By Janet Murguía, President and CEO, NCLR
By any measure, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), created by President Gerald Ford, has been a resounding bipartisan success. President Ronald Reagan, who substantially expanded the credit during his administration, called it “the best antipoverty, the best pro-family, the best job creation measure ever to come out of Congress.” The equally successful and bipartisan Child Tax Credit (CTC) was enacted during the Clinton administration and increased under President George W. Bush.
As a nonpartisan organization, NCLR has worked with all of these administrations, as well as with Congress, on both the EITC and the CTC. These tax credits have helped lift millions of families out of poverty and have had a measurable impact on the poverty rate in this country. So why, then, are some Republican members of Congress pushing for proposals to scale back the EITC and significantly reduce the number of families eligible for the CTC?
One answer is that they think these cuts will only affect immigrants, since they are proposing to exclude recipients of immigration relief, such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), from receiving the credits. Some lawmakers might even believe that this is “good politics.” But they are very wrong, both on the substance and on the politics. The greatest beneficiaries of these tax credits are children—American children. More than 90 percent of the children who would be affected by these proposals are native-born U.S. citizens.
Cutting credits to these kids is fiscally unsound. Eliminating them would cost the average family about $1,800, yet studies show that an increase of just $1,000 in family income raises a child’s math score by 2 percent and reading score by 3.5 percent. Common sense dictates that removing this source of income would have an equally dramatic negative impact.
Putting these children’s educational achievement and their family’s financial stability at risk doesn’t just shortchange the kids—it shortchanges the future of everyone in this country. One in every four children is Latino. The average age of U.S.-born Hispanics is 18. These kids are our future workers and the future contributors to Social Security, Medicare, and the rest of the country’s safety net. We should be investing in these young children, not punishing them.
This is what makes these proposals also morally bankrupt, an ironic twist given the professed pro-family, pro-faith, and pro-traditional values of the Republican Party. No matter how one feels about immigration policy, it is simply wrong to punish children for their parents’ deeds, as the Bible notes in Deuteronomy (24:16) and again in Ezekiel (18:20). DACA participants—the so-called DREAMers—were brought to this country as children. Those eligible for DAPA are, by definition, parents of U.S.-citizen or legal resident children. Has our political culture become so ugly that we would go out of our way to impose harsh measures on children raised in this country for simply being born into the “wrong” type of family, as some proponents of these cruel proposals assert?
I hope not. But if it has, the lessons will be memorable. A major strength of the Republican Party has been consistent fidelity to key maxims: low taxes, hard work, family values, and reverence for Judeo-Christian traditions. If its leaders allow devastating tax increases aimed squarely at Hispanic American children simply to score political points, they do so in knowing violation of their core values.
We will remember that the party’s principles were betrayed by the hypocrisy of some of its members. The Latino community will remember that the interests of more than four million of its children were sacrificed so a few politicians could pander to extremists. We hope candidates remember this episode in 2016, when they experience a record turnout of Hispanic voters.