In reviewing the Urban Institute’s data, Anna Bernasek of Newsweek notes that if this trend continues, “the federal government soon will be spending more on interest payments on the debt than on children.”Rather than being feared, America’s new diversity – poised to reinvigorate the country at a time when other developed nations are facing advanced aging and population loss – can be celebrated.
He hits it on the nail. Our nation's new diversity is not only feared, but there is also nothing to fear and everything to gain from reversing this trend and investing not just in our so-called "future," but also our "present."
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The federal government makes more than 200 distinct investments in children. These include traditional children’s initiatives like education and child abuse and neglect prevention. They also include other investments that improve the lives of kids, like Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly Food Stamps).
Every year, First Focus publishes a Children’s Budget offering a detailed guide to federal spending on children and an invaluable resource for those seeking to improve the lives of America’s youth.
This year’s Children’s Budget 2015 brings more bad and unfortunate news for children. The share of federal spending dedicated to our nation’s children has now fallen to just 7.89 percent, which is down from a high of 8.50 percent in 2010. Consequently, the federal share of discretionary spending dedicated to children has dropped by 7.2 percent over the last five years.
In addition, on an inflation-adjusted basis, federal discretionary spending on children has dropped by 11.6 percent between 2010 and 2015. Discretionary funded dedicated to children’s health, education, child welfare, training, safety, and nutrition are all down even without adjusting for inflation.
In reviewing the Urban Institute’s data, Anna Bernasek of Newsweek notes that if this trend continues, “the federal government soon will be spending more on interest payments on the debt than on children.”
Few would think these facts reflect the values and priorities of the American people. That is reflected in the fact that, by a 69-25 percent margin, a Battleground Poll in May by the Tarrance Group and Lake Research finds that Americans do not believe the next generation will be better off economically than the current generation. As Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post notes, “The numbers from the Battleground Poll echo other data that has come out over the past few years that suggests a deep pessimism within the electorate about what sort of country they are leaving their children.”
We are failing to make the investments in children they need to fulfill their promise. As the Kids’ Share report concludes:
Simply, we are failing to invest in our children. And some of the problem is related to demographics and is intergenerational. According to Steve Murdock, former U.S. Census Bureau Director in the Bush administration, and his co-authors Michael Cline and Mary Zey, in our publication Big Ideas: The Children of the Southwest:
“Yet, as Frey explains, “this youth-driven diversity surge is also creating a ‘cultural generation gap’ between the diverse youth population and the growing, older, still predominately white population.”
Frey points to states where the difference between the percentage of seniors and children who are white as places where there may be greater tension between the generations and competition for resources allocated to children and the elderly, and where children may be significant losers.
Murdock, Cline, and Zey share this concern and point to research by James Poterba that found “in communities with large proportions of elderly residents there were significantly lower per-capita educational spending, especially when the children were of a different race from that of their elders.”
According to Frey, among the states, Arizona leads the way with a “cultural generation gap” of 41 percent (83 percent of seniors and 42 percent of children were white). So, how is Arizona doing by its children?
The Arizona Daily Sun has documented how budget cuts to child protective services in Arizona caused child welfare caseloads to soar and reports of child abuse to be ignored, how cuts to public education resulted in per-public spending during the recession to decline by 24 percent, and how reductions in state funding to higher education were $300 million below pre-recession levels.
In addition, Arizona is the only state in the country to no longer provide health insurance coverage to children under the Children’s Health Insurance Program when it let the program expire at the close of 2013. It now has the second highest uninsured rate for children in the country.
Arizona is a state that enacted some of the some most stringent anti-immigration legislation in the country, SB170, and banned schools from offering courses such as Mexican-American studies, which federal courts have partially overturned.
As Murdock, Cline, and Zey said:
Imagine how different things for children might be if politicians were the ones to lose their jobs for failing to improve education, reduce child poverty, etc. What is needed is a focus on the needs of children before it is too late.
Former Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor apparently agrees that the new 114th Congress should make children a focus of its agenda. He writes:
I remember understanding this for the first time so clearly when New York Governor Mario Cuomo said in a speech before the Democratic National Convention in 1992 about the plight facing children a generation ago:
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