Traditionally, every new Democratic President starts out by passing a big economic package (and every new Republican President starts out by passing a tax cut).
Jimmy Carter’s, in 1977, cost twenty billion dollars. Bill Clinton’s, in 1993, was mainly a tax increase, aimed at eliminating the federal deficit. Barack Obama’s, in 2009, which passed during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, cost eight hundred billion, some of it spending increases, some tax relief.
The American Rescue Plan, which President Joe Biden signed last week, is on an entirely different scale. It will cost the government $1.9 trillion, even though the economy today is in better shape than it was when Obama took office; and, unlike Clinton’s opening economic initiative, it is proudly indifferent to the size of the federal deficit. The law’s most
famous feature, its fourteen-hundred-dollar payments to individuals (meaning that many families will wind up with much more), is only the beginning. There are also extensions of eligibility for unemployment benefits and food stamps; debt relief for renters; subsidies for state and local governments that are out of money, so that they can continue to provide services; a bailout for insolvent pension funds; health-care subsidies; and a nearly universal child-care benefit.