Every member of Congress says they support children. Then this happens.

The expanded child tax credit passed through the American Rescue Plan, one of the only truly consequential pieces of pro-family initiatives in recent memory, is set to run out, with the last of the monthly checks going out in December.

The program would have been extended by the Build Back Better plan, but Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va,, removed his support. The Democrats needed every senator; not one Republican will support the monumental spending on health care, child care, prescription drugs and climate change included in the bill.

There may be a way to salvage some of the best parts of the bill. But Manchin’s comments show that any child tax credit that passes his test would be far less effective than the one put in place six months ago.

As part of the ARP, the child tax credit was increased from $2,000 to $3,000 a year and made fully refundable, meaning that even those parents without tax liability would get credit. Twenty-seven million children now receive the full benefit, including half of all rural children, and half of all Black and Latino children.

The refunds were also made monthly, rather than receivable at the end of the year, so parents could more easily use the money to take care of necessities.

Which they did. Research shows that most of the money was spent on food, utilities, rent, clothing, education, transportation, debt or child care — the essentials.

Families with lower incomes live largely in the red, barely keeping in front of their bills. The child tax credit payments gave them a little breathing room.

Manchin, however, reportedly believes the extra money is wasted, spent on drugs and otherwise thrown away by the people who receive it, repeating a pernicious lie — the same one Republicans use to justify cuts in social spending in order to lower taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

Manchin, among others, would like to see a work requirement added to the child tax credit, as a way to “force” parents back to work.

However, work requirements only add costs and bureaucracy to a program. And if anything, the child tax credit allows more single parents to work by helping them pay for child care. A work requirement also doesn’t account for the millions of households headed by grandparents or parents with disabilities.

Nevertheless, while corporate profits are at an all-time high, and the richest among us are doing as well as ever, Congress may allow the expanded child tax credit to expire. We can expect millions of American children to go back to living with the hunger, stress and uncertainty of poverty, reducing their chances at a fulfilling and productive life.

Sen. Manchin said recently that he is “fiscally responsible and socially compassionate.” We bet a lot of members of Congress believe themselves to be the same.

However, many of these same members are ready to force children to grow up in poverty. What is compassionate or responsible about that?


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