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Robert Reich
NationofChange / Op-Ed
Published: Tuesday 18 December 2012
If we go over the “fiscal cliff” without a budget deal, several programs focused on the well-being of children will be axed — education, child nutrition, school lunches, children’s health, Head Start.

Remember the Children

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America’s children seem to be shortchanged on almost every issue we face as a society.

Not only are we failing to protect our children from deranged people wielding semi-automatic guns.

We’re not protecting them from poverty. The rate of child poverty keeps rising – even faster than the rate of adult poverty. We now have the highest rate of child poverty in the developed world.

And we’re not protecting their health. Rates of child diabetes and asthma continue to climb. America has the third-worst rate of infant mortality among 30 industrialized nations and the second-highest rate of teenage pregnancy, after Mexico.

If we go over the “fiscal cliff” without a budget deal, several programs focused on the well-being of children will be axed — education, child nutrition, school lunches, children’s health, Head Start.  Even if we avoid the cliff, any “grand bargain” to tame to deficit is likely to jeopardize them.

The Urban Institute projects the share of federal spending on children (outlays and tax expenditures) will drop from 15 percent last year to 12 percent in 2022.

At the same time, states and localities have been slashing preschool and after-school programs, child care, family services, recreation, and mental-health services.

Why?Conservatives want to blame parents for not doing their job. But this ignores politics.

The NRA, for example, is one of the most powerful lobbies in America – so powerful, in fact, that our leaders rarely have the courage even to utter the words gun control.

A few come forth after a massacre such as occurred in Connecticut to suggest that maybe we could make it slightly more difficult for the mentally ill to obtain assault weapons. But the gun lobby and gun manufacturers routinely count on America’s (and media’s) short attention span to prevent even modest reform.

The AARP is also among the most powerful lobbies, especially when it comes to preserving programs that benefit seniors.

We shouldn’t have to choose between our seniors and children — I’d rather focus on jobs and growth rather deficit reduction, and sooner cut corporate welfare and defense spending than anything else. But the brute fact is America’s seniors have political clout that matters when spending is being cut, while children don’t.  

At the same time, big corporations and the wealthy know how to get and keep tax cuts that are starving federal and state budgets of revenues needed to finance what our children need. Corporations systematically play off one state or city against another for tax concessions and subsidies to stay or move elsewhere, further shrinking revenues available for education, recreation, mental health, and family services.

Meanwhile, advertisers and marketers of junk foods and violent video games have the political heft to ward off regulations designed to protect children from their depredations. The result is an epidemic of childhood diabetes, as well as video mayhem that may harm young minds.

Most parents can’t protect their children from all this. They have all they can do to pay the bills. The median wage keeps falling (adjusted for inflation), benefits are evaporating, job security has disappeared, and even work hours are less predictable.

It seems as if every major interest has political clout – except children. They can’t vote. They don’t make major campaign donations. They can’t hire fleets of lobbyists.

Yet they’re America’s future.

Their parents and grandparents care, of course, as do many other private citizens. But we’re no match for the entrenched interests that dominate American politics.

Whether it’s fighting for reasonable gun regulation, child health and safety overall, or good schools and family services – we can’t have a fair fight as long as special-interest money continues to poison our politics.

This article was originally posted on Robert Reich's blog.

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ABOUT Robert Reich


ROBERT B. REICH, one of the nation’s leading experts on work and the economy, is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. Time Magazine has named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written thirteen books, including his latest best-seller, “Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future;” “The Work of Nations,” which has been translated into 22 languages; and his newest, an e-book, “Beyond Outrage.” His syndicated columns, television appearances, and public radio commentaries reach millions of people each week. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, and Chairman of the citizen’s group Common Cause. His widely-read blog can be found at Robert Reich's new film, "Inequality for All" is available on DVD
and blu-ray, and on Netflix in February.

All this "family values"

All this "family values" rhetoric in politics is unfettered bull****.

Any politician that even uses that phrase is suspect to me as the enemy to families. I wonder how long it will take humanity to realize its most precious resource is women and children. (Probably about the same time women decide, en masse, to definitively stop the rule of men. Which will be followed by a period of inequity and violence suffered by men...)

All this division of groups into "us" and "them".

"We may rise and fall, but in the end, we meet our fate together."
Creed – One

Bill Clinton found himself in

Bill Clinton found himself in the same situation. He chose to compromise-away our poverty relief programs. We see the results in soaring child poverty, increased rates of infant mortality among the poor/a life expectancy among America's poor that has actually fallen below that of some Third World countries, etc. There was virtually no response from either the middle class or the progressive community. Who didn't know that Social Security would be next? We'll treat it like we treat welfare "reform"; simply don't talk about the consequences.

Sun, what should we do about

Sun, what should we do about those who can't work? It's not possible not to consume resources, of course. It would be wise to focus on renewable and alternative resources, as well as reducing consumption, but I don't see that happening. Think -- what would happen if gas were suddenly rationed? America would explode in rioting! That's because nearly everyone wants to drive when they want, as much as they want, even with the knowledge of what our excessive burning of fossil fuels is doing.

jackwenayscott's picture

YES, the "political heft" of

YES, the "political heft" of the media, 'harming young minds', that is exactly it! Yet, what will be done? Favored by L.A. entertainment, your teeth will be pulled, further centralizing political authority as the Evil Entertainment Empire moves their Washington proxys to enact more restrictions on your guns. While there'll be a few whimpers about violence in films, little effective action will be taken to strengthen OUR organ, the FCC, to pull the emotional teeth of TV and movies that pander to immature males (like the boy- NOT "young man" -who did these tragic, horrifying acts) and gives, gives, gives to them, wishing they come back for more TV for their whole lives! "As the twig is bent..." So, change culture, HOW? ... Pretty simple, Einstien, simply change TV, movies, videos, the radio, and the recording biz, and presto, the change in culture happens.

Is that Gerry Sandusky in the

Is that Gerry Sandusky in the photo with the child doing his homework, or am I suffering some kind of PTSD hallucination from the past days news?

The sentiments appropriate,

The sentiments appropriate, but this is all predicated on the idea that economic growth is possible an d will lift all boats. The problem is that economic growth is not really possible. The 1% can make it look like growth but only by the rest of us getting poorer. We have reached those ecological limits that require us to use much less, and share it much more equally. Without taking the end of growth and ecological collapse into account, your economy is just not going to function. Use less, share more.

Of course there are

Of course there are ecological limits to growth, but not all growth requires consumption of more resources. We could, for example, hire twice as many teachers, councilors, mental health professionals, doctors, nurses, dementia caregivers, green energy technicians, etc., without extracting more resources. More professionals engaged in conserving, reducing, reusing, and recycling would also help, as would people employed in planting trees and eco-agriculture. There is room and need for a full employment economy without consuming resources. What is lacking is the political will.

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