As 36 million families across the U.S. appeared unlikely to receive any further child tax credit payments after the New Year following Sen. Joe Manchin’s refusal to support the Build Back Better Act, progressives on Monday were outraged over reports that the threat to the payments stems from the right-wing senator’s belief that parents might use the money for drugs or other uses he deems unnecessary.
According to HuffPost, before Manchin (D-W.Va.) announced Sunday that he “cannot get there” to support the $1.75 trillion investment in social spending and climate policy, the senator privately told colleagues that “he thought parents would waste monthly child tax credit (CTC) payments on drugs instead of providing for their children.”
The reported comments revealed “an inhuman disdain for regular people,” tweeted progressive news outlet The Tennessee Holler.
Since July, the CTC payments have gone out on a monthly basis to families across the country, offering up to $300 per child for two-parent households earning less than $150,000 per year or single-parent households earning less than $112,000.
The program has been called one of the most ambitious anti-poverty measures passed in the U.S. since President Lyndon Johnson’s administration and has been credited with slashing the childhood poverty rate by 30%.
The monthly disbursement of the credit marked the first time in U.S. history a major tax credit was sent in advanced payments, helping families to cover day-to-day expenses in the second half of 2021 instead of waiting for a lump sum after filing their taxes.
Yet Manchin dismissed the need to continue supporting working families, reportedly shocking several Democratic colleagues by saying “that he essentially doesn’t trust low-income people to spend government money wisely,” according to HuffPost.
Pennsylvania state Rep. Peter Schweyer, a Democrat, said comments like Manchin’s “disgust me.”
“Sen. Joe Manchin—who is a multimillionaire—doesn’t think his poor constituents can be trusted with a little help,” tweeted Schweyer on Monday. “That this tax credit won’t be used for diapers or baby formula, won’t be used for doctors visits or rent—but for drugs.”
According to the Social Policy Institute at Washington University in St. Louis, among Manchin’s constituents in West Virginia who received the CTC, more than half used the payments to buy groceries. Thirty-nine percent said some of the payments went to buying clothing, 38% said they used them to pay essential bills, and more than a quarter reported using the CTC to help with rent or mortgage payments.
The Social Policy Institute, which surveyed people in every state last summer regarding their use of the CTC, found similar results in other states, with about half of recipients nationwide reporting that they mainly used the payments to buy food.
Manchin’s opposition to the Build Back Better Act is poised to leave about 70% of his own constituents without the monthly payments.
Rather than a genuine concern for families’ ability to make sound financial decisions, New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie tweeted Monday, the senator appears “motivated by a moral opposition to ‘dependency’ defined as low-income people getting anything that they don’t directly work for with wage labor.”
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Julia Conley is a Common Dreams staff writer.