Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Child tax credits: Just do it

But don't call it a tax cut

A rare spat between Republicans in Washington is coming to a head this week. No one knows yet who will back down, but in the balance hangs much-needed economic relief to the nation's working poor.

At issue is a gap in the President's "Jobs and Growth" bill, signed in May, which left nearly 6.5 million of America's poorest citizens out of the round of tax cuts.

The Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill that would make amends. The legislation would extend the $400-per-child rebate to those who earn minimum wage or less. The bill's supporters know that giving money back to most of America, but not giving any to the working poor - which includes many Armed Forces enlisted personnel - is a bad idea, both morally and politically.

Leaders of the House disagree. They argue that those who don't make enough to pay taxes don't deserve a "tax break." The house did pass a bill authorizing the payments to the poor, but tacked on $72 billion in additional breaks for those in higher income brackets - a move unlikely to be acceptable in the Senate.

The bills go to a conference committee this week.

This disagreement is one of semantics. The $400 rebates aren't really "tax" credits, so let's stop calling them that. The Senate, led by Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, has the right attitude about the payments: Just do it. They quickly put together a bill that helps the working poor and solves a hot political controversy for $10 billion, a fraction of the overall cost of the original $350 billion legislation.

President Bush supports the Senate's version. The House leaders should buck up and agree to it. Once they do, millions of Americans will be better off.

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