While Ross Douthat's Twitter “rant” on Wednesday night -- to use his words — about the Senate tax bill rightly pointed out the hypocrisy and empty rhetoric of nationalist conservatives, he only put forth a half-measure policy solution for growing and caring for the next generation of Americans.
He praised Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Mike Lee of Utah for their effort to increase the Child Tax Credit (CTC), which helps cover the cost of having kids. But helping the next generation of American kids also involves caring for them when their parents need to work. The CTC does not directly address the rapidly rising cost of child care and early education programs.
Congress should do more than just expand the Child Tax Credit. In the tax bill the Senate will vote on as soon as today, it should include an amendment from Senator Susan Collins of Maine to expand and enhance the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC), which was created specifically to help more families afford quality care.
This is a rare opportunity to help working families ensure a strong start for their children. But so far, kids have been left behind in tax reform negotiations and in the recently-passed bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Tax reform is a chance to change many families’ financial situations for the better. For many working families, child care is one of the largest monthly expenses. And paying for a high-quality program is out of reach for too many. But while child care and early childhood education costs continue to soar – infant care is more expensive than in-state college tuition in more than 30 states and the District of Columbia – the way the tax code treats those costs has remained the same.
When kids attend good child care programs, they are more likely to start school ready to learn, graduate from high school, and stay in the work force. When kids are provided a high-quality early education from the time they are born until they enter kindergarten, our communities and economy also reap the benefits.
In fact, a recent report from Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman shows the rate of return on investments in early childhood development for many children can be 13 percent per child, per year due to improved outcomes in education, health, sociability, economic productivity and reduced crime. If we want to promote economic growth through tax reform, the answer in right in front of us.
While there are many issues with the Senate’s overall tax bill, my biggest concern is that the proposed plan does not invest in our nation’s most precious resource – our children. It does not do anything new to help working parents more easily afford quality child care.
Save the Children Action Network has been working closely with Republicans in the House and Senate – including Senator Collins and Representatives Kevin Yoder of Kansas and Kristi Noem of South Dakota – to get an amendment in the tax bill that would expand the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit and make it refundable for low-income families.
But the current tax plan is the least Congress can do. Kids don’t vote and don’t donate to political campaigns, and therefore are once again being left behind by our lawmakers. The Senate must go further and do something that will actually help working families – not just corporations and our nation’s wealthiest citizens.