Repatriation. It’s a word many schoolchildren probably haven’t yet learned to define or even seen very often outside of spelling bees. But when it comes to corporate taxes, repatriation is the cornerstone of an idea that has the potential to severely hurt millions of children and parents and widen the already historic and unconscionable gap between the rich and the poor.
In its simplest definition, repatriation is bringing something back to its country of origin — returning it back home. One of the solutions to the jobs crisis being proposed by some of our Congressional leaders and lobbied for aggressively by some of the country’s richest corporations is a rehash of an old experiment: enacting a repatriation tax holiday that would temporarily allow U.S.-based multinational companies to bring home profits they currently hold overseas at a 5.25 percent tax rate, instead of the usual 35 percent corporate tax rate. Under current tax law, multinational companies generally pay no U.S. corporate taxes on foreign income until those profits are brought back to the U.S. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) explains, “This effectively allows such firms to defer payment of the U.S. corporate income tax on their overseas profits indefinitely, even though they may obtain an immediate tax deduction for many expenses incurred in supporting the same overseas investments. This can produce a negative U.S. corporate income tax — that is, a net government subsidy — for overseas operations. In addition to causing the federal government to lose tax revenue, this structure gives multinationals a significant incentive to shift economic activity — as well as their reported profits — overseas.”
The argument for the repatriation holiday is that giving corporations a huge incentive to bring profits back right now — in the form of an enormous tax break — would bring billions of dollars back to the U.S. economy that would be reinvested and provide a big stimulus to our economy. Corporate proponents and their Congressional allies argue this will create desperately needed jobs.
But the last time this was tried, under a 2004 Bush Administration plan, it didn’t work out that way. Instead, as CBPP points out, “The evidence shows that firms mostly used the repatriated earnings not to invest in U.S. jobs or growth but for purposes that Congress sought to prohibit, such as repurchasing their own stock and paying bigger dividends to their shareholders. Moreover, many firms actually laid off large numbers of U.S. workers even as they reaped multi-billion-dollar benefits from the tax holiday and passed them on to shareholders.” Many economists and scholars believe that if corporations get their way and get another repatriation holiday, history will repeat itself — and once again the corporations and their shareholders, not American workers, families, and children, will be the only winners.
The nonpartisan congressional Joint Committee on Taxation has estimated the holiday would cost the federal government about $80 billion over ten years in lost revenue. The Economic Policy Institute’s Andrew Fieldhouse puts it this way: “While there are numerous job creation proposals that would meaningfully lower unemployment, some lawmakers are pushing counterproductive policies disguised as job creation packages. The proposed repeat of the corporate tax repatriation holiday is one such wolf in sheep’s clothing.” When the nation is already facing a jobs crisis and many Congressional leaders are threatening to slash nutrition, child care and other safety net programs, children and families rely on as a means of balancing the budget, revisiting a failed idea instead of coming up with real solutions and real jobs is a threat children and families and our country cannot afford. As the Occupy Wall Street protestors are shouting, let’s “just say no to corporate greed” and to Congresspeople who continue to raid the poor and children to curry favor and campaign contributions from the rich. — (NNPA)
Marian Wright Edelman is a lifelong advocate for disadvantaged Americans and is the president of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF). Under her leadership, CDF has become the nation’s strongest voice for children and families.
Right before the U.S. House of Representatives left for the summer to go home to campaign for your vote, members of Congress voted to extend the Bush era tax cuts for the richest Americans — millionaires and billionaires. For more than 10 years, the richest 1 percent have received almost $750 billion from these tax cuts. Income and wealth inequality have grown astronomically, threatening the very fabric of our democracy.
The top 1 percent in our nation now possesses more net worth than the bottom 90 percent combined. In 2008, the 400 highest-income taxpayers earned as much as the combined tax revenue of 22 state governments with almost 42 million citizens. It’s way past time to reset our moral and economic compass, demand a more just tax system where those with the most pay their fair share, and stop the reverse Robin Hood policies that take from the poor and young to give to the rich and powerful.
There should not be one new dime in tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires as long as millions of children in America are poor, hungry, uneducated and without health coverage. A nation that does not stand for its children does not stand for anything and will not stand tall in the future. Like Thomas Jefferson, I tremble for my country when I think that God is just — that his justice cannot sleep forever.
Yet, the extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, especially on top of the cuts approved in the Ryan budget, passed by the full House defies the prophets, apostles and tenets of all great faiths as well as common decency and economic common sense. The most recent vote continues to give huge tax breaks to those who need them least while shaving away lifelines of survival from those who need them most. It would cut eligibility for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and the Child Tax Credit (CTC), two of the most effective investments we have that lift children out of poverty, and from the American Opportunity Tax Credit which helps struggling families pay for their children’s college. These cuts would push 900,000 children into poverty and at least 6.4 million children into deeper poverty — an unconscionable act when 16.4 million children are living in poverty; 7.5 million of those live in extreme poverty.
