David Harris is the president of Children's Research and Education Institute and an associate of the Columbia Population Research Center.
H. Luke Shaefer is director of Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan, a university-level initiative that seeks to identify and test innovative strategies to address poverty, and is an associate professor at UM's School of Social Work and Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.
Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor
This article appears in the Spring 2017 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . Lately there has been growing interest in a simple and effective policy solution to weaknesses in the social safety net: making the Child Tax Credit (CTC) universal. The credit is also one of the rare social policies that bridges the left and right. In recent months, the case for transforming the CTC into a universal child allowance paid at monthly intervals had been made by both progressive and libertarian scholars. Here’s how the credit works: Families with children get $1,000 back on their taxes for each child. But since eligibility for the Child Tax Credit is tied in part to federal income tax liability and in part to earnings, the CTC leaves out those families that need it the most—those with little or no earnings. The credit is partly refundable, meaning that for households with incomes above $3,000, if the value of the credit exceeds the tax you owe, the government...