EVA Issues in the News
In an article originally published on January 24, 2020, Mike Konczal of The Nation outlines how the bipartisan Bennet-Romney proposal could help lift U.S. children out of poverty. The proposal would not only expand the child tax credit but would also include a child allowance. And, depending on the outcomes of the 2020 elections, the bill has better odds of actually being passed compared to similar past proposals. Click through to read the full article, and learn more about the need for an expanded child tax credit here.
The Bennet-Romney proposal includes a child allowance, which would reduce childhood poverty as well as benefit those further up the income ladder.
This December there was an overlooked Christmas miracle: Two senators announced a bipartisan proposal that wasn’t terrible. Mitt Romney (R-UT) teamed up with Michael Bennet (D-CO) to endorse an expansion of the child tax credit.
Crucially, the bill includes something essential to the economic security of families: a child allowance. If the government would give money to all parents, no matter their income, it would solve two major problems facing Democrats.
First, by helping both rich and poor families, parents as well as children, it would unite groups that are often pitted against one another.
Second, it could be passed through the process known as reconciliation, which expedites budget bills. This means if Democrats control Congress and the White House next year, the law could go into effect quickly, helping millions of families almost immediately.
The Bennet-Romney proposal would make several changes to the current system; the most important is that most of the child tax credit would be fully refundable.
At the moment, a family needs to earn wages to receive benefits. But if the child tax credit is made fully refundable, families with little or no income will receive checks in the mail.
This law isn’t just for poor people, though; families further up the income ladder would also receive extra money. Effectively, the bill would create a basic income for all families with children, linking the interests of poor, working-class, and middle-class families. This would dramatically bring down poverty among children, as it has in other countries that have put such a system in place, like Canada and the United Kingdom.
Beyond reducing child poverty, this proposal has two other features that should bring it extra attention.
First, by being universal for families with children, it would release lawmakers from the straitjacket in which child and family policy has long found itself.
As University of Maryland history professor Sonya Michel discusses in her book Children’s Interests/Mothers’ Rights, policy around children and care work in the United States has played the interests of children against the rights of mothers since industrialization.
Throughout history, laws intended to improve the lives of poor children have placed blame on their parents for not earning enough and have stigmatized and punished families for this. At the same time, the right of mothers to engage in paid labor and to be able to rely on a policy infrastructure to support that choice has been seen as an abandonment of their responsibility to their children.
A basic income for all families with kids would overcome this problem. The money would provide security for children as well as a de facto wage for care work. That it would go to all parents will help protect it from critics who scream about welfare.
The amount proposed by Bennet and Romney is too low—$1,500 a year for each child under age 6. But once in place, that figure could be increased.
Issues in the News highlights news items focusing on key issues for poor and low-income families, from fair work and access to health care to family economic security, criminal justice reform, voting rights, and more.
For more information on the child tax credit, see the following resources:
Left Behind: The One-Third of Children in Families Who Earn Too Little to Get the Full Child Tax Credit (Center on Poverty & Social Policy)
The Tax Break for Children, Except the Ones Who Need It Most (The New York Times)