Talking Points

Mitt Romney's child benefit is better than Joe Biden's

President Biden has proposed to help families and cut poverty by reforming the Child Tax Credit so that people who have no labor income are still eligible. That would be an improvement, but as analyst Matt Bruenig has argued at the People's Policy Project, it would be better to set up a traditional child allowance payment (sending $374 per month to the parents of every child 18 or under).

Shockingly, none other than Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) has produced a child allowance proposal of his own. His would be somewhat less generous than Bruenig's plan, but still better than Biden's tax credit expansion. It would be more generous, routed through the Social Security Administration instead of the IRS, and include a maternity grant for birth expenses. Here is a table summarizing the differences:

(Courtesy People's Policy Project)

Romney also includes several pay-fors. He would get rid of various child tax credits, which is fine because he's replacing them with something better. He would get rid of the federal contribution to TANF (traditional cash welfare), but that also means little since the program is almost dead already — just $3.5 billion in federal money actually went out in the form of cash welfare in 2019. However, he would cut the Earned Income Tax Credit in a way that would be a net loss for a small handful of families, and phase out the benefit when he should just raise taxes on the rich instead.

It could be better. But all told, this is an astoundingly great plan coming from a Republican. And with his pay-fors, it could be made permanent through the reconciliation process, which only requires 51 votes in the Senate. Biden has been well and truly outflanked from the left on family benefits.

It probably isn't a coincidence that Romney comes from Utah, which has a famously high birth rate. But his proposal would still help the vast majority of families in all states, now and in the future. As I have previously written, the American economy is bitterly hostile to families, in large part because child-raising is so expensive. A decent child allowance would help considerably in allowing people to have the families they want, and it would be easy to improve in the future.