Tag Archives: tax credit

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.


About That Brain Drain…

Indiana has long suffered from “brain drain”–we have great universities that draw very bright students from around the country (and increasingly, the world), but we don’t keep many of them. In fact, the higher a student’s level of education, the more likely the student is to move away from the state after graduation.

Only about 16 percent of PhD recipients remain in Indiana’s workforce one year after graduation.

There are various reasons advanced for this situation; the nature of Indiana’s job market, the attractions of urban life (with few exceptions, Indiana is a pretty rural state), and the relative absence of other college graduates.

We aren’t the only state with this problem. Michigan, for example, is in a similar situation, and a Michigan legislator has proposed an interesting “fix.”

State Sen. Glenn Anderson, D-Westland, recently introduced SB 408, which offers a tax credit to recent college graduates who choose to stay and work in Michigan. This legislation will make it possible for talented young professionals to earn their livelihood in the state by easing the burden of student debt. The bill offers a tax credit to recent graduates who remain in state that lowers annual payments on student loans. 

Student loan debt is increasingly seen as a drag on economic growth, as well as a burden on the indebted individuals. A young person who has to divert a significant percentage of her disposable income to loan repayment isn’t buying a new stove or car or house.

I don’t know whether the numbers in Senator Anderson’s proposal are the right ones, and there may be downsides to his proposal that aren’t immediately apparent.

A tax credit might not be enough to keep graduates in Hoosier cornfields. But it’s an intriguing idea.

I Don’t Know Whether to Laugh or Cry…..

Yesterday, Mayor Ballard released his  “Five-Point Plan” for improving education in Indianapolis.

The timing of this release had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that his opponent in the upcoming election has been hammering him for totally ignoring the issue for the past four years. Nosiree! The administration has been laboring over this plan for months and months. And don’t you believe that just because the plan hasn’t been finished until now (okay, it hasn’t even been mentioned until now), that means the Mayor hasn’t been doing great and wonderful things for local education. They even list those great, wonderful “successes” in the press release. Let’s see…he has “received” lots of applications for new charters under the program his predecessor developed, and he changed the program’s name from Office of Charter Schools to Office of Education Innovation. He “secured” grants (doesn’t say what for) of “up to” 1.4 million dollars, which-let’s be honest here, fellows-is a pretty paltry amount. And my personal favorite, he “made eight charter school renewal decisions.” Wow.

The list of “accomplishments”–none of which seemed to involve actually getting results of any sort–was somewhat pathetic, but when I got to the actual plan, I had to check to be sure I wasn’t reading the Onion.

The very first point of this plan–I am not making this up–is to “offer an income tax credit to nonprofit education reform organizations that locate in the city.”

Read my lips: nonprofit organizations don’t pay taxes.

Now, anyone in Indianapolis who is sentient and paying attention has recognized the limitations of our accidental Mayor, but this one boggles the mind. One of the major jobs of any mayor is to manage the budget. Big city, small village–it doesn’t matter. Job one is figuring out how to pay for jobs two through infinity, and that requires at least a kindergarten-level understanding of who pays taxes. In Indianapolis, we have long struggled with the issue of nonpayment of property taxes by nonprofits, because we have so many of them. It has been the subject of numerous “blue ribbon” committees, studies, etc. For the Mayor to be unaware that nonprofits don’t pay income taxes either (that’s basically the reason they are nonprofits) is simply unfathomable.

It’s bad enough that Ballard labored (so he says) for months over a “plan” that betrays his total lack of comprehension of the nuts and bolts of the city he presumably runs, but where the hell was his staff? What sort of people has he chosen to surround himself with, if a gaffe this enormous got by them?

Anyone who has been reading this blog knows I’ve not been a fan of this Mayor. He has shown little comprehension of the implications of his administration’s policies, and despite his  assurances in campaign ads that he’s “not a politician,” has played hardball politics by blocking satellite voting sites and his willingness to turn a blind eye to ethical questions surrounding the parking meter giveaway. But this time, the emperor’s lack of clothes has been made dramatically–and frighteningly–clear.

Even the Onion couldn’t top this.