Joe Biden And Childhood Poverty

Joe Biden has been President for barely a month, and he has already proved me wrong.

Don’t misunderstand–I have always really liked Biden. I have read enough stories and heard about enough incidents from people who know him personally to recognize that he is a genuinely decent, caring human being. A mensch. I was in agreement with his platform, and I was happy to vote for him. But his long history of bipartisanship in the Senate–not to mention the Obama Administration’s (constantly rebuffed) efforts to reach across the aisle–led me to expect more of the same.

Instead, Biden hasn’t just “hit the ground running.” He has been aggressive and arguably transformative. He has acted decisively to rid the federal government of the sleeper agents (my terminology, but I’d argue it’s accurate) inserted in various agencies; he’s appointed highly competent, experienced people to replace the corrupt lobbyists and know-nothings intent upon crippling those agencies, and I have applauded his clear commitment to the environment, to ending the pandemic and getting the economy back on track, among numerous other things.

While Biden has been civil and welcoming to Republicans who have made noises about compromise–Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post dubbed Biden’s recent meeting with ten GOP Senators an “exercise in performative bipartisanship”– he’s also made it very clear that he intends to fulfill his campaign promises with or without them. No more falling for what has aptly been called the GOP’s “Lucy and the football” ploys.

In other words, the good news has just kept coming!

And here’s more: I only recently became aware of an incredibly important element of Biden’s pandemic stimulus–a measure that experts say could reduce childhood poverty by fifty percent.

As Nicholas Kristof explained in his column in the New York Times, 

President Biden included a proposal in his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that one study says would cut child poverty by half. We in the news media have focused on direct payments to individuals, but the historic element of Biden’s plan is its effort to slash child poverty.

“The American Rescue Plan is the most ambitious proposal to reduce child poverty ever proposed by an American president,” Jason Furman, a Harvard economist, told me.

It will not surprise anyone to know that this provision was entirely absent from the Republican “compromise” proposal. (The party of “religion and Jesus and children,” as Representative Rosa DeLauro sarcastically put it…Or as Kristof writes, “Jesus says (19:14) suffer the little children to approach him; he absolutely does not recommend that the little children shall suffer.”)

Biden’s plan to address child poverty would expand the existing child tax credit, up to $3,600 a year for young children. There is an existing child tax credit, but the way it currently works, the families that are most in need of it earn too little to take advantage of it. They earn too little to pay taxes, and the credit is taken against taxes owed. So it looks progressive–even magnanimous– but in practice, it isn’t.  

Biden’s plan would change the credit into a monthly stipend–and as Kristof notes, even a sum as modest as $3,600 would be utterly transformative for many low-income families.

One reason to think that this would be so successful is that many other countries have used similar strategies to cut child poverty by large margins. Canada’s parallel approach cut child poverty by 20 to 30 percent, depending on who’s counting, and Britain under Tony Blair cut child poverty in half.

Now that Democrats are in power, Republicans can be expected to protest that the country can’t afford Biden’s plan. (That protest conveniently overlooks the $2.3 trillion dollar cost of their massive tax cut, which primarily enriched the already affluent.) A cost-benefit analysis says we certainly can afford it, because it will ultimately save money– current estimates put the costs of child poverty to the United States at about $1 trillion annually, a sum that reflects reduced adult productivity, increased crime and higher health care costs. 

During the primaries, I worried that both Biden and Bernie were too old. I was wrong. It may be that Biden expects to be a one-term president–a realization that frees him from second-term electoral calculations, and reminds him that he has a limited time to turn the country around. 

Whatever the reason, I’ve never been so happy to be wrong. Biden is on his way to being a truly transformative president.


  1. Biden learned the lesson while VP that Republicans are “bipartisan” when you agree to their proposals. Since Republicans have proven for decades that they don’t care a damn about the poor – adults or children – Biden is taking that lesson to the fore.

    Oh, the Republicans will whine about Biden not being unified, but that’s just their smoke screen that covers up their lack of platform, lack of agenda that serves anyone but the rich and lack of moral fiber that makes up their hypocrisy. And I’m not even considering the right wing nut cases like Matt Gaetz.

    Even Schumer seems to be standing firm. If Democrats stick with this, they will swamp the GOP in both houses come 2022. The Republicans are splintering like a glass dropped from a table as it is.

  2. I have had a problem with the 2020 Census form which I have yet to find anyone who understands why it is a problem. I have always dreaded the time consuming length of the form due to detailed information it required, but always fully filled out and returned the form as required by law. There are two versions of Census forms; the web site for the United States Census 2000 was the last detailed report, “The Long and Short of It, Why Does the Census Ask So Many Questions?” Last year I received the short form which only required racial information, in detail including ethnic history of residents in my home. After questioning my race and ethnic history was the question regarding any or how many Hispanics are living in my home, the following question was how many other Hispanics live in my home were not listed on the previous question. The following questions only regarded race and ethnic origin in my home. There was no meaning to these questions and no way for any government agency to know where and how much assistance is needed for low income families, schools, public safety, hospitals, the steadily crumbling infrastructure. The 2020 Census, unless Trump allowed a long form be used by some, has provided no current information on childhood poverty or the racial divide to aid economically or to control the Covid-19 Pandemic for all races. The Republican “compromise proposal”, like their 2020 Census form, omitted statistics needed to move forward unimpeded with the proposed stimulus bill.

    “Now that Democrats are in power, Republicans can be expected to protest that the country can’t afford Biden’s plan.” Their census provided the basis for their protest by not providing vital census information and their tax cuts for the wealthy provided the basis for their claim Biden can’t afford it.

  3. In researching reparations due to redlining and slavery (specifically redlining in my community), I came across a plan from presidential candidate Kamala Harris on Brooking’s website.

    I am also glad to see Uncle Joe following his younger administrators’ lead, who’ve obviously been compiling well-researched policy recommendations.

    Antony Blinken, the newly appointed Secretary of State, has been involved in a “parallel government” for four years in anticipation of winning back the Whitehouse. They avoid registering as lobbyists so they can reenter government without a hitch.

    “The firm, which now looks like a government-in-waiting for the next administration, was founded in 2017 by Tony Blinken, President-elect Joe Biden’s choice for secretary of State, and Michèle Flournoy, a top contender for secretary of Defense. And one of its former principals, Avril Haines, is Biden’s pick for director of national intelligence.

    But little is known about WestExec’s client list. Because its staffers aren’t lobbyists, they are not required to disclose who they work for. They also aren’t bound by the Biden transition’s restrictions on hiring people who have lobbied in the past year.”

  4. I find that I too am delighted with Biden’s leadership so far. I underestimated him, and I overestimated the Republican effort to build unity. Thus far, Biden’s political moves prove the wisdom of his years and reveal the urgency of the crisis facing the nation.
    Added bonus…I’m sleeping better these nights.

  5. It would have to agree with Sheila this morning!

    Sometimes the sum of a person’s experience serves them well. A lifetime of experience and the knowledge that goes with it, gives him a tremendous amount of wisdom. His time as vice president was the icing on the cake. If, Beau Biden hadn’t died, we probably wouldn’t have had the Trump experience. And, I think of Joe Biden had his druthers he would’ve probably preferred not to be president. But he also recognized his calling, and, as a lifelong public servant, he knew what was his course of obligation to put his knowledge and wisdom to work for those in which he chose to serve.

    That being said, even as Biden has patterned himself after one that he admires greatly, Jesus Christ, even Jesus Christ was killed because he threatened the establishment that was deeply embedded in Jewish society at the time. The Pharisees and the Sadducees of the Sanhedrin always claimed to be looking for the Messiah, but when faced with empirical evidence at the time, they chose to fight against Christ to retain their power. And, it cost him his life.

