How Joe Biden can rescue the economy in the face of Republican obstruction

“Reconciliation is weird. First, Congress needs to adopt a budget resolution (which it doesn’t always do) laying out tax and spending priorities for the future. These resolutions are not laws, the president doesn’t have to sign them, and they pass by simple majority vote. Then with a budget in place you get to write one — but only one — bill that aims to “reconcile” national tax and spending priorities with the framework laid out in the budget. This reconciliation bill cannot be filibustered. It also cannot change Social Security, or otherwise make big legislative changes that are not directly focused on the budget.

At Vox, we have often focused on the limits the reconciliation process places on what can be achieved on climate policy or aspirations for Medicare-for-all. A reconciliation bill also can’t increase the budget deficit over the long run.

But while these limits are very real, they also do open up some fairly large horizons.”

“a reconciliation bill can do the following:
Increase the generosity of the social safety net
Raise taxes on the rich
Impose the tax increases after the safety net increases, generating short-term stimulus”

“Consider the following ideas Biden has embraced:
Creating a new universal child allowance to help parents and slash child poverty.
Creating a fully funded rental housing voucher program to ensure that every family that needs help gets it.
Expanding the Affordable Care Act to cover millions more and make coverage more generous for those who get it.
A climate plan that centers investments in clean energy, rather than taxes on dirty energy.
A huge increase in funding to low-income school districts.
Biden does not need to treat these ideas as separate from the short-term need to stimulate the economy. He can simply do all five of them, and throw in a short-term boost to unemployment insurance and state/local budgets and some cash for specific public health interventions. Then the long-term increases in spending can be offset by enacting his proposed tax increases on the rich. That will ensure the deficit falls over the long run. But since the short-term deficit is not a problem and the whole idea is to stimulate the economy, the tax cuts can be delayed until 2023.”

“To get it done, Biden needs to convince members of Congress that it’s in their collective interest for him to have a successful presidency with a roaring economy and real accomplishments. And if they don’t want to curb the filibuster, they need to get the job done with a massive reconciliation bill.”

“if Biden thinks that his personal charm can bring back the low-polarization Senate he remembers from his service there in the 1970s and ’80s he’s mistaken. And if he genuinely tries to do that, he’s setting himself up for catastrophic failure. Times have changed, the media has changed, institutions have changed, and incentives have changed. The good old days aren’t coming back.

Still, Biden can break the toxic allure of obstruction by refusing to be obstructed.”

How Biden is winning

“My question was simple. Democrats don’t have a path to 60 seats in the Senate. So how will Biden keep his agenda from dying at the hands of the filibuster? Would he support filibuster reform, or elimination? Biden’s reply was his campaign in miniature, reflecting both the instincts that have made him successful and the caution that has frustrated many on the left.

“I think it’s going to depend on how obstreperous they” — meaning Republicans — “become, and if they become that way,” he replied. “I have not supported the elimination of the filibuster because it has been used as often to protect rights I care about as the other way around. But you’re going to have to take a look at it.”

That answer, which reflected a genuine shift in Biden’s rhetoric on the issue, made some headlines. But it wasn’t the end of Biden’s argument. “I’ll say something outrageous,” he continued. “I think I have a pretty good record of pulling together Democrats and Republicans.” He went on to say many Senate Republicans will feel “a bit liberated” by Trump’s defeat and may be ready to work with Democrats on issues like infrastructure and racial inequality.

“In my career, I have never expected a foreign leader or a member of Congress to appear in the second-edition Profiles in Courage,” Biden said. “But I’m fairly good at understanding the limitations for a senator or leader and helping them navigate around to what they want to do from what they’re having political trouble doing. I have been successful in helping my Republican friends find rationales to help me get what I’m pushing over the top.”

Tucked into this argument is Biden’s view of the Republican Party: He sees it not as a monolith but as a coalition. Some members of that coalition love Trump and will grieve his defeat. They’re not going to work with Biden, and he doesn’t expect to work with them. But some Senate Republicans dislike Trump, regret what their party has become, and are looking for redemption. What they need is a Democrat they can work with — a Democrat who doesn’t antagonize their voters and won’t rub their noses in their loss. What they need, Biden thinks, is Biden.”

