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Child poverty is a choice Judd Legum



In 2022, the child poverty rate spiked to 12.4%, a dramatic increase of 7.2 percentage points from the previous year, according to data released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau. The increase in child poverty resulted in 5.28 million additional children living in poverty. 

The implications for each of these children are massive. Children who experience poverty endure immediate hardships, including “food insecurity and hunger, inadequate clothing or diapers, lack of health care, living in overcrowded or substandard housing, or being homeless.” 

The long-term consequences of child poverty are severe. As Indivar Dutta-Gupta, President of the Center for Law and Social Policy, explained during Congressional testimony in July, “poverty also harms children by imposing high levels of stress on their parents, which impairs their capacity to give their children the care and attention any child needs to thrive.” As a result, children who experience poverty at any time are “far more likely than their peers to fail to finish high school, become parents as teens, and experience poverty as adults.”

The massive increase in child poverty last year was a completely predictable and avoidable tragedy. Powerful people inside and outside the federal government chose to let this happen because they had other priorities. 

In 2021, the child poverty rate fell to 5.2%, a record low. The key to this reduction was tax policy. As part of the national response to the pandemic, the federal government expanded the child tax credit (CTC). The CTC was increased from $2,000 per child to $3,600 for each child five or younger and $3,000 for each child six through 17. (The credit phased out for couples making $150,000 or more and individuals making $75,000 or more.) Further, from July to December 2021, credits were sent to eligible families as a monthly benefit instead of forcing families to wait for a tax refund. Finally, the CTC was made fully refundable regardless of income. Previously, millions of families were denied some or all of the tax credit because they made too little money. 

The expansion was scheduled to expire at the end of 2021. The Biden administration initially proposed extending the expanded CTC for four years. The cost of the expanded CTC is about $100 billion per year. Could America afford to extend the tax credit indefinitely to help millions of children?

It’s a matter of priorities. In 2021, when Biden took office, the Pentagon budget was $740 billion. In July, the House of Representatives approved a $886 billion Pentagon budget. (These numbers exclude military aid to Ukraine.) So, in two years, the leaders of the country increased the Pentagon budget by $146 billion. And, since the Pentagon budget is never reduced, this $146 billion will be spent annually, in perpetuity. Next year, the Pentagon budget will surely exceed $886 billion. 

None of this military buildup increase was offset by spending reductions or tax increases. The money has simply been added to the deficit. The Biden administration had numerous proposals to pay for an extension of the expanded CTC, including a modest increase in the corporate tax rate, the elimination of a tax loophole for private equity managers, and a surtax on billionaires. 

But wealthy and powerful people either opposed those measures or opposed, on principle, adjusting tax policy to benefit poor families. So, they used their influence to defeat proposals to extend the expanded CTC. As a result, millions of children are living in poverty. 

Corporations sunk the expanded child tax credit

In 2021, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – a group that represents nearly every major corporation in the United States – spent millions of dollars lobbying against the expanded CTC  extension, which at the time was included as a provision in Biden’s reconciliation bill. The group claimed to have concerns about “large amounts of transfer payments that are not connected to work” and suggested that the CTC “will dampen participation” in the workforce. Similarly, the Business Roundtable, which represents many of the nation’s top CEOs, also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to defeat Biden’s bill.

Corporate lobbyists were even more concerned with proposals that would have required companies to pay a more equitable share of taxes to offset the cost of the expanded CTC. As a result of former President Donald Trump’s 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), many of the largest companies in the country paid little to no taxes for several years, despite raking in record profits. In 2021, AT&T, for example, made $29.6 billion but paid no federal income taxes. Charter Communications also made $6 billion in 2021, yet paid nothing in federal income taxes. And AIG (a company that was bailed out by the government during the 2008 financial crisis by more than $182 billion) made $9.8 billion and paid nothing in federal income taxes. 

