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Today marks the start of the Biden Administration’s Enhanced Child Tax Credit program, meaning millions of American families can soon expect payments deposited in their bank accounts. What is it and what do you need to know?

  • Plus, Jamaica will demand reparations from Britain over slavery.
  • And, why parts of the Amazon are emitting more carbon than they’re absorbing.

Guests: Axios' Hans Nichols and Andrew Freedman, and How to Be an Antiracist's Dr. Ibram X. Kendi.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Dan Bobkoff, Alexandra Botti, Justin, Kaufmann, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Sabeena Singhani, Amy Pedulla, Naomi Shavin, and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at podcasts@axios.com. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

Go deeper:

NIALA BOODHOO: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today! It’s Thursday, July 15th. I’m Niala Boodhoo. Here’s how we’re making you smarter today: Jamaica demands slavery reparations from Britain. Plus, why trees in the Amazon rainforest are emitting more carbon than they’re absorbing. But first, today’s One Big Thing: the IRS starts new monthly cash payments for parents.

NIALA: Today marks the start of the Biden administration's enhanced child tax credit program. Meaning millions of American families can soon expect payments deposited into their bank accounts. What is it? And what do you need to know? Hans Nichols is a political reporter for Axios. Good morning.

HANS NICHOLS: Good morning.

NIALA: So there's a lot of questions here. These are different from stimulus checks. This is an advance?

HANS: The top line on this is it's a lot of new money, especially for families that weren't filing taxes beforehand. So the white house has been touting this. They've been talking about it at every opportunity because they think this is going to make a serious dent into childhood poverty. So, you know, the numbers just real quickly are about 20 million. Additional children that didn't get the full credit before, because maybe their parents didn't file taxes. They're now going to maybe have an opportunity to get that now for everyone else. And the numbers are big, right? We're talking about millions of families, their income levels. It phases out, I think at around 150,000, but in July people, families will get 300 up to $300 checks just deposited into their accounts. And that's something totally different, that we haven't really tried in this country.

NIALA: Political conversation will shift to whether or not this program is going to the end of the year. If this will become permanent. It's too early to say whether Democrats can win the argument to make this more permanent.

HANS: Maybe, but Democrats understand the stakes on that. And that is if you get Americans accepting of this idea. It's very difficult to take it away. The big question is how much further is it going to go? And when will Democrats decide to pay for it?

NIALA: Hans you joining us from the hill. The conversations on the hill this week have been about infrastructure and who's going to pay for the $3.5 trillion budget.

HANS: Well, the plan was always corporations, but what we've learned in the last few hours is it's corporations that also make drugs, which is to say pharmaceuticals and the pharmaceutical industry. I've talked to Senator Bernie Sanders about this. He confirmed the number $600 billion, a little bit north of that, he said, is going to be targeted at the pharmaceutical companies to pay for the $3.5 trillion in new spending that they want to do in this Democrat only bill. You know, now that you mentioned Niala, the two stories are somewhat similar, right? Democrats want to expand the social safety net and they need to find new revenue sources. Now the old revenue source that Biden initially talked about were corporations and wealthy individuals, but they need to find other revenue streams and going after pharmaceutical companies and make them negotiate with Medicare the way they negotiate with Medicaid is one way that a lot of Democrats are talking about doing it and it looks like it may happen.

NIALA: What does President Biden say about this?

HANS: Biden didn't include it in his first plan potentially because of the politics of it, right? It's hard. You don't want to pick another fight, especially with the well capitalized pharmaceutical companies. Biden was down on the Senate on Wednesday talking about the deal, endorsing it he's for the deal. So he must be for it.

NIALA: Hans Nichols covers the Biden administration for Axios. Thanks, Hans.

HANS: Thanks for having me.

NIALA: We’ll be back in 15 seconds with Jamaica’s call for reparations.

