Why Republicans Need a Childcare Proposal of Their Own

“Child care costs exceed those of a mortgage or college in many states. Access to affordable child care is one of the biggest barriers to women’s work, and there’s increasing evidence that the cost of raising children is a barrier to having more kids as well, according to a New York Times survey. Low quality early childhood care situations have lifetime ramifications for children, including worsened health and economic trajectories and an increased likelihood of needing future government assistance.”

“The evidence of improved outcomes for children from universal preschool and universal child care is mixed at best. The preponderance of evidence shows the largest gains for at-risk kids and unclear results for everyone else, and state-based programs haven’t been around long enough to suss out long-term effects.
Moreover, providing generous subsidies to nearly all American families, irrespective of need, will make child care more expensive by increasing demand, which will necessitate larger subsidies over time. This is a recipe for spiraling costs; look no further than our experiments in health care or college to see how quickly costs inflate when the government makes something “affordable.” Exacerbating these dynamics, the administration’s proposal will also constrain child care supply by mandating higher wages and skill levels from providers who already have thin margins as well as potentially limiting religious providers. Faith leaders across religions (Catholic, Muslim, Christian and Jewish) have expressed concern that their ability to continue to provide care will be negatively impacted by BBB. Those providers make up a huge portion of child care providers: A Bipartisan Policy Center poll from last year found that 31 percent of working-parent households used center-based care, and over half, or 53 percent, of these families used one that was affiliated with a faith organization.

To be sure, most parents will be shielded from the effects of rising costs because of the generous subsidies they are receiving, making the policy seem like a win-win on the surface, though they might be affected by the reduced choice providers. But nothing is free. Taxes on the rich and corporations can only go so far, and at some point that money will also need to go toward the historic debt we’ve accumulated. Estimates from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and Moody’s suggest that the BBB child care provisions alone will cost nearly $1 trillion over 10 years once fully implemented, far exceeding the money to be provided by the tax increases that Democrats have proposed to fund the legislation. The people likely to pay for BBB and the runaway spending in Washington are the very children whom such policies are supposed to benefit.

Policymakers can do better. Republicans should up the ante on what Democrats have proposed with an alternative child care proposal — one that is more targeted, sustainable and also more transformative — by providing greater support and choice to parents.”

Allowing the expanded child tax credit to expire would be a major mistake

“For the past six months, families with kids have received monthly payments from the federal government as part of the expanded child tax credit — a policy that has slashed child poverty in the US.
If Congress doesn’t act, however, this measure is set to expire for future payments near the end of the month. The last monthly payment was scheduled to go out on December 15, after which these installments will end.”

“The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a think tank focusing on social programs, estimates 9.9 million children could fall back into poverty or deeper into poverty if the credit is not extended. It estimates, too, that poverty rates for Black, Latino, and American Indian or Alaska Native (AIAN) children, in particular, will be hardest hit. If BBB doesn’t pass, poverty rates would be 22 percent for Black children compared to 13 percent if it did, 21 percent for Latino children compared to 12 percent, and 18 percent for AIAN children compared to 10 percent.”

How Democrats Could Hide $2 Trillion in New Spending With Budget Gimmicks

“Democrats are reportedly considering a one-year extension of the expanded child tax credit, which pays parents $3,000 annually for every child (and an extra $600 for kids under age 6) and is paid out as a refund even for families that owe no federal taxes. Previously, Biden’s plan called for a five-year extension of the child tax credit. As I wrote in September, the five-year extension was a budget gimmick designed to make the tax credit appear to be roughly $700 billion less expensive than it otherwise would be within the standard 10-year budget window. In short, Democrats were signalling that the expanded child tax credit would be permanent, but they were only accounting for half of what it would actually cost to make it permanent.

A one-year extension would be mashing that same “gimmick” button even harder.

In a similar way, Democrats are also reportedly considering a shorter-than-planned extension of the expanded Obamacare subsidies made available during the pandemic. Instead of being extended permanently, those provisions would technically expire after three years—even though everyone knows they are likely to be extended past that sunset date.

“These proposals don’t actually shrink the package; they just shorten it,” says Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB), a nonprofit that advocates for balanced budgets. The CRFB estimates that the twin “blatant budget gimmicks” involving the child tax credit and Obamacare subsidies could hide between $1.5 trillion and $2.4 trillion in future spending, depending on other trade-offs in the final package. Even if the final bill is $1.9 trillion and requires no new borrowing on paper, the CRFB warns that the actual price tag could be as much as $4 trillion with much of the hidden cost financed by adding to the deficit.”

Democrats may let the best weapon against child poverty fade away

“The expanded child tax credit, a policy passed in March 2021 that beefed up monthly payments to most families with kids, has already had a massive, positive effect on the lives of America’s children. After just one monthly payment, it cut child poverty by 25 percent — and should the larger payments continue, it could slash child poverty by more than 40 percent in a typical year, according to the Urban Institute.

This is a huge decline in a very short time frame. According to the Brookings Institution, child poverty rates dropped by 26 percent between 2009 and 2019, meaning the tax credit accomplished in one month what other policies took a decade to achieve.

