“reckless taxing and spending spree.”

Conservative policy experts said that although some expansion of government aid was appropriate during the pandemic, those programs should be wound down, not expanded, as the economy healed.

“Policymakers did a remarkable job last March enacting CARES and other legislation, lending to businesses, providing loan forbearance, expanding the safety net,” Scott Winship, a senior fellow and the director of poverty studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative group, wrote in reaction to the data, referring to an early pandemic aid bill, which included around $2 trillion in spending. “But we should have pivoted to other priorities thereafter.”

Jason DeParle and Margot Sanger-Katz contributed reporting.

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Inflation Fears Rise as Prices Surge for Lumber, Cars and More

Turn on the news, scroll through Facebook, or listen to a White House briefing these days and there’s a good chance you’ll catch the Federal Reserve’s least-favorite word: Inflation. If that bubbling popular concern about prices gets too ingrained in America’s psyche, it could spell trouble for the nation’s central bank.

Interest in inflation has jumped this year for both political and practical reasons. Republicans, and even some Democrats, have been warning that the government’s hefty pandemic spending could push inflation higher. And as the economy gains steam, demand is coming back faster than supply. It’s a recipe for bigger price tags for everything from airline tickets to used cars, at least temporarily.

The Fed, which Congress has put in charge of controlling inflation, thinks the jump in prices this year will fade as data quirks, supply bottlenecks and a reopening-induced pop in demand work their way through the system. For now, officials see no reason to tap the brakes by slowing down large-scale bond purchases or raising interest rates, policy changes that would slacken demand as an antidote to accelerating inflation.

And the Fed has big reasons to avoid overreacting: The problem in the wake of the 2007 to 2009 recession was tepid price gains that risked an economically damaging downward spiral, not fast ones. Inflation far above the central bank’s comfort level hasn’t been a feature of the economic landscape since the 1980s.

data from the Gdelt Project. On Fox News Channel, mentions of inflation have surged to six times the normal rate.

Google searches for “inflation” have taken off, Twitter inflation hashtags have increased, and monthly price data reports have newly become front-page headlines.

The surge in attention comes amid stories of computer chip shortages, gas lines, and surging lumber prices, and also as overall measures of real-world price gains are speeding up.

Consumer Price Inflation surprised economists by rocketing higher in April, data released last week showed, rising by 4.2 percent. While prices were expected to climb for technical reasons, supply bottlenecks and resurgent demand combined to push the data point much higher than the 3.6 percent analysts had penciled in. Fed officials use a different but related index to define their inflation goal.

Eye-popping gains are widely expected to cool down as supply catches up with demand and reopening quirks clear, but as they catch consumer attention, inflation expectations are shooting higher across a range of measures. And that poses a risk.

highest level since 2006 last week. A consumer survey collected by the University of Michigan — and closely watched by top Fed officials — jumped in preliminary May data, rising to 4.6 percent for the next year and 3.1 percent for the next five, the highest level in a decade.

The gap between short- and long-term expectations is echoed in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Survey of Consumer Expectations. Americans’ year-ahead inflation expectations rose to the highest level since 2013 in April, but the outlook for inflation over the next three years has been much more stable.

Fed policymakers have taken heart in the fact that households seem to be preparing more for a short-term pop — something central bankers have said they are willing to look past without lifting rates — than for years of superfast price gains.

But they have been clear that there are limits to tolerable increases, without precisely defining what those would be.

If expectations started to rise “month after month after month,” that would be concerning, Mary C. Daly, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, said during an interview on May 10, before the latest Michigan data were released. She declined to put a number on what would worry her.

Inflation expectations data are notoriously hard to parse, and the consumer trackers tend to be heavily influenced by gas prices. The Fed has recently been using a quarterly measure that has moved up by less. But the speed of recent adjustments has called into question how much acceleration would be a problem, signaling that people have come to accept inflation in a way that will keep actual prices rising.

The inflation outlook is uncertain both because of the unusual moment — the economy has never reopened from a pandemic before — and because the way the government approaches economic policy has shifted over the past year.

