GOP Plays “Snake Line” Politics With The Child Tax Credit

Isaiah J. Poole

Talk about the need to get above “the snake line”: A perfect example of how House Republicans operate in the realm where snakes slither and inject their poison is about to unfold this week on the House floor.

The House is about to take up what Republicans call an “improvement” of the child tax credit. As is usually the case with the conservative extremists who dominate the House, when it says it is about to “improve” something, that’s the signal that for a lot of struggling families, things are actually about to get worse. Meanwhile, the “improvement” will be for the already well-off.

That’s exactly what’s about to happen if the House changes to the child tax credit become law.

One change the legislation makes is to permanently increase the number of upper-income families eligible for the credit, while allowing to expire in 2017 an extension of the credit to the lowest-income households. This would have the perverse effect, as the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities’ Chuck Marr explains, of giving a tax break to families with two children earning up to $205,000 a year (a ceiling that increases over time with inflation) while cutting off a single mother working full-time at a minimum wage job. She would lose an estimated $1,725 in 2018 while earning less than $15,000 a year while trying to raise two children; her counterpart on the other side of town earning 10 times that amount would gain a tax break of about $2,200.

Another disingenuous change the legislation would make would be to deny a child tax credit to parents who don’t have a Social Security number. While supporters claim this would cut down on fraudulent claims, including those from undocumented immigrants, this would have the effect of cutting off aid to 4 million U.S. child citizens, and nearly 5 million children in the country altogether.

Avideh Moussavian of the National Immigration Law Center said that the fraud allegations are being blown out of proportion and covered with misinformation. She noted that while these claimants may not have Social Security numbers, they do have taxpayer identification numbers obtained through the Internal Revenue Service, and there is a rigorous process for obtaining those numbers.

“We have worked with low-income tax clinics and community organizations that have an incredibly high compliance rate” against fraud, Moussavian said. There are some unscrupulous businesses that prey upon immigrant families and upon the IRS for profit, she said, but the way to get at that is not to punish the children of these families and “dismantle what has proven to be a very successful anti-poverty program.”

Half in 10 is among the organizations that have mounted campaigns to get House members to vote “no” on this child tax credit bill. Go to their action page to “urge your members of Congress to protect the Child Tax Credit for low-income children.”

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