Mike Shields, DCNF
This year, Republicans have a chance to win over suburban moms — a key demographic for electoral success — with just one policy.
With inflation soaring to 40-year highs thanks to their economic mismanagement, Democrats have once again tried to win over parents with “universal” proposals that supposedly ease the rising cost of living. But in chasing endless bureaucracy, they’ve abandoned a program that worked — the monthly Child Tax Credit (CTC). Republicans have an opening here.
The Republican Party has historically held a stronghold as the party of “family values,” though communicating those values to suburban women has sometimes been a challenge. As far as messaging to voters is concerned, the monthly CTC is a slam dunk.
Passed in 1997 under Speaker Newt Gingrich as part of his Contract with America, the CTC was founded on conservative principles. By offering a tax refund to families depending on their size and income level, the CTC gives parents the freedom to spend more on the unique needs of their family.
It’s more flexible, and therefore more helpful, than “universal” child care could ever be while helping Americans cover the rising costs of living that have been neglected by the Biden administration.
Firstly, in both cost and accessibility of child care, the Child Tax Credit checks both boxes while universal child care misses the bar on both. If you’ve listened to President Joe Biden, you might assume he was working to create a new universal child care program that would provide “free” access to families. It is neither free nor accessible to many families.
If universal child care were passed, state legislatures would need to pass their own laws to even access the federal subsidies. They’d have to set up new agencies to manage the plans and raise taxes to pay for a portion of the program — ultimately taking on the entire cost of maintaining the program as the spigot of federal funding is eventually turned off.
Access to that “free” child care is another issue altogether. In rural states like Montana, child care centers can’t support even half the demand for it. Universal child care often focuses myopically on the need to prop up professional child care providers, but in rural areas there aren’t even enough providers to be subsidized. In rural areas, universal child care is destined to fail in providing access.
Alternatively, the CTC gives parents the freedom to access professional child care or to choose parental care without losing out on federal support or going through piles of paperwork to get it. It also prioritizes parental choice, with surveys showing parents prefer parental care over professional care for younger children.
Second, if the GOP wants to win back Congress in the midterms, they need to take a stand for American families fighting a rising cost of living that began its most dramatic climb under the Biden administration. A Republican Child Tax Credit can help in the most straightforward way: giving their money back.
A Moody’s Analytics report found that inflation is costing the average U.S. household an additional $296 each month. A conservative version of the Child Tax Credit could remain monthly as it is right now, covering the cost of inflation on family budgets and demonstrating how Republicans will be able to get things done for them if given a majority in Congress in 2023.
Supporting each individual family with the CTC can look completely different. For example, cash can pay for car repairs that enable a parent to commute to work. It can cover specialized care for a child with a disability. If a large family has alternative child care options, like tasking an older sister with babysitting, the CTC lets that family keep more of their money for other needs.
The impact of inflation is a stain on the resume of this Democrat-controlled Congress, which spent its majority advancing programs that cost too much to implement and are impossible for every family to access. It’s understandable why Democrats lean towards universal programs, but they can’t succeed for everyone in the real world.
The CTC could have been an easy win for Democrats. Its flexible and efficient support for American families that meet parents where they’re at. It’s a deal for the taxpayer, creating $8 in cost savings for every dollar spent on reducing child poverty. Parents don’t even have to know they are eligible and receiving the credit in order to benefit from it. Now, it’s an opportunity that Republicans should seize ahead of the midterm elections.
Family values will always be a winnable issue for Republicans. Polling reveals that Americans still have more faith in the Republican Party to keep America prosperous. We should prioritize policies that strengthen America from within our families first. When Democrats inevitably campaign on more bureaucracy in 2022, the GOP should look to the monthly CTC as an alternative that actually works.
Mike Shields is the founder of Convergence Media and was formerly chief of staff for the Republican National Committee.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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