This is a year of stark political, economic and moral choices. Those who caused the deficit should be asked to pay to close it and not be rewarded with more tax breaks which will increase the deficit and shave already inadequate safety investments. Children under five are the poorest age group in America, and one in four infants, toddlers and preschoolers are poor during the years of greatest brain development. If you believe as I do that we have to do more just and sensible choices like helping babies during their early childhood development years rather than helping billionaires who need not one additional material thing, then speak up and fight back.
Cascading federal, state, county and city budget cuts adding up to hundreds of billions of dollars are being pushed by lawmakers pursuing a toxic ideological agenda of no new revenues, expanded tax cuts for the top 1 percent of Americans and billions of cuts for poor children and families. Our nation’s greatest deficit is not one of money but of values and priorities that leave millions of children without hope or a vision of the future worth striving for in our militarily and materially powerful but spiritually anemic nation.
That’s why the Children’s Defense Fund has launched a new campaign to protect children from budget cuts at the national, state and local levels. The “Be Careful What You Cut” campaign lays out the irrefutable economic case that cutting children from the budget now costs all of us more later. It’s a simple calculation really. Protect children now or pay later. The campaign is grounded in three provocative ads created by our award winning pro-bono advertising agency partner Fallon Worldwide. The head of a child is on the body of an adult. The images show what happens later if you cut child investments now as the House of Representatives and their allies are bent on doing.
For all of you who care about children, here’s what you can do. Arm yourself with the facts about children in your community from the CDF’s State of America’s Children® Handbook, download questions for candidates from the becarefulwhatyoucut.com Web site, then go to town hall meetings or visit your member of Congress while they are back home campaigning and hold them accountable to ensure they treat babies as fairly as billionaires. If candidates want your vote on Election Day make sure they answer your questions and put children first rather than last on the agenda.
Join the “Be Careful What You Cut” campaign. Help us spread the word by getting pro-bono space in your local newspapers to run the advertisements. Spread the word through your social media networks. Show your support by changing your profile picture on Facebook and your avatar on Twitter. Donate to the Be Careful What You Cut Fund, so that we can run a second wave of ads in the late fall before the lame duck Congress makes final budget decisions for next year. Together we can and must fight for justice for our children and protect them from draconian tax cuts and budget choices that threaten their survival, education and preparation for the future. If they are not ready for tomorrow, neither is America. — (NNPA)
Marian Wright Edelman is president of the Children’s Defense Fund. For more information go to www.childrensdefense.org.
As a teenager, many of Barbara Johns’ wildest fantasies were about a surprising subject: a new school. “My imagination would run rampant — and I would dream that some mighty man of great wealth built us a new school building or that our parents got together and surprised us with this grand new building and we had a big celebration — and I even imagined that a great storm came through and blew down the main building and splattered the shacks to splinters — and out of this wreckage rose this magnificent building and all the students were joyous and even the teachers cried …”
Then a day came when 16-year-old Barbara decided to put her dreams into action. “It was time that Negroes were treated equally with whites, time that they had a decent school, time for the students themselves to do something about it. There wasn’t any fear. I just thought — this is your moment. Seize it!”
The year was 1951, and Barbara was a junior at segregated Robert R. Moton High School in Prince Edward County, Va. As her younger sister Joan later remembered, “Most of the school supplies that we got were torn and tattered, and we didn't have enough supplies to write with. The school we went to was overcrowded. Consequently, the county decided to build three tarpaper shacks for us to hold classes in. A tarpaper shack looks like a dilapidated black building, which is similar to a chicken coop on a farm … It was a very difficult setting for trying to learn. And I remember we were always talking about how bad the conditions were but we didn't know what to do about it. So one day, my sister and a group of students that she chose decided to do something about it.”
The “something about it” Barbara did was to organize and lead the student body at Moton High in a strike in April 1951. More than 400 students walked out of classes to protest their school’s terrible conditions and demand facilities more like the county’s white high school. NAACP attorneys Spottswood Robinson and Oliver Hill became involved after Barbara’s persistent calls to their Richmond office and after the students agreed they were willing to fight for a desegregated school rather than just a better segregated one. The legal case against the Prince Edward County school board was ultimately bundled with four similar cases by NAACP attorneys in Brown v. Board of Education et al., leading to the landmark Supreme Court decision outlawing segregation in public schools in 1954.
Barbara Johns’ courageous decision to do something about her dream helped change history just like the brave actions of so many other children and youths during the Civil Rights Movement. Sadly, the triumph of Brown v. Board of Education was not the end of the story for Black children in Prince Edward County. As disgraceful as the conditions were at their old woefully unequal schools, more disgraceful was what came next.
Instead of complying with the U.S. Supreme Court decision, the state of Virginia pursued a campaign of “massive resistance,” enacting a variety of new laws and policies designed to prevent public school desegregation. More court decisions followed declaring Virginia’s actions illegal. While other districts eventually gave in, Prince Edward County’s Board of Supervisors continued to refuse to desegregate their schools and voted in June 1959 to shut down the county’s entire public school system.
A number of white schools quickly reopened as segregated “private schools,” supported by tuition grants from the state and tax credits from the county. They became the model for similar “segregation academies” across the South today. No schools were available in for Black children or poor white families in the largely rural community who couldn’t afford the modest tuition charged at the new private schools. The denial of public education lasted for the next five years. As the fight dragged on it received national attention.
