Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

child_tax_credit

Parents and caregivers with the Economic Security Project gather outside the White House to advocate for the Child Tax Credit in advance of the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health on September 20, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Larry French/Getty Images for SKDK)

Reviving the Child Tax Credit Is a Winning Campaign Message for Democrats This Coming Midterms

The expanded Child Tax Credit was the most impactful anti-poverty program in a generation. Democrats should campaign on bringing it back.

Jim Pugh

 by In These Times

With the November midterm elections fast approaching, the path the United States government will take over the next two years is looking very uncertain. Recent polling shows that control of both the Senate and the House of Representatives is up for grabs between Democrats and Republicans. To maintain control of both chambers – and possibly expand their majority in the Senate – Democrats will need to take advantage of any edge they can find to bring in more support.

The impact of the policy was monumental: the program lifted 3.7 million children out of poverty, decreased food insufficiency for families with children by an estimated 26%, and led to the lowest rate of childhood poverty in U.S. history.

Fortunately for Democratic candidates, there's a way to gain an electoral edge while simultaneously supporting highly effective social policy: campaigning on the expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC).

The expanded CTC was enacted as part of President Biden's American Rescue Plan in early 2021. It augmented the existing Child Tax Credit to provide substantially larger payments to families with children, delivered monthly, while making low-income families eligible for the full benefits. For example, while a middle-class family with a 4-year-old and 7-year-old would previously have received a one-time payment of $4,000, the expanded CTC provided them with $550 per month, totalling $6,600 for the year. At the same time, 23 million families became eligible to receive the credit for the first time.

The impact of the policy was monumental: the program lifted 3.7 million children out of poverty, decreased food insufficiency for families with children by an estimated 26%, and led to the lowest rate of childhood poverty in U.S. history. Last week, Biden described the policy as ​"one of the most effective programs we've ever seen."

Yet despite its incredible success, Congress has not yet renewed the expanded CTC beyond its original one-year duration. While the Biden administration pushed to make the program permanent in its Build Back Better legislative package, the effort was derailed in the Senate by uniform opposition from Republicans as well as from Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (WV). While many of the programs from Build Back Better were later enacted through the Inflation Reduction Act, passed in August, the expanded CTC was not among them. As a result, since the program lapsed in January 2022, millions of children have fallen back into poverty.

Congressional opposition to continuing the expanded CTC was bolstered by early polling after the program's enactment showing that Americans didn't have a favorable view of continuing the expanded credit beyond its one-year duration. While the conventional wisdom at the time was that the policy wasn't generally popular, recent evidence challenges this conclusion.

A messaging experiment conducted in August 2022 for the advocacy group Economic Security Project Action found that political ads that focused on the expanded CTC received a net positive response from potential voters, and were actually among the most persuasive this election cycle, shifting voter choice by up to 15 points from Republican to Democratic candidates. These results bolster the conclusion of a June 2022 survey by Democracy Corps, which identified the expanded CTC as a powerful motivating policy for voters this November. The new results suggest that the earlier tepid reception to the expanded CTC may have been due to its novelty and not yet having time to appreciate its impact. Now that families have had a chance to better understand the policy—and directly benefit from it—they view it far more favorably.

These results present a highly compelling argument for why Democratic candidates should focus on the expanded CTC in their campaigns. But the question that then arises is: now that the Inflation Reduction Act has been passed, how can the program be extended? 

The most likely answer lies in a year-end bill called ​"tax extenders," which is most often used to renew the corporate research and development tax credit. The renewal has broad support from both Democrats and Republicans, but multiple Senate Democrats have drawn a line in the sand, saying they will only vote for the bill if it includes a continuation of the expanded CTC. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) went so far as to say he would ​"lay down in front of a bulldozer" to prevent corporate tax credits from moving ahead without the expanded CTC.

While it's unclear if these senators currently have enough leverage to push the continuation through, given that it would require 10 GOP senators to overcome a Senate filibuster, a strong showing by Democrats in the midterms could significantly strengthen their position. And, if they maintain control of the House of Representative and expand their majority in the Senate, it would also open the possibility of passing the policy in 2023 through budget reconciliation, which would not require Republican support.

For now, the choice for Democratic candidates couldn't be clearer: campaign on renewing the expanded Child Tax Credit. It will help their chances at the polls in November and bring the country closer to reviving the most impactful anti-poverty program in a generation.


© 2021 In These Times
Jim Pugh

Jim Pugh

Jim Pugh is a co-founder of the Universal Income Project. He is also the founder and CEO of ShareProgress, a social-good startup.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'Donald Trump Has Finally Run Out of Places to Hide' as House Dems Get Tax Returns

"It's no longer a question of if he's hiding something big," one watchdog group asserted, "it's a question of what he's hiding."

Brett Wilkins ·


Democrats, Progressive Groups Push DOJ to Publish Database of 'Corporate Lawbreaking'

"The Corporate Crime Database Act will bring transparency to the corporate crime crisis so that the DOJ and other law enforcement agencies can better reckon with this greed-driven menace," said one advocate.

Kenny Stancil ·


As Corporations Enjoy Record-High Profits, Experts Urge Congress to 'Rein Them In'

"Today's record corporate profits mirror what we have been hearing on earnings call after earnings call: Corporations are gleefully reporting that their strategy to burden families with unnecessary price hikes is working."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Egregious': PFAS Firefighting Foam Spills at Notorious Red Hill Naval Facility in Hawaii

While officials said there is no evidence that drinking water was contaminated, the incident generated further local frustration with the closing fuel storage complex.

Jessica Corbett ·


House Passes Paid Sick Leave for Railway Workers Despite Opposition of 207 Republicans

"Now let's get it through the Senate," said Rep. Jamaal Bowman, who led the fight to add seven days of paid sick leave to a White House-brokered contract that failed to provide any to railroad workers.

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo