Democrats in Washington are going all in on continuing the expanded child tax credit, which is set to expire at the end of this month.
They see the permanence of monthly checks to millions of American households with children as beneficial to lifting families out of poverty.
But there is a political advantage as well. Greg Sargent wrote in the Washington Post, “Indeed, moderate House Democrats, including ones in difficult districts, see the credit as beneficial to their reelection hopes, putting them in sync with progressives who see it as a plus for the party overall.”
Yes, in politics, free stuff is good for business.
But of course, there is no such thing as a free lunch. The five-year cost of the program would be over one-half trillion dollars. And this is where West Virginia’s Joe Manchin again finds himself as the bulwark, resisting the creation of a wildly expensive entitlement program.
“Whatever Congress is considering, we should do it within the limits of what we can afford,” Manchin told CNN’s Manu Raju.
Last March, Congress included in the Covid relief bill an expansion of the child tax credit for the rest of 2021. The benefit rose from $2,000 to $3,600 for children under age six and $3,000 for each older child.
Democrats want to continue the expansion at least through next year, and hopefully longer. In Washington, once a benefit is established, it is typically there forever. Democrats also want to keep the credit refundable, which means the benefit is paid even if the individual owes no taxes.
That makes it an entitlement, not a tax credit.
Advocates like to focus on how the monthly checks help poor families pay for essentials, and certainly that is true. However, the guidelines are excessively generous. Individuals with income of up to $75,000 and married couples with income of up to $150,000 qualify for the full amount.
Manchin is also irked that the expanded credit includes no work requirement. “Don’t you think, if we’re going to help children, that the people should make some effort?” he told CNN. Senator Sherrod Brown (D, Ohio) offered a contrary view to the Huffington Post. “I think raising children is work,” he said.
Anyone who has children knows Brown right, but is it the responsibility of taxpayers, including those who have no children or have already raised theirs, to pay for others—including those in the middle class—to raise their children?
Manchin is under enormous pressure to cave. Left-leaning opinion leaders are excoriating the Senator. Given the season, the “Scrooge” references are inevitable. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come would be more appropriate, as Manchin tries to warn of the consequences of poor decisions.