The major thrust is to pump cash into the hands of the least well-off. It extends the $300/month supplement to unemployment benefits, to September 6. It provides stimulus checks of $1400 per person earning under $75000 per year. It expands the Child Tax Credit to $3600 per child under 6, and $3000 per child age 6-17. It provides $30 billion for assistance to renters and homeowners with mortgages.
While each of the Democratic presidents from Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama trimmed their sails to tack into the winds of Reaganite orthodoxy, Biden is having none of that.
Substantial funding of course goes to supporting the state and local response to the pandemic, including $350 billion to state and local governments, $510 million to FEMA, $10 billion for infrastructure, and $8.5 billion for rural health providers. There will be funding to promote vaccine delivery, expanded subsidies for those who have lost their jobs and need to purchase health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, and help for restaurants and bars adversely affected by the pandemic.
Aid to schools at all levels, from Head Start to Higher Education, is slated for about $200 billion, mostly to help with coping with the pandemic.
Staving off a disaster for retirees, often-precarious multi-employer pension plans are set to receive $86 billion.
In short, as the Guardian puts it, the bill “marks the end to four decades of Reaganism.” It’s scarcely a wonder that no Republicans could be found to support it. Ronald Reagan famously said that government is not the solution to our problems, it IS the problem.
Biden is here to tell us, once again, that when times are tough, the government has an essential role to play, both in pumping up the economy and in redistributing resources to diminish the gross inequalities produced by deregulation over the last forty years.
While each of the Democratic presidents from Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama trimmed their sails to tack into the winds of Reaganite orthodoxy, Biden is having none of that. At least on this bill, he has pushed successfully for a full-throated reassertion of the social democratic thrust of Franklin Roosevelt.
He may well have to trim his own sails to get further legislation through the evenly divided Senate, where it’s not clear, even if he wanted to abolish the filibuster, that he would have the votes to do it. But whatever else may happen, with the American Rescue Plan he has set the country on a new and more progressive course.