By Sonali Kolhatkar
American families have struggled for decades to make ends meet with stagnant wages and a decimated social safety net. The U.S. now spends less on children than nearly any other wealthy nation.
But this year, there’s a glimmer of hope that this trend might be halted — and even reversed.
Democrats, using their razor-thin majorities in Congress, passed an expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC) in March 2021 that not only increased the tax refund for families with young children but also began sending them a monthly advance.
These CTC payments benefit roughly 39 million American families who now receive monthly checks of up to $300 per child per month. That’s not nearly enough to cover the exploding cost of child care, but even these comparatively modest payments could be transformative.
The Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University documented “a notable drop in child poverty” after just the first month of CTC payments. The U.S. Census Bureau also found that after just one month, food insecurity among vulnerable families dropped significantly, and families receiving checks also had less difficulty paying for weekly expenses.
So convincing are the expanded CTC’s proven benefits that nearly 450 economists wrote an open letter to Congress urging them to extend the program beyond this year, when it’s scheduled to expire.
Many policymakers agree.
President Joe Biden wants them extended for at least four years as part of the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill called the Build Back Better Act. Other Democrats are pushing to make them permanent. “If you just want to look at the impact of a child’s life, this is the biggest thing that we’re doing,” said Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), one of the CTC’s one of its biggest proponents.
Indeed, it’s hard to argue against helping vulnerable American children. But in spite of its clear benefits, the CTC is in very real political danger of being rolled back.
Accountable.US identifies nine House Democrats and two Senate Democrats — Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) — who oppose the extension of an expanded CTC. Of these 11 naysayers, eight are millionaires.
Manchin in particular has adopted a posture closer to the Republican way of thinking: that benefits aimed at wealthy interests are good for the nation, while benefits to vulnerable individuals are effectively “entitlements.”
Using Republican-favored buzzwords, Manchin recently said that while he supports the CTC in theory, “anything that can be added should be means tested,” and that it is important that the U.S. not turn into an “entitlement society.” One critic explained, “‘Means testing’ is just a nicer way to say, ‘We want people to jump through more hoops, so fewer people can get help.’”
With friends like Manchin, Republicans can sit out the discussion and have no clear policy position on the matter.
But some CTC supporters are going on the offensive to get money into the hands of low-income and middle-income Americans by other means.
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) in July introduced a guaranteed income bill that would ensure individuals making up to $75,000 a year receive $1,200 monthly checks. The SUPPORT Act, backed by progressive stalwarts such as Cori Bush (D-MO) and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), includes running a pilot program initially to prove that monthly payments would have a positive impact on families.
Putting cash into the hands of ordinary Americans is a win-win proposition — the economy as a whole is buoyed when people have more money in their pockets to spend on basic necessities.
Rather than infusing the top tiers of society with money and hoping it “trickles down,” more policy makers are getting on board with direct benefits to vulnerable Americans. The CTC is one of these, and it’s working. Let’s not blow it.
Sonali Kolhatkar is the host of “Rising Up With Sonali,” a television and radio show on Free Speech TV and Pacifica stations. This commentary was produced by the Economy for All project at the Independent Media Institute and adapted by OtherWords.org.
Mtn. Man says
You know my wife and I raised 3 children with no help from the government. We did it by working, something that the Democrats doesn’t know a thing about. The government is paying people to have kids, so don’t try to reverse what really is happening.
Pierre Tristam says
You know, that clean water your children drank as you raised them? That’s help from the government. Those roads you took to get to work to put a roof over your children’s heads? That’s government help. The safety you and your children enjoyed in your home all those years, thanks to law enforcement, firefighters putting out fires nearby, marshals nabbing fugitives roaming your neighborhood? That’s government help. Your clean produce, your safe meat products, your uncontaminated cheeses? That’s government help. Your massive health care premium subsidies, in case your health care is employer-provided? That’s government help. Your shit flowing out of your home and not flooding the streets, your streets not shoveling stormwater into your home, your garbage disappearing twice a week from curbside? That’s government help. Your children’s health protected from polio and other diseases? That’s government help. Need I go on? The list would fill this site. So it’s a bit simplistic to claim owing more to bootstraps than to government, just because you held a job. Chances are the majority of your job’s existence is due to government help, one way or another. Even Davy Crocket owed his living to government when he wasn’t killing bears and, courageous and honorable man that he was (when he wasn’t surrendering at the Alamo), hiring substitutes to take his place in the army.
Thank you says
Thank you. Just in case somebody missed it whilst watching Faux news, what you just read above is called the Truth.
Ray W. says
It’s OK, Mr. Tristam. Mtn. Man is just talking to hear his head roar. He knows he is lying, but it makes him feel better. He knows Democrats work hard to raise fine children, to put a roof over their heads, to provide the best education possible for them. I did and I probably worked harder than Mtn. Man ever dreamed himself capable of, and still do.
Thank you so much, Pierre, Ray W and thank you. . . I agree, MM is obviously a cult member living in his own “alternate reality” where he is a “legend in his own warped mind.”