Biden’s proposal, which would have extended the expanded CTC, would have reversed these deep corporate tax cuts by a modest amount. Major corporations prioritized maintaining the lowest possible tax rate over the well-being of impoverished children. 

Manchin opposed child tax credit extension, claiming parents would use the money to buy drugs

One of the Biden administration’s most prominent proposals to expand the CTC was in Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, which included expanding the CTC for one year. This proposal was blocked, in part, by Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV). In December 2021, just weeks before the CTC was set to expire, Manchin announced that he would not be voting for the Build Back Better Act, even after Democrats “shaped much of the current version of the bill around” his demands. With Democrats holding 50 seats in the Senate, Manchin joined a unified Republican Party to sink the bill.

Manchin released a statement stating that he opposed Build Back Better “largely because of its cost,” stating that his “colleagues in Washington are determined to dramatically reshape our society in a way that leaves our country even more vulnerable to the threats we face.” Publicly, Manchin stated that “he has always supported the child tax credit” and opposed Build Back Better for other reasons. But, according to HuffPost, Manchin privately “told his colleagues that he essentially doesn’t trust low-income people to spend government money wisely.” Manchin “told several of his fellow Democrats that he thought parents would waste monthly child tax credit payments on drugs instead of providing for their children.” 

There is no evidence that CTC payments were being used by parents to purchase drugs. US Census Household Pulse data found that, between July 21 and August 16, 2021, the payments were spent “on basic household needs and children’s essentials.” The data found that food was “the most common item” purchased using CTC money, with “half of all families in the US using their Child Tax Credit payment” for food. Food also “top[ped] the list in every state” except Mississippi, “where school essentials and food are essentially tied for number one.” Other top expenses paid for by the CTC payments included “essential bills,” “children’s clothing,” “[r]ent/mortgage,” and “school and child care.”


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Disenchanted with Democrats: The Black Voters Going for Trump Bari Weiss




For the past few decades, it’s been conventional wisdom in D.C. that “demographics are destiny.” That the increased share of immigrants, young people, and racial minorities across the country would build a bulletproof coalition for the Democratic Party, swelling their ranks and keeping them in power forever.

Those who deviated from this expectation could expect to be called sellouts, race traitors, and Uncle Toms. Recall Joe Biden’s infamous interview with radio host Charlamagne tha God, when he said: “If you have a problem figuring out if you’re for me or for Trump, then you ain’t black.”

But in the past year, Donald Trump has been winning over more minority voters than any Republican in decades. Recent polls have consistently shown that Trump has reached a shocking 20 percent support among black voters. That’s compared to the 8 percent he got in 2016. And Biden’s polling with black voters has dropped dramatically.

This is a monumental, and to many, unexpected turn. And it was noticeable at the RNC. When Michael Moynihan went to the 2016 Republican Convention in Cleveland, the audience was more monochromatic. While certainly not as racially diverse as the Democratic coalition, the convention in Milwaukee felt younger and less white.

Monday night, Amber Rose opened the proceedings. Tuesday night, Madeline Brame, the mother of a murdered veteran, gave a thunderous speech explaining why she’s supporting Trump. She said: “Our eyes have been opened, just like so many other poor minorities across America. Donald Trump shares our values, love of God and family and country. He’s been a victim of the same corrupt system that I have been and my family has been.”

What’s behind this shift? Why do Biden and the Democratic Party seem to be losing their edge with black voters? And could this end up making a real difference for the 2024 election?

Last night, Michael Moynihan went to an event at the RNC put on by the Black Conservative Federation to ask them why they think that MAGA conservatism is appealing to black voters.

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Abigail Shrier: California’s New Law Lets Schools Keep Secrets from Parents Abigail Shrier




Protests at a Chino Valley Board of Education meeting on gender policy on July 20, 2023, in Chino, California. (Photo by David McNew via Getty Images)

Child predators follow a common playbook: target the victim, gain their trust, fill a need, and, crucially, isolate the child from her parents. For several years, this has also been standard California state protocol with regard to schoolchildren questioning their gender identities. On Monday, this scheme became law.

