Courtney: Child poverty soaring under Biden and the Democrats

As Biden and the Democrats allow the Child Tax Credit expansion to lapse, millions of children have fallen back into poverty


by Zach Courtney

If someone asked me what the best thing President Biden and the 117th Congress has accomplished was, there is a good chance I would say the one-year child tax credit (CTC) expansion that was passed as part of the American Rescue Plan, President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief legislation.

That being said, if someone asked me the worst thing that President Biden and the 117th Congress has done — or failed to do — it would be their failure to extend the Child Tax Credit (CTC) expansion. While my headline might be considered slightly misleading, it is also 100% accurate; Democrats’ failure to extend the CTC expansion has already led to 3.7 million children falling back into poverty— a 41% increase in the child poverty rate from 12.1% to 17%.

In a normal year, the CTC gave parents $2,000 in tax relief per dependent, but in 2021, the CTC was expanded to give parents up to $3,600 in tax relief. From July to Dec 2021, $250 per child (or $300 for children under six) was sent out to parents on the 15th of each month as an advance on their 2021 returns. These payments functioned as a miniature version of a universal basic income specifically for parents. These payments weren’t sent out on January 15 or February 15; this is a moral failure on the part of our policymakers, and it shouldn’t go unmentioned, even if it is the fault of politicians with whom I more regularly align.

Regular readers of my column should not be surprised by my stance on basic income-like measures; I’m a huge fan. The best way to reduce poverty is to give people money, and the best group of people to reduce — or eradicate — poverty for is young people. The CTC expansion did just that; it is estimated to have cut child poverty by 45%. But these monthly payments are no longer going out to families, meaning the Democrats’ great job of decreasing child poverty was only a temporary measure.

I recently wrote a column on why we should pay our politicians more. Admittedly, that was one of my more controversial opinions. I have a feeling that this one is less controversial, but somehow still under-discussed. We need to pay parents more, just for being parents. They have the most important jobs in the world. Why don’t we act like it, at least a little?

Just as I said in my previous column, we as a society should recognize our most important jobs and decide to pay them more; this is how we become a better society as a whole. I don’t have kids, and I likely won’t have any anytime soon — still, I will reap the benefits if others’ kids are ensured to live a life above the poverty line at least until the time they hit 18 years old.

Though I have reservations with much of the rhetoric the Republican Party offers, I agree with them on at least one thing: families are extremely important. But they deserve some of the blame here, too. If the GOP is as pro-family as they claim to be, they should be on board with the Democrats’ plan to extend the CTC expansion, or, at the very least, have a sufficient counter-proposal to bring to the table.

The one-year CTC expansion should serve as proof that our government can successfully pull children out of poverty. The fact that President Biden and the 117th Congress — yes, both Democrats and Republicans — have failed to do this for more than a year should be a massive disappointment for everyone. We can, and should, do better for our young people. A permanent expansion of the CTC would be a great first step.