Federal Children's Watch – Don't Let Children Go Over the "Fiscal Cliff"

Now that the election has finally ended, the debate in Washington has shifted to the budget and taxes. There has been a lot of coverage about the so-called “fiscal cliff”. In plain English, this refers to the end of the year when two big things are scheduled to happen by law: 1) the end of the tax breaks passed in 2001 and 2003 plus the end of more recent tax changes that specifically benefit working families such as the child tax credit, the earned income tax credit, and the payroll tax cut and other important policies and 2) automatic spending cuts to a wide variety of children’s programs and other functions of the government Congress set in motion in the middle of 2011.

The priorities of some in Washington DC are clearly out of whack. For example, many Republicans in Congress support extending the estate-tax cut enacted in 2010 that provides a large tax break to the estates of the wealthiest 0.3 percent of Americans who die each year — about 7,000 people — while ending a provision of the same 2010 tax legislation that makes improvements in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) that benefit 13 million moderate-income working families. At the same time they support the automatic spending cuts that would deny Head Start services to 75,000 children, job training to 20,000 youth, special education services to 460,000 students, tuition support to 1.3 million college students, and heating and air conditioning subsidies to 734,000 households with children and young adults. In addition to these cuts, House Republicans voted earlier this year to end the Social Services Block Grant, the main source of state funding to prevent and treat child abuse.

 The Every Child Matters Education Fund strong opposes these cuts and urges Congress to adopt a new approach with the following goals:

  • Hold children’s programs harmless. Programs that promote and protect the health, education, and safety of children should not be compromised. Trillion dollar deficits did not arise because we spend too much on children’s programs. Cutting them won’t solve the country’s debt issue. It will make it worse.
  • Create jobs. With high unemployment, any effort to reduce the deficit must include significant state assistance to fund education, rebuild infrastructure, and continue unemployment assistance to families with children.
  • Require the wealthiest 2% to pay their fair share. The tax breaks passed earlier last decade, along with the economic slowdown, has led to the federal government collecting the least amount of revenue as a share of the economy in history. With 93% of the benefits of the recovery going to the top 1% of earners, these tax breaks for those making more than $250,000 a year must end. President Obama has proposed $1.6 trillion in new revenues over the next 10 years. We strong support this proposal and urge Congress to adopt it before the end of the year.
  • No cuts to the safety net and services for low-income people. Nearly a trillion dollars was cut in these programs in 2011. Congress must not cut any more as the poor and working families have been hurt the most in recent years.
  • End the automatic scheduled for January 1st, 2013. These planned cuts to Head Start, child care, community centers, special education, and more must be cancelled. They won’t create jobs, they won’t help children get educated, and they will hurt our future competitiveness.
  • No cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Millions of seniors, children, people with disabilities, and others, depend on these vital programs and they must not be cut. We have made a promise to future generations that cowardly politicians in Washington must not break.

Congress will begin to take action on this right after Thanksgiving. Send a message to your Representatives and Senators and tell them to stand up for children and make sure the wealthy pay their fair share.

We will keep you updated as developments in Congress occur over the next several weeks.