As members of Congress headed home late last year to celebrate the holidays, a majority of them had just cast votes to hurt millions of poor children in a budget resolution that flunks every test of decency and morality.
They ignored the Prophet Isaiah's and Jesus Christ's promises of good news to the poor and brought bad news to the poor and good news to therich.TheHouseof Representatives and the Senate voted for a budget resolution that will cut $40 billion from low-income families and children — including health care, foster care, child care, child support and student loans. At the same time, the House and Senate have voted for $60 billion in new tax breaks, primarily for upper-income taxpayers. Forty percent of the tax breaks in the House bill, which includes an extension of the capital gains and dividend tax cuts, would go to millionaires and billionaires.
We must do absolutely everything we can to stop the tens of billions of dollars of additional tax cuts for the rich and the tens of billions of dollars in cuts in programs for poor children and families. Thankfully, these morally obscene actions can be stopped when the House and Senate return — if we act together now. If we do not succeed, these tax proposals will starve the federal government and poor children of their lifelines of hope in this post-Katrina era.
Before Feb. 1, when the House must vote again on this unjust budget resolution, I hope every one of you reading this column will stop right now and call and e-mail your representative and tell him or her to vote no on the budget bill that robs the poor to pamper the rich. The bill is a travesty that will widen the gap between rich and poor, already at historic levels, and leave behind millions of families and children in desperate need, including Katrina evacuees, whose cries a majority of members of Congress have ignored.
Here we are, 4 ½ months after families and children have been scattered all across our land and uprooted from their homes by Katrina, and Congress and the Bush administration not only are still dragging their feet on ensuring them emergency Medicaid health and mental health relief they desperately need but also bogging them down with bureaucratic hurdles as they try to meet other basic survival needs, including housing.
After Sept. 11, our government cut through all bureaucracy and just got emergency Medicaid to people. After Katrina, a bipartisan Senate bill introduced by Sens. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Max Baucus D-Montana, to give emergency Medicaid assistance to Katrina evacuees could not get a Senate floor vote and has been delayed and watered down. The Bush administration helped keep it from being acted on.
It is included in skeleton form in the abominable pending budget bill that would take away far more from Katrina's and other poor families than it would give, and undermine rather than strengthen guaranteed Medicaid protections for the 25 million children who depend on it. Even disabled, neglected and abused children are asked to endure budget cuts in order to finance huge capital gains and dividend tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. The Congress and administration seem to have lost all sense of shame.
Poor mothers trying to work would be required to put in more hours, but with only a $1 billion increase in child care funding — $11 billion less than the Congressional Budget Office says they need to ensure decent child care for their children. Young people trying to go to college will find their student loans cut back, and the child support children need from absent parents will be cut by billions.
Please tell your House member today to do the right thing and protect children in the 2006 and future budgets. And hold them accountable in November when you vote.
Children need you to speak up for and protect them. They can't vote — but you can.
Marian Wright Edelman is founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund.