Democrats should stop protecting the rich and support Romney bill

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial board (TNS)
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, speaks to reporters outside of the Senate Chambers during a series of votes in the U.S. Capitol Building on May 11, 2022, in Washington, D.C. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images/TNS)

In a remarkable reversal of tradition, some Republicans have proposed a generous, broad-based federal benefit that Democrats are likely to oppose because it soaks the rich — their rich.

U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and his GOP colleagues Richard Burr of North Carolina and Steve Daines of Montana, have created what they call the Family Security Act 2.0. The bill would revive one of the best parts of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better proposal, its permanent expansion of the child tax credit. It would provide the credit in a different and more useful form, a pure cash benefit as opposed to a credit against taxes owed.

And it would do so without costing the federal government a dime. The proposal would be completely paid for by reform of the confusing earned income tax credit (EITC) and, most importantly, repeal of the state and local tax (SALT) deduction.

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The senators’ plan to pay for the benefit is inspired. The SALT deduction is a regressive giveaway to high earners in high tax jurisdictions — generally blue states and urban areas. It is beloved by Democrats as a sop to their donor class, even though it violates every other principle of taxation and good governance they claim to hold.

The plan mirrors Biden’s plan in key respects. For every child under 5, families would receive $350 per month, and for every child age 6 to 17, $250. Families would also receive $700 a month for the final four months of pregnancy.

Families must make $10,000 a year to receive the full benefit. Families under that threshold would receive a percent of the benefit equal to the percent of $10,000 they earned, such as 50% for $5,000. The benefit also begins to decrease for wealthier families.

We object to one aspect of the plan: It would exclude families with no working members. We understand the argument, expressed succinctly by populist-conservative economist and plan supporter Oren Cass, that “cash payments are the wrong way to help households disconnected from the workforce, who require concrete interventions to move from poverty toward self-sufficiency.”

But, as we have said previously, family situations are often complicated in ways that make workforce participation very difficult — not because they don’t want to work, but because they practically can’t or shouldn’t work. For instance, it’s not uncommon for poor children to live with their grandparents.

Even so, the plan would still be a major step forward. Congress should pass and the president should sign the bill. Biden would get a centerpiece of his Build Back Better plan and Republicans a major piece of pro-work family policy.

It’s the kind of compromise for the common good that used to be commonplace in Washington. Passing the Family Security Act 2.0 wouldn’t just help families and children across America; it might restore just a little bit of hope in our political system.

— From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial board (TNS).