In­vest­ing in long-term pros­per­ity

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Rick San­to­rum and Ge­orge Miller

Though we don’t agree on the over­all tax pack­age be­ing de­bated in Washington, we do agree that Congress should act to in­crease the value of and ac­cess to the child tax credit and the child and de­pen­dent care tax credit for fam­i­lies with chil­dren ages 0-5 as key steps in help­ing low- and mid­dle-in­come work­ing fam­i­lies and in­vest­ing in our coun­try’s long-term pros­per­ity. In a sense, fam­i­lies with young chil­dren are do­ing ex­tra work for all of us, rais­ing the work­ers, in­no­va­tors, and en­trepreneur­s who will sus­tain a strong so­ci­ety and econ­omy well into the fu­ture. For this rea­son, all Amer­i­cans have a stake in help­ing par­ents do the best job pos­si­ble nur­tur­ing their chil­dren’s healthy early devel­op­ment.

But to­day 40 per­cent of Amer­i­can chil­dren un­der the age of five are grow­ing up in house­holds with an an­nual in­come be­low $50,000. And more than two-thirds of th­ese chil­dren are grow­ing up in house­holds where all res­i­dent par­ents are in the work­force. For th­ese fam­i­lies, child care is not a lux­ury, it’s a ne­ces­sity — and of­ten an ex­pen­sive one.

The child tax credit and the de­pen­dent care tax credit are ef­fec­tive and ef­fi­cient mech­a­nisms for eas­ing the fi­nan­cial bur­den so fam­i­lies with young chil­dren are in a bet­ter po­si­tion to pro­vide the qual­ity care and early learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties their chil­dren need to grow into pro­duc­tive, re­spon­si­ble adults.

Specif­i­cally, we rec­om­mend ex­pand­ing the value of, and in­creas­ing ac­cess to, both cred­its. Th­ese changes will reach lowand mid­dle-in­come fam­i­lies with chil­dren far more ef­fec­tively than a sim­ple in­crease in the stan­dard de­duc­tion, which would pro­vide lit­tle or no ben­e­fit to, for ex­am­ple, a sin­gle min­i­mum-wage worker with two young chil­dren.

Why is it so im­por­tant to fo­cus on young chil­dren? Re­cent ad­vances in brain science, tell us that the very ear­li­est years are a time of foun­da­tional growth and devel­op­ment. From birth on (and in­deed even be­fore birth), ba­bies and tod­dlers are in­flu­enced by their en­vi­ron­ment and pro­foundly shaped by their in­ter­ac­tions with oth­ers.

If young chil­dren are not en­gaged and nur­tured in those years, or worse, if they are ex­posed to stress, trauma, or ne­glect, the con­se­quences can last a life­time. Abun­dant re­search shows that the most vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren have al­ready fallen well be­hind their bet­ter-off peers by the time they en­ter school — th­ese gaps not only per­sist, they tend to widen in later years.

Un­for­tu­nately, the years that are most im­por­tant from a de­vel­op­men­tal stand­point are also the years when stay­ing at home or pay­ing for child care is most un­af­ford­able for many low- and mid­dlein­come par­ents.

We be­lieve that cur­rent child tax credit pro­pos­als un­der dis­cus­sion do not go far enough to sup­port th­ese fam­i­lies, and we urge a re­fund­able Young Child Tax Credit that adds $1,500 to the ex­ist­ing $1,000 child tax credit (to pro­vide a to­tal credit of $2,500) for chil­dren through the age of 5 to

If one of the tests of sound re­form is putting our na­tion on a stronger foot­ing to meet the chal­lenges of the fu­ture, a mod­est shift in fa­vor of fam­i­lies with young chil­dren is not only worth the cost, it’s smart.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.