President’s Budget Lays Out Inclusive Vision for the Future

Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP)
Alan W. Houseman
February 17, 2012

In recent months, multiple studies have revealed economic mobility is unlikely for most people in the United States. Poor children are less likely than their peers in other nations to move from poverty into the middle class. Further, economic inequality has risen and median household income has declined, while the job market and economy have gone through structural changes that make it more difficult for workers without postsecondary education and training to access jobs that pay family-sustaining wages. Unemployment, despite recent declines, remains persistently high.

These are the realities that ordinary Americans face every day, and it is in this broader context that our nation's lawmakers should approach public policy.

On Monday, President Obama released his FY 2013 budget proposal, a blueprint that lays out not only his spending priorities, but also his vision for the country. Although the proposal includes a plan for long-term deficit reduction, it makes short-term investments in child care and early education programs, workforce development, and postsecondary education and training. In addition, the president calls for a fairer tax code by raising taxes for the wealthiest, eliminating corporate tax loopholes, and permanently expanding tax credits for working poor and middle class families.

The president's budget follows the template created by the Budget Control Act, which called for significant cuts in domestic discretionary spending over the next decade. Within this constraint, the president's FY 2013 budget proposal sets the right tone for our nation's future.

The budget invests in the nation's youngest children by proposing modest increases for child care and early education programs such as the Child Care and Development Block Grant and Head Start and Early Head Start. It proposes additional funding for a Race to the Top competition that would include early education and K-12. It provides money for Promise Neighborhoods, an initiative that takes a comprehensive approach to improving child and family well-being by creating a system of services and support for families in communities. It also invests in some of the most vulnerable children by providing funding to states to provide critical treatment services to children in foster care that they often do not receive under current law.

The budget recognizes that low-skill, low-income workers are an essential part of the workforce and must have the opportunity to access jobs and participate in the economic recovery. It invests in these workers by calling for a $12.5 billion Pathways Back to Work Fund, which includes money for subsidized employment and job training as well as year-round and summer jobs for youth.  The budget further invests in workers by providing funding for a Workforce Innovation Fund, which provides competitive grants to test innovative workforce strategies. At the same time, the budget recognizes the unique challenges facing disconnected youth, and it invests money to strengthen federal agencies that serve youth.

The budget proposal also includes funds for a community college initiative to help workers persist and complete postsecondary programs that lead to employment opportunities by providing a range of support services. Further,the budget fully funds the Pell Grant program through the 2014-2015 academic year and preserves access to aid for all currently eligible students. The president also proposes two initiatives (the Race to the Top: College Affordability and Completion Initiative and the First in the World competition for institutions) to promote affordable and quality higher education.

The budget, however, is not perfect. It reduces some programs that provide services and supports for low-income families, including the Community Services Block Grant and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). It flat funds Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and reduces funds for dislocated worker programs.

Given the difficult political and economic environment, the president's budget sets the right tone and lays out a vision for restoring prosperity and creating broader opportunity.

America prides itself on being a land of opportunity. But that ideal is increasingly harder to attain for many families. As Congress proceeds with the FY 2013 budget process they, too, should demonstrate the knowledge that to advance our nation's collective ideals, we need a balanced approach to reducing the deficit that must include restoring fairness to the tax code and we also need sound policies that provide opportunity for families to access the education, training and other resources they need to thrive.

See CLASP responses to the president's FY 2013 budget by issue:

President's Budget Includes Subsidized Employment and Job Training Opportunities >>

President Proposes to Restore Legal Aid Funding, But More Is Needed >>

President's Budget Includes Promising News for Early Childhood >>

President's Proposal Demonstrates Commitment to Disconnected Youth, but Doesn't Go Far Enough >>

Education and Training Are Top Priorities in President Obama's 2013 Budget >>

President Proposes New Investments in America's Workforce >>

This was originally published by CLASP. It is reprinted here with permission.

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