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That’s not a hypothetical question. Democrats are reportedly working on legislation that would offer monthly payments to most American families with children, and could, among other things, cut child poverty roughly in half.
One especially good thing about the legislation in the works is that Democrats finally seem to have broken free of Republican framing, under which every benefit takes the form of a tax credit. This will apparently be a straightforward proposal to send money to qualifying families.
Assuming that Democrats can eventually get past Mitch McConnell’s attempt to, in effect, prevent the party that won the election from taking control of the Senate, Republicans will soon have to vote on this legislation. How will they justify voting no?
Some background: America stands out among wealthy countries for its failure to provide much help to families with children. U.S. expenditures on family benefits as a share of G.D.P. are less than a third the rich-nation average. Largely as a consequence, we have a much higher rate of child poverty than our peers.
Our stinginess does a lot of harm. Economists have shown that previous extensions of aid to families with children, like the gradual rollout of food stamps in the 1960s and 1970s and the expansion of Medicaid in the 1980s, didn’t just improve children’s lives in the short run; children who received the aid grew into healthier, more productive adults than those who didn’t receive the aid. By not doing even more for children, we are stunting their future, and that of the nation as a whole.