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Niala Boodhoo. Jamaica plans to petition the UK for reparations over the Atlantic Slave Trade, which resulted in at least 600,000 Africans being sent to the former British colony centuries ago. They're asking for more than $10 billion, which is the amount of England compensated slave owners when slavery was outlawed. That announcement came this week and I wanted to ask author and historian Dr. Ibram X Kendi to talk through this with me. He's the host of the Be Anti-Racist podcast. Dr. Kendi, welcome. Thanks for being with us.

IBRAM X. KENDI: Of course, thanks for having me.

NIALA: The Jamaican government...And in fact, many Caribbean nations have been discussing reparations for several years now. How do you think this most recent petition is different?

KENDI: I think it potentially may be more global awareness about the logic and the common sense of a nation like Jamaica requesting or demanding reparations. To know the history of British colonialism, slave trading, and slavery in Jamaica, is to also hopefully know that through the bodies and-and the resources. Wealth was extracted from Jamaica, uh, and from Jamaican people. And then when we start to understand, okay, why is there this gap in wealth between let's say Jamaica and England, uh, we can certainly point to it.

NIALA: I'm curious what you think about how the British government might respond to this, given what you've just explained about the logic and this moment.

KENDI: I think how the British government responds is largely going to be based on how they try to imagine history, or whether they're going to-to be reflective and honest about the historical and colonial relationship, you know, between Jamaica in England. If they somehow make the case that the cause of economic disparity between the two nations is because there's something wrong with Jamaica, or Jamaican people, and it has nothing to do with this exploitation, this slavery...Then to me, that will be just unfortunate because it will, of course, try to rewrite history.

NIALA: Is there a way to make up that disparity between the two nations without reparations?

KENDI: I would be all ears to hear about a way, [chuckle]. Uh, part of effort towards reparations is not just to repair the economic damage. It's even to repair the conceptual damage. It's-it's for world to recognize that the reason why there are these massive gaps between wealthier white countries and poorer black countries is because of slavery and the slave trade.

NIALA: Dr. Ibram X. Kendi is the author of How To Be an Anti-Racist. He's been joining us Thursdays this summer. Dr. Kendi, thank you.

KENDI: Thank you for having me.

NIALA: According to a new study out in Nature magazine yesterday, parts of the Amazon rainforest are now outputting more carbon than they're taking in. We're joined by Axios’ Andrew Friedman to explain. Hey, Andrew!

ANDREW FREEDMAN: Hey there!

NIALA: So I think everyone learns in elementary school that trees are supposed to take in carbon, not put it out.

ANDREW: Yeah, that would be the general expectation. We are cutting down vast tracts of the rainforest and burning it. Primarily to clear space for agricultural lands, mostly for cattle grazing. And this is happening, uh, throughout Brazil, especially, and in certain regions, there's enough trees that are gone now, uh, that it's having an influence on the climate. Uh, it's having feedbacks into the moisture, uh, contents of the atmosphere. So you're getting less rainfall. So it's harder to sustain a rainforest in that region.

NIALA: Can you explain the feedback to me please?

ANDREW: Yes. The feedbacks exist between the tree canopies, the moisture that the trees have, uh, as well as the atmosphere, just above them. I mean, if you think about like these documentaries that you see of people high in the trees. Or, uh, planes soaring low above the tree canopies, you often see like these misty clouds, and get this sense of how humid it is there. What happens when you clear these tracts of land is you're allowing some of that moisture to evaporate, and it requires more moisture to keep the capability of maintaining a rainforest going. And studies do show that once a certain portion of the Amazon transitions, uh, away from being a rainforest, it'll turn into more of a savanna.

NIALA: How bad is it for the climate that this is happening to parts of the Amazon rainforest?

ANDREW: This is not a good sign. These are alarming headlines. Scientists are concerned about this. They are looking at this and tracking it very closely. But it is only part of the Amazon. It's not the entire thing. It's-it's the Southeastern portion of the Amazon, which has had the highest amount of deforestation.

NIALA: Axios’ Andrew Freedman. Thank you, Andrew.

ANDREW: Thank you for having me.

NIALA: That’s all we’ve got for you today! I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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