Progressives vs. Neoliberals Again: The 'Targeting' Debate
"This column, then, is an expression of optimism. We might soon, I dearly hope, be back to arguing about legitimate differences over policy matters. More interestingly, we might soon be back to waging an important intramural fight among non-Trumpers over the future of neoliberalism -- the incremental, technocratic, intellectually defensive approach to economic policy that is somehow both appealing and disastrous -- and its uncomfortable tension with progressivism."
"Too often we try to skinny everything down and not fund it properly. If we ended up wasting a few dollars and it jump-started the economy, and it helped all those that were out there, as many as we can that are really hurting, would we not be one heck of a lot better off than trying to just match the shoe size to the foot and undersizing the shoe size to where you couldn’t even walk?"
"The $2000 payments in the bill that McConnell killed were, in fact, going to be subject to an income-based phaseout, with no checks going to people with incomes above $310,000. (There is always a balancing act when it comes to phaseouts, of course.) One could argue that the phaseout should have been steeper, but the marginal effects of this are rather small, with a family of four earning $300,000 per year receiving a total of $500 rather than the $8000 total for a four-person poorer household."
"The Democratic-controlled House passed legislation in December to expand stimulus payments to $2,000. This was marketed as aid to the poor and middle class, but the bill would have given some money to 94 percent of households — including those making over $300,000. President Biden, who supports more direct payments, said this week that he is open to negotiating eligibility details to ensure the funds are targeted to the needy.
"To this anodyne (and reasonable) remark, some on the left reacted with rage: Just give the money to everyone, they argue, and stop this nonsense about targeting. It only slows things down."
"If you believe that government fiscal capacity is infinite and deficits never matter, perhaps it’s easy to dismiss concerns about wasting money on the rich so long as money also happens to reach those who are suffering. But at some point, there will be choices to make, and tradeoffs. Either Republicans will enforce a ceiling on the size of the next relief bill, or the reconciliation process will.
"And then every dollar spent on those who don’t need it will be a dollar not spent on those who do."