We Can Reduce Child Poverty by 60 Percent Right Now

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BillMoyers.com is proud to collaborate with TalkPoverty.org as we focus on poverty coverage over the next two weeks. Every day, visit BillMoyers.com to discover a new action you can take to help turn the tide in the fight against poverty.

Photo credit: Lauren Feeney

Photo credit: Lauren Feeney

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “America is going to hell if we don’t use her vast resources to end poverty and make it possible for all God’s children to have the basic necessities of life.”

It is a national disgrace that such an unconscionably large number of children are homeless, hungry and living in poverty in a country with the world’s largest economy.
Today, 150 years after the end of slavery, every other black baby in America is poor. Every third Hispanic baby is poor. Nearly every fourth rural child is poor. All told, there are 14.7 million poor children and 6.5 million extremely poor children in the United States of America. It is a national disgrace that such an unconscionably large number of children are homeless, hungry and living in poverty in a country with the world’s largest economy.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

It is way past time for a critical mass of Americans to confront the hypocrisy of America’s pretension to be a fair playing field while almost 15 million children languish in poverty. Sadly, politics too often trumps good policy, moral decency and responsibility to the next generation and the nation’s future.

But the Children’s Defense Fund has just released a groundbreaking report, Ending Child Poverty Now, showing how — for the first time — we can massively reduce this scourge. The CDF’s plan would cut child poverty overall by 60 percent, shrink black child poverty by 72 percent, and improve economic circumstances for 97 percent of poor children – all at a cost of $77.2 billion a year, a relative pittance.

By pursuing these policies immediately, we would not only improve the lives and futures of millions of children; over the long term, we would save taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars annually. Child poverty costs our country about half a trillion dollars a year, six times more than what it would cost to significantly reduce child poverty and improve the future for millions of children, their parents and the country.

In its report, the CDF has identified multiple ways to pay for these changes without increasing the federal deficit, such as closing tax loopholes and cutting corporate subsidies. The report concludes that by investing another two percent of the federal budget to improve programs and policies we already know work – such as parental employment, making work pay and ensuring that children’s basic needs are met – the solution to ending child poverty is within reach.

Children have only one childhood — they can’t wait. It’s time to act with urgency and, together, ensure that all God’s children have the opportunity to reach their potential. If we love America, and we love our children, we must all stand against the excessive greed that tramples the millions of children entrusted to our care.

Read the report at the Children’s Defense Fund website, and sign up to receive updates about how you can fight for a real plan to reduce child poverty by 60 percent right now.

The views expressed in this post are the author’s alone, and presented here to offer a variety of perspectives to our readers.

Marian Wright Edelman
Marian Wright Edelman is president of the Children’s Defense Fund and its Action Council whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start, and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities.
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