Days before his inauguration, President Biden unveiled the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion package to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and provide relief to American families. The plan includes a significant expansion of the Child Tax Credit, one of the country’s largest financial benefits for families with children.

This would provide meaningful aid to many American families, particularly those with low incomes. But it could be made even more effective if Biden goes a step further and converts the annual tax credit into a monthly direct payment to support families year-round.

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The CTC currently reduces some families’ tax liability by up to $2,000 per child. Biden’s Rescue Plan would increase this in 2021 to a maximum of $3,600 per child under six years old, and $3,000 for those under age 18. (The CTC’s benefits gradually phase out for upper-income families.) Importantly, Biden would fix a longstanding shortcoming of the CTC to allow the poorest families to reap its full value. Currently, families who earn too little to have much federal tax liability get only minor benefits from the CTC, and the poorest of the poor are excluded from the CTC entirely. Biden’s plan would correct this unequal treatment by making the CTC fully refundable for all families. …

Schools have become the leading edge of pandemic politics. As a new school year dawns, so too is the realization that much of the country is in no shape to reopen the schoolhouse gates. That means parents and families will continue to bear the costs of virus containment, and of our collective failure to get the virus under control sooner — costs imposed on their professional lives, their family structure, their social supports, and their children’s wellbeing.

Those costs imposed on families in the name of public health ought to be compensated, in the form monthly checks from the government.

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Send 👏 all 👏 families 👏 checks

Back in March when the virus first started ravaging cities like New York, closing schools proved to be one of the most consequential public health interventions. An abnormal spike of fevers is one of the leading indicators that a community has a COVID-19 outbreak. And after weeks of rising fevers, New York City recorded its first fever decline on March 16 — the day it closed its schools. Bars and restaurants were closed the next day, and fevers continued to decline. …

The United States just enacted the largest fiscal stimulus package in its history in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill will cut $1,200 checks to most Americans, significantly boost unemployment benefits, and offer some $500 billion in aid to businesses.

But it may not be enough to stave off economic catastrophe. Bigger, more innovative government intervention into the economy is going to be needed. And the type of intervention we need is something that even political conservatives ought to be able to learn to love.

The stimulus enacted by Congress last week should provide some momentary relief to businesses and workers hit hard by the economic shutdown caused by coronavirus social distancing. But it seems better tailored to the last economic crisis — the typical financial-sector recession like 2008–2009. This time is different. “In this crisis, stimulating the economy is akin to throwing a sale inside a department store that has been emptied by the bomb squad,” Peter Goodman of the New York Times recently wrote. …

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As the global coronavirus outbreak increasingly engulfs the United States, a mammoth public health crisis is simultaneously breeding a dire economic crisis. A panicked stock market has cratered. Economic activity has ground to a halt as workers and consumers isolate at home. The economy may well slip into recession very soon.

The Trump administration has made some belated gestures at economic aid, including promising millions of borrowers with student loan relief. But the emerging fine print shows that President Trump’s promise of “No Interest on Student Loans” is turning out to be a pointless bait and switch.

Here’s the backstory: After much cajoling, on Friday, the president finally inched toward acknowledging the grim reality of coronavirus and declared a national emergency. As one immediate step, Trump announced in the White House Rose Garden that, “To help our students and their families, I’ve waived interest on all student loans held by federal government agencies and that will be until further notice.” …

With voting in the 2020 presidential primary beginning in just a few days, many Democrats feel increasingly perplexed when it comes to discerning which candidate’s politics offers the surest path to the White House. Is it Joe Biden’s comforting bid for a third Obama administration term? Or Bernie Sanders’s tent-expanding political revolution? Or Elizabeth Warren’s thoroughly-planned promise of Big Structural Change?

In a time of choosing, it would seem wise to reflect on how Democrats last got themselves out of the political wilderness and back into the White House. …

We could get a decision any day now from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on whether the entire Affordable Care Act has been rendered unconstitutional by the 2017 Republican tax law. While we wait, it’s worth lifting up a novel argument in defense of the ACA offered in court by the insurance lobby: that the individual mandate operated as little more than a set of training wheels to get the law up and running.

The theory behind the latest legal attack on Obamacare is that the law cannot be severed from its allegedly now-unconstitutional individual mandate, which Congress gutted (by adjusting its tax penalty to $0) in 2017. The red state attorneys general challenging the law — with the backing of political appointees at the Department of Justice — point to legislative history and language in the ACA indicating that the 2010 Congress that enacted the law thought that an individual mandate was essential to its broader private market coverage expansion. The supposed conclusion to be drawn, the AGs argue, is that because the 2010 Congress said the mandate was essential, now that the 2017 Congress has repealed the mandate, the courts must step in and finish the job by wiping out the rest of the law. …

Obamacare’s much-besieged individual mandate lived a short, contentious life. Requiring all Americans to purchase health insurance from 2014 through 2018, the mandate survived a direct Supreme Court challenge in 2012 before it even took effect, and then another indirect court attack in 2015. It survived a torrent of repeal attempts by congressional Republicans, only to finally be unceremoniously slain as a budgetary gimmick in the GOP’s 2018 reconciliation tax bill. Rest in peace, individual mandate.

But maybe that’s all wrong. Maybe the individual mandate remains secretly very much alive, in zombified form, coercing unwitting invincibles into the health insurance system, continuing to stealthily do the tax-and-transfer work supporting health reform. In a sense, that’s the inadvertent yet inescapable revelation from the latest off-the-wall, then-suddenly-very-much-on-the-wall contrived litigation challenge to Obamacare, known as Texas v. …

I’ve written before about the claims that Senator Elizabeth Warren’s proposed wealth tax violates the Constitution. The New York Times’s 1619 Project gives occasion to hone in on the history of slavery lurking in the background of that constitutional debate. Four hundred years after the first slave ships arrived upon American shores, the long arm of American slavery still exerts itself in unexpected ways. Old political compromises made with mass enslavement could even stymy efforts by today’s leaders to remedy economic inequality.

In her campaign for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, Senator Warren has run on a wealth tax on ultra-millionaires — a 2-cent tax on each additional dollar of wealth for people worth more than $50 million. This would both pay for a slew of new social programs and slow the massive wealth inequality that has exploded in the United States. …

At a campaign rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan, last week, President Trump attacked people seeking asylum in the United States. Falsely claiming that they want “amnesty,” Trump mused that asylum-seekers were being coached by immigration lawyers to say “I’m very afraid for my life,” he mocked, adding, “then I look at the guy, he looks like he just got out of the ring, he’s the heavyweight champion of the world.” “It’s a big fat con job,” he lambasted.

From virtually Day One of his presidency, a defining feature of Trump’s tenure has been his war on refugees and asylum-seekers. From slamming the door on refugees during his first week in office, to slashing the number of refugees the U.S. will accept to historic lows, to illegally attempting to force asylum-seekers to stay in Mexico, Trump’s assault on those seeking refuge is not new. …

Last week, Democratic presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren unveiled a new proposal to levy a wealth tax on the ultra-rich. Beyond the merits of the policy, Warren’s proposal is a fitting reminder to progressives that we need to begin the work of getting the Constitution on our side, now.

Under Warren’s plan, Americans with over $50 million in total assets would pay a 2 percent annual wealth tax on assets over that amount, and 3 percent on assets over $1 billion. Economists project that the new tax would raise about $2.75 trillion over ten years, drawn solely from the wealthiest 0.1 …


Joel Dodge

public interest attorney. policy thinker. writer. views are my own. bylines various places. @ Queens, NY.

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