The Fed’s new policy approach, adopted last August, both aims for periods of higher inflation and doubles down on the central bank’s full employment goal. Practically, it means the central bank plans to leave rates low for years, and it has helped to justify continuing a huge bond-buying program that the Fed began at the start of the pandemic downturn. Those policies make money cheap to borrow, ultimately bolstering demand for goods and services and helping prices to rise.

At the same time, the federal government has drastically loosened its purse strings, spending trillions of dollars to pull the economy out of the pandemic recession. Both the fiscal and the monetary response are meant to keep households economically whole through a challenging period, so there was also a risk to having less-ambitious policies.

Things will most likely work out, economists have predicted. The demand boom anticipated in 2021 is unlikely to last, because consumers’ pandemic savings will eventually be exhausted. Supply issues should be resolved, though it is not clear when. Many analysts expect prices to moderate over the next year or so.

But some underline that expectations are the vulnerability to watch when it comes to inflation, in case they shift before the smoke clears and prices slow their ascent.

“This is something people are talking about in their daily lives, it’s not just a Washington thing,” said Michael Strain, a researcher at the American Enterprise Institute. “My expectation is that expectations will remain anchored — but it’s clearly a huge risk.”

Jim Tankersley contributed reporting.

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Amid Economic Turmoil, Biden Stays Focused on Longer Term

Administration officials express confidence that recent price surges in used cars, airfare and other sectors of the economy will prove temporary, and that job growth will speed up again as more working-aged Americans are vaccinated against Covid-19 and regain access to child care during work hours. They say Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion economic aid package, which he signed in March, will lift job growth in the coming months, noting that new claims for unemployment fell to a pandemic-era low on Thursday.

The officials also said it was appropriate for the president to look past the current crisis and push efforts to strengthen the economy long term.

The two halves of Mr. Biden’s $4 trillion agenda, the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan, are premised on the economy returning to a low unemployment rate where essentially every American who wants to work is able to find a job, Cecilia Rouse, the chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, said in an interview.

“The American Rescue Plan was rescue,” Dr. Rouse said. “It was meant as stimulus as we work through this hopefully once-in-a-century, if not longer, pandemic. The American Jobs Plan, American Families Plan are saying, look, that’s behind us, but we knew going into the pandemic that there were structural problems in our country and in our economy.”

Mr. Biden’s plans would raise taxes on high earners and corporations to fund new federal spending on physical infrastructure, care for children and older Americans, expanded access to education, an accelerated transition to low-carbon energy and more.

Those efforts “reflect the empirical evidence that a strong economy depends on a solid foundation of public investment, and that investments in workers, families and communities can pay off for decades to come,” Mr. Biden’s advisers wrote. “These plans are not emergency legislation; they address longstanding challenges.”

The five-page brief focuses on arguments about what drives productivity, wage growth, innovation and equity in the economy. The issues predate the coronavirus recession and recovery, and Democrats in particular have pledged for years to address them.

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The Jobs Report: The Boom That Wasn’t

It’s a little secret of the news business that for some anticipated events, like a Supreme Court decision or the death of a prominent figure, we pre-write much of an article or different versions of them so that we can publish quickly once news occurs.

Which is why there is now a trashed draft of this article explaining how the April jobs numbers show what a hyper-speed economic recovery looks like. It was completely wrong.

Employers added only 266,000 jobs last month, the government reported Friday morning, not the million or so that forecasters expected. The unemployment rate actually edged up, to 6.1 percent.

The details of the new numbers are messy. Temporary employment fell sharply (down 111,000 jobs), while hiring in the leisure and hospitality sector was robust (up 331,000 jobs). It will take time to figure out why so many mainstream forecasts were so wrong — the modest job creation is out of whack with what other indicators have suggested — and whether some part of the weak results is more statistical aberration than reality.

variety of other reasons: having to care for children whose classes are remote; fearing the coronavirus; reconsidering their careers.

Back in 2010, the Obama administration introduced one of the more unfortunate economic messaging concepts of recent decades, announcing that a “Recovery Summer” was underway. It became a punchline, because while the economy was expanding, Americans were still far worse off than they’d been before the 2008 recession, and improvement was coming very slowly.

That’s one outcome the Biden administration desperately wants to avoid.

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Europe’s economy is expected to shrink while the U.S.’s grows.

