Economics 211: Seminar in Economic History: U.C. Berkeley: Spring 2010
Walking While Black in America Today...

This Is Not What I Elected You do Do, Barack Obama. Do Better!

The current draft of the State of the Union address performs its function of getting a nice headline from the New York Times:

Obama to Offer Aid for Families in State of the Union Address

And a nice beat-sweetener lead from the [incompetent, unethical, mendacious] Sheryl Gay Stolberg:

President Obama will propose in his State of the Union address a package of modest initiatives intended to help middle-class families, including tax credits for child care, caps on some student loan payments and a requirement that companies let workers save automatically for retirement.... By focusing on what one White House official calls “the sandwich generation” — struggling families squeezed between sending their children to college and caring for elderly parents — Mr. Obama hopes to use his speech on Wednesday to demonstrate that he understands the economic pain of ordinary Americans. The proposals also include expanded tax credits for retirement savings and money for programs to help families care for elderly relatives...

Of course, below the fold is:

[T]he president is calling on Congress to nearly double the child care tax credit for families earning less than $85,000 — a proposal that, if adopted, would lower by $900 the taxes such families owe to the government. But the credit would not be refundable, meaning that families would not get extra money back on a tax refund...

That means: if your annual household cash income is more than $85K or less than $30K, you get nothing.

If your cash income is between $30 or $40K, there are nine chances in ten you get zero. If your cash income is between $40K and $50K, there are two chances in three you get zero. Even if your cash income is between $50K and $85K, there is still one chance in four you get zero.

I don't have the tax-units-with-children-by-cash-income numbers handy, so I cannot figure out here and now on the fly what the proportion of families with children who get zero from this policy initiative is. But it's high.

Congratualations. It would be hard to design a policy that did more to maximize the likely good short-term press from a corrupt and incompetent press corps while minimizing the shifting of the tax burden away from working families with children.