Guaranteed Adequate Income for US Children Now

Ideas and Issues
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July 13, 2021

New Orleans    

In a fantastic development, America’s children are poised to finally benefit from the extraordinary wealth of the country in the biggest development since Roosevelt’s New Deal.  The Treasury Department is racing to begin to make payments authorized under President Biden’s stimulus package in a dramatic assault on child poverty.

The facts are straightforward.  Children in families, where a single parent makes less than $112,500 and married couples with income up to $150,000, will be eligible.  The payments will be $250 per child, except for children under the age of six, where the payments will be $300.   For the younger ones, that’s a national investment of $3600 and for the older children it means $3000.  Other support will come by way of tax credits, but the cash is cash.

After twenty-five years, we finally have a program that turns the tables on the 1996 disastrous bill signed by President Bill Clinton, which sought to end “welfare as we know it,” and replaced it with what has now become a miserly program benefiting a miniscule number of the poor, while transferring most support, where it exists, to lower income working families.  The result has been persistent child poverty even in the richest nation in the world.  Past and future presidential hopeful, Florida’s protean Senator Marco Rubio, says this program will revive a “failed welfare system,” to which we can only reply, “We certainly hope so!”  According to the New York Times, of the nation’s “74 million children, nine out of ten will qualify for the new monthly payments….”  Hosanna!

As a new program, both critics and supporters are expecting some problems and some opposition.  The rollout is aided by the success the Treasury Department has had in moving stimulus payments, but there have been wrinkles there where some were hard to locate, especially the undocumented and people without fixed addresses. As always, there are some people who don’t want the money, and to them I say, that means more for the ones that do!

The program has a one-year lifespan unless it is renewed. Advocates are saying even one-year will be a game changer in fighting child poverty, but that’s not really enough.  Supporting some middle-class families probably wins a bit more leverage for us, but that’s not enough to win. Winning long-term sustainability for this major initiative is also job number one for the rest of us.

We need to revive the 1970s’ “children’s crusades” that saw marches of thousands then for better support, but now should rally for continued cash payments for children.  If we want this program to continue, we need a “children’s rights” movement that couples parents and their kids in the fight and demanding throughout the country the votes to prevent poverty.

The pandemic gave us a breakthrough, silver lining in a terrible cloud, but it’s a victory that won’t be won by lobbying in the beltway, but on the streets and in the home districts of everyone with something to say or a vote for children.