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In 2009, we lowered the eligibility threshold for the child tax credit from $12,500 to $3,000, bringing up to $1,400 in tax relief to the families of 15.9 million children, including 5.5 million newly eligible children. But because the eligibility threshold was not set at zero, 13 million children in America — the kids we were most trying to reach — lost all or part of their child tax credit during the recession.
Lowering the child tax credit threshold to zero, economists agree, would be one of the most stimulative, targeted and efficient ways of getting the economy moving again. And yet, instead of passing targeted cuts for working families, we have worked harder in this Congress to give tax breaks to the wealthiest 2 percent and tax credits to multinational corporations that ship jobs overseas.
Every indicator suggests those groups are doing all right. It is time for Congress to represent the people who elected us and to focus once again on the needs of the vast majority of American families.
A good start would be recognizing that, yes, the federal government does play a hugely important role in alleviating poverty and inequality, and we should do everything we can to support those efforts.
That means not trying to balance the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable. And it means making the proven federal investments — in SNAP, the child tax credit and other programs — that create jobs, pull people out of poverty and strengthen the middle class.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) is ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and is co-chairwoman of the Democratic Steering Committee.