The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act recently passed on a nearly straight party line Republican vote in the U.S. Senate is, like the House-passed bill, a moral abomination. Their enactment would be the death of America’s dream for tens of millions of children. The House and Senate bills favor the wealthiest Americans and most powerful corporations over poor and moderate-income children and families—billionaires over poor babies and powerful corporations over poor children. They are evil.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. warned that “America is going to hell if we can’t use her vast resources to end poverty and make it possible for all of God’s children to have the basic necessities of life.” With both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives now having passed extremely unjust tax bills, I must ask—how can 278 political leaders, 51 Senators and 227 House members, act against the best interests of so many in their states and across our nation to line the overstuffed pockets of powerful special interests with government money?
What religious texts do these Members of Congress and those who lobby them read?
How did they miss the clear warnings of the prophets and gospels and tenets of every great faith to care for the poor, the sick, the lame and the orphan? Where did they learn that acting as Robin Hood in reverse by denying the poor and powerless child the basic survival needs of food and shelter to give to the wealthy and powerful is acceptable?
There are 565 billionaires in the United States—the 400 richest of whom have a combined net worth of $2.7 trillion. More than 13.2 million children—1 in 5—live in poverty in America. Their families of four make less than $24,563 a year. More than six million children live in deep poverty, at less than half the poverty level.
A majority of both houses of Congress and the Trump Administration seek policies to reward millionaires and billionaires and non-needy corporations and add nearly $1.5 trillion—around $150 billion a year for the next ten years—to our national deficit to do so. And to pay for it, they will deny poor and moderate-income children and families healthcare, food, housing, child care and other survival assistance or help parents get needed jobs at livable wages to support their families.
Imagine spending $1.5 trillion or even one-tenth of that each year on children’s needs? Two years ago CDF commissioned the Urban Institute to assess steps to end child poverty right now. We identified modest improvements to nine programs we knew helped reduce child poverty: increasing the value of SNAP’s food benefits, providing housing subsidies for poor and near-poor families with children, making the Child Tax Credit fully refundable, increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit for the lowest income families, creating a subsidized jobs program, increasing the minimum wage, expanding the federal child care subsidy program, making the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit fully refundable, and helping more families get child support payments. Implementing all these improvements together would lift 60 percent of all poor children and 72 percent of poor children of color from poverty for a year, at a $77.2 billion federal and state government cost – less than half of one year of the $1.5 trillion deficit increase. A $1.5 trillion investment could lift these children from poverty to adulthood.
We must tell Congress to reject this morally indefensible tax boondoggle and instead invest in protecting children and maintaining any semblance of fairness.
Not one new dime in tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires as long as more than 13.2 million children are poor, and millions of children are hungry, uneducated, homeless and without health coverage. Stand up and fight. A nation that does not stand up for its children does not stand for anything and will not stand tall in the future.
Marian Wright Edelman is the president of the Children's Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information, go to www.childrensdefense.org. Follow the Children’s Defense Fund on Twitter.