What will we tell the children?

The U.S. has the highest child poverty rate of any country in the developed world. That means right now, not some abstract national deficit future. Right now millions of kids are hungry, sick, living in economically stressed homes, attending rotten schools­­ ­­–– and not getting talked about because they fall outside the noble “middle class.”  According to a recent article in the New York Times, “federal expenditures on children — including everything from their share of Medicaid and the earned-income tax credit to targeted efforts like child nutrition and education programs — fell one percent last year and will fall an additional four percent this year, to $428 billion, according to estimates by the Urban Institute based on the Congressional Budget Office’s projections.”  Yet aside from advocacy from few groups like Nuns of the Bus, the actual plight of children is getting short shrift in the current election cycle.  The Times’ “Cutbacks and the Fate of the Young” contrasts Romney’s assertions of a “moral responsibility” to protect the inheritance of the nation’s kids from debt with his winner-take-all approach to economics more generally, especially in light of his running-mate’s famously draconian budget. “The federal government spent $8 billion less on child health last year than it did the previous year, as fiscal stimulus programs to combat the Great Recession were phased out. It cut aid to states to pay for primary education by about the same amount. The states, which provide more than 60 percent of the total government dollars spent on children, aren’t in great shape either. According to the Urban Institute’s estimates, state and municipal spending on children fell in each of the last three years. And the outlook is not much better for the coming decade. Despite health care reform, which will lead to coverage for millions of uninsured children, the Urban Institute forecasts that federal expenditures on children — including direct spending and tax breaks — will shrink to about 2.3 percent of the nation’s economic output by 2022, from 3 percent last year.”

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