Negotiations over boosting child tax credits are proof we are a crooked, crooked country

Negotiations over boosting child tax credits are proof we are a crooked, crooked country

Remember the expanded child tax credit? You know, the program that singlehandedly boosted millions of American children out of poverty, only to send them crashing back down because Republicans absolutely refused to keep the program running no matter how successful it was and were, in fact, enraged that Democrats managed to pass it in the first place? The one that saw Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin become the new decider of whether a few million American children would or wouldn’t have enough food to eat?

There’s good news and bad news. Politico reports that the Biden administration has “privately signaled” to Democratic lawmakers that they’re willing to negotiate some compromises in order to bring back the expanded child tax credit that proved massively successful in reducing childhood poverty in this crooked backwater country. Politico frames this as a willingness to include new work requirements; other reporters are weighing in to say no, what’s actually being discussed is making adjustments to the current, non-expanded child tax credit.

To clarify, we’re still talking about “work requirements” for the parents of hungry kids in poverty, not work requirements for the kids themselves. So far.

What the actual compromise position might be is still nebulous, then, but the central story is that the administration is feeling pressure to bring back the expanded Child Tax Credit now, before sedition-backing Republicans take control of the House of Representatives, because once Republicans control Congress they will absolutely block any and all child poverty measures because that is what Republicans do.

This, then, is where you need to remember that this whole episode, from beginning to end, is a societal garbage fire and damn good evidence that the United States is a nation in steep decline. We ended child poverty for millions of children in this country with a new program to give parents slightly more money, distributed monthly. It was resoundingly successful. It required no great government competence, required no new government offices, did not require rolling out the National Guard to distribute supplies.

At least 3 million American children were quickly lifted out of poverty, with 2 million pulled out from food insecurity. The money was used by parents for precisely what it was intended for. It was a rare case of our modern government doing something simple to actually combat child poverty, and it was a resounding success. It proved that we could lift millions of American children out of poverty anytime we wanted to.

And then it expired because Republican lawmakers were absolutely dead-set against doing it in the first place and because Democratic coal profiteer Joe Manchin, in particular, despised the program, with the Masarati-driving West Virginia senator going so far as to claim parents would just use the money to buy drugs.

It didn’t matter that the program was proving to be a resounding success. It didn’t matter that children were getting more and better food to eat. It had to go, because American conservatism is uniformly opposed to Giving Food To Children on the taxpayer dime, believing instead that poverty is caused by lazy parents that will only be encouraged to be more lazy if society steps in to help. They are even willing to say this out loud, and repeatedly, and will do it on the steps of a church after smiling and kissing a borrowed baby.

It’s almost certain, in fact, that the expanded child tax credit saved taxpayers money. Childhood nutrition has enormous impacts on growth and development, on education, and on health; reduced emergency room visits, better school outcomes, and childcare-enabled returns to the workforce almost certainly offset the increased expense all on their own. It’s a near-perfect example of effective governance!

And our lawmakers killed it, throwing 3 million children back into poverty because Republicans absolutely insisted that it die. It was an ideological imperative. Government is not allowed to pull children out of poverty, even if it works, even if it costs nothing, because it’s more important to conservatism to emphasize that parents deserve to see their children suffer if parents aren’t abiding by conservatism’s rules.

The Politico story, in fact, is a conspicuously odious example of Republican lawmakers not giving a single damn about American children:

“The biggest remaining difficulty now is getting Republicans on board. The White House and senior Hill Democrats have made clear they’ll only approve certain corporate tax breaks in exchange for expanding the Child Tax Credit. The value of those tax changes, which deal with how companies deduct their research and development expenses, would be similar to the amount spent in bolstering the Child Tax Credit under the proposed plan.”

Ah-ha! We see you want to bring back a blazingly successful program to pull our nation’s children out of poverty! But how badly do you want to feed those children, really? Are you willing to give corporations tax breaks equal to the amount of food you are giving children? Because if you’re not, those children are shit out of luck, eh?

This may be December cynicism talking or it may be that having to see fake pundit Bari Weiss moan uncontrollably about the sheer cruelty of Twitter taking Donald Trump’s social media account away after just one measly violent attempted coup, but the notion that we know of a dead-certain way to keep millions of American children, a good many in your own neighborhood, from going hungry tonight but over half of the lawmakers in the country absolutely refuse to do it unless it’s paired with government tax breaks for corporate research and development or other lobbyist-driven grifts—now that is a new layer of grim just as grim as the “oh, and if my religious views aren’t enshrined into law we should overthrow the government” brand of conservatism.

This is institutionalized sociopathy. Everyone involved should be getting down on their knees and begging voters to forgive them—except that roughly half the voters in the country appear to agree that their neighborhood’s children need to go hungry to prove a point.

Not being able to keep one of the most successful anti-poverty, anti-hunger programs of the last half century running because of Republican insistence on sabotaging every part of government not explicitly devoted to the rich? It’s horrific. It’s cruelty for the sake of cruelty. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s anything other than intentionally malevolent.


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Why did Democrats do so surprisingly well in the midterms? It turns out they ran really good campaigns, as strategist Josh Wolf tells us on this week’s episode of The Downballot. That means they defined their opponents aggressively, spent efficiently, and stayed the course despite endless second-guessing in the press. Wolf gives us an inside picture of how exactly these factors played out in the Arizona governor’s race, one of the most important Democratic wins of the year. He also shines a light on an unsexy but crucial aspect of every campaign: how to manage a multi-million budget for an enterprise designed to spend down to zero by Election Day.

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