By: Editorial Board
Psssst, Mayor de Blasio. Have we got a progressive deal for you. It’s designed to help our young people, who are particularly hard hit by our sputtering economy.
A recent report from a group called Young Invincibles notes that millennials — those aged 18 to 34 — have suffered from double-digit unemployment for almost six years. Those between 16 and 24 “are even worse off,” with their unemployment rate more than twice the national average.
However you measure it, young people, especially African-American and Latino youth, are suffering disproportionately from the lack of jobs. That gives our mayor an opening to push an agenda that is not only truly progressive but may even get bipartisan support.
It’s called the Earned Income Tax Credit. Despite the boring name, it has proved an effective way to give the poor a ladder up without discouraging them from working.
The EITC dates back to the 1970s, and exists at both the federal and state levels. Basically, it help poor families by giving them extra cash through the tax code. The benefit is that it encourages people to work, and doesn’t make them more expensive to hire, unlike increases in the minimum wage.
Russell Sykes is a private consultant on low-income programs and tax policy who was the chief architect of New York’s EITC. He tells us that while the EITC works well for families with children, it does far too little for young, childless workers. To fix this, he says, we need to reduce the eligibility age from 25 to 18 or 21, increase the benefit, and raise the threshhold for what people can earn before they are priced out of the program.
That’s something for America’s young that Republicans and Democrats should agree on — the former because this is more effective than minimum-wage increases, the latter because it puts more money in the hands of those who need it. Surely it’s an area where a mayor who views himself as a national voice for progressivism could lead, urging the president and Congress to act.
How about it, Mr. Mayor?