As the Trump Administration and Congressional Republicans attempt to portray a tax plan slanted to the top 1 percent as “middle-class” tax relief, it’s worth asking what actual tax relief for American workers would look like. Among the ideas that should be at the top of the list should be expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a policy that provides millions of low-income American workers with up to a few thousand dollars when they file their taxes.
Just over 24 years ago, I was proud to be part of President Clinton’s effort to expand the EITC for families with two or more children. This expansion was a step toward fulfilling his campaign pledge that parents who worked full time should not have to raise their children in poverty. But the 1993 EITC expansion went beyond working parents, including smaller, but important, innovation: For the first time, the tax break would reach so-called “childless workers.”
Since then, improvements to the EITC have made it one of the country’s most successful anti-poverty efforts. In 1997, Clinton designed the new Child Tax Credit (CTC) to further bolster EITC payments, and, later, President Obama further expanded the tax credits, first on a temporary basis and eventually permanently. Due to these expansions, about 10 million people are lifted out of poverty each year by the combination of these two tax credits. A working parent with two children earning $18,000 who might have received less than $1,000 in 1992 now can be eligible for as much as $7,500.