Moms, Kids, and the Makeup of Congress

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In this intolerable heat, I’ve been thinking a lot about poor single moms and their children. Lacking air conditioning, where do they go for relief? How do they manage?

Last year, the Federal government gave tangible help to these families and others. One of the most enlightened, potentially most important pieces of the American Rescue Plan was a Child Tax Credit that guaranteed monthly payments of $250 to $300 per child to help low- and middle-income families through the pandemic.

Though opponents of the plan (and you know who they were) contended the money would be frittered away or spent on drugs, that wasn’t what happened.

During the period that the payments were made—July 2021 to December 2021—parents used the funds for food, housing, bill paying, reducing their debt, and childcare.

Remarkably, but not surprisingly, an estimated 4.1 million children were lifted above the poverty line as a result of that legislation, according to the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities.

With that action, the US joined the ranks of the more than 100 countries that routinely pay some form of cash benefit to children and families.

A child tax credit was the fruition of work that some legislators—notably Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Senator Michael Bennett (D-CO)—have been pursuing for years.

They feel, as do I and probably many of you, that in our extraordinarily wealthy nation, lifting children out of poverty is both ethically and economically essential.

Conversely, there’s a large body of literature on the impact of poverty on children’s physical, emotional, and educational development.

The expectation was that Congress would be able to renew the benefit before it lapsed, thereby protecting the families whose lives had been dramatically improved by it. The program’s success during its brief existence was deemed solid evidence of its value.

But the Child Tax Credit was one of several family-oriented provisions in the defeated Build Back Better (BBB) bill, along with caps on child care payments, universal pre-K, and other popular programs.

So it was also not surprising that when the Child Tax Credit ended, the monthly child poverty rate rose—and fast: from 12.1 percent in December 2021 to 17 percent in January 2022, even higher than it had been before the credit began.

That 41 percent increase translates to 3.7 million more children in poverty due to the expiration of the monthly Child Tax Credit payments, reported the Center on Poverty & Social Policy at Columbia University.

Now Congress is poised to pass the Inflation Reduction Act, a socially significant piece of legislation that’s sort of a reined-in replacement for BBB. It passed the Senate and will soon go to the House.

This legislation has lots of great stuff in it for the climate, tax equity, and lower health care costs, and I’m thrilled it will soon be law.

But it doesn’t have all the family-friendly elements that were in BBB. That bill, you may recall, went down because all the Republicans, plus Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema, opposed it.

New York Times Opinion writer Jessica Grose recently wrote an essay about the lack of paid parental leave, another safety net provision that many nations provide but the US does not.

Grose wondered whether if there were more moms in Congress, this support might have been part of the Inflation Recovery Act.

She wrote:

“In October, when The Washington Post reported on the ‘last-ditch effort by Democratic women to pressure Manchin and salvage paid family and medical leave,’ it was moms leading that good fight, including [Senator Kirsten] Gillibrand and Senator Patty Murray of Washington.

“Ideally, legislators who aren’t caretakers of young children would still see the profound value of things such as paid leave and child tax credits, which are also essential for the health of the next generation and society in general.”

She cited Pew Research findings that almost half of Americans, including more than 40 percent of Republicans, state they believe the US needs to do more for parents.

In her dreams, Grose wrote, such popular family-friendly proposals “would not just be tacked onto enormous budget bills only to be sacrificed in the horse-trading process.”

While I’m grateful that Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) had a “come to [whatever]” moment and decided to support the worthy Inflation Recovery Act, he would have been truly serving his constituents, who are the fifth poorest in the nation, if he had appreciated that they were spending their Child Tax Credits on necessities—and not moving us toward what he’s called an “entitlement society.”

One woman who responded to Manchin’s characterization was Amy Jo Hutchison, whom I wrote about here. Her West Virginia-based organization, “Rattle the Windows,” has been gathering stories from families about how they actually used the Child Tax Credit. They sent this real-life research to Manchin.

Her web site carried this encouragement:

“Click here to tell your story of how this money is helping your family. WE are the difference between what they think the truth about us is and what we know it is.”

Now, if we had a few more Amy Jo Hutchisons in Congress, we might well be able to make the Child Tax Credit and other empowering legislation an immutable part of American life.

And, once again, I stress what we might accomplish if we keep all our current Senators up for reelection, elect two more people-oriented Senators, and retain the House in November.

To me, it’s self-evident that we’ll all benefit if the next generation of kids now in poverty are healthier, more emotionally stable, and better educated.

Are you with me?

Annie

34 thoughts on “Moms, Kids, and the Makeup of Congress

  1. In this intolerable heat, I’ve been thinking a lot about poor single moms and their children. Lacking air conditioning, where do they go for relief?

