US Senator Marco Rubio has drawn anger after describing a proposal to expand pandemic child tax credits as “socialism” while pocketing five times the median American wage.
The Florida Republican tweeted an attack advert on Wednesday targeting Val Demings, his Democratic opponent in the 2022 US Senate elections, calling her “too radical for moderates”.
“Government paying $300 per child every month not to work is socialism, and the radical left is just one Senate comrade away from making it the law,” said Mr Rubio.
The message immediately drew derision for its apparent suggestion that children should be working for their pay, with one critic asking: “What’s your favourite job for children?”
Others focused on Mr Rubio’s salary of $174,000 (£126,000) per year, compared to a median wage of $34,248, and his history of spotty attendance at his job.
The 50-year-old Cuban-American has consistently been in the bottom 25 out of 100 senators for percentage of votes missed, according to GovTrack, and in 2015 was the most absent of all with 35 per cent as he unsuccessfully battled Donald Trump for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.
Democrats are seeking to make permanent an expanded child tax credit launched as part of President Biden’s “American rescue plan” in March, which offered up to $3,600 per child under the age of 6.
Mr Rubio backs a greater credit, but wants it to be restricted to parents who are working. He signed a law in 2017 that increased the maximum credit from $1,000 to $2,000 per child, though its full benefits remained unavailable to the poorest families.
However, Mr Rubio himself proposed a work-free $208-per-month child tax credit in 2015, which was more generous to high-income families than the Democrats’ version, while being difficult to claim for the poorest.
Mr Rubio’s proposal gradually phased out the available tax credit for couples jointly earning between $300,000 and $400,000 per year, and for individuals earning between $150,000 and $200,000.
By contrast, the current emergency benefits phase out at $150,000 for married couples and $75,000 for individuals. Mr Rubio’s Senate salary would put him above both thresholds.
The US is a distinct outlier compared to European countries, including the UK, which tend to offer at least some child benefit for low and middle income families.
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