Mitt Romney’s Family Plan Isn’t Great, but It May Be Better Than the Alternatives

“According to Sen. Mitt Romney (R–Utah), America’s current welfare policies have two major flaws: They penalize recipients who get married by reducing the benefits they’re eligible for, and they don’t do enough to help couples afford to have more kids.

“There’s a growing gap between the number of children people say they want to have and the number they actually decide to have,” he said during an event yesterday at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in Washington, D.C. “Just to be clear here, I don’t think the goal of policy should be to try to create incentives to have people have more children than they want, but instead should find a way to bridge the gap between what people would like to add to their family and what they’re able to afford.”

Attempting to address these issues, Romney in June released the Family Security Act 2.0, a proposal to send parents monthly checks of between $250 and $700 per child, beginning midway through a pregnancy. A household would need to have earned at least $10,000 the previous year to be eligible for the full benefit, a provision meant to keep families from dropping out of the work force entirely. The program would be “paid for” by reducing or eliminating various existing income tax breaks.

It’s hard to fault efforts to resolve distortions introduced by previous federal policy, including the whoopsie-daisy of incentivizing low-income couples to remain unmarried. The idea that it’s the government’s job to help people have more kids rests on a more debatable assumption—namely, that parents should not have to shoulder the full cost of raising future members of society.

Regardless of whether you buy that “positive externalities” argument, the federal government does spend billions each year on family programs. Given that these efforts are not likely to go away (however much libertarian purists might wish otherwise), it’s worth considering whether Romney’s proposal represents at least an incremental improvement over the status quo.”

Romney, a Former Opponent of Jackson, Is One of Her Few Republican Backers

“Three Republicans voted to confirm Jackson: Romney, and Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine. Of those three, only Romney voted last year against confirming Jackson to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, often considered the second-highest court in the land.

After meeting with Jackson last month and reviewing her confirmation hearings, Romney changed his mind, saying he had “concluded that she is a well-qualified jurist and a person of honor.” It was an implicit rejection of the narrative that his fellow Republicans had pushed about the first Black woman to be put forward for the Supreme Court, who many of them portrayed during her confirmation hearings as a liberal extremist who was soft on crime.

“While I do not expect to agree with every decision she may make on the court, I believe that she more than meets the standard of excellence and integrity,” Romney said in a statement this week.

He is, at the moment, seemingly in the middle of everything. He just brokered a bipartisan deal to salvage a $10 billion coronavirus response package that had stalled amid partisan haggling, this time fully paid for by previously allocated federal funds. He is part of bipartisan efforts to rewrite the Electoral Count Act of 1887, which President Donald Trump sought to manipulate to keep himself in office after losing the 2020 election.

And Romney has appealed to Democrats to work with him on legislation to support children and families, now that the expanded child tax credit has expired and President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better safety net legislation is moribund. All of that is coming after he helped deliver what might be the crowning achievement of Biden’s first year in office: the $1 trillion infrastructure bill.

As Democrats have struggled to pull together 50 senators to advance social safety net legislation, they may find that Romney is a more persuadable bet for that pivotal 50th vote than Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the Democrat who has stymied their efforts so far.

“Whenever there is a bipartisan effort to tackle an issue, its success is nearly guaranteed,” Romney said in a recent interview. “Bipartisan efforts pass. What does not pass in a 50-50 Senate is legislation crafted entirely by one party.””

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.”

What Democrats can learn from Mitt Romney

“Suppose you’re a single parent raising two kids, ages 3 and 5. You were furloughed in the spring, when the big-box store you worked at downsized. You started getting hours again in the summer, enduring substantial risk by going to work with customers who didn’t always wear masks. Child care was a mess, and you had to scrape together help from family and friends.

It was a rough year — but you stayed afloat. In total, you ended up working about 1,000 hours last year at $14 an hour, or $14,000 total — plus there were the two stimulus checks the government sent out in April and December.

Less heralded but no less important to helping you pay the bills were a couple of tax credits the government offers: You got $1,725 through the complicated child tax credit (CTC) and another $5,600 from the earned income tax credit (EITC). That came out to $7,325 — a badly needed infusion. But as is the case every year, it was also a pain — you basically have to go to a tax preparer every tax season to help you with the paperwork to claim the credits.

This week, your member of Congress, in an unprecedented act of constituent outreach, asks you to hop on a Zoom. She’s working on legislation meant to make life easier for single parents like you, including a stimulus check. But it’s the two options to reform the tax credits that she wants to ask you about.

The first option: The government will increase your CTC a ton, so you get a whopping $7,200 a year ($3,600 per child), not just $1,725. Instead of a lump sum at tax time, the government will send you the money every month or so. Under this scenario, you’d still get the $5,600 from the EITC. The downside? You’d still have to go through all that tax prep every spring.

The second option: The government will junk the CTC — and will just send you $700 per month in the mail. That’s $350 per kid under 6, every month, regardless of whether you owe taxes. Perhaps just as appealing, there’s no tax-season paperwork to prepare. That’s $8,400 per year total, even more than the CTC in option one. The downside in this scenario: Under this plan, the EITC shrinks — and your EITC goes down to $2,000.

To recap: Both give you more money than you get now. Option one gives you more money than option two. But option two makes your life much easier logistically. You get big regular monthly payments whose amount doesn’t vary. And you would no longer be in a desperate rush every spring to get your tax return in for your big refund.

Option one above is what Democrats in Congress and the Biden administration want to do to tackle child poverty. Option two is Republican Sen. Mitt Romney’s plan to enact a new, simplified child allowance.”

“If you make $14,000 a year, there are a bunch of state and federal programs out there to help you. And by “a bunch,” I mean a bunch.

Depending on the state you’re in, you may qualify for Medicaid. It’s not so simple, though — you’re eligible in every state that did the Obamacare expansion, but a bunch of states (Texas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Mississippi) set the eligibility cutoff much lower. In Texas, single parents have to make less than $277 a month to qualify, so in this scenario, you’d be way too “rich.” (And getting your kids covered through Medicaid or S-CHIP is a whole other can of worms.)

Need housing? You can apply for a housing choice voucher under the Section 8 program, but it’s underfunded so you will have to navigate years or decades of waitlists.

Need help with child care and early education? There’s Head Start and Early Head Start. In addition, there’s the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant — but you probably won’t get it; only about 15 percent of income-eligible families do, and depending on your state, you might have to be enrolled in a formal welfare-to-work program.

Speaking of which, you might get some money from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). But, again, most don’t, and for those who do it’s strictly time-limited and requires tedious “work reports” to prove you’re not too “lazy” to deserve it.

In the winter, if you need help with heat, there’s the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) — but only 20 percent of eligible families get it.

You’ll probably be able to get Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, or food stamps, to help with groceries. If you have an infant, you can probably get aid from the nutrition program for women, infants, and children. There are probably some other programs I’m forgetting.

Conservatives and libertarians sometimes see this laundry list and think, “Look at how much we do for poor people!” I see it and think, “Look at how ridiculously complicated the system we make poor people navigate is.””

“Romney’s child allowance plan is generous. The Democrats’ plan is even more so. But Romney’s plan has one edge: It simplifies things for the people it’s supposed to benefit.”