Too Many Texas Children Live in Poverty
November 18, 2011 | By Eilleen Garcia and Alan W. Houseman | Houston Chronicle | Link to article
As the recession pushes more and more children into poverty, Americans and particularly Texans should pay attention to what it means for our future. More than one in nine of the 16 million American children now living in poverty is a Texan. The child poverty rate here was an astounding 26 percent in 2010, according to the U.S. Census.
In this pivotal moment, America should recommit itself to helping vulnerable children meet their potential. Unfortunately, the focus in Washington is on how to cut services that help children in order to preserve tax breaks and maximize income for wealthy Americans and corporations.
Nearly all of Texas' poor children are American citizens in working families. They are trying to get ahead, but still can't make ends meet. Yet Texas' future prosperity hinges on lifting kids out of poverty. Texans have two choices: Take action to meet more children's needs today, or experience a bleaker future as a state, with a work force that's less educated and less ready to compete tomorrow.
To address the nation's debt crisis, Congress has already approved $1 trillion in budget cuts. Most of this will come in nondefense discretionary spending, which will likely disproportionately affect services for the poor. To find another $1.5 trillion in cuts, Congress created a 12-member supercommittee co-chaired by Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Dallas.
Some members of this committee are already drawing a line in the sand, saying that revenue cannot be part of the solution. They propose preserving corporate tax loopholes and tax breaks for the rich at the expense of children, families and the future.
Services that support children are cost-effective, because they prevent children from needing more costly services down the road. Services like Medicaid, early childhood education, school lunches, education, Pell grants, hunger relief and child care provide children with opportunity and a chance to lead healthier, more successful lives. The Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit make our country stronger and more competitive because they keep families out of poverty.
Draconian cuts, by contrast, undermine our ability to give young Texans a chance and undermine our economy. These cuts at the federal level also lead to accompanying cuts at the state level, exacerbating their impact.
These budget cuts are job-killers that will slow the nation's economic recovery. The vital services supported by this funding are provided by small businesses that create jobs in their communities. Millions of people work at the day-care centers, community-health clinics and senior centers that will be devastated by these cuts.
Services like day care for children and home care for sick parents give people the independence they need to work. Gutting these services will force them back home to care for their children or elderly parents, while putting professional caregivers and the owners of small businesses on the unemployment line. Congress calls small businesses the engine of the economy, but is creating a double standard for small businesses that provide vital services to children and families.
The nation's budget is a reflection of our values as Americans. Supporting family values means supporting families and the services they need. Hensarling and the supercommittee need to put every option on the table to ensure that children are protected and everyone shares in the sacrifices that have to be made to put our country and Texas on a better track. Kids need clothes, food and health care more than corporations and billionaires need more tax breaks. We are depending on Hensarling to choose to support children.