Biden, Calling for Big Government, Bets on a Nation Tested by Crisis

Mr. Biden may have Mr. Trump, in part, to thank for that shift. The pandemic aid bills he signed last year, with bipartisan support in Congress, might have helped reset the public’s views of Washington’s spending limits; “trillion” was a red line of sorts under Mr. Obama, but no longer. Mr. Trump also pushed Congress to approve direct checks, an effort Mr. Biden continued, and began the Operation Warp Speed vaccine program that helped hasten the deployment of the most significant driver of economic activity this year: vaccinated Americans. As the economy reopens and people return to work, economic optimism is rising, though Republicans nationwide remain more pessimistic and are far more likely to oppose Mr. Biden’s plans. In Washington, the president does not need Republican support to push through his agenda. He needs only his party to hold together in the House and the Senate, which Democrats enjoy majorities by thin margins, and move as much spending and tax policy as possible through the process known as budget reconciliation. The maneuver bypasses Senate filibusters and allows legislation, like Mr. Biden’s relief bill this year, to pass with only majority-party votes. That process will give large sway to moderate Democrats like Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, but so far that group has not flinched at the scale of Mr. Biden’s ambitions. Mr. Manchin has said he will support $4 trillion in infrastructure spending. It is unclear if Mr. Biden can hold Mr. Manchin and others on his people-focused spending, like the education and child care efforts unveiled on Wednesday. His administration is trying to make the case on productivity grounds, casting the plan as investing in an inclusive economy that would help millions of Americans gain the skills and the work flexibility they need to build middle-class lifestyles. Economists, especially on the left, have been making similar arguments for years: that money to help children escape poverty, adults go back to school or parents afford child care would unleash a boom in work and economic output. Amid the pandemic, the White House sees an opening to follow through on them. “A lot of the ideas that are in this package are ideas that policy activists and labor economists have been talking about and writing about for years and years,” said Melissa S. Kearney, an economics professor at the University of Maryland who directs the Aspen Economic Strategy Group. “It’s pretty exhilarating to see the president pushing them forward right now.”

Biden, Calling for Big Government, Bets on a Nation Tested by Crisis
Mr. Biden may have Mr. Trump, in part, to thank for that shift. The pandemic aid bills he signed last year, with bipartisan support in Congress, might have helped reset the public’s views of Washington’s spending limits; “trillion” was a red line of sorts under Mr. Obama, but no longer. Mr. Trump also pushed Congress to approve direct checks, an effort Mr. Biden continued, and began the Operation Warp Speed vaccine program that helped hasten the deployment of the most significant driver of economic activity this year: vaccinated Americans. As the economy reopens and people return to work, economic optimism is rising, though Republicans nationwide remain more pessimistic and are far more likely to oppose Mr. Biden’s plans. In Washington, the president does not need Republican support to push through his agenda. He needs only his party to hold together in the House and the Senate, which Democrats enjoy majorities by thin margins, and move as much spending and tax policy as possible through the process known as budget reconciliation. The maneuver bypasses Senate filibusters and allows legislation, like Mr. Biden’s relief bill this year, to pass with only majority-party votes. That process will give large sway to moderate Democrats like Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, but so far that group has not flinched at the scale of Mr. Biden’s ambitions. Mr. Manchin has said he will support $4 trillion in infrastructure spending. It is unclear if Mr. Biden can hold Mr. Manchin and others on his people-focused spending, like the education and child care efforts unveiled on Wednesday. His administration is trying to make the case on productivity grounds, casting the plan as investing in an inclusive economy that would help millions of Americans gain the skills and the work flexibility they need to build middle-class lifestyles. Economists, especially on the left, have been making similar arguments for years: that money to help children escape poverty, adults go back to school or parents afford child care would unleash a boom in work and economic output. Amid the pandemic, the White House sees an opening to follow through on them. “A lot of the ideas that are in this package are ideas that policy activists and labor economists have been talking about and writing about for years and years,” said Melissa S. Kearney, an economics professor at the University of Maryland who directs the Aspen Economic Strategy Group. “It’s pretty exhilarating to see the president pushing them forward right now.”