Poverty and Its Impacts on American Familiesby Representative Rosa L. DeLauro
Posted on 2015-12-09
DeLAURO. I thank my colleague, Congresswoman Lee, for organizing
this effort this evening. It isn't just this evening. Every day, 24
hours a day, in her heart of hearts, she knows what her mission is
here. That is to make sure that there is a better life for our families
and to make sure that there is a better life for our children. It is an
honor to work with her on these issues.
Mr. Speaker, there is a saying that the strength of a nation starts with the strength of its families. The child tax credit was created in 1997 to help working families afford the expense of raising children. As we all know only too well, the cost of child-rearing goes up every single year.
According to the latest figures from the Department of Agriculture, the average two-parent, low-income household will spend more than $218,000 per child up to the age of 18. Middle-income families will spend even more. We in this body have an obligation to do what we can to help households cope with these mounting costs.
Today the child tax credit helps improve the lives of some 38 million families. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, in 2013, the child tax credit alone lifted 3.1 million people out of poverty, including 1.7 million children. The child tax credit, together with the earned income tax credit, lift more children out of poverty than any other Federal program.
Thanks to the 2009 expansion of the credit, a household with two children and one full-time minimum wage earner receives a total credit of about $1,812 per year. That is a real help to families who might otherwise struggle just to make ends meet. Unfortunately, each year, the value of that credit declines with inflation as the cost of raising a child increases each year.
In the last big tax deal, Congress made the estate tax cut both permanent and indexed to inflation. The beneficiaries of the estate tax are one-tenth of a percent of the people in this Nation. It strictly benefits the children of the wealthy. I don't want to deny them benefits, but I want us to consider the children in low-income families.
[[Page H9188]] Congress should do the same for working families with the child tax credit. We should provide a cost-of-living increase as costs go up for raising children. By the end of this decade, the simple measure would save an estimated 750,000 children from falling back into poverty.
Another statistic, my colleague from California, is that there are about 7,450 estates in the United States that benefit from the estate tax. If we indexed--provided a cost of living--for the child tax credit, 19 million children could be lifted out of poverty. Where is our balance? Where is our sense of right and wrong? The value of indexing our anti-poverty programs cannot be understated. Because Social Security benefits are indexed, the rate of seniors in poverty has been relatively stable, at close to 10 percent for the last four decades. Because SNAP benefits--food stamp benefits-- were re-indexed in the 2008 farm bill, families saw the value of their benefits stabilize.
The biggest economic challenge facing our country today is that far too many hardworking people are still not earning enough to make ends meet. Middle class wages are stagnant or are in decline. We need to do whatever we can to support working people.
No family in our country should have to struggle to raise a child. By indexing the value of the child tax credit--providing the cost of living--and making the expansion permanent, we would help millions of parents afford these costs by giving them a permanent tax break, which helps families and does not lose its value over time.
This year, at this time, we should reaffirm our Nation's support for its hardworking families. We should provide them with the same benefit that we provided the children of the 1 percent when we made the estate tax exemption permanent and indexed it to inflation.
The fact of the matter is that the families that we are talking about--and these are not my words, but those of Economist Mark Zandi, who was the economist for John McCain.
When he was asked what would be most stimulative in our economy, he talked about food stamps because people spend that money. He talked about extending unemployment benefits because people spend that money right away and engage and drive our economy. He also talked about the refundable tax credits, like the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit, because people will spend that money and use it to drive our economy.
I want to say a thank you to my colleague from California. It is an important discussion. I thank the gentlewoman for organizing it and for always being there to make sure that those of us who serve here do not forget and that we keep our focus where it should be, on the sons and the daughters and the children of working families, of low-income families, and of middle class families.