U.S. Childhood Poverty

I continue to be disturbed by the unfair income inequality in the U.S. The top 1 percent of U.S. earners in 2020, according to one source, had an average income of $823,763. The average salary in the U.S. in 2020 was $56,310. The disparity is too large for us to tolerate.

One illustration of our financial inequity is our child poverty rate. From July 15, 2021 to December 15, 2021, the United States instituted something called the expanded Child Tax Credit. It featured direct monthly payments to families of up to $300 per child under 6 and $250 per month for children between 6 and 17, phasing out payments for families earning more than $112,000 a year.

The effect on childhood poverty is telling. Before the experiment, America’s child poverty rate was among the highest of all advanced nations. Nearly 16 percent of our children under 5 were impoverished. During the experiment, child poverty in America dropped by roughly a third, down to 12 percent. The number of households with kids reporting not having enough to eat also fell by about a third. But after the experiment, the rate of child poverty rose again, from 12 percent to 17 percent. More than a third of families with children in the U.S. now say they are struggling to cover ordinary costs (food, utilities, housing).

So why don’t we restore the Child Tax Credit? Republicans say the program costs too much. But the Congressional Budget Office estimates that permanently expanding the Child Tax Credit would cost $1.7 trillion over the next ten years. That’s less than what America’s rich and big corporations will save over the next ten years from the Trump Republican tax cut, which went into effect in 2018. Repeal that gift to the rich, and there’s plenty of money to pay for our children.

In other words, restoration of something approaching the beginnings of equity is within our grasp. Now all we have to do is use our majority to pass it into law.

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