Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times favorably compares Biden’s “American Rescue Plan” to the first days of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. One reason is that it would seriously reduce child poverty:
Coverage of Biden’s $1.9 trillion plan has understandably focused on the $1,400 payments to individuals, the increased unemployment benefits, the assistance to local governments, the support for accelerated vaccine rollout and the investments to get children back in schools. But there is so much more: food assistance, policies to keep families from becoming homeless, child care support, a $15 federal minimum wage and an expansion of the earned-income tax credit to fight poverty.
To me, the single most exciting element of the Biden proposal is one that has garnered little attention: a pathbreaking plan that would drastically cut child poverty.
It is a moral stain on America that almost one-third of people living in poverty are children, a higher share in poverty than any other age group.
So it’s exhilarating that Biden included in his plan a temporary expansion (I hope it will be made permanent) of the child tax credit in a way that would do more than any other single policy to reduce child poverty and make America more truly a land of opportunity. In effect, Biden is turning the child credit into something like the child allowances that are used around the world, from Canada to Australia, to reduce child poverty.
The Biden child poverty plan was previously offered as legislation backed by Senators Michael Bennet of Colorado and Sherrod Brown of Ohio, and a Columbia University analysis found that it would reduce child poverty in the United States by 45 percent. For Black children, it would reduce poverty by 52 percent, and for Native American children, 62 percent.
“This is the boldest vision laid out by an American president for fighting poverty, and child poverty in particular, in at least half a century,” said Luke Shaefer, a poverty expert at the University of Michigan.
Americans too often accept poverty or race gaps as hopeless and inevitable. In fact, the evidence suggests they are neither. As Britain’s prime minister, Tony Blair cut child poverty by half with a strategy that included Biden-style child allowances.
[Another] example is the New Deal . . . . Results of Roosevelt’s boldness included Social Security, rural electrification, jobs programs, networks of hiking trails, the G.I. Bill of Rights and a 35-year burst of inclusive growth that arguably made the United States the richest country in the history of the world.
Yet for the last half-century, we mostly retreated. We overinvested in prisons and tax breaks for billionaires while underinvesting in education, public health and those left behind.
So we think of the United States as No. 1, but America ranks No. 28 worldwide in well-being of citizens, according to the Social Progress Index. And the United States is one of only three countries to have gone backward since the index began in 2011.
Americans are less likely to graduate from high school, more likely to die young, less safe from violence and less able to drink clean water than citizens in many other advanced countries. And then along came Covid-19 and magnified the disparities.
As Biden noted in his speech Thursday night, one in seven households in America now report that they don’t have enough food. Some 12 million children live in households that lack enough food. . . .
Yes, Biden’s proposal would be costly, but a major study from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine found that child poverty is even more expensive, costing America at least $800 billion a year in diminished productivity, higher crime and elevated medical costs.
Helping people is often harder than it looks. But it is difficult to overstate how much difference Biden’s child poverty plan would make for Americans, for economic growth, for the country’s international competitiveness — and, let’s acknowledge it, for the moral framework of the United States. In the long run, this would do more to advance American equality, opportunity and decency than almost anything else.
There will be Republican opposition to Biden’s plan, of course, which will almost certainly mean that it’s effectiveness is reduced. But it’s encouraging that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, not exactly a hotbed of socialism, has endorsed it (to some extent):
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce welcomes the introduction of President-elect Biden’s American Rescue Plan. Specifically, we applaud the President-elect’s focus on vaccinations and on economic sectors and families that continue to suffer as the pandemic rages on. We must defeat COVID before we can restore our economy and that requires turbocharging our vaccination efforts. We look forward to working with the new administration and Congress on the details and in ensuring that any additional economic assistance is timely, targeted, and temporary.