The “SAFETY Act,” AB 1955, signed by California Democratic governor Gavin Newsom, legally forbids schools from adopting any policy that would force them to disclose “any information related to a pupil’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression to any other person without the pupil’s consent.” Schools may not, as a matter of policy, inform parents of a child’s new gender identity unless the child volunteers her approval. The law also prohibits schools from punishing any school employee found to have “supported a pupil” hurtling down a path toward risky and irreversible hormones and surgeries.

The law effectively shuts down the local parents’ rights movement in California by eliminating its most important tool: the ability to organize at the community level to stop schools from deceiving them. No longer can families hope to convince their school boards to require schools to notify parents that their daughter, Sophie, has been going by “Sebastian” in class; that her teacher, school counselor, and principal have all been celebrating Sebastian’s transgender identity; that they’ve been letting her use the boys’ bathroom and reifying the sense that she is “really a boy.” 

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the law supports the priming of minor children for a secret life with a new gender identity. This includes having school-aged children participate in sexualized discussions and make identity declarations with school faculty, which are often actively hidden from the child’s parents. Elon Musk called the law “the final straw” for families and announced his intention to move both SpaceX and X, two of California’s most prominent tech companies, out of the state as a result. “The goal [of] this diabolical law,” he tweeted, “is to break the parent-child relationship and put the state in charge of your children.”

While researching my book, Irreversible Damage, and in the four years since its publication, I have talked to hundreds of parents whose daughters suddenly identified as transgender. Many of their daughters were encouraged in this revelation by school counselors and teachers in school districts across America. One parent told me a California school counselor had given her son the address of an LGBTQ youth shelter and suggested he emancipate himself from parents who were loving but skeptical of his sudden transgender identity. Another recent California law, AB 665, would have made reclaiming that young man from the youth center all but impossible because he was over the age of twelve.

In California, instruction in sexual orientation and gender identity has been mandatory for all public school students K–12 since the passage of the Healthy Youth Act in 2016. Because such instruction typically occurs within the required “anti-bullying curriculum” rather than the sex education curriculum, parents cannot elect that their children opt out of what is, in practice, a full-bore indoctrination into gender ideology. 

When a child then predictably decides in class that she too may be nonbinary or transgender, this revelation will often trigger schools’ gender support plan, effectively a school-wide conspiracy to promote the child’s new name and gender identity without tipping off Mom and Dad. Official documents and emails and report cards are sent to parents to preserve the child’s birth name and pronouns, concealing the social transition from parents. 

I have talked to parents who discovered their middle-school daughters had spent the better part of an entire academic year known to the entire school as “Spencer” or “Ethan.” One of these girls had even roomed with the boys on an overnight school trip.

I have investigated many cases in which social transitions were concealed from families. In no case did the girl flourish with this new identity. Maintaining a new, secret identity more often became a weight and burden to the girls. Inexplicably to the parents, their daughters became morose, dropped activities they once loved, wore baggier clothing, and begged to cut their hair shorter. The parents became desperate and unsure of what to do. The hidden transition resulted in children’s alienation from loving parents trying to protect them. 

But in the years since I first reported on this practice, political opposition has grown. Parents whose daughters were socially transitioned behind their backs have filed lawsuits against the school districts in California and Florida and Michigan. California public school teachers have sued school districts to block policies that could result in their firing if they inform parents that their children’s names and identities have been changed behind their backs. And a recent statewide initiative in California to require parental notification before a school changes a child’s gender identity as well as ban puberty blockers and gender surgeries for minors garnered over 400,000 signatures, falling just short of making it onto the ballot. 

The SAFETY Act would significantly stymie, if not eliminate, this local pushback to the increasingly unpopular practice of schools playing adoptive parents with other people’s children. (Although already, the Chino Valley Unified School District has filed suit against Newsom over this act.) The plain text of the California law claims that it merely prevents schools from adopting policies that “forcibly out” trans kids—as if confused fifth-grade girls are in the same position as closeted gay adults in decades past who risked arrest and firing for being outed. 

