Last year, the US federal government enacted a policy aimed at lifting millions of American children out of poverty by expanding the Child Tax Credit.
The measure was part of the recovery plan dubbed “American Rescue Plan” against the backdrop of a pandemic that has hit the poorest households hard and has seen a record number of workers made redundant.
Rather than returning parents their own money at annual tax time, the federal government issued advance payments for half the credit.
This meant that each month the Internal Revenue Service (IRI) deposited payments of up to $250 per child aged 6 to 17, and up to $300 for children under six, into the accounts. banks of more than 61 million families.
In addition, the tax credit has been fully made available to families with little or no income. In the past, 27 million children, about half of whom are black and Latino, received less money because their parents did not make enough money, but with the expansion of the child tax credit, these children were finally eligible.
The reality is that there was nothing particularly special about federal government policy.
Many wealthy countries provide some form of child support or a form of “universal child benefit” and many wealthy countries have provided additional financial aid or other forms of support to families with children during the pandemic.
Nevertheless, the Child Tax Credit saw monthly payments that also reduced monthly child poverty by around 30%.
In December of last year, that was equivalent to about 3.7 million American children seeing their living standards improve and lifted out of poverty.
The benefit would have reached more than 61 million children in December who were in or out of poverty.
According to the Columbia University Center on Poverty and Social Policy, “one of the reasons these monthly payments had such a big impact on child poverty is that the expansion filled a big hole in the child tax credit. children”.
According to data from a US Census Bureau from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, when families earning less than $35,000 a year suddenly had that extra money in their bank account each month, they used it to buy food, clothes and school supplies, pay utility bills and cover rent.
Lavern Riddick, a single mother from Philadelphia, says “that extra money helps a lot. We struggle day by day. I won’t lie, since I stopped working [at a hotel] it was a struggle.
The calamity happened just late last year when the child tax credit under the ‘Bailout America’ stimulus package ended and until today, congress failed to extend the program or seek an alternative.
Overnight, the millions of American children who have been lifted out of poverty during this limited time are hungry again and no one in America seems to really care or care.
Research by the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University shows that the child poverty rate rose from 12% in December 2021 to 17% in February, an increase of around 41% following of the expiration of the program.
So why was a fairly successful policy that improved the lives of millions simply scrapped by the US Congress?
Every Republican, the party that publicly advocates being “pro-life” and speaks heavily (especially on the campaign trail) of “family values,” has opposed the program expansion.
On the other hand, Democrats as a whole seemed more interested in finding ways to compromise with their colleagues opposite on issues related to the fight for ordinary Americans.
The bill can simply pass the Senate with a simple majority vote instead of the usual 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster.
However, with the Senate split 50/50 between Democrats and Republicans (Vice President Kamala Harris severing all ties) and no Republican wants to even watch the bill let alone vote for it, Democrats can’t stand each other. afford to lose a single vote. if they want to pass the Build Back Better Act.
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin has already expressed strong opposition, citing the overall costs of the bill, and worries about sending inflation even higher by pumping more money into the economy right now. When it comes to child poverty, suddenly there are concerns and worries about the economy.
What Manchin also claimed, which went unnoticed by mainstream US media, was that the policy discouraged parents from returning to work and that parents would waste the money they were given on drugs.
It was simply an argument that helped kill the program, no evidence was provided to support such a delusional idea.
Especially considering research, studies, and reports that the cash was used by 91% of households earning less than $35,000 a year to pay for food, housing, clothing, and other necessities. essential.
The fact that the extra money had reduced monthly child poverty by around 30% was also not taken into account.
The mainstream media also played a role with the use of their terminology that the expansion of politics was a “radical” agenda.
The short-lived policy of handing out a little extra Child Tax Credit money is proof that it is far too difficult to address real problems and challenges in America such as child poverty.
The program as well as the stimulus packages show that American leaders can help the poor if they want to. The question is: do they want to help the poor? especially in the midst of a massive spike in prices for food and other services reaching record highs?
Child poverty is now at its highest level since late 2020 and America is choosing to let children live in poverty.
Columbia University’s Center on Poverty and Social Policy reports that the child poverty rate rose from 12% in December 2021 to 17% in January 2022, an increase of about 41%.
This is on top of record inflation levels that America hasn’t seen in 40 years. The record high raised the price of food and basic services in addition to the cost of gasoline for motorists at the gas pump amid the crisis in Ukraine.
This is when over the past 40 years there has been a massive transfer of wealth from middle class and working families to the wealthiest people in America.
The richest 1% of Americans now own more wealth than the bottom 92% and the richest 50 Americans own more wealth than the bottom half of American society; it’s 165 million people.
While millions of Americans have lost their jobs and incomes during the pandemic, 650 billionaires have seen their wealth increase by $1.3 billion. The widening gap between the very rich and the rest is nothing new.
The highest poverty rate by race in America is for Native Americans, Black Americans, and Hispanic Americans. White Americans are not in the highest category.
Did this play a role in Congress cutting the child tax credit?
If the US federal government doesn’t care about child poverty in America, then why would it care about child poverty outside the US?
In Africa for example or in Yemen where for seven years according to the UN, a child under the age of five died of preventable diseases due to a war supported and supported by America.