In a March 1963 speech marking the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, Attorney General Robert Kennedy said: “We may observe with much sadness and irony that outside of Africa, south of the Sahara, where education is still a difficult challenge, the only places on earth known not to provide free public education are Communist China, North Vietnam, Sarawak, Singapore, British Honduras — and Prince Edward County, Virginia. Something must be done about Prince Edward County.” It took another Supreme Court decision to finally force the county to reopen its public school system with desegregated schools in 1964.
Sixty years after the students’ strike, the former Moton School is now a newly-renovated and expanded museum and center for the study of civil rights. Barbara Johns’ parents sent her to live with relatives in Montgomery, Alabama to finish high school. She then attended Spelman College and Drexel University, raised five children with her husband Reverend William Powell, and became a librarian in the Philadelphia Public Schools before passing away in 1991.
We need to remember and our children need to know stories like these and the cloud of witnesses like Barbara Johns Powell who sacrificed so much for a more just America. Her legacy of struggle for a quality education for every child is still the unfinished business of the Civil Rights Movement and of America.
Our public schools are resegregating, and many of the 73 percent of Black students and 78 percent of Hispanic students who still attend predominantly segregated schools continue to suffer with tattered books, missing supplies, crumbling school facilities, and too many teachers with low expectations for them. And many white segregated academies across the South are offering a second rate education to their young charges to preserve the false notion that being white is superior.
Children of all races are being hurt and unprepared to thrive in a nation and world of diverse peoples. State and local budget cuts have negatively impacted inadequate public education, forcing school closings, teacher layoffs, larger classes, fewer school days, and less recess, and proposed federal cuts will compound cascading cuts in state funding for urgently needed education which is the human right of every child. America’s dream is dim indeed for countless children we relegate to the margins of national life. I hope many more of them will find their voices and take a stand like Barbara Johns. — (NNPA)
Thirteen-year-old Brittanie Potter and her 12-year-old sister Sydney held a bake sale and garage sale at their Marion, Ohio, home this summer with a simple goal in mind: raising money for their school clothes and supplies. Their father’s unemployment insurance ended earlier this year; their mother is still recovering from an accident last fall that broke her leg so badly she needed several surgeries and now gets around in a wheelchair; and their family has virtually no income. Brittanie worries: “I hear them talking about bills and it makes me upset. I just think we’re going to be okay…but sometimes, I don’t think we’re going to be okay.”
New data just released by the U.S. Census Bureau reveals 46.2 million poor people in America, the largest number in the last 52 years. One in three of America’s poor were children — 16.4 million, over 950,000 more than last year, and 7.4 million children were living in extreme poverty. More than one in three Black children and one in three Hispanic children were poor.
Brittanie, Sydney and their 15-year-old brother, Tre, are three of the children behind these grim statistics. Their father John’s most recent job was at the local ConAgra snack food plant, and their mother Brandy’s was at the nearby Marion Industrial Center, which made minor repairs to new Hyundai cars. “We were making it,” Brandy says. “John made $16 something an hour and I got $10.50. Between the two of us it was decent money. The kids had the things they needed. We were able to pay our bills and do things as a family. Then it all fell down.”
First, John lost his job at ConAgra. He was on a medical leave from ongoing problems related to a serious car accident years ago when he was let go, Brandy says. Then Hyundai ended its contract with her company and it went out of business. They were already struggling to pay bills with their unemployment checks when John’s unemployment insurance ended in June and they lost even that income. Brandy stopped getting unemployment insurance when she broke her leg; you have to be able to work to receive unemployment.
“It’s just so hard,” Brandy says. She hates telling the children “no” when they need something, and she regrets that they can’t do things as a family anymore — “we can’t even afford to go to McDonald’s right now with the five of us.” Brandy is thankful for the government safety net: “If we didn’t have food stamps, we would starve. Without Medicaid — oh my God! This morning I went to an appointment to apply for cash assistance [Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF] because we have no income. That was hard. But what’s really hard is going from taking care of your family, and having not a lot of money but making it, to having to pretty much beg.”
The Potter family isn’t alone. The new poverty numbers are grim and shameful, and child and family suffering is widespread. Twenty-two percent of children — over one in five — were poor in 2010. Children under five suffered most: One in four infants, toddlers, and preschoolers — 5.5 million — were poor. Shamefully, children are the poorest age group in our country, are getting poorer, and have suffered more than any other age group during this recession and slow recovery.
A country that does not stand for and protect its children — our seed corn for the future — does not stand for anything.
Sixty-five percent of poor families with children under 18 have at least one worker. More than 60 percent of all poor children — nearly 10 million — lived in single parent families. But as the Potters know first-hand, married couple families with children aren’t immune: Almost nine percent of all married couples with children under 18 were poor. To give perspective on America’s shame: The number of poor children is nearly the same as the combined populations of the states of Michigan and Arizona. The number of poor Black and Hispanic children is slightly more than the entire population of Michigan, and the number of poor infants, toddlers and preschoolers is larger than the entire population of the state of Minnesota.
