A quarter century ago, I and other members of Bill Clinton’s cabinet urged him to reject the Republican’s proposal to end welfare. It was too punitive, we said, subjecting poor Americans to deep and abiding poverty. But Clinton’s political advisers warned that unless he went along, he jeopardized his reelection.
That was the end of welfare as we knew it. As Clinton boasted in his State of the Union address to Congress that year, “the era of big government is over.”
Until last Thursday, that is, when Joe Biden signed into law the biggest expansion of government assistance since the 1960s—a guaranteed income for most families with children, raising the maximum benefit by up to 80 percent per child.
As Biden put it in his address to the nation, as if answering Clinton, “the government isn’t some foreign force in a distant capital. No, it’s us, all of us, we the people.” During the pandemic, America’s 660 billionaires-major beneficiaries of the Trump tax cut-became $1.3 trillion wealthier, enough to give every American a $3,900 check and still be as rich as they were before the pandemic.
Americans in the lowest quintile increase their incomes by 20 percent; those in the second-lowest, 9 percent; those in the middle, 6 percent.
Given all this, it’s amazing that zero Republican members of Congress voted for it, while 278 voted for Trump’s tax cut for corporations and the rich.