There appears to be bipartisan momentum for a monthly cash payment to families with children as GOP Senator Mitt Romney’s proposal echoes several Democrats who have discussed a similar idea. President Biden has also expressed an interest in the plan, which could become part of a post-COVID effort to address the problem of “income inequality.”
What sets apart Romney’s proposal that it addresses both spending and the deficit. The Utah Senator believes his plan could be revenue-neutral by eliminating some federal programs as well as reducing the cost of the earned income tax credit and repealing the state and local tax deduction in Donald Trump’s tax bill.
The proposal comes as many Democrats have similarly expressed interest in providing payments to families with children on a monthly basis.
“This proposal offers a path toward greater security for America’s families by consolidating the many complicated programs to create a monthly cash benefit for them, without adding to the deficit,” Romney said in a news release.
That the proposal comes from Romney is significant. He is part of a small group of senators who have demonstrated a willingness in the past to buck their party leadership in order to address a national problem. The half-dozen or so moderate senators are expected to hold the balance of power in the upper chamber.
Romney’s ideas are certainly ambitious.
Under Romney’s proposal, the existing child tax credit would be replaced with monthly payments of $350 for children ages 5 and under and $250 for children ages 6 to 17. Families would be capped at monthly payments of $1,250.
All children with Social Security numbers would be eligible for the payments, and parents would also be eligible to apply to start getting the benefit four months before a child’s due date.
The payment amounts phase out for single tax filers with income above $200,000 and married couples with income above $400,000 — the same income phaseout thresholds for the current child tax credit. The Social Security Administration would administer the monthly payments, and people would reconcile any overpayments or underpayments with the IRS when they filed their tax returns.
There’s no doubt that child poverty is a problem that has been growing over the last decade. But is this really the best way to address it? Direct cash payments are always fraught with problems, not the least of which are fraud and abuse. And as far as liberals sitting still for totally eliminating the temporary assistance for needy families program (TANF), it’s not going to happen. They will gladly help pass the monthly benefit for children but getting them to cut anything in return would be like pulling wisdom teeth. They want the monthly tax credit and TANF, plus a few more goodies on top of it.
Romney is asserting himself in the Senate, not necessarily in the Republican Party. He won’t be a party-switcher unless he’s given a healthy shove, which some Republicans appear eager to do. He’ll be no more welcome on the Democratic side of the aisle than he is on the Republican side.
We can expect more of this from the moderate caucus of Democrats and Republicans who will test their influence over the next few months.