New Orleans The child care credit in the Biden stimulus package has been heralded, including by me, as the first significant step in reversing the draconian “end of welfare as we know it” program of former President Clinton. Experts noted that this child-centered program, providing front end payments on the credit of $300 per month for families with children under six and $250 for other children in the household, would hugely decrease the number of children in poverty. The stimulus allowed 61 million children in the US and their families to benefit.
The hopes and dreams for this program and the prospects of its eventual permanence are now suspended by a thread. The $2 trillion expanded bill is on life support in Congress, which includes a continuation of this credit until 2025, which would have improved its prospects of becoming a more important pillar of the meagre safety net for families.
The branding and support for the program also seem to have gone off track, partially because opponents, ideologues, and fellow travelling members of the large anti-poor gang are trying to hang the program on the horns of the same dilemma that has faced cash-support programs for the last fifty years. They are calling it welfare, rather than a pre-paid tax credit for those making enough money to pay taxes. By doing so it conjures up the same racial biases that have plagued cash-support for years, despite the facts and figures on participation, that this is a program for Black families, welfare queens, and general deadbeats who are charter members of the “undeserving” poor. Predictably, some Senators want to tie work requirements to the credit or scale it down to exclude families where the head of household is not working.
Polling reports are also disturbing when measuring the less than robust support for the child care credits, despite their majority approval. Besides cloaking the program in myth and racism, the support for the credit seems to be suffering me-first-ism. Middle-class and older families are more interested in seeing drug prices pushed down. Older Americans, way past their child-raising years, seem more interested in expanding benefits via Medicare to vision and dental. Bringing up the bottom, narrowing inequality, and seeing the country prioritize healthy children is less important to that constituency than getting something more for themselves. Ugh! Polls also show limp support for the credit in families making between $30000 and $80000 with less than four-year colleges, indicating that the legacy of this multi-decade anti-poor, anti-welfare, and racist appeal, continues to tragically divide low-and-moderate income families from each other.
It’s not over until it’s over of course, but this critical program seems to be bringing out the devil in too many of our fellow Americans and not their better angels.