How much money does the government invest in children?
Voices interns Nicole Bibel and Sarah Rogers guest blog with us today on research into how much we, as a country, spend supporting child programs.
The recession has been officially over for a while now, but try telling that to families still struggling in its wake. A recent report put out by the Urban Institute, a DC-based non-profit, highlighted what the recession and its aftermath means for kids both today and as they grow up.
Federal spending, including support for child services and the safety net, has decreased for the first time in 30 years. At the same time, the number of children in poverty has been increasing since the recession and shows no sign of leveling off. In 2011, one in five children were living below the poverty level, and even more are living in low-income families just above the poverty level. Overall, children’s spending makes up 10 percent of the $3.6 trillion federal budget, compared to 20 percent allocated to defense and 6 percent to paying interest.
In 2011, $5 billion in federal cuts were made to children’s programs, and, as it stands now, more cuts will be made to the FY13 budget. Projections estimate that over the next ten years federal spending will increase by $1 trillion. Of this amount, only 1 percent will go to children. This means that by 2022 children’s spending will account for only 8 percent of the total budget.
Another startling figure was that children today are each born with a $36 million in debt that will have to be paid off in their lifetime, either through program cuts or increased taxes. Looking at that another way, children today have less support and benefits as they grow up, and at the same time bear the burden of getting the country out of debt.
The panelists did stress, however, that there still is hope and that we are in a period of great opportunity. Julia Isaacs, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute and one of the authors of Kids’ Share 2012: Report on Federal Expenditures on Children through 2011, pointed out that a look at the polls shows that the American public does realize how important it is to invest in children, and wants to find a way to give more towards improving education. Marc Goldwein, senior policy director of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, emphasized that “sometimes this country’s greatest troubles lead to our greatest triumphs.”
So what can we advocates do? Stay involved, and encourage young people to get involved as well! Dan Crippen, executive director of the National Governors’ Association, recommends joining advisory committees at state and local levels, where real differences can be made. As the year wraps up and budget plans threaten to cut 10 percent of education funding, it’s important to keep policy members aware that this is not okay and that we will speak out.