Right-wing media are attacking President Joe Biden’s child tax credit program, which aims to drastically reduce childhood poverty and act as a life raft to families as financial difficulties caused by the pandemic persist. In spite of the program’s popularity and widespread benefits, coverage by conservative media aims to undermine its utility and exaggerate its perceived social and economic detriments.
Dominant right-wing media narratives include asserting that the tax credits will worsen the ongoing labor shortage by providing Americans “another reason not to go back to work”; claiming the credits have the potential to destabilize the economy, boost inflation, and spread socialism; and implying the credits are anti-American and linking them to discussions of “critical race theory” — one of the right’s current most popular cultural boogeymen.
As part of the Biden administration's American Rescue Plan, the IRS recently began distributing monthly child tax credits to an estimated 39 million households, reaching 88% of children in the United States. Starting July 15, families are receiving up to $300 for each child 17 and younger. This policy aims to cut childhood poverty in half through family payments averaging $423. According to Columbia University’s Center on Poverty and Social Policy, the child tax credits carry the potential to lift 5 million children out of poverty.
Amid the financial precariousness unleashed by the pandemic and compounding economic pressures, the distribution of child tax credits offers families assistance in funding daily necessities or investing in children’s futures. These payments are scheduled to continue until December 2021 and are predicted to stimulate retailers as soon as this month. This program has drawn widespread approval, with 65% of voters across party lines having said in the spring that they would support increasing the existing child tax credit.
While these payments strive to provide economic stability as COVID-19 looms over the country, right-wing media have been vilifying the program by pushing unfounded narratives about parents taking advantage of government assistance programs, claiming the policy will contribute to labor shortages, and suggesting the spending will aggravate inflation. They also frequently fearmongered that the program was a backdoor to establish universal basic income (UBI), furthering the narrative that socialism is taking over the country:
- Former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany made an appearance on Fox News’ Outnumbered to claim child tax credits provide parents with “another reason not to go back to work.” McEnany went on to say providing “excessive welfare without work requirements” veers toward “really dangerous territory” and that the child tax credit will worsen the ongoing “jobs crisis and inflation crisis in this country.”
- Former Trump official Stephen Miller made a guest appearance on Fox News Primetime, saying that the child tax credit doesn’t “incentivize” marriage, linking it to critical race theory, and claiming both are designed to destroy the nuclear family. Host Pete Hegseth affirmed and added to Miller’s point, saying the tax credit aims to “replace that nuclear family and that provider and that income with government. Government is your new daddy, your new mommy now.”
- On his radio show, Fox host Sean Hannity attacked child tax credits as “handouts for couples.”
- Fox anchor Martha MacCallum said that “the free money could come at a cost as small businesses worry that the subsidy from Uncle Sam will make the worker shortage worse and it’s already pretty bad.” Fox Business correspondent Hillary Vaughn added that the policies could “be an incentive for some parents to stay out of the labor market and stay home.”
- On Fox News' America’s Newsroom, Fox Business anchor Cheryl Casone said: “The big question mark is do people really need this money? And there’s a lot of arguments on the financial side to say no. But just take a look at the labor shortage. You can't get people to come back to work because they are getting the extra unemployment benefits of $300 a month. So now to say that you want to make these credits to help struggling families permanent makes no sense when there are plenty of jobs.”
- Also on America’s Newsroom, former Trump economic adviser Stephen Moore claimed that unemployed parents can earn up to $100,000 “for not working a single hour” through assistance programs like tax credits, food stamps, and rental assistance. Moore went on to say that the government is “basically subsidizing people to stay unemployed” and making it difficult “to get people off the couch, back into the jobs where we need them.”
- Fox Business host Larry Kudlow, former director of the National Economic Council during the Trump administration, appeared on Fox News' The Story and said the “the economy is doing fine,” adding that Democrats "don't have to do all of this shenanigans. It's not necessary. This is woke economics.”
- On America Reports, Fox anchor Sandra Smith said: “Tomorrow we will see the IRS send out the first batch of those child tax credits. ... How do we pay for all of this? We’re already seeing some of the unintended consequences of this massive spending.”
- The Wall Street Journal’s Gerard Baker appeared on The Story with Martha MacCallum and accused the Biden administration of adding “fuel to the fire” of rising inflation rates with “huge amounts of additional government spending … on Medicare, on child care, on child tax credits.”
- Right-wing commentator Trish Regan tweeted: “More HANDOUTS on the way...courtesy of Uncle Joe! This won't end well...it's money we simply don't have. Not that anyone in Washington knows how to do math… When Will Biden’s First Child Tax Credit Checks Be Sent? Do You Qualify?”
- Appearing on the Fox News Radio program Fox Across America with Jimmy Failla, Fox News contributor Brian Brenberg claimed the tax credits are “the beginning of universal basic income in this country” and warned that “we ought to think about that, given what’s happened with all the free cash this year in labor markets, what it’s done to prices.”
- On America’s Newsroom, Fox News host Steve Hilton claimed that the child tax credit is turning America “into a welfare society,” calling the policy “the kind of thing you see in Europe.” Hilton went on to call the tax credit “fundamentally illegitimate” and “way beyond the kind of centrism and return to normalcy that Biden promised.”
- On the July 15 edition of Fox News Primetime, host Pete Hegseth said: “Well, today the Biden White House unveiled, championed, their expanded child tax credit payments, as they continue every day to inch closer to socialism. Now, I've previously been a supporter of modest child tax credits, especially for needy kids. But, this is something entirely different. This massive expansion is a step towards universal basic income. Let's call this ‘UBI,’ universal baby income. It turns out what was once an annual one-time annual payment, a refund on your taxes, has now been turned into a monthly check from Uncle Sam the Democrats hope to make permanent.”
- Writing for Breitbart, Wendell Husebø listed “increasing subsidies for child tax credits” as among the the policies in Biden’s “trojan horse infrastructure package” that he said fits the definition for “socialism.”
- For the National Review, Daniel J. Pilla called the tax credits “welfare administered by the IRS” and claimed they “will morph into a system of fixed monthly cash benefits paid by the federal government to tens of millions of American families” and lead to universal basic income.