How State and Local Budget Cuts Affect Children

The following letter to the editor was written by Every Child Matters President Michael Petit and was published today in the New York Times:

Paul Krugman’s Feb. 28 column, “Leaving Children Behind,” illustrates a major reason why the nation’s poorest citizens are children, and why the least poor are elderly: states have too much power to set benefits and eligibility for the federal programs they administer aimed at children and families, programs like Medicaid and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.

Texas, like many conservative states, especially those with large minority populations, opts for very modest benefits through these programs.

TANF monthly grants for a family of three are $260 per month in Texas, but $675 in New Hampshire.

So what? Why shouldn’t the decision on what benefits to provide children be left up to the states? Because when addressing major national social ills, like child poverty, our children should not be viewed as Texas children first, but as American children first.

Benefits for the elderly are not left to the political whims of individual states. They are properly set by Congress, insuring that Medicare and Social Security benefits are identical from Maine to Hawaii. Absent the same federal protections, pity Texas’s poor children.

Michael R. Petit