    A man of wisdom such as Biden would recognize this and would know there is a critical possibility he could end up the same way. Not so much in a trial or a public spectacle of savagery as Christ suffered, but a single member of an organized lunatic squad could do that job just as easily.

    1st Timothy 5:1-2 reads; Do not rebuke an elderly man but appeal to him as a father; younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, younger ones as sisters in all purity.

    James reminds us that for our worship to be acceptable, we must “look after orphans and widows in their tribulation and keep ourselves without spot from the world.” (James 1:27)

    And what about the over 100 million individuals who’ve are displaced from their own countries of origin, or, packed into modern concentration camps claiming to be compassionate refugee centers? Do we turn our back on those in need? Because, if we are not presently in need ourselves, some time in our lives, we will be! So why do so many look down upon those they claim are aliens or foreigners? Why is their form of worship, or language, or custom, or appearance, so fear inspiring?

    Leviticus 25:35 reads; “‘If your brother who is nearby becomes poor and cannot support himself, you must sustain him as you would a foreign resident and a settler, so that he may keep alive with you.

    As Christians, which so many of these folks are, just as the pastor alluded to on the thread said yesterday, love and compassion the key! Christ himself said at Matthew 22:36-40, which reads; “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?” 37 And he said to him “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,’ 38 this is the greatest commandment, the first. 39 A second like it is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hangs all the law and the prophets.”

    Christ also said, at Matthew 5:44, which reads; “continue to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”

    We don’t see much of this in the evangelical ranks, and it’s becoming fewer and further between!

    What we see now is best described in 2nd Timothy 4:3, 4 which reads; ” For there will be a time when they will not stand sound teaching, but to suit their own desires will pile up teachers for themselves as they get their ears tickled, 4 and avert their ears from the truth and turn off to the fictions”

    So, today this is been established, those who claim to be religiously inclined have accepted conspiracy theories and false narratives as truth, their teachers are the liars and thieves and not those of Christ.

    Joe Biden recognizes this, and he’s doing his best, but, the deck is stacked against him, not only from those who declare him an enemy, but those who even declare him as a friend!

  6. Both the $1400 cash and the now brewing $3000 per child are horribly flawed. They give money to families earning $100,000 or more. There has been extensive research that such folks put the money into savings or pay bills. And the GOP will surely use such “handouts” to win the House in 2022.

    It can’t be rocket science to find out who is really poor and needy – ask Medicaid, ask the food banks, ask churches….not the IRS!

  7. Great column as always, but I hope in all the rush to help starving people (VITAL!) and reunite refugee families (VITAL!) and bring us back into the world with things like the Paris climate accord (VITAL!) our great new president can get the post office to function again after the orange idiot appointed a donor postmaster general and tried to sabotoge the mail-in election votes. I see that well under half of some classes of mail are meting delivery standards now (compared to 92% before the Trump lackey Mr. DeJoy was appointed. Things like a letter from my financial advisor in Indianapolis taking 64 days to get to me in Maine are unpardonable or worse, so those of us old folks who write cheques and mail them are having 2nd thoughts on going to internet e-payments. I just wish I knew where a $700 cheque I mailed to Atlanta to pay a bill on the 25th of January has gone off to. Three cheers to Joe, but once the vitals are back, please let’s fix the post office!

  8. Bipartisanship is a two-way street and Republicans would like to rebuild it into a one-way street. Biden has made it clear that he’s not going to meet them in the middle to claim it if it doesn’t address the problems at hand. In 2009 business make more money now regardless of the impact on any others ever created a recession which Republican conservatism hadn’t made a dent in and Democrats had to step up to the plate. The problem last year was not human-made but the same solution calculus is in play.

    Our broken politics is extremism from the standpoint of one approach per party is always and only the “right” approach rather than problem-solving in which the name of the game is flexibility and inclusiveness and creativity.

    It will be the end of the year before there’s evidence of the Biden plans effectiveness but it’s a year over which doing nothing or almost nothing would be intolerable.

