Reviews | 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 Pass,” New York Times reporters Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns report that the Senate Minority Leader told friends he thought the tax credit for temporarily extended children would be so popular that even if Republicans regain the House in the 2022 election, it would be too late to overturn the bill. The measure put hundreds of dollars a month in the pockets of American families and led to an almost immediate double-digit drop in the number of children living in poverty. How could Republicans counter that?

He was wrong. The expansion was allowed to expire in December. Millions of households fell back into penury as quickly as they had come out of it. The only scandal was that, contrary to McConnell’s fears, it wasn’t a scandal at all.

Instead, the tax credit saga has instead demonstrated that America’s stated devotion to children is often cheap sentiment. In the face of evidence that a few extra hundred dollars vastly improves child welfare, we continue to choose to keep our country’s wallets tight.

Two recently released reports – one from the Brookings Institution, the other from the Center for Law and Social Policy – ​​show how far the expanded child tax credit passed as part of the US bailout of President Biden late last winter, has been for millions of American families, providing not only money but security on many 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 six and $3,000 for those seven and older, much of money from a monthly allowance. High-income households received cash on a sliding scale. In total, nearly 9 out of 10 families with children under 18 received money from the program. (My husband and I were, for a short time, one of them – we got exactly one check before our youngest son got old.)

Studies show that families used the temporary monthly allowance to pay for everyday household expenses, including rent, school supplies and extracurricular activities, and food – families receiving the credit said they ate more balanced meals. (Yes, slightly more fast food was consumed compared to households that did not receive the benefit, but so was more protein, fruit and vegetables.)

In fact, when Brookings compared households receiving the child tax credit to those not eligible, they found that those receiving the de facto allowance were more likely to pay their credit card bills and less likely to use payday loans to get by. Their chances of being deported were less. They were also less likely to resort to such desperate measures as selling their blood plasma to raise funds.

Nonetheless, Sen. Joe Manchin III (DW.Va.), in particular, encouraged people to believe in the myth of the lazy, lazy parent living high on the government hog. HuffPost reported that Manchin privately told people he thought the families would use the money to buy drugs.

Manchin was far from the only villain here. Polls showed that many did not want to see the measure enacted permanently. (Older people were especially against it.) It’s true that Americans are always wary of someone getting a helping hand – but, in this case, the people being helped were often us, or our family members or our friends. friends. It didn’t seem to matter. The fact that millions of families are now falling back into precarious living conditions arouses virtually no indignation.

Attempts to bring back expansion seem doomed. The White House is increasingly convinced that Manchin does not want to make any deal on Biden’s Build Back Better bill, which would have renewed the policy. As for the expanded child tax credit legislation sponsored by Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), it would not only need to attract bipartisan support – which is highly unlikely – it contains a poison pill for Democrats in the form of entirely removing the federal tax relief of up to $10,000 in state and local taxes.

It’s all penny-wise but pound-senseless. As I pointed out last year, academic research shows that income support for families leads to everything from improved infant birth weights to higher school graduation rates. secondary, as well as an increased likelihood of attending university. This, in turn, will massively benefit all of us.

But none of these potential benefits can overcome our indifference to helping children and families. Look at our dismal record. We are the only first world nation that does not mandate paid family leave for new moms. We suffer from the highest infant mortality rate of our peer countries. We pay their teachers less than others with similar credentials, and our country’s response to the mass school shootings is to offer thoughts and prayers.

When looked at through this prism, it’s no surprise that the expanded child tax credit has been allowed to expire. That never happened.


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