Romney’s Family Safety Act is simple in design. It provides an annual cash payment totaling $ 4,200 for households with children up to age 5 and $ 3,000 for those with children ages 6 to 17. It amounts to $ 15,000 per year. Biden has a larger plan that shares an important goal with Romney: to raise money directly to households with children. They do it a little differently, with Biden proposing in his American Families Plan to extend a stronger child tax credit until 2025. The benefit is worth $ 3,600 per year for households with children under 6; and $ 3,000 for older children up to the age of 17. Neither plan requires parents to work to receive the money.
A strange thing happened when Romney put forward his proposal: Almost everyone liked it (with a few notable exceptions, which we’ll get to in a moment). The Liberals, Conservatives and academics all praised him. Matt Bruenig, president of the People’s Policy Project, a progressive think tank, called it an improvement over Biden’s plan. Kathryn Edwards, an economist for the Rand Corporation which specializes in women’s labor issues, told me Romney and White House plans “would do more for child poverty and basic needs. families than probably anything in the last 20 years. “
No one can deny the need. Compared to other wealthy countries, US aid to families is meager. A UNICEF study published in 2019 examined the extent to which dozens of wealthy countries, including the United States, offered “family-friendly” policies. Sweden, Norway and Iceland topped the list, while the United States was the only one without a national paid parental leave program. Halfway through Barack Obama’s presidency, one of his former economic advisers, Jared Bernstein, studied how the fiscal and social policies of 20 rich countries had reduced poverty by the mid-2000s. every government policy has gone through the system, the US poverty rate ranked highest at 17 percent; Sweden and Denmark rank at the lowest, at 5 percent. (Bernstein is now a member of Biden’s Council of Economic Advisers). European countries “have much lower child poverty rates than the United States,” Mark Rank, professor of welfare at Washington University in St. Louis, told me. “One of the main reasons is that they have these programs. For the United States, considering this is pretty drastic. It really goes against the way we often try to fight poverty. “
And that may explain a harsh reality about Romney’s plan: He’s not going anywhere. He has virtually no chance of getting the 60 votes required by Senate rules. The White House now seems to be suspicious of it. More than three months after Klain’s encouraging tweet, little action has taken place, bipartisan or otherwise. Romney told me he had a brief conversation about the proposal with Steve Ricchetti, the White House adviser. “They have other priorities right now, apparently,” Romney said. “But hopefully it gets to the top, and we’ll have a chance to sit down and see if we can find something together.”