WASHINGTON - January 21 - Children's Defense Fund (CDF) president Marian Wright Edelman said President Bush ignored the real needs of America's children and families in his State of the Union Address last night, and that he is sending the nation's limited resources to the wrong places.
"The Bush Administration has had three years to demonstrate its compassionate agenda," said Edelman. "But it is clear by now that its idea of improving the lives of children is to use words of compassion, while ignoring the urgent problems of families, and continuing to divert trillions of federal dollars to tax breaks tilted toward the rich."
The Children's Defense Fund said the permanent tax cuts at the core of the President's economic agenda will drain the nation's scarce resources and do little for the economy, while widening the economic and racial gaps that divide America. Last year ten Nobel prize-winning economists warned that the previous round of tax cuts was "not the answer" to recent job losses but would instead "generate further inequalities in after-tax income." Edelman noted that the 2003 tax cuts offered $93,500 to the average millionaire but left behind 12 million children in hard working low-income families, including 260,000 children of active duty military men and women. The income gap between the poorest and wealthiest households is the widest on record. The poverty rate of Black and Latino children is three times higher than for White children.
"It is morally wrong to say there is plenty of money for more tax breaks for the wealthy, but not for removing poverty and other barriers to providing our children with what they need," said Edelman. "We do not have a money problem. We have a priorities problem. For a fraction of the cost of the proposed tax breaks, we could provide health coverage for all 9.3 million uninsured children, 100,000 new teachers for our schools, and Head Start's comprehensive early education, nutrition, and health screening services for every eligible child under age five who needs them."
Edelman said the President's proposals will do little for low- and moderate-income children. Lower-income families will not benefit from the health care savings accounts and medical tax credits, as they often cannot afford to spend money on health care now and wait for reimbursements later.
The President asked for minor increases in education funding and job training, but these federal initiatives do not make up for the under-funding of the No Child Left Behind Act or for recent cuts in youth employment, housing, and child care services. These initiatives will do little to alleviate the hardships being experienced at the state level where 34 states have cut health care (half of those losing coverage are children) and at least 32 states have cut child care. These harmful decisions are the result of state budget crises fueled in part by Bush Administration tax cuts and its reluctance to give states fiscal relief.
Edelman said America needs a genuine commitment to truly Leave No Child Behind®. For the coming year, she said CDF will push the federal government to play a substantial role by:
- Ensuring all low-income children health coverage through Medicaid and CHIP;
- Providing quality early education and comprehensive Head Start services;
- Creating tax fairness and family economic security through tax credits, unemployment compensation, and other benefits; and
- Improving youth services, special education, and juvenile justice policies in order to break the pipeline that sends thousands of minority children from schools to prison.