    Portland just came through a very bad week-long heat wave. The local authorities set up five “cooling centers”, large indoor spaces with air conditioning open to anyone, and made public transit to any of them free. It probably saved lives; last I heard, we had only four confirmed deaths from the heat wave. Often the local government is best at responding quickly to an emergency, if it’s not too large in scale.

    opponents of the plan (and you know who they were) contended the money would be frittered away or spent on drugs

    Yes, they would have preferred to put it into upper-income tax credits so it could be frittered away on yachts and dick-shaped rockets.

    it’s self-evident that we’ll all benefit if the next generation of kids now in poverty are healthier, more emotionally stable, and better educated

    I’ve never had children and never wanted to, but I’ve always supported programs for education and other child-supportive services. The children of today are the society of tomorrow that we all have to live in. Raising children is expensive and difficult for parents, and the government should do all it can to make it easier. If it doesn’t, at worst, fewer people will have children and we’ll end up with a shrinking and aging population and a dying country. Avoiding this should be just as high a priority as national defense, and for the same reasons.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you, Infidel. Good to hear about the Portland “cooling centers.” I hope such facilities are available more widely.

      I appreciate your closing paragraph and think it’s nuts that there isn’t a consensus for greater care and nurturing of the next generation. You speak of the dangers of falling population trends. I worry as well that the demise of Roe adds an ugly factor to such discussions, with many more unwanted babies being born to women who can’t take care of them. We already have far more children in the foster care system than prospective parents willing to take them in.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. The theocrat “solution” to the threat of population decline is evidently to force people to have children they don’t want. A sane society would make it easier for people to have children they do want.

        Liked by 3 people

    2. Children I highly recommend them. We have six. You get out with what you put in same as programming. You should have to get a license after a stiff test to even be a parent IMHO.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m not sure about the programming/parenting parallel, Richard. I’ve known folks on both sides of the scale—from devoted to neglectful—whose offspring haven’t fit your categorization. I think a lot of luck and other variable are also involved.
        But kudos for raising half a dozen who apparently turned out well.

        We took Lamaze natural childbirth classes to prepare us for delivering our babies. I think some actual basic parenting education might be helpful too. But in today’s wacky society, what would be taught—and by whom—could be a very fraught issue.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. As Frederick Douglass famously said, ‘it is far easier to build strong children than it is to repair broken men,’” Education is a theoretical science, there are no right answers just ideas as to what might work. All will fail as will any process when GIGO is ignored.(Garbage in garbage out). You are I believe entirely correct about the luck and I know of no one who has had more good luck than myself. Others may have different results. Very risky but the only way not to lose is to play the game.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Thank you for reminding me of that fine Frederick Douglass quotation/admonition, which confirms to me the essential nature of the Child Tax Credit as a basis for all else.

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    3. we’ll end up with a shrinking and aging population and a dying country” Japan is working through this problem as we speak. At this point they appear to be navigating the situation. There are however few peoples as disciplined to purpose as the Japanese.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I was on my way to Japan in 2020 when covid hit. Never made it. Still very restricted. Japan has a long cultural history of support for society as opposed to unbridled individualism. Positives and negatives, to be sure. But on the whole they seem to be much more concerned with keeping people safe as the top priority. During the covid outbreak a person did not go to a hospital to get tested, but to a separate test site so there was no overcrowding of hospital services. There are certainly some negatives (from the US point of view) in Japanese society. They certainly take the conservative approach to citizen safety. (Gun control comes to mind, as well). My information comes from a relative who has lived in Tokyo for over 20 years.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I was not aware that the Child Tax Credit had expired and not been extended, although I read that it was struck from the BBB (Build Back Better) budget package. That’s the problem with piggy-back legislation, to which I’ve always objected. The Child Tax Credit should have been allowed to stand on its own merits.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You make a good point about piggyback legislation. Unfortunately, I don’t know if the Child Tax Credit, as important as it is, could stand on its own—at this point. But its advocates must keep trying.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree. If there are those that have faith, belief, commitment walk the line of keeping children safe and healthy in all ways, they need to show up at the polls and elected officials owning to that vote of support need to follow thru on their campaign promise to do so.

    How many more children born in this country innocent of their future destinies they are set experience need to be neglected and challenged by poverty?

    We need to be committed to their well being and follow thru to make sure we lift their lives up for the better of all.

    We are all citizens and should be able to draw on expanded rights and the liberties stated in our nation’s documents .

    Thanks Annie for focus on what is needed to keep us proud of our nation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Charles! It seems so logical and so right, doesn’t it?

      I get upset thinking about the cruelty of making such support available, seeing how much it helped, and then yanking it away!

