Earlier this week, a group of Senate Democrats sent a letter to President Biden calling for additional direct stimulus payments to Americans, in a more expansive form of aid than the now three stimulus checks that have come before. Instead of a one-off new stimulus check as part of what would be a fourth wave of coronavirus relief payments to tens of millions of Americans since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, though, these Senators (as well as a continent of Democratic lawmakers in the House), are pushing for more direct stimulus in the form of recurring payments. In other words, by replacing the one-off stimulus checks that only come after bruising, months-long political battles in Congress with checks that the federal government sends out to Americans with clockwork-like regularity.
Needless to say, the road to that eventuality, if it even comes about at all, will not be a smooth one. To understand why, just consider one particular headline that emerged on Friday: The March 2021 jobs report.
According to the Labor Department, job growth surged in the US at the fastest pace since the summer of 2020. Unemployment dropped to 6%, and nonfarm payrolls grew by 916,000. The expectation had been for an increase of 675,000, according to economists surveyed by Dow Jones.
“It shows that the economy is healing, that those who lost their jobs are coming back into the workforce as the recovery continues and restrictions are lifted,” Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial, told CNBC. “The only concern here is if we have another wave of COVID that leads to another round of closures.”
Meanwhile, President Biden has now expanded his administration’s focus from the “rescue” to the “rebuild” phase of the public health crisis in the US. The $1.9 trillion stimulus legislation that Biden signed on March 11, the so-called “American Rescue Plan,” has given way to Biden’s next priority — a multi-trillion-dollar “Build Back Better” plan that will have a big focus on infrastructure improvements. Needless to say, though, it will be a tricky political needle to thread, in spite of the fact that Democrats control both the executive and legislative branches of the federal government.
As the jobs data shows, they’ll have to have a better answer for why more stimulus is needed than insisting that the economy is still shot to pieces because of the coronavirus. One thing that will help along those lines is by pointing to the fact that the US still has some 8.4 million fewer jobs today than it did before the pandemic
The Covid-19 relief plan “is designed to get past the pandemic. The American Jobs Plan is meant to invest in our future,” WH Council of Economic Advisers Chair Cecilia Rouse tells @jimsciutto as Biden works to build support for his infrastructure plan. https://t.co/354TI2QRG3 pic.twitter.com/RolXyHl9xi
— CNN Newsroom (@CNNnewsroom) April 2, 2021
Cecilia Rouse, chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, tried to convey an intellectual framework for the reason behind the shift from rescue to recovery in the CNN clip above, in which she talks about how Biden’s infrastructure ambitions are about investing “in our future.”