In Avoiding Default, Congress Lays Groundwork for Harming Kids

August 3, 2011

While most
Americans—and many citizens around the world—are breathing a sigh of relief
that the debt-ceiling ‘crisis’ is over, the damage it could cause to U.S.
children is just beginning. Few mainstream economists believe the bill signed
by the President will do anything to jumpstart a sluggish economy or create
jobs. That means a continuing rapid rise in child poverty rates.

And with the
deal’s commitment to cut trillions in federal spending in the coming decade, it
is almost unimaginable that children will be spared cuts in proven health,
education, and social programs that benefit millions. And this is before the
pending 2012 federal budget is adopted, which conservatives want to see sharply
reduced by eliminating billions now aimed at children and families. On top of
all this, scores of states already have recently made budget cuts in the
billions to children’s programs, affecting millions.

Yet poll after poll shows that a large majority of the public opposes these
cuts, and actually wants more investments in kids so that we’re better able to
care for an aging population, compete in a global economy, and fulfill the
moral obligation to leave every generation better off than the one that
preceded it.

But their desire for new investments in their
children has been thwarted, a consequence of two wars, tax cuts, and an elderly
drug program, altogether costing trillions—100% funded with borrowed money.
Combine that with an electoral process awash in billions from special
interests, resulting in a Congress that doesn’t look much like the demographics
of our hugely diverse population, and it becomes easier to see how casually
kids’ needs are elbowed aside.

And now it’s clear that ultra conservatives, using the debt-ceiling ‘crisis',
have outmaneuvered the White House and many of their fellow lawmakers, so
that  already underfunded kids’ programs are now in jeopardy. Programs and
policies that evolved over decades, for good reasons and which have contributed
to America’s greatness, are now in danger of being scuttled in a rush to close
the deficit by cuts alone, without reliance on any new income, e.g. taxing the
richest Americans.

In the months ahead, Every Child Matters will be fighting to hold children’s
programs harmless as lawmakers seek additional trillions in cuts. If evaluated
on their merits alone, children’s programs will be left untouched. But, head to
head against much more powerful interests, the odds of children emerging
winners in the battle of the budget are sharply reduced. This is the time for
the millions of friends of children to step up on their behalf.

Here are things you can do right now in preparation for the battles ahead:

  1. Participate in ECM's nationwide ’Step Up for Kids Day’ on
    October 15 in your state capital. Click here for details.
  2. Click here to tell your member of Congress to oppose cuts in
    children’s services in the 2012 federal budget.
  3. Click here to read Chapter 6—‘Taxes and Government Are Not Four
    Letter Words’--from our earlier book, 'Homeland Insecurity’.
  4. Pass this message along to your friends and family.

More to follow.

Michael Petit
Every Child Matters Education Fund

Michael Petit