In recent articles, I have lamented poorly designed components of the Reconciliation Bill, from a poorly-designed “free childcare” program to a family leave plan that’s designed to be “free” rather than funded by the workers who benefit, to a Medicare drug benefit that’s planned to be implemented at the same time as Part A Medicare is facing insolvency, to a mandate that employers provide retirement plan access that leaves virtually all of the specifics up to a bureaucratic agency. And this just scratches at the surface of the expansive programs on tap if the bill is passed as currently drafted. But there’s one piece of legislation that advocates have been calling for, for years, which didn’t make the cut: an increase in the benefits for the poorest of the poor elderly and disabled who receive Supplemental Security Income, or SSI.
So why didn’t SSI make the cut, when the Democrats compiled their list of programs for the “American Family Plan”? Do some of these changes go too far, increase benefits too much? Did they want to avoid opening up a can of worms with respect to larger plan design issues with the system, for example, concerns that the children’s benefits have become an “alternative welfare system” providing benefits for children equal to those for adults, even with mild conditions such as ADHD, that mean no one wants to touch the system?
Or does an enhancement of SSI benefits simply fail to meet the Democrats’ objective of making voters happy with broad outlays of cash benefitting the middle class as well as the poor?
We have argued against lifting the $10,000 cap in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and in a short analysis for Brookings. Our case is quite straightforward: the benefits of repeal would flow to the rich and affluent, who now have a disproportionate influence on the Democratic Party. To be specific, the top 1 percent would get an average tax cut of over $35,000. The middle class would get an average tax cut of about $37 (note that our analyses here relate to full repeal, since we do not know yet what alternative Sen. Sanders has in mind):
Soon after the Labor Department released its April jobs report, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce blamed last month’s weak employment growth on the existence of a $300 weekly supplemental jobless benefit and began urging lawmakers to eliminate the federally enhanced unemployment payments that were extended through early September when congressional Democrats passed President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan.
“No. We don’t need to end [the additional] $300 a week in emergency unemployment benefits that workers desperately need,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said in response to the grumbles of the nation’s largest business lobbying group. “We need to end starvation wages in America.”
“If $300 a week is preventing employers from hiring low-wage workers there’s a simple solution,” Sanders added. “Raise your wages. Pay decent benefits.”
“I want to tell you this: If I become majority leader, one of the first things I will do is we will eliminate it forever,” Schumer said during a July 14 press conference on Long Island. “It will be dead, gone, and buried.”
“It” in this case was the cap on the state and local tax (SALT) deduction, which was imposed as part of the 2017 federal tax reform bill passed by Republicans and signed by President Donald Trump. As a result of that law, Americans are allowed to deduct a maximum of $10,000 in state and local tax payments from their federally taxable income; previously the deduction was uncapped, and it overwhelmingly benefitted the richest households while shifting their federal tax burden to everyone else.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) is correct to point out, as he did in an interview with Axios this week, that the SALT cap creates a serious optics problem for Democrats. Sanders says he will oppose Schumer’s effort to attach the SALT cap repeal to the transportation bill because “it sends a terrible, terrible message when you have Republicans telling us that this is a tax break for the rich.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders is taking on the leaders of his own Democratic Party — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — for supporting a repeal of the cap on deductions for state and local tax on federal income taxes.
Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Schumer (D-NY) — who represent two of the highest tax states — back repealing the $10,000 cap instituted by former President Donald Trump on SALT deductions, which Sanders said “sends a terrible, terrible message” to working-class people.
“We could reverse that for 2018 and 2019 so that people could refile their taxes” and get a refund, Pelosi told The Times in March. “They’d have more disposable income, which is the lifeblood of our economy, a consumer economy that we are.”