Fine, Mitt Romney, Pass A Child Allowance Plan And We Will Not Hit You *Today*
For six months last year, the USA actually did something pretty astonishing: It slashed the rate of child poverty with the Expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC) that was included in the American Rescue Plan. With the very first round of monthly payments, in July 2021, the child poverty rate fell from 15.8 percent to 11.9 percent, a 26 percent reduction in child poverty in just a month. For the six months the credit lasted, US child poverty dropped by about 30 percent. An extension of the expanded credit was included in the Build Back Better Bill, but we all know what happened there. At the moment, there doesn't appear to be much chance of reviving the expanded CTC, either as a stand-alone bill or as part of a pared-back reconciliation package — and any renewed expansion of the CTC would likely crash into the same Joe Manchin-shaped wall all over again.
So here's a surprise: Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) has brought back a revised version of his own 2021 plan to provide a monthly allowance to most American families with kids, with some tweaks intended to make it more palatable to his Republican colleagues; he's even picked up a couple of co-sponsors, Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) and Steve Daines (R-Montana). Romney's calling it the "Family Security Act 2.0" and billing it as "pro-family, pro-life, and pro-marriage" in hopes of at least getting some other Republicans to glance at it before rejecting it because it doesn't ban all abortions or even execute any doctors. The "pro life" bit is a new feature that would start payments to pregnant women in the four months leading up to their due date.
Yeah, that's actually a really good idea, and as we asked last year, has Mitt Romney been infected with Scandinavia?
Remember, this is the guy who, when he ran for president in 2012, railed against "free stuff" and condemned the lazy 47 percent of Americans who supposedly "believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it," just because they're children, retired, or make so little income that they get the Earned income Tax Credit (EITC) and pay no tax. Same guy!
As with the earlier iteration, Romney's plan would give families $350 a month for each child under the age of five, and $250 a month for kids aged six to 17, for up to six kids, or as they say in Utah, a tiny family that doesn't hardly even count. It would also provide up to four of those $700 a month prenatal payments to help pay for the costs of new babby. Parents could choose to have the credit paid out monthly or to take a lump sum annually.
New in the bill this time around would be a sort of work requirement, though it would be far less onerous than the arbitrary cruelty red states have come up with to keep people from receiving food stamps or other benefits. Instead, to qualify for the full benefit, families would have to have earned at least $10,000 in the previous year, which is really not a hell of a lot of income. People with income below that level would get a partial credit based on whatever income they did have. It strikes us as arbitrary and cruel — people with the very least income get punished with lower benefits? — but that's what was needed to get GOP cosponsors, the Deseret News explains:
Romney’s policy advisers said that the earning requirement and other changes from the senator’s initial proposal are what colleagues told Romney they’d need to support the measure. Staff members also expressed hope the bill would attract support from Democrats, but noted that many senators across the aisle still hope to see the expanded child tax credit and monthly payments from the American Rescue Plan resuscitated.
“That hasn’t been our preferred route or the position of our conference,” a policy adviser said on background, expressing optimism that “more serious discussions” with Democrats around The Family Security Act 2.0 will take place once that effort plays out.
As with the existing child tax credit — and the short-lived expanded version — the full credits would be available to individuals making up to $200,00 a year or $400,000 for joint filers. Above those income levels, the credit phases out sharply, dropping $50 per month for each $1,000 above the limit.
Romney's bill would also rework the Earned income Tax Credit to eliminate marriage penalties (Pro-marriage!) and to avoid "benefit cliffs" by gradually reducing the amount of the EITC when people make a little more income, rather than eliminating it altogether (Pro-work!).
To pay for the new benefit — which would cost about $93 billion annually— the Romney plan would modify or eliminate some current federal benefits. The first time out, Romney sought to eliminate Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which was an absolute no-go for most Democrats. Family Security Act 2.0 would, like the first, eliminate the state and local tax deduction (SALT), which is very popular with blue-state moderates, but which goes mostly to fairly well-off folks, to offset the higher taxes in blue states. That would provide $25 billion annually. Hell, it's wealth redistribution, and we're good with it.
Deseret News explains the other federal cuts that would make the plan budget-neutral:
Earned income tax credit reform would save $46.5 billion. Dropping the head of household filing status would save another $16.5 billion. And the final $4.7 billion would come from eliminating the child portion of the child and dependent care credit, the senators said.
Romney’s policy advisers told reporters that the head of household filing status is a “really regressive way to support families.”
Given that head of household status is pretty popular with single parents who have dependent kids, trying to axe it could be a hard sell, even if some of the lost tax advantages would be offset by the tax credits. Same for the child care tax credit.
So does Romney's proposal have any better chances this time out? We're guessing probably not this close to the midterms, although maybe there'd be 60 votes in the Senate to pass help to families that could be bragged about in campaign ads. Family policy boffins are again making positive noises, so that's good, and there's support from a bunch of groups on the Right for its "pro life" provisions.
But as the Atlantic noted, Romney's first Family Security Act, for all the praise it got from both sides of the aisle, never got any real GOP support, and Democrats were focusing all their energy on Build Back Better, leaving Romney's bill without a home. It would be nice to think a really bipartisan coalition in Congress might be open to the new version, and we could even see it going somewhere if Democrats hold on to Congress in the midterms. If Republicans take either house this fall, they'll be far too busy investigating Nancy Pelosi and passing abortion bans for Joe Biden to veto.
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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.