Opinion | Why Success Couldn’t Save Biden’s Child Tax Credit Expansion

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In the spring of 2021, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was a worried man. In a book published this week, “this will not happen”, New York Times reporters Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns report that the Senate Minority Leader told friends that he believed the temporarily expanded child tax credit would be so popular that even if Republicans retake the House in the 2022 elections, it would be too late to reverse the decision. invoice. The move put hundreds of dollars a month into the pockets of American families and resulted in an almost immediate reduction double digit drop in the number of children living in poverty. How would Republicans counter that?

He was wrong. The expansion was allowed to expire in December. million homes fell back into poverty as fast as they had been raised. The only scandal was that, contrary to McConnell’s fears, it was not a scandal at all.

Instead, the tax credit saga demonstrated that America’s avowed devotion to children is often cheap sentiment. In the face of evidence that an extra few hundred dollars greatly increases child well-being, we continue to choose to keep our nation’s wallet tightly closed.

Two recently published reports, one from the Brookings Institutionthe other of the Center for Law and Social Policy — show how transformative expansion is child tax creditpassed as part of President Biden’s American Bailout Plan in late winter last year, it went to millions of American families, providing not just money but security on multiple fronts.

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A reminder of how it all worked: Households earning less than $150,000 a year received $3,600 for children under the age of six and $3,000 for those seven and older, much of it in the form of a monthly stipend. Higher-income households received money on a sliding scale. Altogether, almost nine of 10 families with children under the age of 18 received money from the program. (My husband and I were, for a short time, one of them; we received exactly one check before our youngest son came of age.)

Studies show that families used the temporary monthly stipend to pay for routine household expenses, including rent, school supplies and extracurricular activities, and food; families receiving the credit reported eating more balanced meals. (Yes, slightly more fast food was consumed compared to households that did not receive the benefit, but more protein, fruits, and vegetables were also consumed.)

In fact, when Brookings compared households that received the child tax credit with those that were not eligible, finding that those that received the de facto allowance were more likely to pay credit card bills and less likely to use payday loans to survive. Their chances of being evicted were less. They were also less likely to resort to such desperate measures as selling their blood plasma to raise money.

However, Sen. Joe Manchin III (DW.Va.), in particular, encouraged people to believe in the myth of the lazy, lazy dad who lives on top of the government hog. HuffPost reported that Manchin told people privately that he believed the families would use the money to buy drugs.

Manchin was far from the only villain here. Hub showed that many did not want to see the measure enacted permanently. (Greater were particularly against.) True, Americans are always suspicious of someone receiving a helping hand, but, in this case, the people receiving help were often us, or members of our family, or our friends. It just didn’t seem to matter. The fact that millions of families are now fall back into precarious living conditions is garnering almost no outrage.

Attempts to recover expansion seem doomed to failure. The White House is increasingly convinced that Manchin does not want to reach any agreement on Biden’s Build Back Better bill, which would have revamped the policy. As for the expanded child tax credit legislation sponsored by Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah), would not only need to attract bipartisan support, something that is highly unlikely, but contains a poison pill for Democrats in the form of completely eliminating the federal tax break of up to $10,000 in state and local taxes. .

It’s all about pennies, but it’s silly. As I pointed out last year, academic research shows that financial supports for families lead to everything from improvement of the weight of babies at birth for best high school graduation rates, as well as a higher probability of attending college. That, in turn, will greatly benefit each and every one of us.

But none of those potential benefits can outweigh our indifference to helping children and families. Look at our lousy track record. We are the only first world nation that does not require paid family leave for new moms. we suffer the higher infant mortality rate of our peer countries. We pay their teachers less than others with similar educational credentials, and our nation’s response to mass school shootings is to offer thoughts and prayers.

When you look at it through that prism, the surprise isn’t that the expanded child tax credit was allowed to expire. Is it ever happened at all.

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