Despite that success, the expanded child tax credit (CTC) is in serious danger. As part of their budget negotiations, Democrats are debating how long to extend the program — most likely for a year, with some calling for a four-year (or even indefinite) extension. In the best-case scenario with a short extension, the program will probably run out of money by the end of 2022. In the worst-case scenario, it could end as soon as April 2022, when families are currently due to receive their final enhanced payment.”

“Opponents of the policy, however, argue that these payments could deter recipients from working since parents without an income can receive the help as well. Manchin has expressed this concern, arguing that work and/or education requirements ought to be added to the policy should it be extended. “Don’t you think, if we’re going to help the children, that the people should make some effort?” Manchin has said.

Some researchers have pushed back against this view, noting that a continual credit might help parents join the workforce by enabling them to afford basic services like child care. Given that the expanded child tax credit has only been distributed since July, it’s too early to ascertain which argument is correct, though data from a Columbia University study found that the credit hadn’t had a “significant effect on employment or labor force participation” so far.

There is also debate as to whether access to the credit should be capped even more. Right now, families that make up to $150,000 a year receive the full boost, a figure that Manchin would like to see go down. Manchin has argued that the policy should be capped at households that make $60,000 or less.

Proponents of a more universal policy, meanwhile, argue that broadening the constituency that benefits from the credit will increase its political support. More universal programs including Social Security and Medicare are some of the most popular government offerings and have polled better than Medicaid, which is means-tested.”

How to make the child tax credit more accessible

“The first of the 2021 child tax credits hit parents’ bank accounts in July — but not for everyone. For many of the parents who need it most, accessing the money may be more of a struggle.
That’s because the IRS — an agency that knows little about the lowest-income Americans, who often don’t file taxes — has been tasked with distributing the money, up to $300 per month per child.

On July 15, the day payments first went out, the IRS said it sent $15 billion to 35 million families, 86 percent of which was sent via direct deposit. That suggests that the vast majority of initial recipients were from families who earned income and filed taxes, many of them middle- or lower-middle-income parents whose names, addresses, and bank accounts are on file from tax returns.

More than 10 million children live in poverty, according to 2019 data from the US Census. Of those, the People’s Policy Project estimates that about 7 million live in non-filing households. (Because these families are, by definition, somewhat difficult to track, estimates vary: The Census Bureau says that 36 percent of children in poverty are from families that did not file taxes in 2019, including 55 percent of children in families in deep poverty.)

Most of these families haven’t signed up to get government stimulus checks, either, effectively leaving thousands of dollars from the government on the table over the past year. The IRS gathered information on an additional 720,000 children in non-filing households where the parents registered to receive stimulus payments.

But that still leaves millions of children whose parents are eligible for the child tax credit (CTC) but who are not on track to receive it.”

““The North Star should be making this as automatic as possible so families don’t have to take affirmative steps to get the support they need.””

Mitt Romney has a plan to give parents up to $15,000 a year

“In 2019, Mitt Romney made history: he became the first Senate Republican to endorse a form of child allowance, where all low- and middle-income parents would get a cash benefit to help raise their kids, regardless of whether or not they’re able to work. At the time, the plan was modest, amounting to only $1,500 a year for kids under 6 and $1,000 for kids 6-17.

But on Thursday, Romney went even further and proposed the Family Security Act, one of the most generous child-benefit packages ever, regardless of political party. The plan completely overhauls the current child tax credit (CTC) and turns it from a once-a-year bonus to massive income support, paid out monthly by the Social Security Administration.”

“Romney’s plan would replace the CTC, currently worth up to $2,000 per child and restricted to parents with substantial income (it doesn’t fully kick in until you reach an income of over $11,000), with a flat monthly allowance paid out to all parents:

Parents of kids ages 0 to 5 would get $350 per month, or $4,200 a year
Parents of kids ages 6 to 17 would get $250 per month, or $3,000 a year
Parents with multiple kids could get a maximum of $1,250 per month or $15,000 a year; that translates to five kids between the ages of 6 and 17. Very large families would be somewhat penalized, but many families with three or four kids will get the full benefit.”

“Romney’s proposal would phase out for wealthy parents — the benefits begin phasing out for single filers with $200,000 and joint filers with $400,000 in annual income.”

“If you’re a liberal reading this and wondering if there’s a catch, there is — but it’s not necessarily a huge one. Romney doesn’t want his plan to add to the deficit, and he wants to simplify the set of child-related benefits the government currently offers. So his plan would pay for the child allowance by eliminating a number of other programs, including some that mostly benefit the poor ”

“The upside of Romney’s plan being fully paid for, however, is that it would allow Congress to make the measure permanent under budget reconciliation rules, whereas the Biden proposal that relies on deficit funding is a temporary one-year measure.”

“It’s hard to see Romney’s proposal gaining enough Republican support to get the plan above 60 votes, though I’d be thrilled to be proven wrong on that front. But it could easily, with Romney, Democrats, and maybe a few other choice Republicans on board, make it into a reconciliation package.”