It's Child Tax Credit Nice Time!
For all the machete chops Sen. Joe Manchin took at the Build Back Better Act, he appears to have largely let the extension of the expanded Child Tax Credit go forward without the draconian cuts other parts of Build Back Better faced. Based on the framework the White House released yesterday, the expanded CTC will continue in pretty much the same form as when it was introduced in the American Rescue Plan: $250 to $300 payments for each child, paid monthly, and including the "lucky duckies" who are too poor to pay federal income taxes.
It appears that Manchin has dropped the objections to the CTC that he had just a few weeks ago, when he was still saying it should be only be available to people making less than $60,000 a year — which would have been a tax increase on families making between $60,000 and $150,000 — and subject to work requirements, lest America become an "entitlement society." As we pointed out, that's an incredibly bad idea, since if the tax credit isn't also helping middle-class families, it would be far more vulnerable to being eliminated, since then it's merely "welfare" for people who don't matter.
Of course, whether the CTC framework holds is a big "if," depending on Manchin's mood any given day. And of course it would be better to extend the CTC longer than a year. But if it remains in the reconciliation bill as it is, a year — an election year — "will provide a big opportunity for it to take hold with the public." Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman write at the Washington Post:
By giving money to people every month and allowing even the poorest families to participate, it lifted millions of families out of poverty, allowing them to afford basic necessities including food, shelter and utilities. It's also a change in thinking in how such benefits could be distributed — direct, fast and without a cumbersome bureaucracy making them hard to access.
That last is a huge thing, and it also would be undermined by work requirements, which don't do a damned thing to increase employment (and besides, most poor people work, even if they don't earn much). And when low-income people have money, they generally spend it, improving the economy quite directly. They might even be able to save a little!
"Fully refundable" is incredibly important. It means that the tax credit is available to those too poor to pay federal income taxes — you remember the Wall Street Journal's "lucky duckies" who owned refrigerators and everything — but who usually pay other taxes, like payroll taxes and sales taxes, will also get a good chunk of help for their families. Imagine the brain that thinks the very poorest people should not get help for their children, but those who are richer should. The child tax credit has never been fully refundable — has never been a check cut to those who don't pay federal income tax — until now.
Kids who aren't living in poverty have more stability in their lives, they do better in school, and in general start out life in better shape to deal with the world. And as an old old Public Service Announcement used to say, if they start well, they're even more likely to become taxpayers.
So three cheers for the expanded Child Tax Credit, one cheer for Joe Manchin, and let's hope his silence so far this week signals continued acceptance of the extension of the CTC. Benign neglect of something he'd previously attacked? It's a win for families.
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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.