Local snail-person and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio surfaced yesterday and briefly set Washington, D.C., ablaze by saying he wouldn't vote for the much-maligned Republican tax-cut package unless it did more for working families.
Virtually no sane person believed that Rubio, a master political schemer who never makes a decision without knowing in advance how it will benefit him, would actually wind up voting no. And today he got his wish in the form of a modest increase in the so-called Child Tax-Credit program, which gives money back to parents based on how many kids they have.
Around 2 p.m today, Rubio went back to being a yes on the bill, which gives America's richest people billions of dollars in tax cuts while raising levies on low and middle earners. But while Rubio will spend today trumpeting all the hard work he put into "fighting for the working class," the actual details of the increase Rubio pushed for are less than jaw-dropping.
If you're a married couple with two kids making $100,000 per year, you're entitled to a whole $2,000 credit. That's certainly better than zero dollars, but it's also squat compared to the utter economic devastation the nation's low and middle earners have endured since the Great Recession. A $2,000 credit will not offset structural inequality.
But perhaps more important, if you're a married couple or, worse yet, a single parent making poverty-level wages, Rubio's big win will do basically nothing for you. According to recent analyses by researchers at the nonpartisan Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), married couples making roughly $25,000 per year with two kids receive a total of $200 back in tax credits thanks to the provision.
Single parents making $14,000 per year get a total of $75 back in credits. Thanks, Marco! That won't even score those kids two pairs of Vans sneakers. They'll have to pass around the shoes when they want to go to Dairy Queen.
According to the CBPP, there are 10 million children with parents in situations like this. State-level figures show there are 586,000 Florida children who won't see much more benefit than one extra meal at Olive Garden per year. That's 17 percent of all children in Florida working families.
Just to be clear about where it appears we ended up after this big fight over the Child Tax Credit -- that $75 for the minimum-wage worker at the top of the chart didn't go up a penny pic.twitter.com/9NZI76mHsV— Jacob Leibenluft (@jleibenluft) December 15, 2017
Here's an interactive map of the 10 million low-income kids who get only a token $75 Child Tax Credit increase (or less) from the final bill -- nothing more than they got under the Senate version https://t.co/1BiV7iPh5x pic.twitter.com/XKpTB8AAgB— Jacob Leibenluft (@jleibenluft) December 15, 2017
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Rubio's tweets just now entirely consistent with this. Single full-time min-wage worker gets $75 -- same as Senate bill. Altogether 10 million kids in low-income families get $75 or less. Last-minute change did nothing more for them. https://t.co/Hew07KVUYC— Chye-Ching Huang (@dashching) December 15, 2017
According to Vox, which just made the same point about the tax provision we're making, the original Senate tax bill placed a $1,100-per-child cap on the refund a family could receive through the Child Tax Credit program. After Rubio's caterwauling, it looks like that cap is getting bumped up a whole $300, to $1,400.
The big issue here is that, as written, the bill also includes an earnings threshold that prevents the poor from receiving the full benefits of the program. Rubio wanted that threshold removed, but barring any major changes, it appears he didn't get what he asked for.
Oh well — he's voting to transfer billions of dollars in wealth from the poor to the rich anyway. Like we always knew he would.