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Suffer the Children

Bill Press, Tribune Content Agency on

Today's guest column is writter by Jesse Jackson.

In January, the House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill (that in itself is something of a miracle) that would provide tax credits to help 16 million poor children. It would lift an estimated 400,000 children out of poverty in its first year.

To get support from Republicans, the bill matches the child tax credits with tax cuts for businesses totaling the same amount. The business tax cuts extend some of the lavish corporate tax cuts larded out when Trump was president. House Republicans insisted no help for poor children without more giveaways to corporate donors. So it goes.

Now Republicans in the Senate are lining up to tank the bill. They want a better deal for business. As Catherine Rampell reports in the Washington Post, they think that they can win a majority in the Senate in November. They don’t want to give Biden a triumph before that. If they do win the majority, then they believe they can extend the corporate tax cuts and discard the help for children.

“What side are you on,” the old union song goes. Over and over again, it is clear.

Children in poverty are not only a moral blight in a country as rich as this one, they represent a profound political failure. Childhood poverty exposes the young to malnutrition, to disease and illness, to homelessness and too often, to lifelong mental and physical injury. It snuffs out home in the salad days of life.

We know how to eliminate childhood poverty. When COVID hit and the country closed down, the Rescue Plan passed by Congress expanded the child tax credit to provide assistance to those whose incomes were too low to benefit from the credit. The number of children in poverty was cut more than one-half.

Then, despite the best efforts of Democrats to keep the expanded credit in place, the Congress allowed the program to expire. In the next year, an additional 15 million people fell below the poverty line, and childhood poverty more than doubled, with an additional 5.2 million children in poverty.

The compromise bipartisan bill that passed the House wouldn’t revive the full-expanded credit, but it would make more low-wage families with children eligible for greater assistance.

 

During the COVID period, we saw what poor parents did with the added resources that came to them. They bought food. They paid down debt. They bought clothes and health care for their children.

Poor parents are no different than more affluent parents. More often than not, they put the children first.

Republicans under Reagan turned welfare into a curse word. The child tax credit, however, goes to help those who work but earn only low wages. It rewards work. It provides resources for vulnerable children. This should not be a partisan issue.

And yet, even after the House passed a classic bipartisan compromise, the Republicans in the Senate would rather torpedo the kids than give Biden a decent bill to sign. Last time it was Republicans in the House that stopped a Senate Republican-led bipartisan bill to strengthen the border and provide aid to Ukraine. Now Republicans in the Senate are the block.

A country this rich should not condemn children to poverty. At the very least, we should help parents with low-wage jobs earn enough to lift their families out of poverty. Have the partisan furies become so blinding that all sense of decency is lost? Senate leader Chuck Schumer is considering forcing a vote on the bipartisan bill that would benefit millions of poor children. That roll call is a call of conscience, and a measure of those who decide.

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(You can write to the Rev. Jesse Jackson in care of this newspaper or by email at jjackson@rainbowpush.org. Follow him on Twitter @RevJJackson.)

©2024 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



 

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