As we approach the end of another year and the conclusion of President Obama’s first two years in office, I wanted to take a few moments to look back at all that we have accomplished together.
The past two years have quite simply been the most productive and progressive period of change since the New Deal. From the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ every action President Obama has taken from his first day in office to the present has made America a stronger, safer, more equal and more perfect nation.
The President has fulfilled critical campaign promises, like increasing access to quality, affordable health care and ending combat operations in Iraq. He has met crises head on, fighting to pass the Recovery Act and Wall Street reform in order to repair America’s damaged economy. And he has opened new doors of opportunity for countless Americans by creating jobs and making college more affordable.
Just today, the President signed historic legislation to end the discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy which will now allow individuals to serve in the American military regardless of their sexual orientation and the Senate overwhelmingly ratified the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty which President Obama signed with Russia earlier this year.
In a Bloomberg article today, Alan Brinkley, an historian at Columbia University, said the last two years has likely been “the most productive session of Congress since at least the ‘60s” while in a Rolling Stone article earlier this year, Norman Ornstein, a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, noted that "If you're looking at the first-two-year legislative record you really don't have any rivals since Lyndon Johnson — and that includes Ronald Reagan." Presidential Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin said of President Obama’s accomplishments in his first two years in the same article "When you look at what will last in history, Obama has more notches on the presidential belt.”
While we know that there is so much more left to do get Americans back to work and get our economy back on track, the full sweep of what President Obama and Democrats have accomplished for the nation over the past two years is simply breathtaking. In recognition of all that we have achieved, we have compiled a video highlighting some of the major mile markers along the way. http://my.democrats.org/twoyears
I invite you watch it http://my.democrats.org/twoyears and to reflect on how far we have come, and I wish you and your loved ones a happy holiday season and a wonderful New Year.
Governor Tim Kaine
Democratic National Committee
The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010: Win for Women, Mothers and Working Families
The agreement announced by the President not only secures vital tax relief and investments in our workers that will create jobs and accelerate economic growth, it contains specific policies that provide targeted support for working families, particularly women and mothers. Building off the gains made in the Recovery Act, the agreement will extend key provisions including the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) that disproportionately benefit women and working families. In summary:
• Women represent about 60 percent of the parents benefitting from the EITC and CTC expansions in the agreement. An estimated 12 million women will benefit from the expansion in the EITC and CTC that are extended in this agreement.
• One out of every three families gaining from the extension of these credits is headed by a single mother. Families headed by single mothers are among the most economically at risk in our fragile recovery. This extension of the EITC and CTC would direct substantial resources to these families, with an estimated 4 million of the families gaining being headed by single mothers.
Illustrative Example: Working mother with three children making $20,000. This family will:
• Receive a tax cut of more than $2,100 from extending recent expansions in the EITC and Child Tax Credit as part of this agreement.
• Receive a $400 tax cut from the new payroll tax cut.
• Compared to the Republican alternative, this family will receive a total tax benefit of $2,500 next year.
HIGH IMPACT, JOB CREATING TAX CUTS FOR WORKING FAMILIES
Economic studies consistently find that lower-income households are the most likely to spend additional money, creating jobs and helping overall growth. That’s why the Congressional Budget Office has concluded that “policies aimed at lower-income households tend to have greater stimulative effects.”
Beginning in the Recovery Act, the President has demonstrated his commitment to extend benefits and tax cuts to struggling families as the right thing to do for family security and our economy. According to a study released last year by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, seven policies included in the Recovery Act have kept 3.3 million women and girls above the poverty line.
Three of these policies are continued in the current agreement, including Unemployment Insurance, the EITC and the Child Tax Credit.
Not only do these provisions help strengthen the economy by promoting work and putting money into the pockets of working families who eventually put it back into the economy through consumption, they are also effective at improving the health of families. A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research recently found that the expansion of the EITC increased the mental and physical health of low-income mothers with two or more children.
Earned Income Tax Credit
The EITC in the Recovery Act:
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) supplements the wages of low income workers, and especially working mothers, lifting more children out of poverty than any other single program or category of programs.
Under the Recovery Act, the EITC was expanded to reduce the marriage penalty and to create a “third tier” of the EITC for families with three or more children. This means larger families now receive up to $1,040 more than they would have under the old system.
By extending the EITC in the agreement:
• About 6 million women will receive an expanded EITC tax credit. Without this agreement, these women could lose up to $1,040.
• About 1 million families headed by single mothers will receive an expanded EITC tax credit.
Child Tax Credit
The Child Tax Credit in the Recovery Act:
The Child Tax Credit helps low-and moderate-income families with children. The credit allows families to reduce their federal income tax by a certain amount for each qualifying child under the age of 17 in a household. In 2001, the Child Tax Credit was expanded to $1,000 per child, but was unavailable to millions of low income families because the minimum amount of earned income used to calculate the credit was set at about $12,500 in today’s dollars.
