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Children's Needs . . . Ignored as Congress Passes Unjust Budget Resolution

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By Marian Wright Edelman

Over the past several weeks, hundreds of thousands of ordinary Americans have been calling, e-mailing, and visiting their members of Congress to urge them to vote NO on a budget resolution that will leave no millionaire but millions of children behind.

On Wednesday, March 19, hundreds of thousands of people called and e-mailed their congressional members urging them to reject the congressional budget resolution that sacrifices the futures of our children and grandchildren for massive new tax cuts for the rich. On Wednesday, April 9, hundreds of advocates rallied on Capitol Hill and flooded the offices of their Senators and Representatives with calls as part of the Children's Defense Fund's national conference and Wednesdays in Washington and At Home witness for children.

Despite all of our best efforts, Congress approved a grossly unjust budget resolution by very close margins on Friday, April 11. The final Senate vote on the resolution was 51 to 50 with all Democrats except Zell Miller (D-GA) opposed to the resolution and all Republicans except John McCain (R-AZ) and Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) voting in favor. Vice President Cheney cast the tie-breaking vote. The House approved the final budget resolution by a mostly party-line vote of 216-211.

The final budget resolution sets overall Congressional tax and spending priorities. It is the first of many steps in the legislative process needed to enact the irresponsible tax cuts for the rich and spending cuts in crucial children's programs proposed by the Bush Administration. While the budget does not include all the Bush Administration's proposed tax cuts, it does include most of the proposed cuts in programs for children and families. The House budget would make even deeper cuts to urgently needed services for children and the poor than the Bush budget.

Like the President's proposed budget, the final budget resolution would weaken and starve children's programs while lavishing massive tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans. It opens the door to dismantle and change Head Start as we know it; to block grant Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP); to cut and freeze programs for children and families; and to pass on huge deficits and debt to our children and grandchildren.

The last few months have been an especially tumultuous time for our country as we waged war in Iraq and continue to remain anxiously preoccupied with terrorism in our post-September 11 nation and world. Many Americans simply have not focused on the war at home-the war on America's most basic values of fairness and common sense.

The primary weapon in this war is a budget that will have a devastating impact on children and families now and for years to come. This is the most dangerous time that our children have faced since the Children's Defense Fund began 30 years ago. It is crucial that we wake up, do our homework, and educate our sleeping nation about the radical revolution underway to undermine our national commitment to children, the poor, and low- and middle-income families and turn back the clock of progress.

The huge tax cuts for the wealthy and the huge military increases will starve our national government of the resources needed to serve not only our vulnerable young, but also our elderly and disabled. The life and death of our children and the very survival of our nation's soul are at stake.
Don't be afraid to speak up for children.

You do not need to be able to debate the technicalities of budget and tax policy to know that it's wrong for the White House or Congress to plead no money to invest in children while at the same time giving trillions of dollars in tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. You don't need a Ph.D. in Philosophy or Theology to know it's hypocritical for leaders to say that no child will be left behind while leaving millions of children behind in poverty, without health coverage, in crumbling schools and understaffed classrooms, and alone after school without supervision. Robbing children to subsidize tax cuts for millionaires is morally indefensible and economically and socially foolish.

Children's needs cannot wait; millionaires' desires can. As Nobel Laureate Gabriela Mistral said many years ago: "Many things we need can wait. The child cannot. Now is the time his bones are being formed, his blood is being made, his mind is being developed. To him we cannot say tomorrow. His name is today." Act today to save our children's Head Start and health care.

Marian Wright Edelman is president of the Children's Defense Fund and a working committee member of the Black Community Crusade for Children (BCCC), whose mission is to Leave No Child BehindĀ®.

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