A Democratic U.S. Senator whose notorious allegiance with Republicans has repeatedly prevented his Party’s legislative agenda from moving forward is being blamed in part for the nation’s jump in child poverty at a time when data shows inflation remains on the rise.
Citing statistics, critics strongly suggested that the growing child poverty rate could have been avoided had West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin simply voted along Party lines to renew the expanded child tax credit instead of allowing it to expire last year.
It was revealed on Tuesday that the nation’s overall poverty level, and especially that for children, rose sharply in the year after the pandemic-era American Rescue Plan’s additional financial benefits for children were not renewed last summer.
“Some 12.4% of children were in poverty last year, up from a record low of 5.2% the year before and roughly comparable to where it was prior to the pandemic in 2019, based on a broader alternative measure developed by the Census Bureau,” CNN reported. “It was the largest jump in child poverty since the Supplemental Poverty Measure began in 2009. The measure takes into account certain non-cash government assistance, tax credits and needed expenses – addressing a major flaw in the official poverty rate, economists say.”
When the expanded child tax credit first went into effect a little more than two years ago, Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen called it “a remarkable economic victory for America – and also a moral one” that would be a “step in reducing child poverty.”
Data from Columbia University’s Center on Poverty & Social Policy showed that nearly six months after the expanded child tax credit took effect, child poverty had already been reduced by up to 40% and food insecurity among low-income families was reduced by 25%.
But one year later, Manchin suggested without proof that the money was being used to buy drugs and said he would not support the expanded child tax credit being renewed as part of President Joe Biden’s ambitious Build Back Better agenda that also included benefits like free community college and reduced prescription costs.
Manchin’s dog-whistling about the expanded child tax credit fortified the Republican-led foundation of U.S. Senate resistance to Biden’s Build Back Better proposal which ultimately allowed the benefit to expire.
In the months afterward, Vox reported that “Manchin dealt the final blow” to the child tax credit, a sentiment that has been largely accepted among political circles.
As such, once the new child poverty data was reported on Tuesday, scorn was quickly redirected back at Manchin, who has also been the target of similar blame when it comes to the U.S. Senate failing to advance civil rights legislation like voting rights and police reform.
“Republicans could not have blocked the extension without the help of Joe Manchin,” journalist Judd Legum posted on the app formerly known as Twitter.
“Child poverty in the United States just more than doubled. You can thank Joe Manchin,” Mother Jones wrote.
“Republicans and Joe Manchin made sure many more kids would be poorer last year than the year before,” MSNBC’s Mehdi Hasan posted. “Disgusting. Reprehensible. Unforgivable.”
To be sure, the expanded child tax credit sent millions of working families earning up to $150,000 for a couple or $112,500 for a single parent monthly payments of $250 or $300 per child without them having to take any action. Build Back Better proposed extending the same benefits for years.
The sobering news about child poverty rising came one day before it was reported that inflation was still raging with consumer prices growing even higher, particularly for gas.
Consumer prices rose by nearly 4% last month compared to the same period one year earlier and core inflation – which NBC News defines as “a measurement of cost increases that removes energy and food prices because of their volatility” – grew even more.
The combination of economic trends disproportionately affects Black and brown people. In particular, an extension of the expanded child tax credit was predicted to cut the Black poverty rate by at least 34%, then-White House Senior Advisor for Public Engagement Trey Baker told NewsOne at the time.
In June, Reuters reported that Senate Democrats reintroduced child tax credit legislation that would make the expended benefits permanent. Among other things, the Working Families Tax Relief Act would increase the child tax credit to $3,000 for children aged 6-17 and $3,600 for children ranging up to 5 years old and make the credit fully refundable.
Because we’re coming up on an election year, and data shows how popular the child tax credit was – more than half of all voters are in favor of the additional benefits, according to polling – a growing number of Republicans have stated their support for what Roll Call labeled as a “child tax credit compromise.”
Bringing back the expanded child tax credit and making it permanent is a no-brainer, Danielle Atkinson, the national executive director of Mothering Justice, wrote in an op-ed for NewsOne earlier this year.
“If the federal government revives the Child Tax Credit, families would see that policymakers truly believe that all families – including early childhood educators – deserve access to a better quality of life. It can bring us one step closer to investing in a broken childcare system and eliminating child poverty,” Atkinson, who also founded the policy advocacy organization providing resources for mothers and caregivers, wrote. “The child tax credit is a proven policy that places families on a path of thriving, not just surviving. Legislators must prioritize children and families, and they must do so now. Our children and the mothers and caregivers who look after them deserve it. This is a point no one should argue.”
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