Why isn’t Biden’s expanded child tax credit more popular?


That mild reception has disappointed those across the political spectrum who advocate for more generous aid to families.

A child sits among protesters calling for the expansion of the child tax credit outside the Capitol in Washington. Credit expired last month. Stephanie Reynolds/The New York Times

An important part of President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda has been exhausted. The monthly extension of the existing Child Tax Credit expired last month after Congress failed to extend it.

Since July, the federal government has sent monthly payments of $300 per child under age 6 to families of 61 million children, and $250 per older child. Democrats’ Roughly $2 Trillion Build Back Better Spending Bill That Would Have Renewed Extended Credits This Year Didn’t clear Congress And can never happen. When the policy first passed in March, many experts praised its ability to cut child poverty And hunger, and many Democrats hoped that regular cash in the pockets of families would prove wildly popular.

But the public’s valuation is less glaring. While last year’s surveys about extended credit found it popular on the net – most showed it It lagged behind the popularity of lowering costs for prescription drugs, expanding Medicare and other policies — with approval in the 50s — that Democrats are seeking to pass. As the party continues to debate whether and how to revive extended credit, surveys generally suggest that Americans have a reservation About making it a more permanent fixture of the social safety net.

That mild reception has disappointed those across the political spectrum who advocate for more generous aid to families.

“I’m surprised it’s not as popular as many of us had hoped,” said Brad Wilcox, a sociologist at the University of Virginia and senior fellow at the conservative think tank Institute for Family Studies.

Why was it not? Experts offered a number of theories, attributing it to Americans’ deep-rooted beliefs about who deserves government support.

A pandemic casualty?

One possibility is that the pandemic that helped make extended loans a reality has also limited its support. Democrats first passed the program as part of Biden’s $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill, hailing it as a much-needed boon at a time when most Americans said they would more strong action welcomed by the federal government.

But at least so far, the pandemic has not radically rearranged Americans’ views about the role of government. As economic indicators improve and concerns about rising prices replace bearish blues, extended credit could suffer. loss of public support For more federal help. The July Hill-HarrisX poll described the program as a “pandemic stimulus measure”, finding that 60% of voters (including 47% of Democrats) thought it “too expensive and no longer neededCompared to 40% who wanted to see it extended to 2025.

Whom is this helping?

As expected, Democrats support Biden’s expanded credit at rates far higher than Republicans, with independents about to be split more evenly, but attitudes differ in other dimensions as well. While younger Americans — whose parents are more likely to receive credit — take it for granted, many older Americans do not. This may be because they see the new expansion of the social safety net as a threat to funding Social Security, Medicare and other programs benefiting senior citizens, said Massachusetts Institute of Technology political scientist Andrea L. Campbell, One who studies public opinion and social. Policy.

Older Americans are also less likely to care for children, which may explain their monotonous support. Benefits that help Americans throughout their lives advance policies such as universal preschool or extended credit, which help Americans only when they are having children, says Ethan Winters, at progressive think tank Data for Progress notes a senior analyst at U.K. and a pollster for the fight. Opportunity for Families, which advocates increasing credit.

“There’s a really good correlation, if you look at all of these items, of how long this leverage lasts for you over the course of your life cycle and how popular it is,” he said.

It may also be that the credit has proved overwhelming. parents extensively spent money According to a survey conducted by the Census Bureau, on school expenses, food and other household expenses. yet in one NPR/Marist Poll Released last month, only 15% of respondents who received payments said they helped their families “a lot”, while 64% said “a little”.

And although surveys often find support for policies that benefit families and children, they may not be the top priority for most Americans. Consulting/Politician in a December Morning SurveyOf course, only 14% of voters said renewing the credit was one of the most important elements of the Build Back Better spending bill. He ranked most of its other provisions — including allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices and funding for affordable housing — high.

Who is eligible?

It is also possible that the expanded credit is struggling to dispel Americans’ deep-seated beliefs about who is entitled to government aid and who is not. Extensive evidence suggests that many are skeptical of programs that offer cash without conditions.

