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George Bush Has Already Declared War—On Children

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By Hazel Trice Edney
NNPA Washington Correspondent

(NNPA)—As the world watches intently to see if and when the United States goes to war with Iraq, a major child rights advocate says President Bush has already declared war within our borders—on children.

“He has just proposed a budget that declares war on children,” says Marian Wright Edelman, the well-respected president of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) in Washington, D.C.

“He’s proposing to slash childcare at a time when his welfare bill is being rushed through to make poor mothers work longer hours as they leave welfare. Who’s supposed to take care of the children?”

Not the federal government, judging by Bush’s proposed budget. The plan:

** Seeks to dismantle federal Head Start, a preschool educational program for disadvantaged children, and turn it over to states, thereby erasing minimum national performance standards.

More than 35 percent of children enrolled in Head Start (294,000) are Black, according to the Department of Health and Human Services;

** Eliminates after-school programs for 570,000 children by phasing out 45 programs in the Department of Education’s 21st Century Community Learning Program;

** Jeopardizes Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) funding for at least 4.5 million Black children by shifting funding in state block grants;

** Cuts federal childcare by 30,000 children this year and 200,000 over the next five years with the placement of a freeze on the Child Care and Development Block Grant for low-income families; and

** Cuts the budgets of delinquency prevention programs by more than $17 million, affecting more than 1,000 communities.

While proposing deep cuts in children’s programs, Bush is calling for a $670 billion stimulus plan that would feature large tax cuts for the wealthy and eliminate federal income taxes on stock dividends.
Bush defends his proposed budget—including the tax cuts—as necessary to boost the economy.

“This is a realistic plan. It is a hopeful plan. It is a plan based upon sound principle. It is a plan which will work,'' Bush told a group of economists after his proposed tax cuts were criticized by Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.

Greenspan told the Senate Banking Committee that it may be premature for Congress to pass Bush’s economic stimulus plan because the greatest factor impeding the economy is uncertainty over war with Iraq.

“I am one of the few people who still are not as yet convinced that stimulus is a desirable policy at this particular point,” he told the committee, prompting even some Democrats and Republicans to rethink the stimulus package.

“The president’s budget, if adopted by this Congress, would fail to adequately fund crucial programs upon which American families—by the tens of millions—now depend,” says Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

“There are over 9.2 million children in this country who lack health care—18 percent of them are African-American,” Cummings says. “Unfortunately, due to the struggling economy, this number will only get larger.”
Like his actions on affirmative action, Bush offers compassionate words mixed with regressive actions when addressing children issues, according to Edelman.

Two years ago, Bush appropriated the phrase, “Leave No Child Behind,” which is a registered trademark of the Children’s Defense Fund, while pledging to support children’s issues.

“He has taken our trademark words, ‘Leave No Child Behind.’ He appears to be compassionate. He appears to be doing good things when he does the opposite,” Edelman says as she prepared to address an audience of child-advocates on Capitol Hill last week. “This hypocrisy is what confuses people.”

When Bush began his education initiative two years ago, he called it the “Leave No Child Behind Act.” However, the CDF reminded him in writing that the slogan is a registered trademark and should not be misused.

Bush then changed his slogan to “No Child Left Behind,” but has still used CDF’s registered slogan in speeches. That wouldn’t be so bad if Bush was keeping his pledge to aid children, activists say.

Edelman, accompanied by dozens of other child advocates, about 100 ministers and 650 adolescents and teens, held a two-day protest last week that included Capitol Hill rallies, a prayer service, a day-long “teach-in” and intensive lobbying of legislators.

“He’s deluding the public that he’s taking care of children and in reality he is not,” says Rev. William S. Epps, pastor of the 1,200-member Second Baptist Church in Los Angeles.

Epps says Black preachers should be educating their members about the budget cuts. “I’m going to rally my folks.”

Also helping to rally people is Erin Young, the 12-year-old president of the Junior Senate of the All God’s Children United Methodist Church in Aulander, N. C., an impoverished community in the northeast corner of the state.

Holding a sign that read, “Don’t Cut Out the Children,” she told a reporter, “We represent children who need these programs to grow up right.”

The lobbying effort was partially aimed to highlight legislation jointly sponsored by Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) and supported by Edelman. Among other things, the legislation provides tax relief for low-wage working families.

Even those who benefit from the president’s tax cuts say they are unfair, Dodd says.
“I’m from Connecticut, the most affluent state in our nation. I don’t think I’ve gotten five letters or five phone calls saying we want this tax cut,” he told an audience of 200 people at a CDF rally in the Dirkson Senate Office Building.

Edelman promises not to back down.
“This is one of the most revolutionary, radical assaults on children and the poor. It’s a very dangerous time. We’ll look up and the tax cuts will be run through, all this other stuff will be run through. But we’ve got to fight.”

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