Child Tax Credit: Better Late Than Never

By Jim Wallis 1-07-2009

In 2003, Call to Renewal was deeply engaged in working to have a refundable child tax credit included in that year's tax cut legislation. Ultimately, the credit was dropped from the final legislation. In response, I wrote a column, explaining that we had supported it as a way to "put money directly into the hands of our poorest mothers and fathers who are trying desperately to raise their children," and saying that

The decision to drop child tax credits for America's poorest families and children in favor of further tax cuts for the rich is morally offensive. It is blatant disregard for the poor, and an outrageous bias toward the rich. In religious terms, the exclusion of any benefits for poor children in the new tax bill should be named as a political sin. And those politicians who utter the words of religion and faith, yet who supported this exclusion of the poor, deserve to be called hypocrites.

In the news this week are the emerging details of President-elect Obama's economic stimulus package, including a substantial amount of tax cuts. And this time, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday, the Stimulus Plan Would Expand Tax Credit for Poor:

Mr. Obama's advisers on Monday outlined a potential new feature of the plan to congressional aides, saying they would press for a tax change that would allow more families that earn too little to pay income taxes to claim at least some of the $1,000-per-child tax credit. That would amount to an income subsidy, since it would refund taxes they are too poor to pay.

The plan would grant an estimated 5.5 million poor children access to the credit for the first time, and expand the tax benefit for millions more poor children who currently qualify for only a partial credit, according to its advocates. The change has been sought by Democrats and some moderate Republicans for years.

It's an encouraging sign that in the midst of necessary programs to benefit small business and the middle class, the poorest among us are not once again being excluded.

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