Inquirer Editorial: Tax cut shouldn't harm low-income families

From left, Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, Rep. David Camp, R-Mich., Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., and Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., face other conferees on the payroll tax cut extension as they meet on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
From left, Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, Rep. David Camp, R-Mich., Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., and Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., face other conferees on the payroll tax cut extension as they meet on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) (AP)
Posted: February 07, 2012

To cover a small part of the estimated $150 billion payroll-tax-cut extension, congressional negotiators are considering an offensive idea: taking a $1,800 tax credit away from undocumented immigrants who earn poverty wages.

Supporters argue that cutting the child tax credit for these families could save $2.5 billion a year or more. But it could force poor working families to cut back on essentials, like food.

In Pennsylvania, about 15,600 families could lose the credit, which was designed to help families on the edge from falling off. In New Jersey, 76,660 could be affected.

The scheme to cut the credit, already passed in the House, would single out undocumented workers who don't qualify for a Social Security number but instead use an income-tax identification number on their federal tax returns. The child tax credit they receive is based on their income. Advocates for these workers note that this group paid $9 billion in Social Security and Medicare taxes in 2010.

Some members of Congress may think they can actually make this change because the hardworking, low-wage earners involved are undocumented immigrants, the handy scapegoats for a myriad of social ills. However, often their children or spouses are American citizens.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Asian Pacific American Caucus are asking payroll tax negotiators to put this idea on the scrap heap. They say cutting the child tax credit would harm two million families nationwide.

The idea of taking money away from vulnerable families comes from a Congress that has yet to seriously consider eliminating corporate-jet deductions, tax breaks for oil companies, and raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, many of whom pay a smaller percentage of their incomes in taxes than middle-class families.

No one wants to see the federal deficit continue to grow or taxes go up, but taking money away from people who are barely making ends meet is a mean-spirited way to close the gap. Congressional negotiators must find a responsible alternative.

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