Why isn’t Biden’s expanded child tax credit more popular?

An important part of President Joe Biden’s national agenda has come to an end. The monthly extension of the existing child tax credit expired last month after Congress failed to extend it.

Since July, the federal government has sent the families of 61 million children monthly payments of $ 300 per child under age 6 and $ 250 per older child. The Democrats’ roughly $ 2,000 billion Build Back Better spending bill, which would have renewed extended credit this year, has not been authorized by Congress and may never do. When the policy was first adopted in March, many experts hailed its potential to reduce child poverty and hunger, and many Democrats hoped that the cash in families’ pockets would be extremely. popular.

But the public’s appreciation was less positive. While last year’s widening credit polls found it to be popular on the net – most showed it with approval in the 1950s – it lagged behind the decline in credit growth. prescription drug costs, Medicare expansion and other policies Democrats are seeking to push through. As the party continues to debate whether and how to resuscitate extended credit, polls generally suggest Americans have reservations about making it a more sustainable part of the social safety net.

This mixed reception has dismayed those from all political horizons who advocate more generous aid to families.

“I was a little surprised that this was not as popular as a lot of us thought,” said Brad Wilcox, a sociologist at the University of Virginia and a senior researcher at the Institute for Family Studies, a conservative think tank.

Why wasn’t it? Experts have proposed several theories, ranging from how the credit was passed to Americans’ deep-rooted beliefs about who deserves government support.

A victim of the pandemic?

One possibility is that the pandemic, which helped make extended credit a reality, has also limited its support. Democrats first adopted the program as part of Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill, touting it as a much-needed boon at a time when most Americans have said that they welcomed more vigorous action on the part of the federal government.

But at least so far, the pandemic does not appear to have fundamentally reshuffled Americans’ views on the role of government. As economic indicators improve and worries about rising prices replace the blues of the recession, rising credit may be a victim of declining public support for increased federal aid. A July Hill-HarrisX poll that described the program as a “pandemic stimulus measure” found that 60% of voters (including 47% of Democrats) thought it was “too expensive and no longer. necessary ”against 40% who wanted to see it extended until 2025.

Who is he helping?

As expected, Democrats support Biden’s credit expansion at much higher rates than Republicans, with independents split evenly, but attitudes vary across other dimensions as well. While younger Americans – who are more likely to be parents receiving the credit – tend to approve of it, many older Americans don’t. This could be because they tend to view further expansions of the social safety net as a threat to the funding of social security, medicare and other programs that benefit the elderly, a said Andrea L. Campbell, a political scientist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who studies public opinion and social issues. Politics.

Older Americans are also less likely to care for children, which may further explain their lukewarm support. Benefits that help Americans throughout their lives tend to outweigh policies like universal preschool or extended credit, which only help Americans when they are raising children, notes Ethan Winter, senior analyst at the group. progressive thinking Data for Progress and Pollster for Fighting. Chance for Families, which advocates extending credit.

And while polls often find support for policies that benefit families and children, they may not be the top priority of most Americans. In a December Morning Consult / Politico poll, just 14% of voters said renewing credit was one of the most important parts of the Build Back Better spending bill. They ranked most of its other provisions – including allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices and affordable housing finance – higher.

Who deserves ?

It’s also possible that extended credit has struggled to overcome Americans’ deeply held beliefs about who deserves government help and who doesn’t. There is ample evidence to suggest that many are skeptical of programs that provide cash without conditions.

Parents who do not pay income tax can access the credit. While many experts doubt the program will push large numbers of beneficiaries out of the workforce, some disagree – and polls suggest Americans overwhelmingly support work requirements for adults receiving benefits. government in some or all cases. (Social Security and Medicare, almost universal programs that Americans pay through taxes before receiving benefits later in life, are rare exceptions, Campbell said.)

An August YouGov survey conducted for American Compass, a conservative think tank, found that increasing the value of credit, making it available monthly, and sending it to households without a working adult were all policy changes. popular, but that sending it to jobless families was the least popular of the three. And most Republicans, independents, and voters without a four-year college degree whose households earn between $ 30,000 and $ 80,000 were not in favor of sending payments permanently to jobless families.

Proponents of the credit desk expanded that it was designed to reach a wider range of families, including those who stay at home to raise children.

“What about the grandparents who take care of the children?” Said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn. “What about the disabled who have children?” Shouldn’t they have this? “

Yet fears that some might abuse credit can also undermine support for it. In focus groups organized this year by the Institute for Family Studies, Wilcox’s think tank, even some participants who could benefit from the credit argued that others could spend it on vacation, have more children for maximize its value or become dependent on government support. )

These entrenched attitudes could limit Biden’s credit support. They may also explain why congressional efforts to expand it have so far failed. Senator Joe Manchin, DW.Va., whose vote is most likely needed to pass a bill, has deep reservations about the program and has proposed adding work requirements.

Republicans in Congress unanimously oppose Build Back Better. While some – including Sens. Marco Rubio and Mike Lee – Support a more generous child tax credit, they have criticized Biden’s expansion because it lacks work requirements. Other Republicans argue that extending long-term credit will increase the federal deficit. And some say it helped push inflation up (many economists doubt this played a big role).

If Congress does not renew the extension, the child tax credit will revert to its less generous pre-Biden amount – more accessible to non-working families and no longer available as advance monthly payments rather than in the form of an annual credit. Many experts expect poverty to increase, which affected around 16% of children in 2020.