The law’s clever sponsors are typically quiet on the subject of “outing” to whom. The entire school already knows that Lily is now “Tyler.” Teachers will cheerfully share that information with each other, school mental health staff, administrators, and other students. The only ones who don’t get to know are the parents.

A favorite talking point of activists on the left is that with regard to sexual orientation and gender identity, schools must keep secrets with young children to protect them from transphobic and homophobic parents. Even in the most progressive of states, the claim that parents who discover that their child is transgender might abuse or kick her out is used to justify a policy that would otherwise be difficult to understand and impossible to justify.

Aurora Regino is a single mother in California who last year sued the Chico Unified School District for secretly pushing social transition on her then–11-year-old daughter. Regino told me that the “phobia” rationale seemed “ridiculous.” She added, “How is it not outing a kid if you’re telling an entire school that they’re a different sex? That’s outing right there. So everybody knows except the parents? That doesn’t really make any sense to me.”

Erin Friday, a California attorney and author of bills in several states requiring parental notification for any change in a child’s gender identity at school, vented exasperation at the idea that California parents are so homophobic or transphobic they cannot be trusted. “This is California, for crying out loud.”

Regino agreed. “Both my girls are very active. We do swimming, theater, soccer, softball. We are in connection with I don’t know how many families. And there’s not one family that I can think of that we are around that would kick out their kid because they thought that they were ‘nonbinary’ or trans or gay,” she said. “I mean, to me, that’s an extreme statement that these kids are going to get kicked out. Are we saying one in ten thousand? So we’re going to risk the rest of the children and separate them from their parents during the time that they need them the most?” Her now–13-year-old daughter no longer wants to be a boy.

One might think Newsom would realize that a policy this unpopular for Democrats could easily become a political albatross in an election year. Perhaps realizing this, the governor—who is frequently mentioned as a possible 2024 presidential candidate if Biden drops out—when defending the bill resorts to dissembling. On Wednesday, the governor’s press office declared on X that the bill “protects the child-parent relationship by PREVENTING politicians & school staff from inappropriately intervening in family matters & attempting to control if, when & how families have deeply personal conversations.” The bill only “protects” the parent-child relationship if you assume that relationship depends on the parents’ being entirely ignorant of their child’s growing attachment to this new, secret identity.

Governor Newsom also declared: “Under California law, minors CANNOT legally change their name or gender WITHOUT parental consent.” That’s placing a lot of weight on the word legally. The obscurantist governor is correct only in the most technical sense: yes, a child’s legal name can be changed only on official records with parental approval. But in the world of the SAFETY Act, the parents may be the only ones in a child’s life who use that name. 

In the past few years, moderates across the American political spectrum have awakened to the pernicious effects of gender ideology on children. England, Finland, Norway, and Sweden have, in recent years, warned the public of the risks of pediatric gender medicine, banned the use of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones in children, or restricted their use to research settings. The Cass Review, published this year by one of England’s premier physicians, noted the serious risks and specious benefits of pediatric gender transition. My own investigation, published four years earlier, reached the same conclusions. The Cass Review also acknowledged that social transition is an active intervention that puts many children on an inexorable path to medical transition. 

Recent polling shows that voters across the political spectrum believe that schools should be required to inform parents if their children are using different gender pronouns at school than they are at home.

But California Democrats appear ready to drag their party down with them. Parents’ best hope may be federal legislation mandating parental notification before a school can reassign a child’s name and gender. Candidates for president and vice president ought to be asked whether they would support such a bill.

Until her daughter was socially transitioned behind her back, Regino had been a lifelong progressive Democrat. “Now, I’m a registered Republican,” she said.

Abigail Shrier is the New York Times bestselling author of Bad Therapy: Why the Kids Aren’t Growing Up

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July 17, 2024 Heather Cox Richardson





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