Monday, February 28, 2011

Suffer the Little Children

With the incisiveness that we have come to expect from him, Paul Krugman makes it very clear in his New York Times column of February 28th who will be suffering the most as a result of the huge budgets cuts now being imposed on local and state governments. It is the children, particularly poor children. As Krugman notes, politicians love to wax rhapsodically about how dedicated they are to the welfare of the young and for refusing to mortgage their futures away through deficit spending. But they conveniently overlook the fact that by cutting education and other social programs, they are undermining the ability of children to make a good life for themselves, a result that hurts children as individuals and over time decimates whole communities.

The example he cites is the State of Texas where the tax rate is extremely low for the wealthy and disproportionately high for the bottom 40 percent of the population. With tax increases "ruled out of consideration," Krugman notes, the savings will come from slashing Medicaid and education, the two areas that matter most for maintaining a decent quality of life for children. Of course, Texas is already pretty cheap when it comes to both education and healthcare. The school drop out rate is the 8th highest in the nation and Texas is in fifth place on measures of child poverty. But with these new, even more draconian cuts, the situation is only going to worsen and the real toll will be taken years from now when Texas and other states like it are saddled with unhealthy, mis-educated children who are robbed of the opportunity to become productive citizens. As Krugman says, the really striking about this isn't the cruelty - "at this point you expect that -- but the shortsightedness. What's supposed to happen when today's neglected children become tomorrow's work force?" And think about this. The damage that is done now cycles through the next generation and the next. It becomes a vicious and endlessly recurring cycle that can be avoided only through judicious budgeting and reasonable tax increases on the wealthiest members of society.

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