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    2. From the git they are screaming at you. They smell bad, they play with their own poop. Keep them too safe and they fail to thrive. To little discipline and they fall into bad practices. Luckily they can engender a level of anger that the constant fear of losing them can fall to an acceptable level. It never goes away.
      Sex has to be ecstatic. Sober reflection of the consequences could only result in extinction.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Annie, we’ve had provincial Baby Bonus program/cheques here in Ontario since the 1960’s when I was a kid for low-medium income families – back then it was $8 a month and my mother used it to buy clothes for us. I remember because when I was a teenager that was the amount I could spend for dress up day (we wore uniforms otherwise), and you could actually buy something for that price. Now it is about $120 pr child, according to the website I checked, or about $1500 per year. This is a provincial program and is in addition to the federal child credit program which can be quite substantial $500/child if income below $30K, with graduated amounts up to max. income of $70K, up to age 18yrs. We also have subsidized day care for low income single mothers, otherwise I don’t know how they could afford to work with day care costs being so high.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. It’s paid by income taxes Jo. We have a higher tax rate here in Canada – 30% for most medium income people, 10-20% for those lower and it can be up to 50% for high earners. In return for that we have more social programs/safety networks and free universal health care for everyone with no deductible. Most provinces have drug plans for those eligible. We are not quite as bad as the Scandinavian countries where a 50% tax rate is the norm, but somewhere in between them and the U.S. People may grumble about the taxes, but it’s just a fact of life here.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. PS. I should add that these child Benefit programs which are addressing the poverty and cost of child raising, are in addition to tax Credits for each child, which I think are for everyone with children. The federal government wants people to have children, as who is going to work with the aging boomers all retiring. We also have more immigrants for that reason.

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      1. I can also see Bernie Sanders point re the tuition programs. My whole generation of boomers had the opportunity to go to university due to the OSAP – Ontario Student Assistant Program – whereby you had an $800 loan but everything you got after that was a free grant, the amount depending on your parents or your income. So a whole generation had a chance for further education. University back in the mid-late 70’s was $3000/yr – $800 tuition, $400 books and the rest residence/rent/food, so basically 2/3 of it was free. They still have the OSAP program, but it is all loans now, no grant portion. I think the Scandinavian countries have good programs too, but a smaller population.

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      2. PS. I would add the grumbling about taxes here, has more to do with the way the government wastes our tax money, not the existence of the social programs themselves. An example would be the scads of free money Trudeau gave out in the early stages of the pandemic to people who didn’t need it but took it anyway, and the bloated bureaucracy to administer the social programs. To address the later they have trialed universal basic income programs here – see link – which did not succeed most likely due to the perceived negative effect on unemployment. https://newatlas.com/good-thinking/canada-basic-income-experiment-ontario-report-results/

        Liked by 1 person

      3. This is such an interesting article, Joni. Seems that the Ontario trial was stopped too soon—just as our Child Tax Credit was—and the Finnish program was badly designed.

        As for Yang, he’s embarked on what I and many others view as an ill-thought-out, horrifically timed campaign to establish a third party that seems to stand for nothing at a time when our democracy is tottering and we need strong Democratic majorities in November.

        Liked by 2 people

      4. I didn’t know he was trying to establish a third party. That often seems to be the case when the government changes. We had a government program in Ontario for a $7000 rebate if you bought an electric car, but that was cancelled too. Is that in the bill just passed for the US? I think they decided it was too expensive, and only the well off were buying them anyway plus the major obstacle to electric cars here is the lack of charging stations. Hybrids seem more popular. Lots going on in American politics these days.

        Liked by 2 people

      5. There are incentives for lower priced electric cars in this legislation—as well as for home energy improvements.

        Hybrids apparently carry higher safety concerns than all-electric, I’ve read.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. I don’t know much about them – two of my neighbours have them but I had not heard anything re safety concerns, but admit I have not done any research into it. I need a new car…..

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Joni, I haven’t found anything to back up that first article—except that first responders must know how to protect themselves from electric shocks at accidents involving hybrids and electric vehicles.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. This is where I think Biden’s vision is unappreciated. Part of the reason for the dangerous extremism is that people feel they’ve been left behind. There’s also the structural racism that has long prevented Black people from receiving their fair share—though too many disgruntled white people believe in the erroneous zero sum game (what “they” get leaves less for me). Programs like the Child Tax Credit, caps on child care expenses, universal pre-K, free community colleges, elder care—all parts of Biden’s agenda—would address economic and social problems and, I believe, help us all. The legislation he’ll sign today shows how we can pay by making our tax system more equitable. There’s a lot of room between zero taxes (which some of the 1% pay) and 50%!

    Liked by 1 person

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