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Dorothea Lange, US Department of Agriculture, 1940

Attention, Democratic candidates running in 2020 -- not just for president, but for ANYTHING: Get on board with the American Family Act, introduced today in the Senate by Michael Bennet of Colorado and Sherrod Brown of Ohio. In the House, it's been introduced by Democratic Congresswomen Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Suzan DelBene of Washington. It's a ridiculously simple way to make middle-class and working families better off through fairly simple tweaks to the existing child tax credit, as Dylan Matthews explains at Vox.

Currently, the Child Tax Credit (CTC) helps out fairly well-off people, but does little for families with low income. The American Family Act would change that significantly, turning the CTC into a monthly child allowance available to every family with children (and phasing out for families at the high end of the income scale). The benefit would pay:

-- $3,000 per year, or $250 per month, per child ages 6 to 16
-- $3,600 per year, or $300 per month, per child ages 0 to 5

The benefits would be distributed monthly, in advance, so families could pace out their spending and smooth their incomes. Because the CTC, like the earned income tax credit, is currently paid out through tax refunds, it sometimes leads to a perverse situation in which families use it to pay down debt they never would've had to incur if they'd gotten the money earlier.

And what would this accomplish? It would boost the available income for families with kids, immediately, and particularly when kids tend to be especially expensive, in the first years of life, when, unfortunately, young parents tend to have their lowest earning power, too.

Researchers project this child allowance would have some amazing bang for the buck in terms of lifting kids out of poverty:

Poverty among children would fall from 14.8 percent to 9.5 percent, meaning 4 million kids would escape poverty. Deep poverty — the share of kids living on half the poverty line or less — would fall almost by half, from 4.6 percent to 2.4 percent.

Is there more, in terms of overall benefit for US America? You bet your sweet Great Society ass there is! How about improvements in health, reductions in crime, and overall benefits for education?


One study of the US's earned income tax credit found that receiving cash actually makes mothers more likely to get prenatal care, which in turn reduces the amount they smoke and drink. A Canadian study found that each dollar spent on child benefits reduced spending on tobacco by 6 cents and spending on alcohol by 7 cents.

What's more, a growing body of evidence suggests that investments in early childhood development can pay off in lower crime, higher earnings, and greater educational attainment later on.

Programs that give families cash, according to UC Irvine economist Greg Duncan, result in better learning outcomes and higher earnings for their kids. One study found a $3,000 annual income increase for poor parents is associated with 19 percent higher earnings for their child once he or she grows up. That implies that a child allowance of that size could dramatically improve the lives of children decades later.

Yes, of course Republicans will whine that this is just welfare and the poor will be lazy and terrible, but fuck them, that's a lie. Since this would also be good for the middle class -- an immediate benefit that doesn't require any waiting around in hopes that someday a rich person's tax benefits will maybe trickle down on them -- it would almost certainly prove hugely popular with a broad range of voters. Hell, even the freaking National Review has floated the idea of a child allowance, since it would make families more stable, increase the birth rate, and maybe even reduce abortions, because having a child wouldn't mean financial chaos.

Look, go read the whole piece -- it's terrific, and if the idea sounds a bit familiar, that's because a monthly child allowance is also part of that awesome "Family Fun Pack" of proposals we looked at recently, aimed at making life better for all American kids.

Goddamn, we like ending the day on a smart, good idea. This is your OPEN THREAD.

[Vox / Image: Dorothea Lange, US Department of Agriculture via National Archives]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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