First Focus Campaign to Hold Children Harmless
July 26, 2011
President Barack Obama
The Honorable Harry Reid
The Honorable Mitch McConnell
The Honorable John Boehner
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Dear Mr. President and Congressional Leaders,
In this country, we don't kick people when they're down, particularly children. Today, millions of American families and children face the possibility that they won't have enough food to eat or enough money to pay for the supplies needed for back to school. In these tough economic times, programs that lend a hand to families down on their luck are more important than ever. That is why we, the undersigned groups, ask you to hold children harmless in any deal to raise the debt ceiling.
As August 2nd quickly approaches and we debate raising the debt ceiling and the economic future of our nation, we must not forget to think about those who will be called on to create our future prosperity. Right now in America, one in four children relies on foods stamps, eight million children lack health insurance, and 1.3 million students drop out of school every year. And as a result of the recession, 43 percent of families with children report that they are struggling to afford stable housing. The poverty rate for kids in this country will soon hit 25 percent, the largest generation to grow up in hard times since the depression.
The American people recognize this crisis. Polling done by Greenberg-Quinlan and First Focus, shows that by a nearly 3-1 margin (58%-20%), American voters believe that the lives of children have gotten worse rather than better over the last ten years. Americans are deeply concerned that the generation growing up today will not have the same opportunities to achieve the American Dream. It's time for us as a nation to regain our focus.
If we do not raise the debt ceiling, we know the effects for children and families will be catastrophic. The federal government will have to choose between paying children's health insurance and paying military families the benefits they are owed. Interest rates will rise, so it will be harder for families to get a mortgage or borrow money to send a child to college. Businesses will be squeezed with higher expenses, meaning it will be more difficult to create well paying jobs. Finally, the costs of everyday items like fuel and food will go up, making it even harder for folks to provide for their families.
Inaction is not an option. However, we know that deficit reduction cannot and should not be accomplished on the backs of children. We need to hold children and families harmless. Already, spending on children makes up less than 10 percent of total federal spending. A cut from this small slice will barely dent the deficit while having dire consequences for the people who need the biggest helping hand.
American's recognize that our national deficit must be addressed, but oppose balancing the budget on the backs of kids. In polling, voters overwhelmingly reject major cuts to K-12 education, child nutrition, the Children's Health Insurance Program, Medicaid, Head Start, and college student loans. It is in our nation's best interest to raise the healthiest, most educated, best-prepared children in the world for the challenges that lie ahead. If we want to recapture the American Dream, we cannot afford to fail them. That is why we, the undersigned groups, again ask you to hold children harmless in any deal to raise the debt ceiling.
First Focus Campaign for Children