To Clinton and Trump: Don’t Overlook the EITC

This week, presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump gave economic policy speeches. Both laid out plans for how to grow and support the middle class. Both mentioned how they would use the tax code to achieve this goal. Both emphasized the need to encourage work and strengthen local economies. But neither talked about the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a policy tool that checks all of these boxes.

That’s a missed opportunity.

The EITC, which enjoys bipartisan support, is touted as one of the nation’s most successful anti-poverty programs and helps millions of low- and middle-income families reach financial stability each year. Studies have also shown that the EITC is linked to better educational and health outcomes for children in families receiving the credit and even to lower crime rates. A number of policymakers on both sides of the aisle, most notably President Obama and House Speaker Paul Ryan, are now seeking to expand the credit for workers not raising children. But Clinton and Trump have remained silent on the issue.

The candidates, especially Trump, are also drawing heat for focusing their proposals primarily on helping middle-income households, while saying little about those living below the poverty line.  Supporting tax credits for working families would be a good place to start. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the EITC and Child Tax Credit (CTC) lifted 10 million Americans out of poverty in 2014 and brought 24 million closer to that goal.

“We aren’t having in our presidential debate right now a serious conversation about the fact that we are the richest democracy in the world, with the most poverty,” noted Matthew Desmond, a professor of Sociology at Harvard University in a piece in The New York Times. “It should be at the very top of the agenda.”

To date, neither candidate has announced specific policy positions on any tax credits for working families. As a senator, Clinton voted in favor of the EITC and has hinted that she would support expansions of the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC). But so far she has not laid out concrete plans for how she would use the tax code to help working families make ends meet. Trump’s tax plan makes no mention of tax credits like the EITC, CDCTC or CTC at all.