Can Biden's "Just Say No" Austerity Czar Be Won Over? He Just Was-- Hugely

Cory Booker (D-NJ) wasn't exaggerating when he called the measures to fight child poverty an opportunity for Biden to put his name on something that would help define his legacy. And many Democrats-- including some moderates and conservatives like Michael Bennet of Colorado-- were on board with Booker and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) when they started working Biden's aides. "An unlikely coalition of Democrats across the ideological spectrum," wrote Annie Linskey for the Washington Post this morning, "mounted an 11th-hour push in the final weekend before the American Rescue Plan for President Biden to go big on tackling child poverty. They prevailed over what one person involved in the process called the 'cost police' in Biden’s inner circle, those anxiously warning about the ballooning cost of the stimulus package."

That would be long-time Biden crony and fellow conservative Ted Kaufman (age 82-- who first met Biden as a volunteer on his original anti-busing Senate campaign in 1972). From 1976 'til 1995, he was Biden's chief of staff. When Biden became VP in 2008, Kaufman was appointed to the Senate job. More recently he headed Biden's White House transition team and is a top Biden advisor.

Linskey reported that some see the impact of the program as potentially impactful as LBJ's War on Poverty, a war which started off well, but was eventually lost to the forces of conservatism, which is why the U.S. in plagued with poverty to the extent it is today. She wrote that "The sudden, unexpected creation of an approximately $120 billion social program has thrown a twist into the political landscape. Some Democrats [basically the lily-livered Republican wing of the Democratic Party] now fear being labeled big-government spenders in the upcoming midterms. Some conservatives, on the other hand, are embracing the idea as a family-friendly measure. With the initiative expiring in a year, all but ensuring it will be a major issue in the midterms, the child poverty measure raises a central question: Are the politics of big government back?"

The program’s impact probably will be profound. It expands the federal child-rearing subsidy by 50 percent-- and parents of toddlers will get even more. A family with two young children and no income will now get $600 a month. The parents of 90 percent of the country’s children will benefit, and 27 million children will be lifted from poverty, according to analysts.
Crucially, the new money takes the form of cash payments, not tax cuts, so even people who don’t make enough to pay taxes will get aid.
That approach aligns the United States far more closely with European-style wealth redistribution, according to both supporters and detractors. “I liken it to the New Deal,” [Rosa] DeLauro said in an interview. “This changes the country.”
Biden’s challenge now is to make the concept permanent; [conservative] Democrats declined to do so this year to avoid making the relief bill even costlier.
...[I]t was hardly obvious that the program fit in the coronavirus relief package. Bennet, DeLauro and Booker, along with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), all of whom have known Biden for years, started calling around the president’s circle to make their case.
But on the Friday before Biden was set to unveil the American Rescue Plan, a White House aide texted Bennet, his former boss, to say that only a scaled-down version of the child poverty plan had made it into the package.
That set off alarms. “We won the election, we won the Senate and the presidency, so now it was time to move,” DeLauro recalled. “I made calls on Saturday and Sunday” to White House aides such as Jared Bernstein, a top Biden economic adviser.
...By the end of the weekend, the full proposal was in the bill.
Republicans so far have not made the measure a focus of attack, instead casting the broader coronavirus relief package as a boondoggle that includes billions in spending unrelated to the pandemic.
...Democrats already are pushing to include an extension of the program in the president’s next budget package, according to a Congressional aide involved in the discussions.
Beyond that, Democrats hope American families will get used to receiving their checks, and they cite the Washington axiom that it’s hard to take something away from voters after they’ve started receiving it.
Still, popularizing the program will require Biden to begin selling it. The president has mentioned it in his speeches but has not made it a focus.
White House aides say a harder sales pitch is coming. “Halving child poverty” is one of 10 elements of the American Rescue Plan that Biden plans to highlight in coming days, according to a memo obtained by the Washington Post.
Some Democrats acknowledge that some in their party are squeamish about having to defend the distribution of government checks to working-age adults who are not working, even if it’s to help care for their children.
The party remains bruised from the political fights of the 1980s and 1990s, when federal welfare recipients were caricatured in often biting terms. “Maybe it’s the specter of the ‘welfare queen,’ ” said one person who has pushed the issue for years and spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak frankly about how the change is messaged. “The poverty of our children is because of the implicit racism that often inhibits us from doing things.”
So far those fears have not been realized. The Biden administration is even eyeing potential support from the political right, where conservatives have pitched ideas similar to the Biden child tax credit, with the goal of supporting families and making it easier for one parent to stay home.
“We’ve seen the birthrate in this country go down, down, down, and people are not getting married and not having kids,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) said Thursday, as he pitched his own plan at an event hosted by American Compass, a conservative think tank. His proposal, he said, is “designed to be a very substantial incentive for marriage, family formation, as well as for having kids.”
Romney’s plan is more generous than Biden’s for parents of the youngest children, and he even argued it could reduce abortions. “This is to help the pregnant women who are concerned about the financial circumstances of bringing a child into the world,” Romney said. “Providing a monthly stipend to someone who is pregnant is very much a pro-life consideration.”
Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Marco Rubio of Florida, both staunch conservatives, have backed a different version of child assistance that offers more money to working parents but would omit checks for the unemployed.
That is a stark difference from Biden’s plan. The president’s version boosts the existing $2,000 annual child subsidy-- known as the Child Tax Credit-- by $1,000 per child, or $1,600 for the parents of very young children.
In the past, parents who did not work, and therefore paid no federal income tax, did not benefit from the program, since it was set up as a reduction in taxes owed. But now they will have access to the federal checks.
A related change triples the size of the Earned Income Tax Credit, which also is intended to benefit the poor, expanding eligibility to a lower age limit of 19 and removing an upper age limit.
DeLauro has been pushing the child payments for 18 years and wrote about it in her 2011 book The Least Among Us. “It took a while to do,” DeLauro acknowledged in the interview, adding that over the years, “time changes, people change, the environment changes, and you can get things done.”
The bill’s backers were spurred to action in part because the coronavirus crisis highlighted the inequality in American society. “There’s a sense that the economy for 50 years has worked for people at the very top, but literally for 90 percent of Americans it hasn’t worked,” Bennet said. “That was much more clear to members of Congress today than it was when Barack Obama was president.”
...[T]he child poverty plan did not make it into the initial “Build Back Better” agenda that Biden heralded over the summer. But in early September, when Biden called House Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA) to congratulate him on winning his primary, Neal used the call to urge Biden to champion the policy.
Shortly after, the Biden’s campaign added a few lines to its website embracing the idea. The change garnered little attention, going online the day after liberal Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died.
Still, it was a victory, backers said. And six months later, Biden has signed a covid relief package that includes the measure.
The president called DeLauro to thank her personally for pushing it so hard and credited her publicly at a Rose Garden ceremony following the bill’s passage.
After the legislation passed, a reporter asked Brown how he felt. He replied, “It was the best day of my career.”