This is a national disgrace. Parents like John and Brandy have no control over the massive joblessness and foreclosures and misguided tax cuts for the wealthy that have ravished our economy. Congress needs to wake up and change course to protect children and their families. We must stop this devastation in our communities and protect children from all budget cuts. We need to invest in the health and education of our children and create jobs for their parents without a day’s delay. And every citizen and voter should demand that they do so in the richest nation on earth where there should be no poor children at all. — (NNPA)
Marian Wright Edelman is 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.
“The Economy, Stupid” were the words on the now famous sign in successful presidential candidate Bill Clinton’s 1992 war room. Today, that sign should be in the war rooms of all candidates — from those seeking the presidency down to those running for local office. And right below it should be three words, “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs.” The time has come for all our elected leaders and those who want to win our votes in the months ahead to focus on the most pressing problem facing our country—the jobs crisis.
Some of our leaders are stepping up to offer solutions — including Representative Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., who along with 44 colleagues has introduced “The Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act” (H.R. 2914) to create over 2.2 million jobs for two years in order to provide time to get the economy back up and running and respond to some of our greatest needs. With 13.9 million people out of work — many for more than nine months, extended unemployment benefits scheduled to expire at year’s end and dim prospects for full-time employment among private sector employers who largely refuse to hire those who are currently jobless, jobs are critical to our nation’s economic recovery. And as Rep. Schakowsky has noted, “Congress can and must do something today.”
Each part of Rep. Schakowsky’s bold proposal would create real jobs immediately that would benefit children, their parents and their communities. This critical initiative would create a Neighborhood Heroes Corps and a Child Care Corps to provide support for early childhood, elementary and secondary educational services — the most strategic and cost effective investments our nation can make to lift children out of poverty and to ensure an adequately educated workforce for the future. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 230,000 education jobs have been lost since 2008. State and local budgets are stretched and the American Association of School Administrators says more than a quarter of a million education jobs could be lost this school year. This bill would keep those jobs secure and rehire some of the teachers laid off by funding 300,000 education jobs for two years. Rep. Schakowsky’s proposal also would help bridge the gap between what’s needed and what’s available through the Early Head Start program. This program, which helps children in the years of greatest brain development, currently reaches only three percent of eligible children from birth to age three. Her proposal will create 100,000 new jobs to serve infants and toddlers who desperately need a healthy, fair start in life.
Children like three-year-old Emily Nailor of Evart, Michigan, who lives with her four-year-old sister, Amanda, and their parents, John and Sarah, who earn less than $22,314 a year, the official poverty guideline for a family of four. “If it weren’t for food stamps and the income tax credit, I don’t know where we’d be,” John said. The Nailors don’t fit the old image of a poor family. They live in a house with a yard in a small town in Middle America — the sort of place that might have been featured in a Norman Rockwell painting, according to reporter Julia Cass. On assignment for the Children’s Defense Fund, she found the Nailor family in a rural county in central Michigan where 35 percent of the children live in poverty. John is a certified computer technician, and Sarah graduated from culinary arts school. But with a very high local unemployment rate and few opportunities available, neither one has been able to translate their education and training into a full-time job. For the last two years John’s tried to keep the family afloat by running his own business fixing clients’ computers and recycling old computers for their metal parts, but, Cass notes, “The best John can say about it is that ‘I’m still in business, even though we don’t have enough business to get off food stamps.’”
The children’s toys are mostly second hand, and their clothes are hand-me-downs that John got through Freecycle.org, an international website with local groups that trade items for free. About 300 people in Osceola County and three neighboring counties, undoubtedly struggling like the Nailors, are in their group, exchanging household items, furniture, toys, clothes and even food like fresh eggs... “Amanda and Emily are young, so they don’t realize how poor we are,” Sarah told Cass. “But when they get older…” She did not finish the sentence.
Other parts of Rep. Schakowsky’s proposal would benefit families like the Nailors. John, as a computer technician, might qualify for one of the 750,000 new jobs the bill would create through the Community Corps. This group of workers, like the New Deal’s Civilian Conservation Corps, would address community blight, including foreclosure and disaster-affected areas, rural conservation work, recycling and reclamation of reusable materials, among many other projects. Many of these workers have children and would once again be able to put food on the table and a roof over their heads.
Emily and her sister, Amanda, and many children like them, could benefit from the work of the School Improvement Corps, which would create 650,000 new jobs to create “healthier, safer and more energy-efficient teaching and learning environments” for the 14 million children pre-K–12 who attend deteriorating public schools. About a third of the 80,000 schools in this country need extensive repairs or replacement and about two-thirds have troublesome environmental conditions. Walls filled with asbestos, walls and water laced with lead, and leaking underground storage tanks polluting the playgrounds are just some of the devastating conditions our precious children face every day. This bill would put boots on the ground to ensure our children have safe spaces in which to learn.
