Most wealthy countries have some kind of a child allowance in place, which is why we already know that giving parents money is an incredibly effective way to fight child poverty. The United States, a very wealthy country, does not have a child allowance, but it could if Congress passes a proposal coming out from Democratic Senators Michael Bennet and Sherrod Brown.
As Vox first reported on Thursday, Senate Democrats have drafted the American Family Act of 2017 to do something very simple: give parents money every month.
Parents with children between the ages of 0 and 5 would receive $3,600 a year per child and parents with children between the ages of 6 and 18 would receive $3,000 a year per child, with each amount paid out in monthly installments. There are no strings attached to the money; it is there to be freely spent on diapers, formula, clothes, school fees, childcare, and any of the other vast material needs of parents and their children.
And as Vox notes, this allowance would “phase out” for parents with higher incomes:
The credits would phase out for high-income individuals, just like the child tax credit today does, with phaseout beginning at $75,000 a year in income for single parents and $110,000 for married couples. For a married couple with two young kids, to give one example, the credits would totally phase out if the couple makes $150,000 a year or more; for families with more kids, that figure is higher.
This is a radically different approach than the system we have in place right now, which consists of subsidies and tax credits that fall incredibly short of meeting the needs of most low-income and struggling parents in general.
As an example, the current child tax credit allows families earning more than $3,000 to claim a tax credit of $1,000 per child, but it is only partially refundable for parents earning less than $9,667. This means that a parent earning less than a poverty wage still can’t receive the full $1,000 benefit.
The problems here are obvious enough. Families that don’t earn enough to pay taxes don’t benefit from tax credits, and those that do qualify for the credit are still just receiving a once-yearly refund while their kids need food and shelter every day of the year. (Also, $1,000 isn’t shit.)
The United States has among the worst child poverty rates when compared to similarly wealthy nations because we are exceptionally bad at addressing child poverty. It doesn’t have to be this way. For some reason, Republican leadership wants your tax form to be the size of a postcard and believes that this will somehow be good for families. (It will not.) What if we gave parents money instead?
Ivanka Trump, please sound off in the comments.