Parents who do not pay income tax can use the credit. While many experts suspect that the program drives large numbers of recipients to leave the workforce, some disagree – and polling shows that Americans great support Work requirements for adults receiving government benefits in some or all cases. (Social Security and Medicare, nearly universal programs that allow Americans to pay through taxes before receiving benefits later in life, are rare exceptions, Campbell said.)

1 August YouGov survey Organized for American Compass, a conservative think tank, found that increasing the value of credit, making it available monthly, and sending it to homes without a working adult were all popular policy changes, but sending it to non-working households was the least popular of the three. Was. And most Republicans, independents and voters without four-year college degrees whose families earn between $30,000 and $80,000 were not in favor of permanently sending payments to non-working families.

Proponents of the expanded credit counter said it was designed to reach a wider range of families, including those living at home to raise children.

“What about the grandparents who are taking care of the kids?” said Rep. Rosa Delaro, D-Conn. “What about those with disabilities who have children? Shouldn’t they get it?”

Yet there are fears that some may misuse the credit, taking away support for it. in focus groups Wilcox’s think tank Institute for Family Studies, even as some participants who stood to benefit from the credit argued that others could spend it on holidays, It has more children or may depend on government assistance to maximize its value.

Criticism of unconditional benefits often stigmatizes poor Americans and single parents or is influenced by racist tropes, as with the stereotype of “conservative.”Kalyan RaniYet skepticism appears to be widely held.

“People wildly underestimate the amount of abuse and fraud in different types of social programs,” Campbell said. “But it strikes people as admirable.”

Republicans, some of whom have attacked extended credit as “welfare,” have reinforced that notion for decades. But so take something Democrats.

“It’s something that’s been in our bones for a long time,” said Patrick T., a fellow at the Center for Conservative Ethics and Public Policy. Brown, who helped establish the Institute for Family Studies focus groups.

Those underlying approaches may limit support to Biden’s credit. They may also explain why Congress’ efforts to increase it have so far failed. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., whose vote is most likely to pass any bill to do so, holds deep reservation More work requirements have been floated to add about the program.

Republicans in Congress unanimously oppose Build Back Better. While some – including censors Marco Rubio and Mike Lee – support a more generous child tax credit, he has criticized Biden’s expansion because it lacks work requirements. Other Republicans argue that extending the debt longer term will increase the federal deficit. And some say it helped push inflation higher (many economists Doubt played a major role).

If Congress doesn’t renew the extension, the child tax credit will fall back to its less generous, pre-Biden amount—no longer accessible to working families, and now as an advance monthly payment rather than an annual credit. Not available in Many experts expect poverty, which affected about 16% of children in 2020, to rise,

Voting is an incomplete measure of public sentiment. Some Democratic pollsters have found higher levels Support for extended loans when it is described as a tax deduction for working families. If Congress renews the program, tailoring it to critics’ concerns its popularity could increase. Some advocates of the credit have proposed targeting it more narrowly at low-income households, some polling shows Extend your support. Others favor monthly cash benefits for families administered through Social Security, as Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, have proposed,

Campbell suspects that tinkering is the solution.

“The public doesn’t know the policy details,” she said. “They only know the broad brush aspects of these policies. And so changing the policies to the margins or thinking that the need for work will make it more popular, I don’t think is a magic bullet.”

Alternatively, a renewed credit may find support if more Americans see it as a reliable piece of the social safety net. Although all except the wealthiest households are eligible for extended loans, language barriers, unstable housing and other barriers make it difficult for many Hispanic and low-income families. to access it, Fixing those administrative burdens could increase the program’s constituency.

Or perhaps a future political battle over credit will change public opinion. The Affordable Care Act passed in 2010 hasn’t been consistently popular until seven years later, when former President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans tried and failed to repeal it. a record number Americans have signed up for health plans through legislation for 2022.

It will probably take time before there is any change in public opinion about whether Biden’s child tax credit has been renewed.

“We’re only a few months into what I think is a huge natural experiment,” Winter said. “We may just have to wait and see.”

This article was originally from . appeared in the new York Times,

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