European authorities will release data on Friday that is widely expected to show another economic downturn over the first three months of the year as the still-raging pandemic has prompted governments to extend lockdowns.

Coming a day after the United States disclosed that its economy expanded 1.6 percent over the same period — a robust 6.4 percent annualized rate — the expected European contraction presents a contrast of fortunes on opposite sides of the Atlantic.

Propelled by dramatic public expenditures to stimulate growth, as well as swift increases in vaccination rates, the United States — the world’s largest economy — expanded rapidly during the first months of 2021. At the same time, the 19 nations that share the euro currency were likely caught in the second part of a so-called double-dip recession, reflecting far less aggressive stimulus spending and a botched effort to secure vaccines.

But economic growth figures represent a snapshot of the past, and recent weeks have produced encouraging signs that Europe is on the mend. Even as Covid-19 spreads alarmingly in major economies like Germany and France, factories have revived production, while growing numbers of people are on the move in cities.

European Union’s recent deal to secure doses from Pfizer.

In depriving households of the opportunity to spend, the pandemic has yielded savings — money that may surge into businesses as fear of the virus fades.

Most economists and the European Central Bank expect the eurozone to expand at a blistering pace over the rest of 2021, yielding growth of more than 4 percent for the full year.

International Monetary Fund. That compares to 10 percent in Germany.

But Europe also began the crisis with far more comprehensive social safety net programs. While the United States directed cash to those set back by the pandemic, Europe limited a surge in unemployment.

“Europe has more insurance schemes,” said Kjersti Haugland, chief economist at DNB Markets, an investment bank in Oslo. “You don’t fall as hard, but you don’t rebound that sharply either.”

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‘A Perfect Positive Storm’: Bonkers Dollars for Big Tech

In the Great Recession more than a decade ago, big tech companies hit a rough patch just like everyone else. Now they have become unquestioned winners of the pandemic economy.

The combined yearly revenue of Amazon, Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft and Facebook is about $1.2 trillion, according to earnings reported this week, more than 25 percent higher than the figure just as the pandemic started to bite in 2020. In less than a week, those five giants make more in sales than McDonald’s does in a year.

The U.S. economy is cranking back from 2020, when it contracted for the first time since the financial crisis. But for the tech giants, the pandemic hit was barely a blip. It’s a fantastic time to be a titan of U.S. technology — as long as you ignore the screaming politicians, the daily headlines about killing free speech or dodging taxes, the gripes from competitors and workers, and the too-many-to-count legal investigations and lawsuits.

America’s technology superpowers aren’t making bonkers dollars in spite of the deadly coronavirus and its ripple effects through the global economy. They have grown even stronger because of the pandemic. It’s both logical and slightly nuts.

have more money in their pockets thanks to government stimulus checks and pandemic savings, and the tech giants are getting a significant share. Their combined revenue is equivalent to roughly 5 percent of the gross domestic product of the United States.

Big Tech’s pandemic big bucks have an understandable root cause: We needed its services.

People gravitated to Facebook’s apps to stay in touch and entertained, and businesses wanted to pay Facebook and Google, which Alphabet owns, to help them find customers who were stuck at home. People preferred to buy diapers and deck chairs from Amazon rather than risk their health shopping in stores. Companies loaded up on software from Microsoft as their businesses and work forces went virtual. Apple’s laptops and iPads become lifelines for office workers and schoolchildren.

Before the pandemic, America’s technology superpowers were already influential in how we communicated, worked, stayed entertained and shopped. Now they are practically unavoidable. Investors have scooped up Big Tech shares in a bet that these companies are nearly invincible.

“They were already on the way up and had been for the best part of a decade, and the pandemic was unique,” said Thomas Philippon, a professor of finance at New York University. “For them it was a perfect positive storm.”

Sales in the first quarter rose 44 percent from a year earlier, and Amazon’s profits before taxes — which have never been exactly robust — more than doubled to $8.9 billion. Businesses are addicted to Amazon’s cloud computer services, where sales rose 32 percent, and shoppers can’t live without Amazon’s delivery. Investors love Amazon, too. The company’s stock market value has nearly doubled since the beginning of 2020 to $1.8 trillion.

