dilemma that companies face right now is just uncertainty,” said Craig Allen, the president of the U.S.-China Business Council, which organized the letter. “Will the tariffs remain in place? Are they in place in perpetuity? What is the exclusion process to request an exemption from the tariffs? Nobody knows.”Mr. Allen said his group had organized the letter because it wanted to make sure that businesses’ views, in addition to those of labor and environmental groups, would be taken into account during the Biden administration’s China review.“Many find it ironic that the Biden administration is following so closely the playbook laid down by the Trump administration on China,” he said.Other organizations that signed the letter included the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable as well as groups representing sectors of the economy with close business ties to China, such as the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the Semiconductor Industry Association and the American Farm Bureau Federation.“We’re now dealing with all these other supply chain disruption issues that are costing companies millions of dollars,” said Jonathan Gold, the vice president for supply chain and customs policy at the National Retail Federation, which also signed the letter and represents a sector that has become heavily dependent on imports from China. “To have the tariffs on top of that is difficult for planning purposes.”On Tuesday, the National Association of Manufacturers sent a letter to the Biden administration urging it to “act as quickly as possible to finalize and publicize” a China strategy.Businesses of all sizes have been waiting for Mr. Biden to change course from Mr. Trump’s trade policies. Arnold Kamler, the chief executive of Kent International, a bicycle wholesaler and manufacturer, said the 25 percent tariffs on bicycle imports from China had been a major drain on the cash flow of his business, forcing him to borrow more from his bank. For the last two years, he has been passing on the cost of the additional import duties to retailers.“Honestly, we were hopeful that the Biden administration would realize that the trade war didn’t work,” Mr. Kamler said.Katherine Tai, the U.S. trade representative, has refrained from offering a preview of what steps the Biden administration may seek to take in the coming months.Pete Marovich for The New York TimesAdding to the impatience is that a vast majority of the exclusions to the China tariffs that were granted under the Trump administration have now expired, and the Biden administration has not created a process to allow companies to seek new exclusions.Lawmakers from both parties have written to the Biden administration urging it to restart the exclusion process, and the Senate included a provision to reinstate expired exclusions and set up a process for granting new ones as part of a legislative package to bolster competitiveness with China that passed in June. The Senate provision has been met with resistance in the House, according to a House Democratic aide, so the two chambers may wind up at odds over whether to address tariff exclusions as part of a final China package.Robert E. Lighthizer, who was Mr. Trump’s trade representative and negotiated the trade deal with China, said in an interview that lobbyists were trying to weaken the executive branch’s power to impose tariffs.“People working for China and Chinese importers want to get rid of the last tool that Biden and subsequent presidents will have to deal with Chinese unfair trade practices,” Mr. Lighthizer said.Business groups are not uniformly in favor of lifting tariffs. The National Council of Textile Organizations, which represents the American textile industry, wants the administration to keep tariffs on finished apparel and home textile products from China.“We have been pretty strong in our message to the administration saying please continue this approach on getting tough on China,” said Kimberly Glas, the textile group’s president and chief executive.Any decision on rolling back tariffs could also have domestic political implications in the United States, where a tough-on-China mentality has permeated both major parties. Any steps by the Biden administration to roll back Trump-era policies toward Beijing could be seized on by political opponents seeking to paint Mr. Biden as insufficiently tough on China at a time when the country is engaged in a rapid military buildup.Scott Paul, the president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, a trade group that represents the United Steelworkers and some domestic manufacturers, noted that concern about China on both economic and national security grounds was “one of the few issues that unites Democrats and Republicans these days.”“A dismantling of the tariffs has no upside for Joe Biden,” he said. “At a time when you’re trying to build up U.S. capacity in key industries, it would invite a flood of Chinese imports to just overwhelm that.”The Biden administration has said little about its tariff plans or how it will address China’s failure to meet its commitments under the Trump trade deal. China has not fulfilled its purchase commitments, according to Chad P. Bown, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics who has tracked China’s purchases of U.S. goods. But Chinese economists contend that Beijing has been sincere in wanting to meet its promises, and that the pandemic has affected demand in China.When asked about the administration’s review of China trade policy, Ms. Tai has responded by saying she was aware that “time is of the essence.” However, she has refrained from offering a preview of what steps the administration may seek to take.“In terms of how we need to approach this trade relationship,” Ms. Tai said at a virtual event last week, “we need to approach it with deliberation.”Keith Bradsher More

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    Social Security is projected to be insolvent a year earlier than previously forecast.

