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The Moral Question

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We dodged another shut-down bullet, but only until November 18. That's when the next temporary bill to keep the government going runs out. House Republicans want more budget cuts as their price for another stopgap spending bill.

Among other items, Republicans are demanding major cuts in a nutrition program for low-income women and children. The appropriation bill the House passed June 16 would deny benefits to more than 700,000 eligible low-income women and young children next year.

What kind of country are we living in?

More than one in three families with young children is now living in poverty (37 percent, to be exact) according to a recent analysis of Census data by Northeastern University's Center for Labor Market Studies. That's the highest percent on record. The Agriculture Department says nearly one in four young children (23.6) lives in a family that had difficulty affording sufficient food at some point last year.

We're in the worst economy since the Great Depression -- with lower-income families and kids are bearing the worst of it -- and what are Republicans doing? Cutting programs Americans desperately need to get through it.

Medicaid is also under assault. Congressional Republicans want to reduce the federal contribution to Medicaid by $771 billion over next decade and shift more costs to states and low-income Americans.

It gets worse. Most federal programs to help children and lower-income families are in the so-called "non-defense discretionary" category of the federal budget. The congressional super-committee charged with coming up with $1.5 trillion of cuts eight weeks from now will almost certainly take a big whack at this category because it's the easiest to cut. Unlike entitlements, these programs depend on yearly appropriations.

Even if the super-committee doesn't agree (or even if they do, and Congress doesn't approve of their proposal) an automatic trigger will make huge cuts in domestic discretionary spending.

It gets even worse. Drastic cuts are already underway at the state and local levels. Since the fiscal year began in July, states no longer receive about $150 billion in federal stimulus money -- money that was used to fill gaps in state budgets over the last two years.

The result is a downward cascade of budget cuts -- from the federal government to state governments and then to local governments -- that are hurting most Americans but kids and lower-income families in particular.

So far this year, 23 states have reduced education spending. According to a survey of city finance officers released Tuesday by the National League of Cities, half of all American cities face cuts in state aid for education.

As housing values plummet, local property tax receipts are down. That means even less money for schools and local family services. So kids are getting larger class sizes, reduced school hours, shorter school weeks, cuts in pre-Kindergarten programs (Texas has eliminated pre-Kindergarten for 100,000 children), even charges for textbooks and extra-curricular activities.

Meanwhile the size of America's school-age population keeps growing notwithstanding. Between now and 2015, an additional 2 million kids are expected to show up in our schools.

Local family services are being cut or terminated. Tens of thousands of social workers have been laid off. Cities and counties are reducing or eliminating their contributions to Head Start, which provides early childhood education to the children of low-income parents.

All this would be bad enough if the economy were functioning normally. For these cuts to happen now is morally indefensible.

Yet Republicans won't consider increasing taxes on the rich to pay for what's needed -- even though the wealthiest members of our society are richer than ever, taking home a bigger slice of total income and wealth than in 75 years, and paying the lowest tax rates in three decades.

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http://robertreich.org/

Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, has a new film, "Inequality for All," to be released September 27. He blogs at www.robertreich.org.

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That this post by Robert Reich is not preeminent o... by David Ruhlen on Friday, Sep 30, 2011 at 4:05:56 PM
they will be facing a full-scale revolution. ... by Richard Girard on Saturday, Oct 1, 2011 at 2:14:52 PM