The plot to save the children of the USA – 02/16/2021 – Paul Krugman

Democrats appear poised to approve a major bailout. It will be a big package, costing nearly $ 1.9 trillion proposed by the Biden government. But most of this spending will be temporary. Americans will not receive $ 1,400 in government assistance each year, unemployment benefits will not always be so generous, and we will not constantly mobilize for emergency immunization programs (or at least we hope so). .

There is, however, one aspect of the package that many progressives hope to become permanent: an extension of support to families that include children. In fact, there are overwhelming economic and social arguments for providing this kind of assistance, let alone the moral arguments.

However, most conservatives seem to oppose the idea, although they have great difficulty in explaining the reason for this opposition. And the fact that they are against helping children despite the lack of a good argument for doing so tells us a lot about the real reason they oppose helping those in need.

In retrospect: the tax system in force in the United States already grants parents a deduction of up to $ 2,000 per minor child. But a family is only entitled to a full deduction if its taxable income is sufficient. This is a major limitation. An estimated 27 million children are members of families whose income is too low to qualify for the full $ 2,000 deduction.

The current lawsuit appears to be aimed at increasing the deduction limit to $ 3,000 and $ 3,600 for children under six. The measure would also benefit parents whose income is insufficient to benefit from the full amount as a deduction. (They would receive the excess in cash.) The result would be a huge improvement in the financial situation of many struggling parents, and therefore the lives of millions of children.

So one would imagine that sheer compassion might be reason enough for a surge in support for families that include children – assistance that many other wealthy countries are already offering and which is one of the reasons they are registering. child poverty much lower than that of the United States.

But conservatives, and even some centrists, have long argued that compassion can be counterproductive – that attempts to help less prosperous people can create perverse incentives that undermine self-sufficiency and trap people in poverty. It is therefore important to understand why these arguments do not apply to the tax credit for families proposed in the current package – and why the measure, far from creating a trap, would in fact offer an escape route.

The usual argument against poverty reduction programs is that any form of income-related assistance reduces the recipient’s incentive to seek improvement, as households that manage to earn a higher income would lose the right to some of the help they get. .

For example, the Medicaid health program is only available to families with incomes below a certain threshold, so finding a job that raises family income above that threshold would result in the loss of health benefits.

When Republicans in the House of Representatives released a report on the 50th Anniversary of the War on Poverty, they argued, essentially, that these perverse incentives are the main reason why we haven’t made further progress in poverty reduction, and that poverty reduction programs become poverty. “Penalize families for making progress”.

There are good reasons to view these arguments with general skepticism. Relatively few people face the extreme work disincentives Republicans like to point out. Either way, these arguments do not apply to tax benefits for families that include children, as they would not be taken away as family income increases.

With a bit of sarcasm: should we reduce the incentives for children to choose better-off parents?

In addition, there is considerable evidence that the real source of the ‘poverty trap’ is not the lack of incentives, but the lack of adequate resources for nutrition, health services, housing and others. needs. As a result, helping poor children not only improves their lives in the short term, but helps them lift them out of poverty.

According to a recent study of research reports, there are “positive long-term benefits of accessing child safety programs, which lead to improvements in both health and economic productivity as they age. adult”.

Thus, there is a compelling argument for expanding benefits for children – compelling to the point that Mitt Romney has offered a similar plan, although he wants to pay for it by cutting other Social Security programs.

But in this as in other things, Romney seems to have little support within his party.
It’s no surprise that the increasingly shrunken Marco Rubio, who in the past asked for more help for children, has launched an attack on Romney’s proposal, defining it as “a protection plan.” social ”.

More surprising, perhaps, is the opposition of many (but not all) right-wing intellectuals who study public policy. For example, the director of poverty studies at the American Enterprise Institute warned that providing extra income for families “would take us back to the old days of the past” by allowing some adults to work less. Regardless of the fact that this effect would likely be small, why would allowing parents to spend more time with their children be unquestionably a bad thing?

What seems clear is that the real reason many right-wingers oppose child support is that they fear it will reduce the desperation of poor families. And the reason they hate the proposition is exactly why we should love it.

Translation by Paulo Migliacci

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