American communities would be made stronger through the Park Improvement Corps, which would create 100,000 jobs in conservation projects on public lands for youth 16 to 25 years old, and the Student Jobs Corps which would create 250,000 part-time, work study jobs for eligible college students. The Neighborhood Heroes Corps would provide a chance for states to hire 40,000 police officers and 12,000 firefighters. The Health Corps would provide grants to hire at least 40,000 health care providers including physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses, and health care workers to expand access in underserved rural and urban areas.
All of this will cost money, of course, but it’s an investment we cannot afford not to make. It’s long past time for millionaires and billionaires and corporations who have benefited from tax breaks and corporate loopholes and government subsidies to contribute to rebuilding our nation’s economy. The investments in the Schakowsky bill make common sense to many Americans, economic sense for our country, and moral sense for the millions of poor children and families who have fallen into poverty who desperately want to find jobs that will help them build a better future for their children. Jobs, jobs, jobs. When will enough of our leaders get it? When we citizens make enough noise to make them hear and act. — (NNPA)
Marian Wright Edelman is a lifelong advocate for disadvantaged Americans and is the resident of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF). Under her leadership, CDF has become the nation’s strongest voice for children and families.
Zero tolerance policies are coming under renewed scrutiny after parents say school officials have suspended or threatened to suspend students in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Massachusetts over minor infractions involving pretend weapons, reports the Associated Press.
“Small children have been getting into deep trouble at school lately, and their parents say it’s because educators are hypersensitive in the wake of the mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school in December,” AP reports.
According to AP here are some of the potential threats to school safety which has caused children to be suspended from school:
“Waiting in line for the for bus, a Pennsylvania kindergartner tells her pals she’s going to shoot them with a Hello Kitty toy that make soap bubbles. In Maryland, two 6-year-old boys pretend their fingers are guns during a playground game of cops and robbers. In Massachusetts, a 5-year-old boy attending an after-school program makes a gun out of Legos and points it at other students while “simulating the sound of gunfire.”
It not known the extent to which the Newton, Conn., shooting might influence educator is unclear. But parents contend administrators are projecting adult fears onto children who know little about the massacre, and pose no threat to anyone.
Created as a way to improve school security and discipline, zero tolerance policies can lead to overreaction by educators and provide them with little leeway to respond to problems in a more fair, just and sensible manner.
A study by the Children’s Defense Fund found that black children in Mississippi public schools are more than twice as likely to be disciplined or punished as white students.
Zero tolerance policies sometimes create what the Children Defense Fund calls the Cradle to Prison Pipeline.
Marian Wright Edelman, founder and director of the Children’s Defense Fund, says zero tolerance policies are forcing student out of school, leaving them uneducated and unable to find jobs.
“It is becoming the new American apartheid. It is resegregating. It is going to undermine the last 50 years of civil rights progress if we don’t look at it, see it, and break it up.” Edelman said.
Zero tolerance policies are not a new problem. In many cases these policies do not work because they discount professional judgment and do little to improve safety or discipline.
We must have increased evaluation and in some cases elimination of these polices are necessary.
A theologian friend took her car to a Jiffy Lube for servicing. Not having anything to read, she picked up a manual on the coffee table about boating. A chapter on the rules for what happens when boats encounter one another on the open sea described two kinds of craft: burdened and privileged. The craft with power that can accelerate and push its way through the waves, change direction and stop on demand is the burdened one. The craft dependent on the forces of nature, wind, tide and human effort to keep going is the privileged craft. Since powerful boats can forge their way forward under their own power, they are burdened with responsibility to give the right of way to the powerless or privileged vessels dependent on the vagaries of the tide, wind and weather. “Who wrote this thing?” my friend asked. “Mother Teresa? What’s going on in our land when the New Jersey State Department of Transportation knows that the powerful must give way if the powerless are to make safe harbor and the government of the United States and the church of Jesus Christ and other people of God are having trouble with the concept?”
How do we answer her, political, faith and community leaders and citizens of our nation? What is our “theory of action” or values compass as we seek solutions to rampant joblessness and poverty among millions of Americans including 16.4 million poor children according to national U.S. census data released last week? What beyond politics and unbridled greed and power will calibrate our nation’s decision making? Is cutting funds for helpless babies the same as cutting some of the many budget busting tax loopholes for millionaires and billionaires? Is cutting our children’s teachers, nutrition supplements, Head Start and child care the same as cutting powerful corporate subsidies or tax breaks for corporate jets? A child cut from health care access or unable to get services when abused or neglected may never heal. Is it right or fair for Congress to wield a budget guillotine — called sequestration — if a Super Committee of 12 cannot reach a responsible agreement on both revenue and budget cuts? This will leave a range of discretionary programs for children, the poor and middle class, and seniors on the chopping block. Does the irresponsible “no new tax” pledge signed by an astounding 279 current members of Congress (238 Representatives and 41 Senators), including the six Republican members of the Congressional “Super Committee,” make the latter an irrelevant and unjust nonstarter? Are the hungry child and the huge corporate farmer who gets massive government “subsidies” (“welfare”) equally responsible for the deficit? I am reminded of French writer Anatole France’s passage in “The Red Lily”: “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.” Is that our leaders’ and nation’s code of morality and justice? If so, the very dream and idea of an America where all have a fair chance and level playing field is dead.
According to new national U.S. census data, over 46 million people in America are poor — more than the entire combined populations of Iraq and Niger. A 2010 front page New York Times story reported that one in 50 — or six million — people in America had no income and depended on food stamps to stave off the wolves of hunger. It provoked almost no response. Children — the most vulnerable and least culpable among us for the deficit — are the poorest age group. And the younger they are, the poorer they are. Inadequate national and state investment in early childhood and education, and government’s failure to protect children now from continuing economic downturn, are making them poorer. More than one million children fell into poverty between 2009 and 2010; almost a half million fell into extreme poverty.
It is disgraceful that the number of poor children in our rich nation is greater than the entire combined populations of Haiti and Liberia — two of the poorest countries on earth and that the number of children in extreme poverty is equivalent to the whole population of Israel. The number of poor children under age five, the years of greatest brain development, is more than the population of Sierra Leone. I have yet to hear political leaders in either party, nationally or in the states, say we will not cut care to young children who have no belts to tighten. I believe no child cuts and no cuts for the poor should trump no tax increases for the rich in a just society.
The budget debate today, and the role of our national government, is about who we are or want to be as Americans. Who is government — our collective voice — designed to protect? The powerful or the powerless — some or all of us? Whose responsibility is it to ensure all our children are healthy, housed, educated and prepared to join a workforce to compete with and out innovate the Chinese and others in 5, 10, or 15 years? Parents cannot achieve this alone especially when millions of jobs and homes have been lost. Will cutting child and family nutrition and early childhood programs, education, child care and after-school enrichment programs, and youth jobs close or widen the huge wealth and income gaps between rich and poor? Will these cuts make us a more or less secure society? Where has our common sense gone? Where has our moral sense gone? Are there no bottom lines? Will children’s lives continue to be cut, ignored and neglected because they don’t vote or lobby or make campaign contributions? Will they continue to be punished for parents they did not choose and are not responsible for? Do we just let them die, go homeless, hungry, and unhealthy when jobless parents cannot provide the basic necessities of life through no fault of their own?
The Children’s Defense Fund’s trademarked logo is based on the old fisherman’s prayer — “Dear Lord, be good to me. The sea is so wide and my boat is so small.” It shows a tiny little sail boat on a vast sea drawn by a young child many years ago based on the prayer. Never has it seemed more poignant and appropriate than today as our children are being tossed all about in a rough and uncertain sea of life — without rafts by killer economic and political waves from the wakes of gigantic, powerful ocean liners — capsizing small child boats. Is our nation protecting the Titanic — a burdened boat enjoined to give right of way — rather than protecting the child’s small privileged boat struggling without power to reach safe harbor?
What can you do? Demand your political leaders protect the child’s small boat — the privileged boat — and tell the powerful burdened boat to give them the right of way.
Marian Wright Edelman is a lifelong advocate for disadvantaged Americans and is the president of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF). Under her leadership, CDF has become the nation’s strongest voice for children and families.
Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” When we look at the state of our union and the state of America’s children in 2012, his words ring very true. It’s impossible to deny that our nation’s economy, professed values of equal opportunity, future and soul are all in danger right now.
There are 16.4 million poor children in rich America, 7.4 million living in extreme poverty. A majority of public school students and more than three out of four Black and Hispanic children, who will be a majority of our child population by 2019, are unable to read or compute at grade level in the fourth or eighth grade and will be unprepared to succeed in our increasingly competitive global economy. Nearly 8 million children are uninsured. More children were killed by guns in 2008–2009 than U.S. military personnel in both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to date. A Black boy born in 2001 has a one in three chance of going to prison in his lifetime; a Latino boy a one in six chance of the same fate.
Millions of children are living hopeless, poverty- and violence-stricken lives in the war zones of our cities; in the educational deserts of our rural areas; in the moral deserts of our corrosive culture that saturates them with violent, materialistic and individualistic messages; and in the leadership deserts of our political and economic life where greed and self-interest trump the common good over and over. Millions of our children are being left behind without the most basic human supports they need to survive and thrive when parents alone cannot provide for them at a time of deep economic downturn, joblessness, and low wage jobs that place a ceiling on economic mobility for millions as America’s dream dims. Unemployment, underemployment, and economic inequality are rife and will worsen if massive cascading federal, state and local budget cuts aimed primarily at the poor and young succeed. Homeless shelters, child hunger and child suffering have become normalized in the richest nation on earth. It’s time to reset our moral compass and redefine how we measure success.
The Children’s Defense Fund has just released The State of America’s Children® 2012 Handbook. This report is a portrait of where our children are right now and a tool to spur us to set the vision of where we need to go to stop the downward mobility of our children and grandchildren and the diminution of America’s future. It provides key national information in a range of areas to help inform and enable anyone who cares about children to effectively stand up for them. State tables show how children are faring state by state and how each state compares to other states in protecting children. For example, when we looked closely at poor children across the nation, ten states plus the District of Columbia had child poverty rates of 25 percent or higher: Mississippi was the highest at 32.5 percent, followed by D.C., New Mexico, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee and West Virginia. Only New Hampshire had a child poverty rate of 10 percent or lower. When it comes to ensuring equal chances for children everywhere in our country we have a long way to go. And when we realize that nationwide a child is born into poverty every 29 seconds it should sound alarms from coast to coast.