For the other tech giants, it’s as if their brief pandemic nosedive never happened. Advertising sales typically rise and fall with the economy. But as other types of ad spending shrank when the U.S. economy contracted last year, ad sales rose for Google and Facebook. The growth was even better for them in the first three months of this year.

A year ago, analysts worried that Apple would be crippled as the pandemic gripped China, which is the hub of the company’s manufacturing operations and its most important consumer market. The fears didn’t last long. In the first three months of 2021, Apple’s revenue from selling iPhones increased at the fastest rate since 2012. Sales in mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong nearly doubled from a year earlier.

been on a tear. So have some younger technology companies, such as Snap and Zoom, the maker of the pandemic-favorite videoconferencing app. The crisis forced all sorts of businesses to go digital fast in ways that could help them thrive. Restaurants invested in online sales and delivery, and doctors went full bore into telemedicine.

But the dictionary doesn’t have enough superlatives to describe what’s happening to the five biggest technology companies. It’s all a bit awkward, really. It’s rocket fuel for critics, including some regulators and lawmakers in Europe and the United States, who say the tech giants crowd out newcomers and leave everyone worse off.

peculiarities of the pandemic economy. Some people and sectors are doing awesome, while other families are lining up at food banks and while companies like airlines are begging for cash. Unlike the stock market clobbering in the Great Recession, stock indexes in the United States have reached new highs.

The tech superstars have also capitalized on this moment. Alphabet and Facebook have used the pandemic to cut back in places that matter less, such as promotional costs and travel and entertainment budgets. And the tech giants have generally increased spending in areas that extend their advantages.

Alphabet is now spending more on big-ticket projects, like building computer complexes, than Exxon Mobil spends to dig oil and gas out of the ground. Amazon’s work force has expanded by more than 470,000 people since the end of 2019. That deepens the moat separating the tech superstars from everyone else.

Big Tech is emerging from the pandemic lean, mean and ready for a U.S. economy expected to roar back to life in 2021. Meanwhile, there are still long lines at food banks. Some American workers who lost their jobs last year may never get them back. Housing advocates are worried that millions of people will be evicted from their homes. And being Big Tech is an invitation for everyone to hate you — but you do have towering piles of money.

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Biden, Calling for Big Government, Bets on a Nation Tested by Crisis

“People are fed up with this,” said Senator Rick Scott of Florida, who heads the campaign arm for Senate Republicans leading into the 2022 elections.

Those attacks do not seem to carry the same sway that they did during Mr. Obama’s tenure, when the White House proposed a much smaller economic stimulus package than many economists thought was warranted given the huge erosion in household wealth after the financial crisis. Mr. Obama did raise taxes on high earners, including to help fund the Affordable Care Act, but not at a scale close to what Mr. Biden is proposing.

Mr. Biden might have Mr. Trump to thank for part of that shift. The pandemic aid bills he signed last year, with bipartisan support in Congress, might have helped reset the public’s views of Washington’s spending limits; “trillion” was a red line of sorts under Mr. Obama, but no longer.

Mr. Trump also pushed Congress to approve direct checks, an effort Mr. Biden continued, and began the Operation Warp Speed vaccine program that helped hasten the deployment of the most significant driver of economic activity this year: vaccinated Americans. As the economy reopens and people return to work, economic optimism is rising, though Republicans nationwide remain more pessimistic and are far more likely to oppose Mr. Biden’s plans.

In Washington, the president does not need Republican support to push through his agenda. He needs only his party to hold together in the House and the Senate, where Democrats enjoy majorities by thin margins, and move as much spending and tax policy as possible through the process known as budget reconciliation. The maneuver bypasses Senate filibusters and allows legislation, like Mr. Biden’s relief bill this year, to pass with only majority-party votes.

That process will give large sway to moderate Democrats like Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, but so far that group has not flinched at the scale of Mr. Biden’s ambitions. Mr. Manchin has said he will support $4 trillion in infrastructure spending.

It is unclear whether Mr. Biden can hold Mr. Manchin and others on his people-focused spending, like the education and child care efforts unveiled on Wednesday. His administration is trying to make the case on productivity grounds, casting the plan as investing in an inclusive economy that would help millions of Americans gain the skills and the work flexibility they need to build middle-class lifestyles.