Child care is broken. Biden has a plan to fix it.

“Biden is making relief for child care centers part of his larger caregiving plan, which he unveiled on Tuesday in New Castle, Delaware. “As a first step, Biden will immediately provide states, tribal, and local governments with the fiscal relief they need to keep workers employed and keep vital public services running, including direct care and child care services,” states the campaign document outlining the plan. (The campaign did not provide specifics on the among of relief the candidate would make available if elected.)

But the former vice president also promises to go beyond the immediate crisis and invest in child care for the future. His plan would provide free preschool to all 3- and 4-year-olds in the country. And for kids under the age of 3, the plan would create a system of tax credits and subsidies so that families earning less than 1.5 times the median income in their state would pay no more than 7 percent of their income for child care, with “the most-hard pressed working families” paying nothing.

The plan also includes tax credits to encourage employers to construct onsite child care facilities, something companies did during World War II that’s become harder to imagine today, as families (most often mothers) are expected to handle child care on their own.”

Joe Biden’s surprisingly visionary housing plan, explained

“The centerpiece is simple. Take America’s biggest rental assistance program — Section 8 housing vouchers — and make it available to every family who qualifies. The current funding structure leaves out around 11 million people, simply because the pot allocated by Congress is too small. Then pair it with regulatory changes to help the housing market work better for more people. It’s the general consensus approach among top Democratic Party politicians and left-of-center policy wonks.”

“because key provisions would be eligible for budget reconciliation treatment, which would require a majority vote in the Senate instead of a supermajority, it’s the kind of thing that really might happen in 2021 if Biden won.”

“the government gives low-income people vouchers that landlords can redeem for money and lets them rent whatever kind of house someone will rent to them. Since the voucher program, when created, became Section 8 of the US Housing Act of 1937, the vouchers have come to be known as Section 8 vouchers.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that more than 5 million people receive help from the program.

It has various flaws, including, most notably, the widespread discrimination against voucher tenants that Stephanie Wykstra has written about for Vox. Another huge flaw is that that, unlike Medicaid or SNAP — which, at least in theory, provide benefits to everyone who meets the eligibility criteria — Section 8 is capped in the amount of money available to it by the whims of Congress. As it stands, about three-quarters of eligible people don’t get the help because there simply isn’t enough money in the pot, which is a huge missed opportunity to improve the lives of millions of Americans.

CBPP data shows that receipt of housing vouchers leads to a decline in children experiencing separation from their parents, a decline in domestic violence, a decline in food insecurity, and, most of all, a steep decline in housing instability.”

“When land is expensive and demand for housing is high, the natural market response would be to build denser structures — townhouses or mid-rise apartments or even big towers — so as to spread the land cost across more households. The origins of these zoning rules were intimately connected to now-forgotten segregation battles in the first half of the 20th century, when the Supreme Court rules essentially that cities couldn’t formally exclude Black people from certain neighborhoods but they could try to exclude all low-income people and count on economics to do the rest.
Later, redlining policies excluded Black neighborhoods from much New Deal housing assistance, depriving Black families of wealth-building opportunities and creating pockets of poverty and exclusion that persist today.

Handing out money to those in need helps the problem on one side, but breaking down the zoning barriers on the other is important as well. Biden picks up a proposal from Sen. Cory Booker and Rep. James Clyburn to require localities that benefit from Community Development Block Grants or Surface Transportation Block Grants to develop plans to change zoning rules that block development of more housing types.

While expanding vouchers is a straightforward liberal pitch, changing exclusionary zoning involves more complicated politics. Many of the most exclusionary places in America are affluent inner-ring suburbs of big coastal cities — places that these days send Democrats to Congress, but that presumably don’t want to be made to change their zoning rules. The potential good news is that, conceptually at least, liberalizing regulation is something Republicans might support.”