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Child poverty rates increase unabated

As the nation focused on deficit-reduction and the debt, programs to help children out of poverty took a back seat.
/ Source: Melissa Harris Perry

As the nation focused on deficit-reduction and the debt, programs to help children out of poverty took a back seat.

Climate change, tax increases, and marriage equality are some of the major policy debate topics that have garnered much national attention in the past year. Child poverty, a less publicized yet vital issue, has surfaced again as a pressing public concern, with new statistics to go along with it.

A significant percentage of children in the United States are unequipped to succeed in this country, according to statistics from the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF). A staggering 21.9% of our nation’s children are living in poverty. The CDF data shows that children are the poorest age group and that the younger they are, the poorer.

Host Melissa Harris-Perry had a candid discussion with CDF founder Marian Wright Edelman about child poverty, and how the issue cannot be ignored in discussions about economic policy reform.  

“If the foundation of your house is crumbling, you don’t say you can’t afford to fix it,” said Edelman, dissatisfied with the way child poverty has been addressed in this country. “It’s disgraceful that we let children be the poorest group of Americans.”

Part of Edelman’s discontent stems from her belief that we already know how to fix the disparity. She identified changes in employment opportunities, wages increases, and tax incentives as a few of the items to be adjusted in order to create a better outlook for the impoverished children. “We’ve got to close the gap between what we know and what we do,” she said. Unfortunately, lawmakers have the deficit holding them back, cutting costs and inadvertently stunting the progress.

Be Careful What You Cut is a new CDF campaign that is bringing awareness to the fact that some of the major social welfare funding is being reduced at the expense of children. Early education investments, nutritional programs, and tax credits are major contributors to child welfare, and shrinking funding in these areas can have negative effects on a poor child already trying to survive against the odds.

With this, Edelman spoke on gun control, pointing out that the two discussions are not mutually exclusive. She noted that children need a healthy, safe start to their lives, but some poor children live in areas riddled with gun violence, which threatens their chances of surviving—let alone succeeding.

Edelman acknowledged the importance of fixing the national deficit, but not at the expense of our children. She asserts, “[Congress and the president] have got to invest in children out of self-interest, out of national security, out of just plain old decency.”