WITHOUT a doubt, the child tax credit is helping poor families. But according to a recent analysis, many low-income children's families too poor to owe income tax only get a partial credit or nothing at all. Instead of figuring out how to get the needy the full $1,000 benefit, conservatives are busy arguing that they don't want the child tax credit to become - gasp! - an anti-poverty program.
While it's shameful that some desperately poor families don't get the child tax credit designed to provide them with relief, the wide racial gap evident in families too poor to claim the full credit ought to embarrass the Bush Administration.
Based on findings by the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan group in Washington, 19.5 million children are too poor to get all of the $1,000 benefit. In white families, 18 percent are too poor to get the total credit, compared to half of black children's families and almost half of Hispanic children's families. On average, every year $721 goes to white children, $564 to black children, and $638 to Hispanic children.
The study also foils the stereotypical view that parents of poor children don't work. The analysis showed that while millions of children's families are too poor to get the total tax credit benefit, more than three-fourths of the parents work.
Sen. Olympia Snowe, a Maine Republican, said "these aren't people who are lounging around all day. They're working to provide for their families." But the right wing talks as if government were handing over the bank to poor families.
An economist from the Heritage Foundation, Dan Mitchell, says low-wage workers already get $39 billion a year from the earned income tax credit, so "it's not like they're not getting any redistribution from the government."
That's an awfully elitist comment about the working poor. Policy-makers shouldn't have to be tagged liberals in order to do right and see the tax credit benefit extended to the poorest workers. Nor should conservatives fret about the child tax credit turning into a wasteful, Great Society-era anti-poverty program.
Four years ago Mr. Bush signed a compromise to give the credit to working families still too poor to owe income tax. His administration should live up to that commitment. The entire benefit should go to the families who truly need it.