No Mass Transit Grants for California, Biden Administration Rules

“the U.S. Department of Labor has denied California $12 billion in transit funding, including grants from the recently signed infrastructure bill. The reason? A 1964 federal law requires the labor department to certify that the state agencies seeking any mass-transit grants are “protecting the interests of any affected employees,” The Fresno Bee reported.

So, the Biden administration is claiming that California—the state that provides its public employees with unparalleled pay and pension benefits, and provides collective-bargaining rights unheard of anywhere else—is being mean to its “affected” public employees because the state passed a 2013 law, authored by Democrats, that infinitesimally reined in pension benefits.

As SFist summarized, “Biden is withholding giant amounts of federal money from California public transit because the state’s public-employee pension system is apparently not paying people enough.””

How Democrats Could Hide $2 Trillion in New Spending With Budget Gimmicks

“Democrats are reportedly considering a one-year extension of the expanded child tax credit, which pays parents $3,000 annually for every child (and an extra $600 for kids under age 6) and is paid out as a refund even for families that owe no federal taxes. Previously, Biden’s plan called for a five-year extension of the child tax credit. As I wrote in September, the five-year extension was a budget gimmick designed to make the tax credit appear to be roughly $700 billion less expensive than it otherwise would be within the standard 10-year budget window. In short, Democrats were signalling that the expanded child tax credit would be permanent, but they were only accounting for half of what it would actually cost to make it permanent.

A one-year extension would be mashing that same “gimmick” button even harder.

In a similar way, Democrats are also reportedly considering a shorter-than-planned extension of the expanded Obamacare subsidies made available during the pandemic. Instead of being extended permanently, those provisions would technically expire after three years—even though everyone knows they are likely to be extended past that sunset date.

“These proposals don’t actually shrink the package; they just shorten it,” says Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB), a nonprofit that advocates for balanced budgets. The CRFB estimates that the twin “blatant budget gimmicks” involving the child tax credit and Obamacare subsidies could hide between $1.5 trillion and $2.4 trillion in future spending, depending on other trade-offs in the final package. Even if the final bill is $1.9 trillion and requires no new borrowing on paper, the CRFB warns that the actual price tag could be as much as $4 trillion with much of the hidden cost financed by adding to the deficit.”

Lockdowns’ High Costs and Murky Benefits

“If legislators were determined to “save lives, period, whatever it costs,” they would set the speed limit at 5 miles per hour, or perhaps ban automobiles altogether, which would prevent nearly 40,000 traffic-related deaths every year. Those policies seem reasonable only if you ignore the countervailing costs. In public policy, economist Thomas Sowell famously observed, there are no solutions; there are only tradeoffs.

“Logically,” Bourne writes, “there must be some negative consequences of government lockdowns, and some point at which they might become self-defeating.” To figure out when that might be, policy makers needed to estimate the public health payoff from lockdowns and compare it to the harm they caused.

Contrary to Cuomo’s framing of the issue, this is not a matter of weighing “the economic cost” of maintaining lockdowns against “the human cost” of lifting them, as if those categories were mutually exclusive. Even in life-and-death terms, lockdowns had a downside, since they plausibly contributed to a spike in drug-related deaths, discouraged potentially lifesaving medical care, and inflicted financial and psychological distress, neither of which is good for your health. And as Bourne emphasizes, “economic welfare” goes beyond household finances or GDP, encompassing everything people value.”

The case against means testing

“There are some serious costs associated with means testing. Though they’re usually framed as ways of curbing government spending, means-tested benefits are often more expensive to provide, on average, than universal benefits, simply because of the administrative support needed to vet and process applicants.

And then there’s the burden means testing puts on those in need. Take the applications for SNAP, or food aid, for example. The most complicated state programs require individuals to meet a specific income threshold and complete certain asset tests. Individuals need to show that they don’t currently make more than 130 percent of the poverty line, or $16,744 for an individual, and have assets worth more than $2,500 (a requirement that varies based on age). According to mRelief, a nonprofit that assists SNAP recipients, the average applicant needs to either fill out a 17-page form or participate in a 90-minute interview, in addition to providing as many as 10 documents about their assets. Even the prospect of this can push people away.”

“According to Georgetown University political scientists Pamela Herd and Don Moynihan, the administrative costs for programs like SNAP, the family assistance program known as TANF, and the Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants, and Children can range from 15 to 40 cents of each dollar of benefits distributed in the programs. That includes money used to interview people, check the documentation they provide, and ensure that their claims of need are valid.
In other words, even though the intention of means testing is to help people most in need, imposing strict qualification requirements can actually make it tougher for individuals who are eligible to get past the application process.

As Matt Bruenig writes for the People’s Policy Project, a progressive think tank, these administrative barriers have hurt uptake rates of programs like SNAP and Medicaid, none of which fully serve all the people who qualify for them”

“Additionally, researchers have found that means testing stigmatizes people who are eligible for these programs, further reducing participation in them and fomenting biases toward low-income people.”

“A pitfall that universal programs are able to avoid, too, is choosing a cutoff that fails to adequately estimate need. For instance, the income threshold for SNAP is $28,550 for a family of three. Because of this cap, people who make slightly more money than the cutoff are left out of the program — even if they could also use this support.”

A new government study shows how Trump’s tariffs have backfired

“Economists Aaron Flaaen and Justin Pierce, who describe their study as “as the first comprehensive estimates of the effect of recent tariffs on the US manufacturing sector,” argue that the data shows that any benefits from protection from foreign competition have been more than canceled out by retaliatory tariffs from trading partners and an increase in the cost of components sourced from abroad.

As a result, US manufacturing has seen job losses and higher prices for consumers.”