Skip to content
Opinion
The Editors

The Working Poor Get Their 15 Minutes

Your move, Republicans. That was essentially President Barack Obama's message today with his proposal to expand the earned income tax credit.
President Barack Obama's gauntlet on raising the earned income tax credit. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
President Barack Obama's gauntlet on raising the earned income tax credit. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Your move, Republicans. That was essentially President Barack Obama's message today with his proposal to expand the earned income tax credit, a wage supplement for low-income workers. Conservative economists have long been pushing for an expanded credit, arguing it is a better way of lifting personal income than raising the minimum wage. They are right -- and now congressional Republicans have an opportunity to show they agree.

The EITC has always been that rarest of Washington creatures: a tax policy that consistently draws support from both parties as well as from policy wonks. Its origins lie in a Milton Friedman proposal from the 1960s for a negative income tax to incentivize work. President Gerald Ford signed the first EITC into law; President Ronald Reagan raved about it; Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Obama expanded it; and Representative Paul Ryan's stinging critique of federal poverty programs, released yesterday, offered support for it.