The new White House spending framework crosses Senator Manchin’s red line on work-free welfare checks

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) said last month that he opposes eliminating the work requirement for claiming the expanded child tax credit. Explaining his objections to this temporary policy, Manchin said: “There’s no work requirements whatsoever. . . . Don’t you think, if we’re going to help children, that the people should make some effort?” But despite Manchin’s red line, the latest White House “framework” for Democrats’ trillion-dollar spending plan maintains the elimination of that work requirement — forever.

Here’s how the White House framework describes the latest policy:

The Build Back Better framework will provide monthly payments to the parents of nearly 90 percent of American children for 2022 — $300 per month per child under six and $250 per month per child ages 6 to 17. 

That confirms recent media accounts suggesting the new plan would include a straight one-year extension of current law — a budget gimmick designed to minimize the apparent cost of this expensive policy. That extension would continue three policies in place for 2021: (1) an increase in annual credit (from $2,000 to either $3,000 or $3,600 per child depending on age), (2) the payment of that larger benefit in monthly installments, and (3) the suspension of prior work requirements for parents collecting these payments. Before 2021, a parent had to work and earn at least $2,500 per year to be eligible, and payments gradually rose as parents earned more. But Democrats’ March stimulus law eliminated both that work requirement and work incentive, instead providing full benefits this year even to those with no earnings.

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on his Build Back Better infrastructure agenda in Kearny, New Jersey, U.S., October 25, 2021. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

The White House framework continues:

And critically, the framework includes permanent refundability for the Child Tax Credit, meaning that the neediest families will continue to receive the full Child Tax Credit over the long-run.

“Permanent refundability” of the “full Child Tax Credit” are simply code words for eliminating the work requirement — forever.

Tellingly, ensuring the “full credit” is paid even to those who don’t work or pay taxes is literally the only part of this policy made permanent. That reveals the Democrats’ true priority: converting the current pro-work child tax credit into a new welfare benefit completely unconnected to work. This year’s changes — which now pay monthly federal benefit checks to 65 million children in 39 million households — have already turned the Internal Revenue Service into America’s largest welfare-paying agency. Should Congress make “full refundability” permanent, benefits will perpetually flow to parents who don’t work. Included will be even those “unwilling to work,” as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) described them while calling for similar benefits under her work-free Green New Deal.

Senator Manchin is on solid ground when he expects parents to work. It is well documented that work plays a crucial role in the well-being of adults and families. Work brings structure, physical and mental activity, social interaction, and purpose — all of which vastly improve overall health, productivity, and financial security. Work also strengthens communities and prevents the sort of devastation witnessed in West Virginia and elsewhere when drugs and despair take hold instead of productive labor.

Polls regularly demonstrate that the American people overwhelmingly support Senator Manchin’s call for expecting adults to work in exchange for key benefits. A recent focus group showed real people recognize the downsides of removing the work requirement; as one of the participants, 24-year-old Shifa, said: “The child tax credit specifically is just going to promote more people to stay at home and not go to work, because they’re getting this free money handed to them.” Another poll found that only 28 percent of voters said they preferred the expanded child tax credit to be made permanent and go to all families, regardless of whether they work to earn money.

The current logjam over the Democrats’ massive spending plans has been caused by their attempt to create or expand multiple federal entitlement programs on a partisan basis despite razor-thin majorities in the House and Senate. President Biden has admitted that, given the Senate’s 50-50 split, each senator “is a president. Every single one. So you got to work things out.” As the legislative process continues to play out, Senator Manchin should insist on his red line of restoring the work requirement for this key benefit. To do any less would accept permanently converting this longstanding work support into work-free welfare checks, which he rightfully said he opposes.

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