WASHINGTON – Harsh budget cuts to social services voted by Congress in mid-December will mean greater suffering by children in the United States, insists Dr. Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF).
By a narrow 215-213 vote, the Republican-controlled House approved a $142 billion budget for Departments of Health and Human Services, Education and Labor Dec. 14, which cuts popular programs, including low-income heating assistance and the National Institutes of Health.
“It is a moral outrage that the House of Representatives approved today a tax cut bill that will reward many of our wealthiest Americans, while asking children to suffer,” Dr. Edelman said in a statement.
The House-approved budget bill will make very deep cuts in health care, childcare, food stamps, child support, foster care and student loans for low-income children and their families.
Ironically, as more and more grandparents have become primary caregivers for more and more Black children, the Black elderly are also at increased risk. In Illinois, for example, one in six grand-families lives in poverty, according to census data analyzed by CDF.
“The only universal child policy we have in America is the guarantee of jail or a detention cell after children get into trouble,” Dr. Edelman recently told members of The Trotter Group, meeting in Nashville, Tenn., in response to a question from The Final Call.
“Our states are spending, on average, three times more per prisoner than per pupil. Too many of the people who are the product of that prison industry are our children. We will guarantee them that cell–it’s a dumb investment policy–but we won’t guarantee them health care, or Headstart, or pre-school education, or a decent education. This is a sentence to death, and to prison in this society,” she contended.
A young Black person, pulled up for an identical drug offense as a White person, is 48 times more likely to be sent to jail. A young Latino person is nine times more likely than a White person, CDF pointed out.
“We don’t have a money problem, we have a priorities and values problem,” Dr. Edelman told The Trotter Group. “The three richest Americans, billionaires, and they have a combined income or wealth that is equivalent to the 50 million citizens in 25 states. The 347 billionaires in America have a wealth that is greater than 51 developing nations in the world.
“I don’t begrudge anybody their first or second billion, as long as it’s earned on a fair playing field, and after children’s basic needs are met,” Dr. Edelman continued. But she said she does object strongly to yet another tax cut for these wealthiest Americans, while cutting basic services for the young and the needy.