Tucked safely inside the COVID relief package currently before congress is a provision that would do more to reduce poverty than anything since Medicare. And it will happen because of bipartisanship led by moderates.
While we’re focussed on Donald Trump’s impeachment trial (he’ll be acquitted) and who will get another $1,400 from the government (fewer people than President Biden had originally suggested), a little-noticed provision with bipartisan support is set to reduce child poverty in America by 50%.
The provision would send $300 per child every month to families earning less than $400,000 according to one version of the plan. The maximum monthly payment would be $1,250. And this isn’t just a temporary COVID relief measure. This would be a new, permanent commitment to families.
It will cost about $120 billion a year, but that seems tame in light of the $3.7 trillion the federal government has already committed to COVID relief, an amount that would soar to $5.6 trillion if Biden gets the full $1.9 trillion he has proposed for this round.
And UC Berkley researcher Hilary Hoynes estimates that child poverty costs the economy as much as a trillion dollars a year in lost economic potential. Even if you question that figure, it seems self-evident that the prospects for poor kids are going to be much dimmer than for kids raised in middle class households and that will have a negative impact on the economy overall.
Let’s compare this to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare For All proposal. It has been estimated that that proposal would cost around $30 trillion over 10 years and lift about eight million people out of poverty. The per child payment would cost around $1.2 trillion over a decade and lift about 10 million kids out of poverty.
So, if we’re looking at simple bang for the buck, the child payment lifts 20% more people out of poverty then Medicare For All, but at about only 4% of the cost.
The child payment has been championed by conservative Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah with support from moderate Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado and Ohio’s progressive Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown.
The implications of this are far-reaching. For years, progressive fire brands, like Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), have been using divisive populist language to push outlandishly expensive and fanciful schemes that had no chance of becoming law. They’ve accomplished nothing.
Meanwhile, other legislators have been working quietly across the aisle on a proposal that will have more impact on actually reducing poverty than anything since the Great Society programs of the 1960’s.
It’s time to turn away from populist rhetoric and unrealistic proposals. Bipartisanship and moderation work. Just ask about 10 million children.