Last year the US government lifted millions of children out of poverty when it expanded the Child Tax Credit – and then the policy was simply chucked away.
This one simple trick will help get kids out of poverty
Child poverty is bad. I think we can all agree on that, right? Americans are divided on lots of issues but it’s reasonable to suppose that, no matter where someone sits on the political spectrum, they would want kids to have enough to eat. Right?
Wrong. As it turns out an awful lot of politicians have no issue at all with kids going hungry. Last year the federal government lifted millions of American children out of poverty with the stroke of a pen when it expanded the Child Tax Credit (CTC) as part of the American Recovery Plan. There was nothing particularly revolutionary about this policy: lots of rich countries provide some version of a universal child benefit. But, while it wasn’t revolutionary on a global scale, the CTC transformed the US: monthly child poverty was slashed by roughly 30%. About 3.7 million children saw their lives improve. And then, at the end of 2021, the CTC expired and congress failed to extend it. Those 3.7 million kids went hungry again; a February study found that child poverty increased by 41% in after the program expired. In short: a wildly successful policy that improved millions of people’s lives was simply chucked away.
Republicans – the party that loves loudly proclaiming how “pro-life” they are and how much they care about family values – are largely to blame for the CTC expiring. Every single Republican in congress opposed extending the CTC. Joe Manchin, a supposed Democrat, also helped kill the program; he reportedly told colleagues that he worried that parents would waste the money they were being given on drugs. Did he have any evidence for this? No, of course not. In fact, studies show that 91% of households making less than $35,000 a year used the money to pay for food, shelter, clothing and other necessities.
While Republicans and Manchin bear the bulk of the responsibility for sabotaging the CTC, there’s plenty of blame to go around. The fact that much of the media insists on describing Manchin as a “moderate”, for example, doesn’t help matters. Terminology like this helps push the idea that bowing to corporate interests is “moderate’ while helping pull kids out of poverty is “radical”; it makes it easier for people like Manchin to pretend they’re being sensible instead of just selfish. And the Democrats are hardly blameless either. They’re absurdly bad at messaging and often seem to care more about compromising with their colleagues across the aisle instead of fighting for ordinary Americans.
The short-lived CTC reveals one of the big lies in politics: the idea that it’s far too difficult to do anything about big problems like poverty. As the brief success of the CTC demonstrates, simply giving families a little more money pays massive dividends. We know how to make people’s lives better, we just lack the political will to do so.
From The Guardian