Home > Uncategorized > This Just In! A Rise in Family Income Results in a Rise in the Well Being of Children

This Just In! A Rise in Family Income Results in a Rise in the Well Being of Children

December 17, 2019

Jason DeParis’s NYTimes article today, “Tax Break for Children, Except the Ones Who Need it Most“, describes how the recently enacted tax cuts benefit all but the neediest 35% of children in the country. How could this be? Well… it seems that you only qualify for a tax break if you pay taxes. Therefore those who don’t earn enough to pay taxes are not qualified for a full benefit:

The 2017 tax bill, President Trump’s main domestic achievement, doubled the maximum credit in the two-decade-old program and extended it to families earning as much as $400,000 a year (up from $110,000). The credit now costs the federal government $127 billion a year — far more than better-known programs like the earned-income tax credit ($65 billion) and food stamps ($60 billion).

But children with the greatest economic needs are least likely to benefit.

While Republicans say the increase shows concern for ordinary families, 35 percent of children fail to receive the full $2,000 because their parents earn too little, researchers at Columbia University found. A quarter get a partial sum and 10 percent get nothing. Among those excluded from the full credit are half of Latinos, 53 percent of blacks and 70 percent of children with single mothers.

The article describes the convoluted logic that provides affluent families with large sums of federal funding for their children while denying funds for children raised in poverty— especially children of color raised by single parents. All of this flies in the face of the seemingly self-evident but nevertheless proven fact that children raised in poor families whose income increases have corresponding increases in their well being. As Mr. DeParie reports:

The National Academy of Sciences, a group created to convey the scholarly consensus, recently concluded that raising incomes of poor families has “been shown to improve child well-being.” Reviewing dozens of studies, it found child benefits as varied as better test scores and graduation rates, less drug use, and higher earnings and employment as adults.

Conservatives argue that giving poor parents money is a disincentive to work. But those on the left look at what money can buy and argue that more is needed if children hope to have an equal opportunity. De Parie uses the example of Letha Bradford, a Louisiana teacher’s aide, as an example:

Money helps children in part because of what it can buy — more goods (cheesy chicken spaghetti) and services (gymnastics classes or tutors). Ms. Bradford, the teacher’s aide, is so eager to invest in her sons that she has used tax refunds to send them on Boy Scout trips to 42 states — even when a flood left them living in her car. “I’m trying to instill in them that it’s education that gives you knowledge and power, not cars or clothes,” she said….

Money also helps children by relieving stress, which can reach toxic levels in poor families. Earning just $16,000 despite 15 years in the public schools, Ms. Bradford is an accomplished penny-pincher. Still, food often runs short, and the power company recently shut off the lights, leaving Ms. Bradford so upset that the boys could not focus in school.

The GOP can claim it cares about those struggling to make ends meet… but the facts on the tax bill undercut that notion:

While the 2017 law made millions of upper-income families eligible for the $2,000 credit (in part to offset the loss of other tax benefits), it gave a boost of just $75 to most full-time workers at the minimum wage.

It left out 26 million kids” from the full sum, said Senator Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat who has helped write a bill to raise the credit to $3,000 per child ($3,600 for those under 6) and pay a portion monthly. “It’s critical that we don’t leave it as a half measure. Our entire conception of ourselves as a land of opportunity is diminished by the fact that our child poverty rates are as high as they are.”…

Of the $73 billion of increased spending on the credit, 39 percent went to families in the top quintile and 2 percent to those at the bottom, according to Elaine Maag of the bipartisan Tax Policy Center.

One fix that is obvious: boosting the minimum wage so that “the bottom” is higher and fewer of those individuals who ARE working qualify for programs for “the needy”. If the idea behind welfare is to get people working, those who ARE working should not have to seek benefits. The easiest way to accomplish that? Boost wages!

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