This situation highlights one of many challenges President Biden’s day-one executive order on racial equity aims to resolve. If federal policymakers want to address racial disparities, they should collect and release detailed, disaggregated data. But they must also carefully consider the unintended harms they could cause to the people they are trying to help.
But Richard Johnson, director of the Urban Institute’s Program on Retirement Policy, argues that he has a better idea — one that would generate more tax revenue for Social Security benefits without creating a donut hole, he tells ThinkAdvisor in an interview.
“Increase the $142,800 tax max to something like $250,000 today and continue to raise it [based on] average earnings growth,” he recommends.
Part of Johnson’s reasoning is rooted in the presumption that if Social Security were to be perceived as only for low-income earners, political support for the crucial program would be diminished.
Throughout the debate over stimulus measures, one question has repeatedly brought gridlock in Washington: Should the states get no-strings federal aid?
Republicans have mostly said no, casting it as a bailout for spendthrift blue states. Democrats have argued the opposite, saying that states face dire fiscal consequences without aid, and included $350 billion in relief for state and local governments in President Biden’s $1.9 trillion federal stimulus bill, which narrowly passed the House this past weekend. It faces a much tougher fight in the Senate.
As it turns out, new data shows that a year after the pandemic wrought economic devastation around the country, forcing states to revise their revenue forecasts and prepare for the worst, for many the worst didn’t come. One big reason: $600-a-week federal supplements that allowed people to keep spending — and states to keep collecting sales tax revenue — even when they were jobless, along with the usual state unemployment benefits.
Of those states suffering at least a 3% drop in revenue since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, two-thirds (eight in 12) are red states. Alaska, Florida, North Dakota and Texas are seeing some of the worst revenue losses of 9% or higher over the comparable period in 2019, according to the latest data from the Urban Institute.
Across the 47 states from which the institute has full data, total state tax revenues were down by $14 billion in the first ten months of the pandemic (between March and December 2020) compared to the same period a year earlier. That’s an average drop of 1.8% and is largely driven by declines in sales tax revenue.