Commentary

Don’t do it Dems. Don’t give up on cash benefits for working families.

Maybe Mitt Romney can help

January 16, 2022 6:29 am

The unofficial symbol of Democratic economic policy for more than 40 years, many hoped the flag had finally been retired. (Getty)

If the District of Columbia had two U.S. senators, they would assuredly be Democrats, nobody would care what Joe Manchin thinks, and 350,000 or so Nevada families would still be receiving direct monthly payments under the expanded child tax credit program because the Build Back Better bill would be law.

But no.

So now what?

Earlier this year, Democratic members of Congress up for reelection in Nevada were treating the expanded child tax credit as not only a huge policy achievement, but a key campaign issue.

It was a huge policy achievement. Adam Laxalt even tried to get TV stations to stop running an ad that said he was against it.

Let that sink in: Knee-jerk big government hater Adam Laxalt didn’t want voters to think he was against a big government program.

That’s doubly amazing since Laxalt and other Republicans have convinced a large swath of the electorate that government spending is responsible for inflation. That’s wrong. But even if you believe spending has overheated the economy, the one program that has by far pumped more money into the economy faster than anything else Biden and Democrats have done is the expanded child tax credit.

And yet Laxalt is afraid of being against it.

From July through December, the child tax credit – as expanded under the American Rescue Plan passed by Biden and the Democrats without a single Republican vote – provided monthly payments in Nevada totaling about $900 million to more than 350,000 households representing nearly 600,000 children.

Again, that’s $900 million over six months. Little wonder that the program is routinely referred to as the greatest anti-poverty program passed by Congress during the course of most of our lifetimes.

Now it’s gone, because Manchin, arriving at a conclusion for which there is no historical evidence whatsoever, believes he knows better than everyone else.

Super high on his own supply, Manchin refused to support the Build Back Better social infrastructure bill that would have extended the child tax credit for at least another year.

Build Back Better might be toast.

But there’s still a chance for Congress to restore monthly direct benefits for working families.

Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney’s proposal, which he unveiled nearly a year ago, would provide families $350 a month for each young child and $250 for each school aged child. That’s actually more generous than the recently expired child tax credit program.

Democrats might have trouble with how Romney’s plan would be funded – cutting the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program, for instance. Or axing that asinine SALT – state and local tax – deduction, a tax cut for rich people that a handful of short-sighted blue state Democrats think is next to godliness.

But that’s what compromise is about. 

Romney re-upped his plan when it became clear Manchin was going to be, well, Manchin.

And the White House has indicated it’s ready to give Romney’s proposal another look. 

With Manchin benching Build Back Better, and Kyrsten Sinema’s twisted filibuster worship killing voting rights legislation, Democrats appear to be mostly confused about what exactly it is they are trying to do these days. Sending out press releases about investing a nickel-ninety-eight on bridges to be named later – something Nevada’s senators did last week – will energize neither base voters nor whatever remains of a swing electorate.

So this is what it’s come to: In the interest of working families, the best road ahead for policymakers might lead to Romney.

At this point in the proceedings, Democrats should probably take it. Unless they’ve got some plan for restoring a program that became a lifeline for Nevada families, in which case, they really ought to get on the stick. Families have already missed one month of the greatest program Democrats have enacted since the Johnson administration. The more months like that there are, the harder it’s going to be restore or replace it.

***

But would any GOP senators back Romney’s plan? It’s only January. That means there is quite a bit of time for a crabby, owly and cross electorate to realize that whether it’s the economy or the virus or education or whatever, the main thrust of the Republican agenda is fundamentally negative. They’re not really for anything. They’re just against anything Democrats do (including voting). The GOP agenda does not extend beyond urging people to be even more crabby, owly and cross.

Having wallowed in that for quite some time already, by October when early voting starts, the electorate might be weary of Republicans offering nothing but more creepy mood.

A few Republicans have already indicated interest in Romney’s direct cash benefits proposal. And Romney seems to think he can get some of his fellow Republicans on board. Some of them might want to be for something other than censoring U.S. history classes to preserve and protect white supremacy, so maybe he can.

Now for some notes from the GOP gubernatorial primary circus

Demeaning for Dean. Several days ago eight Republicans who say they are running for governor showed up for a “debate.” I’d never heard of three of them. Other than Dean Heller, the only other people on the stage who have ever won a race are John Lee and Michele Fiore, and the races they’ve won have been awfully down-ballot compared to Heller’s resume.

Yes, hardly anybody, whatever their party affiliation, takes Heller seriously anymore. But at the debate, Heller managed to do the unthinkable: Make himself look even smaller.

Joe Lombardo’s handlers, Ryan Erwin and Mike Slanker, evidently thought better of tarnishing their product by allowing it to appear on the same stage with the rest of the circus performers. Erwin and Slanker used to handle Heller. You have to wonder if Heller would have been there if they still did.

As for the event’s content vis a vis serious policy and real-world issues… I admittedly only watched a few minutes before deciding life is short. But if what I saw was reflective of the entire night, and news reports suggest it was, the event was miserably predictable: Trumpy internet memes, Trumpy buzzwords, Trumpy hostility to facts. In other words, if he had shown up, Lombardo would have fit right in.

***

A big year on the horizon for Lombardo’s handlers. Money-wise, at least. They raised $3.1 million for the great man in 2021. Can’t wait to see how they spend it — and more! — in 2022.  No doubt Dean Heller and Joey Gilbert share that sentiment.

***

Desperately seeking Donald. Remember that cartoonish, which is to say on-brand, video Michele Fiore released when announcing she would run for governor? She spent a little money in the Palm Beach market – home of Mar-a-Lardass or whatever it’s called – in late November in the hope that Dear Leader would see it.

I hope Trump endorses her. Lombardo looks bored.

(The above items are excerpts, some lightly massaged, others more heavily, of material published in the Daily Current newsletter, the editor’s opinionated morning news roundup, which you can subscribe to here.)

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Hugh Jackson
Hugh Jackson

Hugh Jackson was editor of the Las Vegas Business Press, senior editor at the Las Vegas CityLife weekly newspaper, daily political commentator on the Las Vegas NBC affiliate, and author of the Las Vegas Gleaner political blog. Prior to moving to Las Vegas, he was a reporter and editor at the Casper (Wyoming) Star-Tribune.

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