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As Economy Rebounds, Manufacturers Face New Hurdles

Matt Guse would hire a dozen machinists — if only he could find them.

The owner of MRS Machining, a maker of precision metal parts in rural Augusta, Wis., Mr. Guse finds business is rebounding so quickly as the pandemic’s effect eases that his 47-worker shop is short-handed.

“I’ve turned down a million dollars’ worth of work in the last two weeks,” he said. “Doing that, it’s hard to go to bed at night when you put your head to the pillow. I have open capacity, but I need more people.”

After a sharp downturn when the pandemic hit last year, factories are humming again. But the recovery’s speed has left employers scrambling. Despite huge layoffs — manufacturing employment initially dropped by 1.4 million — some companies find themselves desperate for workers.

In other cases, shortages of parts like semiconductors and supply chain disruptions have made orders hard to fill and created fresh uncertainty.

orders for durable goods — like cars and appliances — rose half a percentage point in March, prompting Barclays to lift its tracking estimate of economic growth for the first quarter to 1.4 percent, or 5.6 percent at an annualized rate.

On Thursday, the government will release its initial reading on economic growth in the first three months of the year, and manufacturing is expected to be among the bright spots. The consensus of analysts polled by Bloomberg is that the report will show gross domestic product expanded by 1.7 percent, up from 1.3 percent.

At one point, factory production was down substantially because of the pandemic, but it should return to pre-Covid-19 levels by the third quarter of this year, according to Chad Moutray, chief economist for the National Association of Manufacturers.

work in factories. Two decades ago, that figure stood at just over 17 million.

average hourly wage of manufacturing workers is $29.15, while workers in leisure and hospitality, another field that draws people with less education, earn $17.67 an hour.

Mr. Paul hopes that Mr. Biden’s plan to revitalize American manufacturing as part of his larger infrastructure effort will bear fruit.

“He’s pretty serious about some form of industrial policy,” Mr. Paul said, citing the administration’s call for action in making products like semiconductors and electric vehicles. “It may be possible for Biden to do what no president has since manufacturing began its job decline and reverse the losses.”

spending to advance electric vehicles.

The $2 trillion plan, with its focus on rebuilding roads and bridges as well as the electric grid, could help companies like Auburn Manufacturing of Maine, said its chief executive, Kathie Leonard.

“We feed the companies whose products go into infrastructure,” said Ms. Leonard, describing the heat- and fire-resistant fabrics Auburn makes at two factories in central Maine, about a half-hour from Portland. “The infrastructure plan holds promise for companies like us.”

“You have to work at being an optimist,” she said. “We’re not going to hire 25 people, but maybe five. We need to hire a technical director, fabricators, and we need staff to help with e-commerce.”

The semiconductor shortages are a headache for Christie Wong Barrett, chief executive of MacArthur Corporation, a maker of labels and decals outside Flint, Mich. She said orders had been delayed by car companies — her major customers — that couldn’t find enough of the chips they needed to keep cars coming off the assembly lines.

“Customers are struggling to meet launch timelines and production targets,” she said. “Orders are either reduced in volume or delayed. It trickles down to different suppliers, and we’re just getting a haircut across the board.”

MacArthur’s business had already been damaged when auto plants closed a year ago amid the pandemic lockdowns, cutting off demand for labels and decals like those showing tire pressure or indicating vehicle identification numbers.

Ms. Barrett was able to pivot and supply products for medical customers, averting all but a handful of layoffs for her work force of 50. She remains optimistic, despite the current logistical backups.

“It’s a horrible disruption right now, but I’m anticipating a strong recovery,” she said. “We never made major cuts, and as automotive production starts to recover more, I expect to hire several more people in the coming months.”

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Biden’s Spending Plans Could Start to Tackle Inequality

The coronavirus pandemic has threatened to rapidly expand yawning gaps between the rich and the poor, throwing lower-earning service workers out of jobs, costing them income, and limiting their ability to build wealth. But by betting on big government spending to pull the economy back from the brink, United States policymakers could limit that fallout.

The $1.9 trillion economic aid package President Biden signed into law last month includes a wide range of programs with the potential to help poor and middle-class Americans to supplement lost income and save money going forward. That includes monthly payments to parents, relief for renters and help with student loans.

