All My Children

by Odysseas Kostas

No one denies the importance of our nation's children, but in light of
recent legislation running through Washington, namely the Contract
with America, one wonders whether Congress agrees. Of course, closest
to home are the cuts to financial aid for higher education, including
proposed cuts to such programs as Stafford Loan interest exemption and
school interest subsidies. Such cuts would increase student loan
indebtedness 20-50% and would result in an estimated $20 billion
increase in loan and interest costs over the next five years for US
families.
	But other budget cuts will make it even more difficult for
children to grow up, let alone reach a level of higher education.
Studies indicate, not unexpectedly, that better academic performance
is directly related to a student's nutrition; yet, the House proposes
cutting money to school lunches and then giving the remaining money to
the states in the form of block grants, 20% of which could be used on
things other than school lunches. Such cuts would eliminate a national
nutrition standard and would in effect kill school lunches in many
states, especially during times of recession, as the block grants do
not adjust for recessions, etc., when need is greatest. The national
school lunch program is a successful federal program presently feeding
about 25 million school children daily.
	In addition, the Contract with America, which had proposed to
cut food stamps entirely, currently proposes legislation that cuts 11%
or $16.5 billion. But forty percent of all families below the poverty
line work full time, and food stamps are their last resource, the
safety net. Presently, of the 27 million people who are on food
stamps, slightly more than half are children. Congress punishes these
families while the children suffer. Such cuts to welfare would not be
so drastic if reasonable alternatives werer put in place to replace
the cuts, but there are no real plans to do so.
	Of course, there are other programs being cut by the House
that I have neglected to address, including cuts to Americorps
(national public service corps) and to subsidized housing and heating,
important especially in the harsh winters of northern states. Also,
the public schools must grapple with some of the largest cuts in
years. Along with $1.4 billion in cuts of Federal aid to public
education, programs including supplemental lessons in math and
science, bilingual programs and programs designed to eliminate
violence and drugs in schools are on the chopping block.
	With all these cuts to social programs, the House has proposed
to increase defense spending and to implement a series of tax cuts,
many for the wealthiest Americans. The poor's pain is balancing the
subsidy to the rich presented by cuts in the capital gains tax, lower
estate and gift taxes, and more favorable depreciation rules for
businesses. The cuts are justified by members of Congress as necessary
to trim government spending and reduce the federal debt, but look at
their actions and not their words. The latest $17.1 billion dollars
recisions are marked to pay for tax cuts, not the deficit, and the
House presently plans to pass an additional $200 billion tax cut over
the next five years, making it that much harder to balance the budget.
There is no shared sacrifice; all the burden falls on the poor.

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