Friday, January 15, 2021

For the Record: Biden's Proposal

You wouldn't fuss about moving the Overton window if it was a big enough window. You wouldn't even want to. Photo via.

Incredibly impressed with myself over this tribute from my favorite moderately famous economics professor.

That started with a quick Twitter version of an argument I feel like I've been making forever, attached in this case to the Biden Covid relief proposal-package, which is pretty amazing:

Well, sort of. Lovestoneite measures and Whiggish men and women, more like, in my case, but it's the same principle, where you might talk about widening the Overton window instead of moving it.

But I do feel tremendously justified by the radical character of this Biden package, with its demands for

  • a federal minimum wage of $15, with an end to tipped minimums and subminimums for disabled workers
  • push to provide better compensation to frontline essential workers, including retroactive hazard pay
  • extension through September of unemployment and continuation of the weekly supplement (raised from December's $300 to $400, though not as much as last spring's $600) for those whose benefits are running out (some 5 million workers) and those gig workers and independent contractors who didn't use to be eligible (8 million), and full funding for state work sharing programs that help small businesses stay afloat and economically vulnerable workers make ends meet by enabling workers to stay on the job at reduced hours, while making up the difference in pay
  • extension through September of eviction and foreclosure moratoriums with an additional $25 billion in rental assistance and $5 billion in assistance with utility bills, and $5 billion in emergency assistance in housing the homeless
  • extension through September of the 15% increase in SNAP benefits (I didn't know about that!), $3 billion additional for WIC, short-term federal coverage of the state share of hunger and nutrition programs, extra food assistance to Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the Northern Marianas, and the wonderfully creative FEMA Empowering Essential Deliveries (FEED) Act coopting the restaurant industry to get food to families who need it, and help get laid-off restaurant workers across the country back on the job
  • $25 billion emergency stabilization fund for childcare providers, $15 billion in direct assistance to parents paying for childcare plus tax credits covering up to 50% of childcare costs for families making up to $125,000
  • expansion of the Child Tax Credit to $3000 ($3600 for children under six) and raise in the maximum Earned Income Tax Credit for childless adults from roughly $530 to close to $1,500, raise in the income limit for the credit from about $16,000 to about $21,000, and expansion of the age range that is eligible by eliminating the age cap for older workers and expanding eligibility for younger ones
  • continued coverage of COBRA payments for those who have lost their employer insurance along with jobs and additional premium subsidies for those in the individual health insurance market, guaranteeing coverage for somewhere between ten million and 30 million workers, $4 billion for mental health and substance abuse programs and $20 billion for veterans' health...
It's not obvious any of this stuff will really happen, it's Congress that's going to write the legislation, and they'll have problems of their own to deal with. Starting with the impossibility of getting rid of the filibuster, as I was saying, which means any proposal will either need a lot of Republican votes to pass or use up most of this year's allowance of reconciliation bills that can be passed with a simple majority (one each per year on spending, revenue, and the debt ceiling, where the first two are usually combined into one). Reconciliation seems to be the Senate's plan, going by Senator Gillibrand on my radio yesterday, but it's striking me Biden may think he can rustle up Republican votes, which would mean he has reason to think so (he's got decades of experience in Senate vote counting, I'll remind you). If I'm right, this pleasingly radical agenda could make it through the Senate because everybody knows Biden is a "centrist". It really could be an example like those of Roosevelt or Johnson of a president's "moderateness" being a key to bringing profound change.

Of course the troll right and the performative left are ignoring this vast assumption of federal responsibility for the well-being of the community during the emergency, much of which is designed to last when the pandemic is gone (the minimum wage, the hazard pay, the bringing of the restaurant industry into food assistance, the unemployment insurance for the self-employed, the enormous move against child poverty, and the big improvements in ACA health coverage), in favor of complaining that they were expecting a check for $2000 and are only getting $1400 (because December's $600 is regarded as part of the payment, as should have been clear to anybody who knows how to read from the outset).

I told you it was a bad policy idea and a worse political idea to make such a big deal of it, especially on the part of those decidedly non-leftist candidates who made it pretty much the whole of their economic agenda (a noun, a verb, and $2000—I'm looking at you, Jon Ossoff). Now the press is pretty much convinced that's the entire program and Rose Twitter is using it to suggest that Biden is, um, more centrist than Jon Ossoff:

It's so annoying, but people are starting to understand what I was complaining about...

Also in the DeLong sequences


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