Children and Deficits: Cause and Effect

The childhood shows the man,

As morning shows the day.

- John Milton, Paradise Lost

Republicans have begun describing how the United States of America
at the state and national level can become a better place by spending a
lot less money and not raising taxes. Congress took the first step at
the end of 2010 when it dealt with the tax law. It decided to extend
income tax rates in effect in 2010 for another 24 months, a benefit for
rich and poor alike, although in absolute dollars the rich benefitted
somewhat more than the poor. Those earning $10 million who file joint
returns will pay
approximately $368,794 less than if the existing law had not been
extended and those earning $1 million will save approximately $29,962.
Those earning $60,000 will pay $1118.40 less and those earning $20,000
save $51.60. An incidental benefit of the legislation went to the
unemployed who were given an additional thirteen months of unemployment
benefits. Lower taxes for the rich were extended beyond the time
benefits were paid the unemployed because the rich became rich because
of hard work and many members of Congress must think if the unemployed
worked as hard at seeking employment as the rich did at becoming rich
they'd be employed within 13 months. Other ways money is saved are
becoming apparent at the state and national level.

Colorado, a state with a large budget shortfall, has given
low-income students the opportunity to participate in helping the state
ameliorate its financial crisis by foregoing free breakfasts. As a
result these students will, (unless the entire legislature overrules the
actions of its Joint Budget Committee), forego free breakfast and begin
paying $.30 each day for it, thus participating in a meaningful way in
helping the state out of its financial bind. The Joint Budget
Committee acted even though there was $253,547 available from previous
years when the program, known as the Smart Nutrition Program, came in
under budget. One of the Republican lawmakers objected to the fact that
Democrats were saying Republicans didn't care about children. She said:
"We care about the children. It's not a moral issue, it's an
accounting issue." That explanation will help relieve hunger pangs
felt by the young who are no longer getting free breakfasts.

The Colorado decision was made during the same week that Sargent
Shriver died. It was a bit ironic. Among Mr. Shriver's many
accomplishments was the creation of the Headstart Programs. As Bob
Herbert observed
in a recent op-ed piece in the New York Times commenting on Mr.
Shriver's many accomplishments: "In 1964, as leader of the Office of
Economic Opportunity in the Johnson administration, Mr. Shriver came
across studies that showed connections between poor nutrition, lower
I.Q. scores and arrested social and emotional development. He wondered
whether early childhood intervention 'could have a beneficial effect on
the children of poor people.' Head Start followed in incredibly short
order." The Colorado Joint Budget Committee's action was not the only
irony in the week that Sargent Shriver died. The report of house
conservatives in the U.S. Congress was another.

The Republican Study Committee wants to bring domestic agency budgets down
to 2006 levels which is about a $175 billion cut from current levels.
The White House said that if cuts of that magnitude were imposed by
Congress, 400,000 children would be forced from Head Start programs.
One of Headstart's
concerns is for nutrition for young children. Children in a part-day
center based setting must receive meals and snacks that provide at least
1/3 of their daily nutritional needs and those in full-day programs
must receive 1/2 to 2/3 of their daily nutritional needs, depending on the
length of the program. Children in morning based centers who arrive
not having eaten breakfast must be given a nourishing breakfast. That
is only a brief description of the requirements pertaining to
nutritional services that Head Start programs must address. If the
Committee's recommendations are adopted, 400,000 small children will
participate in democracy in just the same way that Colorado children are

It is not only young children who are given the opportunity to
participate in democracy in action. Post secondary education students
are given a similar opportunity. The committee's recommendation would
reduce Pell Grants for low-income college students by an average of

A suggestion that Pell grants be reduced comes at a time when
tuition for students throughout the country is rising. According to a report
in the New York Times, tuition at the University of South Carolina has
doubled in the last ten years. California has raised tuition by 30
percent in the last two years. Texas legislators have proposed
eliminating financial aid for freshmen. The net effect of those
changes will be to deprive many of the less fortunate students the
opportunity to get an education.

It is a strange Congress and legislature that protects a country's
future by taking money from programs that nourish undernourished
children and makes it more difficult for its older children to receive
an education.

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