Editor’s note: The following op-ed, authored by Lynette Fraga, appeared in The Hill on Friday, Dec. 8. Fraga is chair of the board of the Children’s Leadership Council and the Executive Director of Child Care Aware of America.
The measure of a nation is how well we safeguard all children by offering the opportunity to thrive. Yet, in 2016, according to U.S. Census data, 28.7 million children lived in low-income families, or 200 percent of the poverty line; 13.2 million children lived in poverty; and 6.6 children lived in deep poverty, or below 50 percent of the poverty line.
At a time when too many children in our nation are living in or near poverty, income and wealth inequality is high, and mobility is a challenge, our nation should be investing more, not less, in the next generation. Yet, the House and Senate versions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act jeopardize our nation’s children and in fact, leave many of them behind.
A new Quinnipiac University Poll, for example, finds the majority of American voters disapprove of the tax plan, including 60 percent of women voters and 62 percent of those ages 18-34.
To be clear, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act leaves children worse off due to its lopsided nature, harmful provisions, and overall damaging impact on children’s investments.
The bills would raise taxes on many lower and middle-income households, do little to nothing for poor and low-income families with children, and add $1.5 trillion to the nation’s debt during a time when our nation is already shortchanging children’s investments, making it harder to fund important state and local programs and services that benefit children.
While the disproportionate impacts of the bills are well known, what is less well known is that even proposals that are championed as middle-class and pro-family leave many children behind. The expansion of the Child Tax Credit (CTC), for example, in the House and Senate bills would benefit higher-earning families, but leave millions of children in low- to moderate-income families out entirely or provide them with only modest benefits.
In fact, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates millions of children in working families would receive only a token or partial CTC increase under the Senate bill, with some 10 million children in low-income working families receiving just $75 or less, while a family with two children earning $500,000 would become newly eligible for a $4,000 tax credit.
This omission is not only harmful but shortsighted, as research shows that these are the very children for whom a CTC boost would likeliest improve their odds of being healthy, doing well in school, going to college, and earning more in adulthood. The bills also penalize an estimated 1 million young Dreamers and their families by denying them the CTC.
Research has also shown that income assistance, nutrition assistance, and health care all have positive impacts on children’s longer-term health and education outcomes. Early learning, quality K-12 schools, and access to college are all essential to helping children achieve their full potential. However, the bill undermines children’s services and programs.
State and locally funded programs and services for children, including education, health care, and child care, are at risk due to changes to the federal tax deduction for state and local taxes, which may make it harder for states and localities to raise the resources needed to support these efforts.
Rising deficits — made $1.5 trillion larger by a deficit-increasing tax bill — will become the excuse for seeking deep cuts in children’s programs once Congress and the administration again turn their attention to reducing the deficit. Indeed, House Speaker Paul Ryan and others have indicated in recent weeks their intention to turn to spending cuts next year.
Both the administration’s 2018 Budget and the 2018 Congressional Budget Resolutions already called for extremely deep cuts in areas critical to children’s well-being and future opportunities, including health care through Medicaid, basic nutrition assistance through SNAP, other income assistance programs such as aid for children with disabilities, and funding for non-defense discretionary programs, which could include deep cuts in housing, education and college aid, to name just a few.
The last time Congress focused on addressing the debt, Congress passed the Budget Control Act (BCA) which resulted in budget caps and sequestration, leaving many children’s programs severely underfunded to this day.
There is bipartisan agreement that too many families struggle to get by, let alone get ahead. But this tax plan is not about helping these families — indeed, it will ultimately hurt them. If the potential harm of the tax plan on our nation’s children and families was not reason enough for members of Congress to vote against it, then they should know that poll after poll has shown that voters, by and large, overwhelmingly do not support this plan.
Members of Congress who care about America’s children should reject the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.