Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., gave the U.S. Senate whiplash earlier this month as he announced he would no longer support the Build Back Better package. President Joe Biden, though, remains positive a deal will get done. Still, people are missing the more prominent headline: If the Senate doesn’t come together before the New Year to renew the Child Tax Credit (CTC), 3 million to 4 million kids could fall back into poverty.
The CTC expired on Dec. 15, and, as it stands, the renewal is tied to the gigantic Build Back Better plan, which has yet to garner 50 votes needed to pass. Manchin has made it clear that, even if he votes for Build Back Better, it will not include the CTC.
The plan from Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, is the best possible solution to keep that from happening.
Biden’s expansion of the CTC during his first year in office could be his most significant legacy. Sure, the infrastructure package and democracy summit were fantastic, but nothing was as effective as the $300 per child credit that families got throughout 2021.
Modest estimates claim the expansion of CTC reduced child poverty in the United States by more than 40%, increased food security, and increased social mobility. By any measure, this is the gold standard for any anti-poverty policy.
Then why is it having such a hard time getting renewed?
With Manchin clearly out on Child Tax Credit, it’s time to separate the plan from Build Back Better and work to get it passed with bipartisan support. Romney, to his credit, already has a plan which closely mirrors that of the Democrat party.
This option is a clear win-win-win. Republicans get an effective, low bureaucracy welfare plan; democrats get a robust social safety plan; and the entire United States gets to ensure that we keep 3-4 million children from falling back into poverty.
Nearly 20% of U.S. children live in poverty, and the U.S. is third to last among OECD countries for spending towards the family, yet there is still hesitation by some towards the plan. Manchin reportedly commented he believes parents use the money towards parents’ drug habits and hunting trips.
Keeping parents poor isn’t going to improve their parenting skills. Despite significant evidence that stimulus checks and CTC went to rent and groceries, some still want to believe that children should pull themselves up by their Velcro-shoe straps and single-handedly improve their living conditions.
From my colleagues on the right and left, I hear the phrase, “equal opportunity, not equal outcome.” Romney’s tax credit plan does exactly that. It gives the freedom for people to choose what is best for their family, without high costs of administration.
Toph Cottle is a master’s student at the University of London SOAS studying development economics. He tweets at @tc_elk