Proposed Refundable Child Tax Credits Would Benefit Children and Reduce Poverty
There are currently two rival refundable child tax credit bills being proposed in Congress. One by Republican Senator Mitt Romney and Democrat Senator Michael Bennet would guarantee families $1,500 per year for each child under the age of six. A second proposal, the American Family Act, would guarantee families $3,600 per year for each child under the age of six. By making the tax credit refundable, families with no income could receive the credit as a cash payment making it a small version of a universal basic income. If the credit is universal, it would apply to all families, not just low income families. This would remove it from the category of entitlement, making it less susceptible to political pressure to reduce, or eliminate it, during periods of economic recession.
The cost of the Romney/Bennet bill is $24 billion, for the American Family Act the cost estimate is $90 billion. The American Family Act is projected to reduce child poverty for 4.5 million children or 40 percent. By contrast the Romney/Bennet bill would only reduce child poverty by 1.6 million children or 14 percent. Passage of either plan outright would require Democrats to win a filibuster proof majority in the Senate. Failing that the only way either bill gets through Congress is through the budget reconciliation process which requires Democrats to have only a simple majority in the Senate.
Passage of either bill would be a good first step toward implementing some version of The Universal Basic Income, because even if the size of the tax credit is too small today, over time it could be increased to a more appropriate level. But for passage to even be a possibility Democrats must retake the Senate.