I hope this report will be a piercing siren call which wakes up our sleeping, impervious and self-consumed nation to the lurking dangers of epidemic child neglect, illiteracy, poverty and violence. It’s way past time for those of us who call ourselves child advocates to speak and stand up and do whatever is required to close the gaping gulf between word and deed and between what we know children need and what we do for them. In a year filled with choices for our communities, states and nation — from our budgets to our leaders — please educate yourself and others about the urgent challenges facing our children and insist our nation make better investment choices to ensure their and our futures.
A transforming nonviolent movement is needed to create a just America. It must start in our homes, communities, parent and civic associations, and faith congregations across the nation. It will not come from Washington or state capitols or politicians. Every single person can and must make a difference if our voiceless, voteless children are to be prepared to lead America forward. Now is the time to close our action and courage gaps, reclaim our nation’s ideals of freedom and justice, and ensure every child the chance to survive and thrive. — (NNPA)
Marian Wright Edelman is 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.
At a time in life when many are beginning to ease into retirement and are enjoying a little more free time, Mr. and Mrs. B. found themselves unexpectedly starting all over again — struggling to care for their adopted daughter’s two young sons. Their daughter’s bipolar disorder was recognized very late, and though she stays involved in her sons’ lives, neither she nor their father were able to be a fulltime parent. So the boys went to live with their grandparents. As in all families with children, there’s always something happening that demands attention, and this family has had very serious needs. When their youngest grandson was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Mr. and Mrs. B. had trouble finding a good doctor to care for him. Then Mrs. B. was diagnosed with cancer. But there are no regrets: “There’s no ‘us time,’” Mr. B says, “but I would do it again in a heartbeat.”
Their family isn’t alone. Lots of us who are grandparents are used to stepping in and caring for grandchildren from time to time. I know my husband and I have spent many evenings and weekends on “grandma and grandpa duty,” and loved every wonderful but exhausting moment! But many grandparents and other family members are going far beyond the occasional Saturday night or long weekend. Since all children deserve safe, permanent and loving families, when parents can’t care for their children — they may have died, are incarcerated, or are struggling with substance abuse or other health or mental health challenges — relatives like Mr. and Mrs. B. often end up “parenting a second time around.” They step in to give their grandchildren or nieces or nephews the love and stability they need and avoid foster care with strangers.
As rampant unemployment and housing foreclosures ravage families across our nation, an increasing number of children are living in households headed by grandparents and other relatives, often three generations sharing scarce resources due to the recession. Nearly 7.8 million children live in households headed by a grandparent or other relative. More than 2.5 million grandparents report they are responsible for grandchildren living with them — a third with no parent present. Black children are twice as likely as all children to live with their grandparents or other relatives only.
These grandparents and other relatives are providing vital care, stability and continuity to millions of America’s most vulnerable children. They are keeping children safe and families together: Children raised by relatives are more likely to be placed with siblings and less likely to lose touch with their cultural traditions and community connections. But this enormous responsibility can have many effects on caregivers’ own lives and financial stability. Many are still working and many others live on fixed incomes. Twenty percent of grandparents raising grandchildren are poor and many relative caregivers need financial help and other forms of support. Often caregivers unexpectedly thrust into this role may be hesitant to share their new challenges with others, and if they do, often find it difficult to connect with networks to find programs and assistance for which they are eligible.
That’s why grandparents and other relative caregivers gathered from across the country on September 15th on the West Lawn of the U. S. Capitol to participate in the Fourth National GrandRally for Grandparents and Other Relatives Raising Children, which was sponsored by AARP, Child Welfare League of America, Children's Defense Fund, Generations United, GrandFamilies of America, and National Committee of Grandparents for Children’s Rights. The GrandRally seeks to educate Congress about the importance of relative caregivers, the challenges they face and the contributions they make. With scarce resources and a tumultuous economy, relatives’ critical role in keeping children safe and in stable homes will be highlighted along with the important role Social Security plays in helping caregivers assume care of related children.
The Children’s Defense Fund often gets calls from grandparents and other relative caregivers seeking sources of financial assistance. In recent months, many have called to tell us they’ve been laid off and need financial help to continue caring for their grandchildren. They are often embarrassed by their circumstances and afraid to contact public agencies for assistance, fearful their grandchildren will be taken away and placed in foster care. Grandparent caregivers often face barriers to participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/Food Stamps) or qualifying their grandchildren for the National School Lunch program. And while Social Security provides needed support for grandparents, grandchildren aren’t always eligible for benefits.
Over the last decade youth unemployment has soared, adding extra stress for grandfamilies already struggling to keep grandchildren in high school — and now worrying about them finding a job, if they do graduate. The percentage of youth ages 16-19 employed in 2010 was the lowest since the end of World War II. While specific data on youths with relative caregivers are unavailable, the teen employment rate dropped to 27 percent in 2010 — only one in five teens in a low income family was working. Even youths whose grandparents helped them graduate from college are likely to be employed at much lower salaries in jobs that do not use their college degrees. Nearly half of all associate degree holders and one-third of bachelor’s degree holders were mal-employed in 2010.
