President Biden has caught something of a lucky break — a quirk related to the way in which he’s regarded by the American people that has allowed him to alternatively propose and push sweeping legislation through Congress that dramatically expands the social safety net, craft major tax credits and tee up new stimulus checks, among other things.
That lucky break is the fact that, at this stage of his presidency, Americans seem to view him as less liberal than his Democratic predecessor and former boss, Barack Obama. That’s according to a new NBC News poll released Sunday, reiterating how much difficulty Obama had in passing his agenda while Biden gets to benefit from being seen as more moderate. It’s an interesting perception about the current president, however, because it may not fully line up with the reality and with the agenda he wants to pursue. Consider, for example, that on the one hand there are progressive Democrats who are pushing hard for the president to green-light a new round of coronavirus relief payments to struggling Americans. But had they bothered to read the full text of Biden’s stimulus bills, including the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan he signed into law in March and then the American Families Plan he proposed in recent days, they would be met with at least one unassailable fact: President Biden is in the process of transferring more wealth from the federal government’s coffers to American taxpayers than his predecessors ever dreamed of.
This is not to suggest that Democrats calling for more stimulus checks may not have good reasons for doing so. Just that they shouldn’t do so by arguing Biden hasn’t done enough at this point in the coronavirus crisis. Because there are so many more economic benefits to be found in the legislation that Biden has either signed into law or proposed that will help American taxpayers beyond the one-time $1,400 stimulus checks that got an outsized share of attention. We’ve also written on numerous occasions now about an expansion of the federal tax credit made possible by the American Rescue Plan that will give families $3,600 in new stimulus checks over the course of a year. Meantime, there are still other benefits that working families can receive from the stimulus law — on top of the $1,400 stimulus checks, plus the $3,600 benefit that we just mentioned.
For example, there’s been almost no media coverage at all of the expansion of the Child and Dependent Care Credit, made possible by the American Rescue Plan. This is strange because it’s even more lucrative than the one-time stimulus checks, as well as the $3,600 stemming from the child tax credit expansion. According to the personal finance site Nerdwallet, for the 2021 tax year only, the Child and Dependent Care Credit can basically get you up to $8,000 of what you spend on child care and similar costs for a child under 13, a spouse or parent who cannot care for themselves, or another dependent so that you can work (and up to $16,000 of expenses for two or more dependents). Said another way, if you have two or more eligible dependents, a working family that meets the income requirements could get up to an $8,000 tax credit — again, just for this year.
Certainly, $1,400 stimulus checks are one thing. But surely they pale in comparison to an $8,000 or $16,000 tax credit, right?
This is why we say it’s unusual that people would feel like Biden is more moderate than President Obama was. According to the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, which is an official entity that helps Congress with various forecasts, the mix of credits included in the March stimulus law that Biden signed will end up cutting taxes for people who aren’t rich far more than President Trump’s much-touted tax legislation did in 2017. In fact, Politico notes, new estimates show that tax-related benefits like all these we mentioned above mean that people who make less than $100,000 should end up paying almost no federal income taxes this year, once the benefits offset anything they owe. Let me repeat that: People who make less than $100,000 theoretically should end up paying literally or no taxes, under President Biden. Extraordinary times we’re living in.