    The financial outlook for Social Security is eroding more quickly than previously expected, as the coronavirus pandemic has drained government revenues and put additional strain on one of the nation’s most important social safety net programs. The overall finances for Medicare, however, are expected to hold steady, though the health program is still forecast to face financial pressure in the coming years.Annual government reports released on Tuesday on the solvency of the programs underscored the questions about their long-term viability at a time when a wave of baby boomers are retiring and the economy faces ongoing uncertainty as variants of the coronavirus surge. The United States economy already faces soaring federal debt levels in the coming decades, but both Democrats and Republicans have been wary of making significant structural reforms to the popular programs.“Having strong Social Security and Medicare programs is essential in order to ensure a secure retirement for all Americans, especially for our most vulnerable populations,” Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said in a statement. “The Biden-Harris administration is committed to safeguarding these programs and ensuring they continue to deliver economic security and health care to older Americans.”Senior administration officials said that the long-term effects of the pandemic on the programs are unclear. The actuaries were forced to make assumptions about how long Covid would continue to cause unusual patterns of hospitalizations and deaths and whether it would contribute to long-term disabilities among survivors.The Social Security Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund will now be depleted in 2033, a year earlier than previously projected, according to the report. At that time, the trust fund will run out of reserves and the program will be insolvent, with new tax revenues failing to cover scheduled payments. The report estimated that 76 percent of scheduled benefits will be able to be paid out unless Congress changes the rules to allow full payouts..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-w739ur{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;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-w739ur{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-9s9ecg{margin-bottom:15px;}.css-uf1ume{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;}.css-wxi1cx{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-flex-direction:column;-ms-flex-direction:column;flex-direction:column;-webkit-align-self:flex-end;-ms-flex-item-align:end;align-self:flex-end;}.css-12vbvwq{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;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}The Disability Insurance Trust Fund is now expected to be depleted by 2057, which is eight years earlier than previously thought, at which time 91 percent of benefits will be paid.Medicare’s finances are effectively holding steady. While tax revenue for the Medicare program did decline as a result of the Covid-related recession, Medicare also ended up spending less money than usual last year, as people avoided elective care.Medicare’s hospital trust fund is projected to be unable to pay all of its bills beginning in 2026. This estimate is similar to those from Medicare’s trustees in recent years. Fixing that gap now could be achieved by increasing the Medicare payroll tax rate from 2.9 percent to 3.67 percent or by reducing Medicare spending by 16 percent each year, the report notes.But the report highlighted that the official estimate may be unrealistically optimistic. If certain policies set to expire in the next 10 years are extended, or if other expected policy changes occur, the projections would look substantially more worrying.Long term, the actuaries said they did not think Covid-19 itself would have substantial influence on Medicare spending on hospital care. On the one hand, the death of many vulnerable, older Americans from the virus may reduce future spending they would otherwise have received. On the other, the actuaries expect that some people may have additional health care needs from the syndrome known as long Covid..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-w739ur{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;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-w739ur{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-9s9ecg{margin-bottom:15px;}.css-16ed7iq{width:100%;display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-align-items:center;-webkit-box-align:center;-ms-flex-align:center;align-items:center;-webkit-box-pack:center;-webkit-justify-content:center;-ms-flex-pack:center;justify-content:center;padding:10px 0;background-color:white;}.css-pmm6ed{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-align-items:center;-webkit-box-align:center;-ms-flex-align:center;align-items:center;}.css-pmm6ed > :not(:first-child){margin-left:5px;}.css-5gimkt{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:0.8125rem;font-weight:700;-webkit-letter-spacing:0.03em;-moz-letter-spacing:0.03em;-ms-letter-spacing:0.03em;letter-spacing:0.03em;text-transform:uppercase;color:#333;}.css-5gimkt:after{content:’Collapse’;}.css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transition:all 0.5s ease;transition:all 0.5s ease;-webkit-transform:rotate(180deg);-ms-transform:rotate(180deg);transform:rotate(180deg);}.css-eb027h{max-height:5000px;-webkit-transition:max-height 0.5s ease;transition:max-height 0.5s ease;}.css-6mllg9{-webkit-transition:all 0.5s ease;transition:all 0.5s ease;position:relative;opacity:0;}.css-6mllg9:before{content:”;background-image:linear-gradient(180deg,transparent,#ffffff);background-image:-webkit-linear-gradient(270deg,rgba(255,255,255,0),#ffffff);height:80px;width:100%;position:absolute;bottom:0px;pointer-events:none;}.css-uf1ume{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;}.css-wxi1cx{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-flex-direction:column;-ms-flex-direction:column;flex-direction:column;-webkit-align-self:flex-end;-ms-flex-item-align:end;align-self:flex-end;}.css-12vbvwq{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;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}The actuaries declined to make any estimates on the effect of Aduhelm, a very expensive Alzheimer’s treatment that was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The report said that officials were waiting for Medicare to issue guidance on how the drug will be covered before making any calculations. The drug could represent tens of billions of dollars in spending each year.Democrats in Congress are considering a host of changes to the Medicare program, such as adding new benefits, including coverage for dental, hearing and vision care. While these changes are expected to influence Medicare’s overall finances, none of them are likely to have major effects on the trust fund, which covers only hospital care.“Medicare trust fund solvency is an incredibly important, longstanding issue, and we are committed to working with Congress to continue building a vibrant, equitable, and sustainable Medicare program,” said Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, the administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. More