Who Will Save The Children?
September 10, 2004
By Mark Sullivan
must admit I was somewhat startled when White House Chief of Staff
Andrew Card made the comment
to reporters that George W. Bush "sees America as we think of a
10-year-old child." The Kerry campaign was right to quickly condemn
this characterization as "condescending," with spokesman Phil Singer
following it up by saying that "any parent that ran a household
the way that George W. Bush runs the country would find themselves
in bankruptcy court on the way to family court."
If Andrew Card is to be believed, and Bush is really going to
take on the role as the "Father of Our Country," then I figured
I'd better find out what was in store for me, a newly-christened
"Child of Our Country." And what better way to find that out then
by looking at what Bush has done for those in this country who already
were children before this recent declaration.
As I'm sure Bush knows as well as anyone, the United States is
first in Gross Domestic Product; first in the number of millionaires
and billionaires; first in health technology; first in military
technology; first in military exports; and first in defense expenditures.
But we're also 14th in our efforts to lift children out of poverty.
We're 16th in low birth weight rates; 18th in the percent of children
in poverty; 18th in the percent of 15 year olds falling below international
education benchmarks; 23rd in infant mortality; and dead last in
protecting our children against gun violence.
With all of those depressing statistics, you'd think Dubya would
be working extra hard to make sure that he would fulfill his campaign
promises so that there would be "No Child Left Behind." Unfortunately
for George, but most unfortunately for young Americans, the Bush
Administration has systematically left millions of children behind
through their uneven and flat out uncaring policies (or lack thereof).
The most recent example of children suffering under this administration
comes straight from the United States Census Bureau, who just last
month reported that 700,000 additional children fell into poverty
in 2003. This is on top of the 546,000 children who joined the poverty
ranks in Bush's first two years in office. Ninety percent of those
546,000 were either black or Latino.
This brings the total number of poverty-stricken children in America,
the richest country the world has ever seen, to a staggering 12.8
million. Those numbers alone are enough to make anyone angry, but
they are merely the beginning of the long list of Bush's attacks
on our nation's future.
In his 2005 budget, Mr. Bush proposed a funding freeze for the
Child Care and Development Block Grant. This grant gives federal
dollars to states in order to provide for child care assistance.
But as a result of this freeze, White House analysts predict that
by 2009, the number of children receiving assistance will drop by
200,000. A study by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities
shows that number to be closer to 365,000. This is all in addition
to the approximately 100,000 children who lost coverage in 2003,
and the estimated 550,000 children who remain on waiting lists across
As if that weren't enough, the 2005 budget also froze funding for
Head Start, and called for a shift from federal to state programs,
which have been shown to have less accountability and lower quality
standards. The budget also freezes enrollment, a move that prevents
40 percent of those eligible for Head Start and 97 percent of those
eligible for Early Head Start from ever enrolling.
In the words of Bush himself, "Is our children learning?" With
continued cuts like these, many will never have a chance. It also
goes without saying that without child care assistance or Head Start,
many children will be forced to be left home alone while their parents
are at work.
Even children still in the womb aren't safe from this administration.
For a president who never fails to remind us of his commitment to
protecting the unborn, Bush still has an abysmal record when it
comes to protecting those same unborn children.
Said record comes in the form of the EPA removing mercury emissions
from environmental regulations, most notably the Clean Air Act.
This is in spite of the fact that in December of 2000, the EPA concluded
that mercury emissions are a public health menace. Studies have
shown that these same mercury emissions that Bush wants to allow
can cause significant developmental effects on fetuses.
And even if that fetus does survive poisoning by mercury, they
still have a whole new environmental problem to worry about: dirty
air. Because of Bush forcing the EPA to relax the standards for
factories that dump chemicals into our air, a study of just 51 power
plants subjected to review found that the toxins put out by these
plants caused the premature deaths of 5,500 to 9,000 people each
year. These 51 plants are also responsible for as many as 170,000
asthma attacks annually. Children and the elderly are disproportionately
affected as a result of their weaker immune systems.
I'd like to take a minute to congratulate those who have the stomach
or the willpower to have gotten this far without lashing out in
anger and throwing their computer out a window. I wish that I didn't
have to write any of this, but it especially saddens me to say that
I am not finished. It gets worse.
Enter H.R. 4359, the Child Credit Preservation and Expansion Act.
While many people support increasing the child tax credit (myself
included), one quick glance at the numbers shows that this is nothing
more than another example of stealing from the taxpayer to line
the pockets of the wealthiest of Americans.
According to Children's Defense Fund President and Founder Marian
Wright Edelman, "under this misguided bill, a family with a parent
who works full time at minimum wage would not be able to get a dime
of the child tax credit, while a wealthy family making $250,000
a year would receive a giveaway of thousands of dollars."
She's not making this up. H.R. 4359 dramatically increased the
income limits that determine eligibility for the child tax credit.
Under this bill, the income limit for married couples who could
receive the full $1,000 credit was raised by $140,000 (up from $110,000).
Even families who earn as much as $309,000 would be able to obtain
a partial credit.
Similar to the rest of the Bush tax cuts, low income families receive
little to no credit. This is all on top of the fact that this is
a $65 billion tax cut that is not paid for, thus increasing our
deficit (which will reach a record $422 billion this year) and increasing
the burden on future generations.
Finally, the most obvious and highly visible of Bush's attack
on children comes in the form of his highly touted, ironically named
"No Child Left Behind Act." For those who've been living under a
rock the past three and a half years, the NCLB Act calls for tougher
standards and more accountability in public schools (and I thought
Republicans were for smaller government?).
While the idea behind the bill is not entirely a bad thing, Bush
seems to have forgotten to fully fund the program, leaving a $33.2
billion hole, the brunt of which affects Title I programs for low
income children, funding for which fell short by $22.4 billion.
Bush even proposed cutting $200 million in educational assistance
to children in the military, despite promising to increase funding
by $310 million.
In a speech in New Mexico in January of 2004, Bush stated that
he's "incredibly optimistic about our nation's future." And I suppose
that if you're rich, white, and Republican, you have every reason
to be optimistic right along with him.
But if you're a child who was born into poverty with birth defects
thanks to mercury emissions, contracted asthma due to our dirty
air, sat at home unsupervised because your parents were unable to
enroll you in Head Start or any sort of child care program, and
then attended a school with a crumbling foundation, outdated textbooks,
and supplies purchased out of your teacher's pocket, then the only
thing George Bush has given you to be optimistic about is a future
saddled with debt.
George Bush is wrong on the environment, wrong on child care, wrong
on education, and wrong on our future. He recently said that he
was very optimistic about his chances in the upcoming election.
On November 2nd, let us prove him wrong for the last time.