In the Recovery Act, the Administration and Congress secured an important expansion in the Child Tax Credit for lower income families by lowering the minimum amount from about $12,500 to $3,000.
By extending the CTC with the $3,000 minimum threshold in the agreement:
• Eight million women and 6 million families headed by a single mother will benefit from a larger CTC.
• For many of these families, extending the minimum threshold in the CTC will result in thousands of dollars in additional tax benefits that would have otherwise been lost. For example:
o A married couple with three children making $23,000 will receive $3,000 in child tax credits compared to about $1,540 if only the 2001/2003 tax cuts were extended – an increase of about $1,460.
o A single mother with two children making $17,000 will receive $2,000 in child tax credits compared to about $640 if only the 2001/2003 tax cuts were extended – an increase of about $1,360.
American Opportunity Tax Credit
The American Opportunity Tax Credit in the Recovery Act:
• The Recovery Act expanded the AOTC so that it now provides up to three times more relief than was previously available under the Hope Credit and Lifetime Learning Credit and is refundable for low-income students for the first time.
• The AOTC gives working families and students a $2,500 per year partially refundable tax credit to help students and their families cover the cost of college tuition.
The American Opportunity Tax Credit in the agreement:
• This deal fully extends AOTC for two years, ensuring that more than 8 million students will continue to receive this tax benefit to help them afford college.
The agreement secures an extension of unemployment insurance for an additional 13 months. Without this extension, 2 million people looking for work would have lost their benefits this month alone, and through the end of next year 7 million people would have lost their benefits.
• Extending unemployment benefits provides crucial economic security to American families. A recent report by the Council of Economic Advisers found that while 14 million people received federally supported unemployment insurance benefits through October 2010, an additional 26 million people living in their households benefitted indirectly.
• About 42 percent of these recipients have, or live with, children. As of October, 2010 10.5 million children had benefitted from this provision.
The President has continually called for an extension of the middle-class tax cuts only because middle-class families have borne the brunt of this economic crisis and they need their leaders to fight for them. Raising taxes on the middle-class right now would be crippling to the economic recovery and unfair to working families.
· While Democrats fought for middle-class families, Republicans in Congress have advocated for an extension of tax cuts for the wealthiest 2%. Economists agree that tax cuts for the wealthy do little to help our economic recovery. The President fought this effort that would cost $700 billion because at this time we need to reduce the deficit.
· For weeks, the debate has been at a standstill with both sides unwilling to give in, and this may have been a stalemate that continued into the coming new year. So the President had a choice: allow a tax hike for almost every American on January 1st, or work to find a compromise.
· If the current tax cuts were allowed to expire, a typical family would see a $3,000 tax increase and the economy could have shed more than one million jobs. The President refused to allow the stalemate to cost working Americans their livelihoods. But he also refused to permit Republicans to give millionaires and billionaires tax cuts while they blocked an extension of unemployment benefits for laid-off American workers and other middle class and small business tax relief.
· The bipartisan agreement reached this week will ensure that every American family keeps their tax cuts for the next two years and protects tax cuts for working Americans. And by giving Congressional Republicans a tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, the President has protected crucial tax cuts for working families that, without this deal, would have expired at the end of the year.
· These tax cuts include: the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which makes sure more than 8 million students and families won’t see college costs increase; the Earned Income Tax Credit, which helps families move out of poverty; and the Child Tax Credit, which will ensure that people don’t see their taxes increase by as much as $1,000 a child.
· Along with these tax cuts, this deal will also extend unemployment insurance for an additional 13 months, which will help two million Americans who are out of work through no fault of their own. If we had allowed this much-needed relief to expire, more Americans would have fallen on harder times, which would have hurt our economy further by reducing demand at this important point in our economic recovery.
· This deal also includes a 2 percent employee payroll tax cut for workers, which is something economists from across the political spectrum believe is one of the most important things we can do to create jobs and aid in economic growth.
· Last, by enabling businesses to completely write off their investments next year, the deal provides incentives for businesses to invest and create jobs. This is something the President has been advocating for since September to help American businesses create jobs, and now we’re going to see it get done.
· After two years, these tax cuts will expire. The President is confident that as we work hard and make the tough choices to decrease the deficit, we’ll see that we just can’t afford extending these tax cuts any more.
· But at this moment, the President believes this is the right step forward because it is a critical step in our path to economic recovery. It will prevent taxes for middle-class families from increasing, will help the private sector to create millions of additional jobs, and it will help build the momentum our economy needs at this critical time.