The United States has one of the highest child poverty rates in all of the developed world. Despite about 15 percent of American children living under the poverty line, Republicans have channeled their attention elsewhere. Grand Old Party senators have recently proposed a sweeping tax reform which eliminates hefty federal estate taxes for the wealthiest Americans, putting hundreds of thousands of dollars back into their pockets annually. Across the aisle, Democrats have offered an alternative — The American Family Act of 2017 that actually reflects the needs of the poorest Americans. Though it is unlikely to gain real traction, their proposed child allowance — a monthly check for low-income parents to cover costs of childcare — brings forth an important conversation on some fundamental inequality that still plagues the U.S.
So here’s the breakdown of the bill, proposed last week by Democratic Senators Michael Bennet and Sherrod Brown: The American Family Act of 2017 would expand the monthly tax credit for children in low-income families from the current $1,000 to $3,600 annually — lowered to $3,000 once the child reaches the age of five. The money would be distributed on a monthly basis to cover the costs of food, diapers, clothing and other basic needs. For children born into higher income families, the government-issued allowance would be phased out after developmental years.
Though certainly ambitious in today’s GOP-dominated political climate, this plan, if actually put into action, could cut child poverty nearly in half. Such programs have worked in the past in other countries. In 1999, for example, a similar universal child benefit plan was introduced and passed by the United Kingdom Labour Party, which slashed child poverty to less than half of what it used to be. Countries like Denmark, Finland and Norway have, in the past decade, adopted child allowances. Perhaps as a result, these countries have far lower child poverty rates than that of the United States.
It is shocking that despite being one of the wealthiest nations in the world, 15 million American children live below the poverty line, 3 million of which are living on less than $2 a day. With this harsh reality affecting so many children nationwide, it is disheartening and alarming that our elected officials would propose a plan to help make the rich richer while ignoring those most vulnerable. The Democratic plan, though unlikely to pass, is a good start. It brings attention to the issue of child poverty in the United States that has been ignored for too long.
Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them. Email Alison Zimmerman at [email protected]