Please reach out to relative caregivers in your communities. Three past GrandRallies inspired caregivers to establish support groups and create kinship navigator programs to connect children to supports for which they are eligible. Relative caregivers have organized state and local coalitions, held state GrandRallies to educate local policymakers about children’s needs and conducted statewide kinship care conferences. Some were invited to return to Washington, D.C., to share their stories at Congressional briefings. They can use your help.
For more information about the GrandRallies, visit www.grandrally.org. You can register online at the GrandRally registration page. You can also find out more about children in your own state being raised by grandparents and other relatives on the AARP website. — (NNPA)
Marian Wright Edelman is a lifelong advocate for disadvantaged Americans and is the president of the Children's Defense Fund (CDF). Under her leadership, CDF has become the nation's strongest voice for children and families.
This Father’s Day, June 17, the Children’s Defense Fund-New York and I will be joining George Gresham, president of 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East and the Children’s Defense Fund national board member; Ben Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP; Rev. Al Sharpton, founder and president of the National Action Network and other advocates, elected officials, union leaders, and citizens to mount a silent march down Fifth Avenue to protest the New York City Police Department’s harsh stop and frisk policy.
Gresham said: “Stop and frisk poses a real danger to our children and communities. The NYPD’s stop and frisk policy has led to rampant racial profiling and the people of New York City must not stand for it. For the safety of all our children, we must speak out against this unjust policy. This is an issue for all people of color and all people of conscience.”
The explosion in the numbers of people being stopped and frisked by New York City police officers over the last decade is a result of the “zero tolerance” policing begun in the city in the 1990s which cracked down on minor crimes on the premise that this would help prevent larger crimes. Crime rates did fall, but they also fell during the same period in many other American cities that weren’t adopting the same police tactics, leaving many experts doubting whether zero tolerance policies could take much of the credit.
However, many do give the stop and frisk policies credit for an epidemic of unlawful police searches in New York City that have violated the Fourth Amendment rights of hundreds of thousands of innocent citizens, primarily Black and Latino men. In May, a lawsuit accusing the NYPD of using race as the basis for stop and frisk searches was granted class-action status.
As the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) explains, “The NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practices raise serious concerns over racial profiling, illegal stops and privacy rights. The Department’s own reports on its stop-and-frisk activity confirm what many people in communities of color across the city have long known ... An analysis by the NYCLU revealed that more than 4 million innocent New Yorkers were subjected to police stops and street interrogations from 2004 through 2011, and that Black and Latino communities continue to be the overwhelming target of these tactics. Nearly nine out of 10 stopped-and-frisked New Yorkers have been completely innocent, according to the NYPD’s own reports.”
The New York Civil Liberties Union points out that one of the justifications behind the rise in street interrogations is to get guns off the street. That’s a laudable goal, but no gun was retrieved in 99.9 percent of stops. While Black and Latino young men ages 14–24 make up only 4.7 percent of the city’s population, they made up 41.6 percent of the stops by police in 2011. The number of stops of young Black men actually exceeded the total number of young Black men in the entire city population. Not only are Black and Latino New Yorkers much more likely to be frisked by the police than Whites, they are also less likely than whites to be found with a weapon and far more likely to have police force used against them.
The New York Civil Liberties Union also points out that the NYPD is continuing to engage in this pattern and practice of targeting Blacks and Latinos. Of the 203,500 New Yorkers stopped in the first three months of 2012, it notes, 108,097 were Black (54 percent) and 69,043 were Latino (33 percent). And 181,457 of the people stopped — 89 percent — were found to be totally innocent.
These kinds of policies are making the streets scarier for our children and young people. They represent the kind of racial profiling and mistrust that is fueling the national Cradle to Prison Pipeline ™ crisis that leaves a Black boy born in 2001 with a one in three chance of going to prison in his lifetime and a Latino boy with a one in six chance. It’s time to raise our collective voices and say enough is enough. The silent Father’s Day March will be a chance for people of all backgrounds to come, stand and walk silently down New York’s Fifth Avenue together to convey to New York City leaders that it is time to stop these unlawful searches and to stop treating hundreds of thousands of our young people of color like criminals when they have done nothing wrong. Please join us.
If you want to learn more about how policies like these across our nation are contributing to the nation’s Cradle to Prison Pipeline and mass incarceration crises and how you can take action in your community, join me at CDF’s national conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, July 22–25 and come to the Juvenile Justice and Mass Incarceration plenary sessions and Workshops. Sessions such as “Ending the New Apartheid: The Cradle to Prison Pipeline and Mass Incarceration” and “Dismantling the Cradle to Prison Pipeline: Successful State and Community Efforts” will help us all see and understand how we can stop it and racial profiling and put our children into a pipeline to college and productive work rather than jail. — (NNPA)
Marian Wright Edelman is 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.