Republican pressure always plays a part, but it is usually pressure from conservative Democrats that water down progressive policies and turn them into hardtop defend political detriments that wind up being... "better than nothing." Congressional Democrats would prefer weak bipartisan bullshit to nothing but the GOP sits on their hands while Democrats fight internally about making their legislation more acceptable to Republicans who never back it anyway.

Ron Wyden (D-OR): "I will always do everything I possibly can to try to find common ground. The question becomes, what do you do if the other side just says 'No way'? And what Mitch McConnell did in 2009, he said, 'My No. 1 goal is to stop Barack Obama from getting reelected.'" Republicans play hardball while Democrats play patty-cake, none more so than conservative Democrats like Joe Biden and Ted Kaufman. Let's watch closely as conservative Democrats from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- the Democraps-- work to water down the Infrastructure Bill for the Republicans, who will all vote against it anyway.

Want to help elect Democrats who aren't just running races to prepare for a career in lobbying and to go to Congress to play patty-cake? Good. That's what the 2022 Act Blue congressional thermometer is for. Please click on it and contribute what you can to the slate of progressive candidates who aren't going to play along with conservatism and who are campaigning on the Green New Deal, Medicare-for-All and policies built for empowering the working class and middle class against the encroachments of corporate tyranny.

One of those candidates in Virgina progressive Ally Dalsimer, who is taking on a garden variety corporate Democrat. This morning she told me that "Thomas Jefferson once said 'the measure of society is how it treats the weakest members.' As one of the world's wealthiest nations, there is no real excuse for the U.S. to have such high levels of poverty. According to recent statistics, the pandemic has severely exacerbated poverty for millions of Americans with 1 in 4 saying they struggle to feed themselves and their families, and millions at-risk of becoming homeless. Before the pandemic, over 10% of children in the U.S. lived in poverty, yet nearly half of children under age 6 living with a single mom experienced poverty, and it's worse for children of color with nearly 3 in 4 children living in poverty! And, as we all know, the pandemic has made things worse: it has increased poverty rates among working class people, and has hit people of color and women especially hard. What this means is that, for kids living with a single mom, the majority live in poverty. In VA-11, the three most economically disadvantaged groups are all women with the youngest (18-24) being the hardest hit. It is unconscionable that we-- as a society-- refuse to care for our most vulnerable populations. We have the resources to lift children out of poverty; we just need the political will and leaders with vision and courage to make it happen.