Now, the administration is rolling out additional plans that would go even further, including a $2.3 trillion infrastructure package and about $1.5 trillion in spending and tax credits to support the labor force by investing in child care, paid leave, universal prekindergarten and free community college. The measures are explicitly meant to help left-behind workers and communities of color who have faced systemic racism and entrenched disadvantages — and they would be funded, in part, by taxes on the rich.

Forecasters predict that the government spending — even just what has been passed so far — will fuel what could be the fastest annual economic growth in a generation this year and next, as the country recovers and the economy reopens from the Covid-19 pandemic. By jump-starting the economy from the bottom and middle, the response could make sure the pandemic rebound is more equitable than it would be without a proactive government response, analysts said.

disproportionately hurt women of all races and men of color, she said, “If we tailor the relief to those who are most affected, we are going to be addressing racial and ethnic gaps.”

From its first days, the pandemic set the stage for a K-shaped economy, one in which the rich worked from home without much income disruption as poorer people struggled. Workers in low-paying service jobs were far more likely to lose jobs, and among racial groups, Black people have experienced a much slower labor market rebound than their white counterparts. Globally, the downturn probably put 50 million people who otherwise would have qualified as middle class into lower income levels, based on one recent Pew Research analysis.

But data suggest the U.S. policy response — including relief legislation that passed under the Trump administration last year — has helped to mitigate the pain.

“The CARES Act to the American Rescue plan have helped to support more households than I would have imagined,” Charles Evans, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, told reporters during a call earlier this month, referring to the early 2020 and early 2021 pandemic relief packages.

across the board after slumping early last year, foreclosures have remained low, and household consumption has been shored up by repeated stimulus checks.

While the era has been fraught with uncertainty and people have slipped through the cracks, this downturn looks very different for poorer Americans than the post-financial crisis period. That recession ended in 2009, and America’s wealthiest households recovered precrisis wealth levels by 2012, while it took until 2017 for the poorest to do the same.

income inequality — the gap between how much the poor and the rich earn each year — might soon decline. Lower income inequality could, in theory, lead to lower wealth inequality over time, as households have the wherewithal save more evenly.

start of 2007, the bottom half of the wealth distribution held 2.1 percent of the nation’s riches, compared to 29.7 percent for the top 1 percent. By the start of 2020, the bottom half had 1.8 percent, while the top 1 percent held 31 percent.

Researchers debate whether monetary policy actually worsens wealth divides in the long run — especially since there’s the hairy question of what would have happened had the Fed not acted — but monetary policymakers generally agree that their policies can’t stop a pre-existing trend toward ever-worse wealth inequality.

By offering a more targeted boost from the very start of the recovery, fiscal policy can. Or, at a minimum, it can prevent wealth gaps from deepening so much.

Monetary policy “is naturally trickle-down,” said Joseph Stiglitz, an economist at Columbia and Nobel laureate. “Fiscal policy can work from the bottom and middle up.”

That’s what the Biden administration is gambling on. Paired with packages from December and last April, Congress’s recent package will bring the amount of economic relied that Congress has approved during the pandemic to more than $5 trillion. That dwarfs the amount spent in the last recovery.

The legislation is a mosaic of tax credits, stimulus checks and small business support that could leave families at the lower end of the income and savings distribution with more money in the bank and, if its provisions work as advertised, with a better chance of getting back to work early in the recovery.

There is no guarantee Mr. Biden’s broader economic proposals, totaling about $4 trillion, will clear a narrowly divided Congress. Republicans have balked at his plans and this week offered a counterproposal on infrastructure that is only a fraction the size of what Mr. Biden wants to spend. A bipartisan group of House moderates is pushing the president to finance infrastructure spending through an increased gas tax or something similar, which hits the poor harder than the rich.

Still, the president’s new proposals could have long-term impacts, working to retool workers’ skills and lift communities of color in hopes of putting the economy on more equal footing. The president is set to outline his so-called American Family Plan, which is focused on the work force, before his first address to a joint session of Congress next week.

While details have yet to be finalized, programs like universal prekindergarten, expanded subsidies for child care and a national paid leave program would be paid for partly by raising taxes on investors and rich Americans. That could also affect the wealth distribution, shuffling savings from the rich to the poor.

