The Corner

Capital Matters

Democrats Are Too Confident Their ‘Child Allowance’ Will Be a Big Hit

The Democrats’ COVID bill will send a lot of money to most parents — $3,600 for each kid under six, plus $3,000 for older kids up to age 17 — for the next year, the plan being to make it permanent in the future. This is controversial not only because it’s big new federal spending, but also because the money goes to parents regardless of whether they’re working. Skeptics say this basically brings back the pre-reform welfare system.

A lot of liberals have convinced themselves this policy will be a huge hit. A CNN poll says it has 85 percent support!

I’m not so sure. CNN asked people if they support “providing larger tax credits for families and making them easier for low-income households to claim,” which, er, doesn’t quite get at why this is controversial.

By contrast, back in 2019 I wrote up a survey that asked people about several different options and was clearer about whether work was required. (It also offered a “neither favor nor oppose” response that was far more common than the “no opinion” answers in the CNN survey.) Two options were reasonably popular, garnering much more support than opposition: A tax credit that goes to all parents who pay income taxes, and a tax credit where parents with lower incomes “get back” relatively more. The former is framed as broad tax relief for parents and was popular across the political spectrum; the latter is framed a little more as welfare and was much more popular with Democrats.

You know what bombed? A child allowance for everyone “whether they pay income taxes or not.” Only about 30 percent of respondents favored this; about 40 percent opposed it.

To be clear, I’m not confident, at all, in any prediction about how this policy will actually land. Maybe people will like the idea more when the checks start coming; maybe this money will blur into all the other cash the government is chucking around in the COVID era; maybe most Americans won’t even figure out that people are getting the money without working. But I think the Left is getting ahead of itself here where public opinion is concerned.

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