Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Failing The Children

If you pay any attention to the national news you are no doubt familiar with the ongoing debates over gun control, debt reduction, spending cuts and entitlement reform.  Washington insiders and the national media are constantly reminding us about the fiscal and political ramifications of these weighty topics…how long it will take Paul Ryan’s budget to proposal to actually balance the budget or how Senator So and So’s re-election prospects will be affected by his stance on gun control.  But there seems to be very little discussion about how decisions coming out of Washington specifically affect the lives of every day Americans.
So we’d like to take just a few moments to dig into the weeds of how Washington’s decisions on gun control and the sequestration spending cuts affect the most defenseless of our citizenry…the children.
According to recent polls 61% of Americans favor stricter gun control laws.  Over 90% favor universal background checks on all gun purchases.  In spite of these overwhelming numbers gun advocates led by the NRA have succeeded in removing a ban on assault weapons and extended capacity magazines from the discussion.  Although background checks are still being considered there is little chance that any watered down proposal that gets through Senate will make it through the House. 
The NRA says that background checks would be “inconvenient and a paperwork nightmare for legal gun owners.”  They say that background checks will lead to a national registry of guns and gun owners; a violation of our right to privacy.  They say the only purpose for a gun registry: “is to tax them to take them.”
The NRA has proposed their own gun safety legislation which includes allowing all citizens to carry their firearms with them at all times, arming teachers in schools and providing for armed security guards at every school in the country.
So in the real world according to the NRA, John Q. Citizen could sell one of his guns to a friend without a background check.  This is called a “casual sale.”  That friend, who may or may not be mentally stable, would be allowed to carry his/her firearm into a school.  Mary Math Teacher, who might be having a very bad day, would be allowed to carry her firearm into her classroom.  And is there any guarantee that the security guard hired to protect the children could not just as easily turn into their worst nightmare.
The sequestration cuts recently passed into law by congress focus on slashing discretionary spending.  Government programs like food stamps, unemployment benefits, aid to dependent children, education and a host of others are being cut because congress does not have the will to tackle entitlement reform and defense spending…the true drivers of our fiscal woes. While discretionary spending only represents 8-12% of our national budget it represents 100% of the programs that millions of everyday Americans need to survive.
 According to the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration: “Head Start provides federal grants to local public and private non-profit and for profit agencies to provide comprehensive child development services to economically disadvantaged children and families with a special focus on helping preschoolers develop the early reading and math skills they need to be successful in school.”  The Head Start program in Indiana is being cut due to the passage of the sequestration cuts in Washington. 
Yesterday parents in the small town of Columbus, Indiana gathered in a local school auditorium to see if their child would be among those who would receive Head Start benefits.  A lottery was conducted with the names of the lucky children pulled out of a hat.  Thirty six sets of parents wept upon learning that their child was not one of the chosen.  The long term ramifications for their child are incalculable...not to mention the economic impact on their families as they cope with time off work and finding alternative child care.
The US spends more per capita on education than any other country in the world.  Yet our children continue to rank in the middle of all industrial countries in terms of math, reading and science proficiency.
The sequestration cuts will also scale back food stamps.  16,000,000 children in this country are living in poverty.  22% of all children reside in families living below the poverty level. One in four children lives on food stamps.
We like to say that the United States of America is the greatest country in the world.  But if we cannot keep our children safe from violence…if we cannot find the means to educate them…if we cannot even feed them properly…
…then one must question how “great” a nation we really are.
The decisions that are made in Washington have very serious day-to-day consequences. 
Just ask the children.


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