The plan, which must win support in a Congress where Democrats have just a narrow margin, would raise the top marginal income tax rate to 39.6 percent from 37 percent, and raise taxes on capital gains — the proceeds of selling an asset, like a stock — for people making more than $1 million to 39.6 percent from 20 percent. Counting in an Obamacare-related tax, the taxes they pay on profits would rise above 43 percent.

The new policies won’t necessarily cut wealth inequality, which has been on an inexorable upward march for decades, but they could keep poorer households from falling behind by as much as they would have otherwise.

Betting big on fiscal policy to return the economy to strength is a gamble. If the economy overheats, as some prominent economists have warned it could, the Fed might have to rapidly lift interest rates to cool things down. Rapid adjustments have historically caused recessions, which consistently throw vulnerable groups out of jobs first.

But administration officials have repeatedly said the bigger risk is underdoing it, leaving millions on the labor market’s sidelines to struggle through another tepid recovery. And they say the spending provisions in both the rescue package and the infrastructure could help to fix longstanding divides along racial and gender lines.

“We think of investment in racial equity, and equity in general, as good policy, period, and integral to all the work we do,” Catherine Lhamon, a deputy director of the Domestic Policy Council, said in an interview.

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‘We Were Left With Nothing.’ Argentina’s Misery Deepens in the Pandemic.

Before the pandemic, Carla Huanca and her family were making modest but meaningful improvements to their cramped apartment in the slums of Buenos Aires.

She was working as a hairstylist. Her partner was tending bar at a nightclub. Together, they were bringing home about 25,000 pesos ($270) a week — enough to add a second story to their home, creating extra space for their three boys. They were about to plaster the walls.

“Then, everything closed,” said Ms. Huanca, 33. “We were left with nothing.”

Amid the lockdown, the family needed emergency handouts from the Argentine government to keep food on the table. They resigned themselves to rough walls. They shelled out for wireless internet service to allow their children to manage remote learning.

“We have spent all of our savings,” Ms. Huanca said.

The global economic devastation that has accompanied Covid-19 has been especially stark in Argentina, a country that entered the pandemic deep in crisis. Its economy shrank by nearly 10 percent in 2020, marking the third straight year of recession.

wealth taxes to finance the costs of the pandemic — a measure that Argentina adopted late last year.

The fund’s analysis of Argentina’s debt picture, and its conclusion that the burden was not sustainable, set the groundwork for a settlement with international creditors last year. Investors ultimately agreed to write down the value of some $66 billion in bonds, overcoming the opposition of the world’s largest asset manager, BlackRock.

The Argentine government is proceeding on the assumption that it can secure a deal from the fund that will allow the country to significantly postpone its debts, providing relief from looming payments — $3.8 billion this year, and more than $18 billion next year — without strict requirements that it cut spending.

“The I.M.F. leadership has made clear that this is the framework,” said Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate economist at Columbia University in New York. The new arrangement will reflect “the new I.M.F.,” he added, “recognizing that austerity doesn’t work, and recognizing their concerns about poverty.”

antagonized the poor with cuts to government programs. His debt binge combined with another recession forced the country to submit to the ultimate humiliation — asking the I.M.F. for a hand.

In elections two years ago, voters rejected Mr. Macri and installed Mr. Fernandez — a Peronist. Some suggested that Mr. Fernandez might stake out an acrimonious position with creditors, including the I.M.F. But the Fernandez administration has proved pragmatic, winning the confidence of the I.M.F., while maintaining relief for the poor.

“We have to avoid following the patterns of the past that did so much damage,” the economy minister, Mr. Guzmán, said in an interview. “We want to be constructive, and resolve these problems in a way that works.”

The most pernicious problem remains inflation, a reality that assails businesses and households, adding to the strain on the poor through higher food prices.

In major economies like the United States, central banks conventionally respond to inflation by lifting interest rates. But that snuffs out economic growth — not a tenable proposition in Argentina, where the central bank already maintains interest rates at the stultifying level of 38 percent.

Brazil. Her partner’s employer reduced his hours, cutting his pay in half.

“I’m scared about what could happen now,” she said. “Everyone is very worried.”

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