To Juice the Economy, Biden Bets on the Poor


But unlike Mr. Biden, Mr. Trump pursued a top-down approach to reinvigorating economic and wage growth. He cut taxes for corporations and other businesses, alongside cuts in individual tax rates up and down the income spectrum. His advisers predicted that the moves would significantly accelerate business investment and generate a sustained economic boom that would in turn drive up incomes for low earners and the middle class, even though the direct benefits of the bill were disproportionately concentrated among the rich.

A sustained investment increase did not materialize as predicted, but economists generally agree that the cuts helped to temporarily bolster economic and wage growth in the year after they passed.

High earners and large companies show little sign of needing government help today. On the whole, the pandemic recession and recovery have made them richer. Workers earning higher wages and those able to work remotely are far less likely to have been thrown off the job, and they have stockpiled savings in the recovery. Companies like Amazon have gained market share as consumer habits have shifted.

But at the bottom end of the income spectrum — and in particular, among Black and Latino families — millions of Americans are still feeling the deep pain of the recession. The economy remains nearly 10 million jobs short of its prepandemic peak, with women of all races and men of color struggling the most to regain employment. The unemployment rate for Black men remains above 10 percent.

Data from the Census Household Pulse survey, analyzed by Lena Simet, a senior researcher on poverty and inequality at Human Rights Watch, shows that the lingering economic distress of the crisis is concentrated among low earners and those who remain out of work. Nearly half of households earning below $35,000 a year reported falling behind on housing payments. One quarter reported not having enough food.

Mr. Biden’s plan would shower those households with government assistance. Elizabeth Pancotti, the policy director at Employ America, a group in Washington that backs the Biden plan, has calculated the benefits for several different hypothetical hard-hit Americans under the bill.

For a working single mother of a 3-year-old who earns the federal minimum wage — just under $16,000 a year — the bill would provide as much as $4,775 in direct benefits, Ms. Pancotti estimates. For a family of four with one working parent and one who remains unemployed because of child care constraints, the benefits could total $12,460.



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