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Marian Wright Edelman
Other Words / Op-Ed
Published: Sunday 25 November 2012
“A clear majority of voters agree that the richest Americans need to pay higher taxes.”

Don’t Cut Our Kids Out of the Budget

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Barack Obama won his re-election fight because Americans who are committed to moving forward turned out in record numbers to vote, especially in battleground states.

But we can't go forward unless Congress sits down and makes the hard decisions required to create a just budget that invests in children, and creates jobs for their struggling parents while making sure those who have benefited from huge tax cuts pull their weight.

Exit polls on Election Day made it clear: A clear majority of voters agree that the richest Americans need to pay higher taxes.

Children, the poor, and the middle class cannot afford more devastating cuts and instability as they continue to struggle against hunger, homelessness, joblessness, and loss of summer school and regular school days as a result of this long economic downturn.

To move forward, America's security and prosperity depend on our children's ability to drive the economy of the future. If a majority of our kids can't read and compute at grade level, we won't have a strong economy.

Our leaders face crucial budget decisions. They must craft solutions that will protect the already porous safety nets on which so many children and families rely, and invest in the health, early childhood development, and education of our children.

The fundamental principle of protecting children and other vulnerable populations has been a cornerstone of deficit reduction since the bipartisan Balanced Budget Act of 1985. Every automatic budget cut mechanism of the past quarter century has exempted core low-income assistance programs from any cuts triggered when budget targets or fiscal restraint rules were missed or violated.

The American people still strongly support this principle. Last year, a Gallup poll found that 55 percent of Americans oppose cutting spending on anti-poverty programs. A Public Opinion Strategies poll showed even larger numbers of likely voters oppose cuts to Medicaid (73 percent) or education programs (75 percent).

Cutting children from the budget now will cost us all more in the long run.

On the other hand, economists agree that investing in children promotes economic growth. For example, investments in education that raise high school graduation rates have been shown to yield a public benefit of $209,000 per student in higher government revenues and lower government spending, and an economic benefit to the public purse that is 2.5 times greater than the costs.

Children constitute the poorest age group in the United States. More than 16.1 million children in America live in poverty — more than one in five of all children and more than one in three children of color — so special efforts must be made to address the needs of these most vulnerable among us.

Poor children lag behind their peers in many ways beyond income: they are less healthy, trail in emotional and intellectual development, are less likely to graduate from high school and to find steady work as adults, and are more likely to head poor families. Every year we keep these millions of children in poverty costs our nation at least half a trillion dollars in lost productivity, poorer health, and increased crime.

Rather than imposing strict austerity measures without regard for the human consequences, we must invest now in children to prepare them for the future and help create jobs.

Be careful what you cut. If our children aren't ready for tomorrow, neither is America.

ABOUT Marian Wright Edelman


Marian Wright Edelman is president of the Children's Defense Fund.


Just for the purpose of

Just for the purpose of clarification, there is no longer an entitlement to poverty relief (welfare). Both General Assistance and AFDC were ended by 1996. There is TANF for some of the very poor who have dependent children. TANF provides a small subsidy/Medicaid to bottom-wage (min. wage or less) workfare workers. Workfare provides businesses with the cheapest temp labor in the US.

Bill Clinton succeeded in enacting a range of right-wing domestic and international policies. In fact, Clinton's policies were well to the right of such historic conservative stalwarts as Eisenhower and Nixon. Nevertheless, he still sells well in the media marketed to today's middle class liberals. Consider that much/most of what went into our former poverty relief programs was redistributed upward, leaving so many people destitute and without options. Put all of these things together with the evident flat indifference (with very rare exception) of this generation's middle class liberals toward deep US poverty, and you can see how hopeless the situation is. Today, the discussion is all about, only about, the middle class. It isn't even possible to get a word in edgewise because of the constant focus on the "invisible/silent middle class." So, since we have such disdain for history, we will be reliving it. As conditions continue to worsen, enough people will reach the breaking point. Few things are as dangerous as a mass of people who no longer have anything left to lose, or any consequences to fear. We saw this in the flames of burning cities in the 1960s.

The average college graduate

The average college graduate pays about $5800 more a year in federal taxes than the average high school graduate. Over 30 years, that totals about $172,000. If that's divided by the 4 years it takes to get a college education, the government would break even if it paid every student $42,000 a year to attend school.

This doesn't even consider that with the degree, the person is less likely to ever need unemployment or welfare, that more students would complete high school if they could see a clear way to a really good job, and that they would be enriching the Social Security and Medicare funds. They would also be paying a larger amount in all other types of taxes.

The best investment we could make to keep America strong is to not just forgive all student loans but to make all higher education, as long as the student is making decent grades, totally free, and increase the number of schools and teachers to make room for all who can profit from the education.

We don't, even at this time of high unemployment, have so much a lack of jobs as we have a lack of people who have the skills to perform the jobs that are available- in other words, a lack of education.

Please see the article by Jim

Please see the article by Jim Hightower,

You seem to overlook the facts that as more people obtained high school diplomas, they became commodities, were paid less, and had lower quality jobs. Now that Bachelor's degrees are widespread, the people holding those degrees have themselves become commodities. There are many people with BS/BA, MS, and PhD's that are unemployed in this country and the number is growing. The smart ones are moving out of this country to take jobs.

Another ignored fact is that there are plenty of people with the skills needed for the "jobs" that are going unfilled. These are either fake jobs to begin with, or this is a straw man argument to pay lower and lower wages - hence making the student/worker a commodity.

I like your suggestions about paying for post high school education be it college or something else. I also strongly agree with Ben Franklin that education is the best thing to invest in, be it for ourselves or those in our community. We need to protect against the coming brain drain this country will experience because there are few quality jobs for Americans. In 4 more years when I finish my PhD, I will leave this country too for a higher paying job in another country. Many of my fellow students will be leaving as well and we won't look back.

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