  9. Former President Obama tried to work with the Republicans but they remained obstructionist. That Republican obstruction started, in my opinion, with Newt Gingerich.

    Biden will, I believe, be less willing to compromise with Republicans when they propose alternatives to legislation that obstruct his agenda because of their past unwillingness to work with President Obama. Often the question for me is did the fact that former President Obama was black have anything to do with their obstructionism. Based on how the Republican base is now acting , I suspect it did.

    Food banks don’t, I believe, ask people for their names. But yes, Lester, we could find out who is on Medicaid. I doubt that $100,000 goes very far for a family of 4 or more at this time due to the past high inflation rates in the 70’s. I don’t know if Biden’s rescue plan will change any of the attitudes of Trump’s base. I doubt it.

    It will take more than financial aid to remove people from poverty, to enable upward mobility for many Americans. It will take a grassroots’ efforts which includes local community leaders who can clearly identify what the community needs ie after school programs, youth mentoring programs, health clinics etc. Poverty tends to be intergenerational with its own peculiar cultural norms. ( ie Appalachian coal miners) If we wish to lift the next generation of children out of poverty, we will need to heal them of trauma due to gun violence, and systems that deny them and their parents a right to their voice. We will need to free them from the systemic belief that poor people were “predestined” to poverty. ( I hate the religious idea of predestination due to its devastating implications for people of poverty.)

    My maternal grandfather was the only one who escaped his family’s cuture of poverty in Kentucky. He had to leave Kentucky and become a farmer in Indiana in order to do so. His mother and some of his siblings died of TB. Despite all this, he managed, somehow, to become an optimist. Because he was able to escape poverty, he moved into the middle class and enabled my family of origin to remain in the middle class.

    I just hope and pray that in the next 2 years, we are able to contain the pandemic and start to revitalize our economy.

  10. Biden as a senator worked across the aisle in order to fashion a legislative outcome he could live with via compromise. As president and a representative of all the people but as a Democrat he has a different take on how to fashion legislative outcomes – and he is right to a fault – invite Congress to help but let them know he is going to pursue his vision on solution of the issues of the day. He has a different vision because he is in a different station, one in which he now has a bully pulpit and a veto pen.

    The $3,600.00 per child proposal is a good one and would do much to alleviate both child and family poverty. The present credit against income is not only inadequate but does not even reach the poorest among us who have inadequate income from which to apply the credit. This proposal solves that problem and can help pay for it via offsets ending the previous and flawed income threshhold with ending externalities such as SNAP etc.

    Sheila rightly suggests that adoption of the new child credit proposal would be cheaper and more beneficial to those who need it than the present system. She is right, but if not, there is always a means of making up the deficit, i. e., adopotion of Warren’s wealth tax, a plan approved by Piketty, Stiglitz, and uh, Gerald Stinson.

  11. I also am pleased with Biden so far. He’s subtler and cleverer than many realize, as Eugene Robinson pointed out in the phrase, “exercise in performative bipartisanship”. As the QOP grows ever more intransigent in their support for the Orange Bubble (OB), there will be fewer opportunities for such exercises.

    However, I am withholding my final judgment pending his success in keeping OB from making a comeback. Despite Todd’s snarky comments about Biden’s appointments, I believe he quality of their work – especially Blinken- will redound to the benefit of Democrats.

  12. Do you know, the food banks do not ask for information from anyone. They don’t ask if you’re a citizen or non-citizen, whether you’re working or not, whether you’re gay or straight, whatever the reason, they don’t ask.

    Everyone can decide to help their fellow man today. Find people next to you, associated with you somehow, or in your neighborhood, who needs some sort of help. Jump in your car, go to the next pop up food pantry and pick up a car load for several families .

    Even after I broke my leg, it didn’t stop me from driving to the food bank and picking up food for those in need. 4 to 5 times a month, I can pick up enough food for 10 to 20 families depending on what’s available. I mostly concentrate on the elderly and those with small children. Most of the time the elderly are widows.

    I don’t do it for self-renown, because that’s not what it’s about. It’s about supplying milk and meat and vegetables for children, it’s about providing diapers and formula! It’s about providing breakfast foods and dinner foods for elderly widows and those that they might have with them in their family unit. Some of those individuals would not survive without the help! And, in good conscience, how could one not do the right thing if you have the opportunity?

    I do and always have and always will look at those elderly widows as mothers, and those children as my children, and those men in the families as my brothers! Some of them don’t even speak my language, but why should that matter?

    I can afford food for myself and my family, so I don’t keep any of the food I pick up, the right thing to do is to offer yourself as a slave for your fellow man! I’ve always done this, and I learned it from the practice of my parents and my mother’s people before them.

    I remember my wife’s grandmother talking about how they would leave a plate and mug with utensils on their back porch. Inevitably someone would come through looking to work so they could eat during the great depression.

    Of course my wife’s grandmother was african-american, and she said it didn’t matter to the white folks that came through, even the ones that were not nice to them before they were not able to feed themselves. Food has no color when you’re hungry! They were poor, but they had a farm! so, food was always available. People offering labor to eat was always welcome because the men in the family were either fighting the war or dead.

    People can figure out how to tolerate each other if their life depends on it, but when things get better, the hate is much easier to come by!

  13. I hope that Biden works to reverse The Trumpet’s big tax gift to the uber wealthy. Elizabeth Warren is talking about a wealth tax plus a transaction tax on stock trades. So many flawed tax loopholes for corporations and the 1%.

    Sure the GOP will squeal, shout and pound the table.

  14. I, too, was concerned that Biden might try to be a “nice” guy, and do the bi-partisan dance, but his actual moves are very welcome! Schumer, as mentioned earlier, is also showing more determination than I’d hoped to see. Ironically, as I may have commented on another day, Trump’s capacity to bring out the worst in people has shown how he is so good at killing anything (such as the GOP) that he touches, and has led to more undoings for the right than anyone could have expected. Biden, and company, have to keep being highly determined, and pro-active…for ever.
    The republicans have lost their, never earned, moral high ground. Well, maybe back in Lincoln’s day they earned it. But the first Johnson blew it away. They have no moral, nor ethical compass, as the saying goes, and certainly no sense of their highly vaunted “personal responsibility,” as their sudden dislike of Liz Cheney shows. I never thought I’d be sticking up for any Cheney!

  15. It’s a small thing but it speaks volumes to me on how Biden signs his executive orders. Looks like he reads, signs and pushes to side of his desk before going on to the next one. Having a potus sign an order with a magic marker & hold it up like grade school show & tell, seemed so so unpresidential and un- reassuring.
    I’m relieved US has a Potus who has true Christian values and Statesman know how that will use his power to help/guide citizens to a more just way for everyone.

  16. I have to agree with you, Sheila. I had those same worries, and I am very happy to be wrong.

    Lester – perhaps you are right, but your politics on “means testing” is a little off. First, there is an actual cost to go through and determine who gets what, but more important is the psychological difference between getting and not getting.

    If Bill Gates gets $1,400 and I do as well, I might be upset, but it will pass – I got mine.

    If the cutoff is $30K/yr income, and I make $31K, I am outraged. I am outraged that the cutoff wasn’t $32K and I resent it. I may even feel that those getting the money are lazy and non-deserving, because I took that second job to achieve my $31K income and they only worked one job – I wouldn’t know, but it wouldn’t matter, that is how resentment works.

    Being generous is a win for the Democrats, even if Bill Gates gets a check too.

    There are those who always worry that the “undeserving” are getting something; Others worry that the “deserving” are being deprived. I admit to living in the latter camp. It’s familial – I was told that my very religious, old country grandfather said it was better to give to the beggar that may not actually be poor, than to deny alms to the beggar who may actually need it.

    As they say, your mileage may vary

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