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Friday, January 4th, 2013
Is there a phrase you’d like to banish more than “fiscal cliff”? But before we put it out of our minds–temporarily, anyway–let’s hear a smart analysis of what the agreement hammered out on New Year’s Eve really means for families. This follow-up post comes from Ann O’Leary,the director of the Children and Families Program at The Center for the Next Generation. The Center has recently launched a campaign called Too Small to Fail, a national movement to raise awareness about the state of America’s children and how the country can come together to create a stronger future for the next generation; we at Parents are one of its partners.
In an 11th hour set of furious negotiations, Congress and President Obama reached an agreement on the so-called “fiscal cliff,” a self-imposed set of deadlines that would have resulted in automatic tax increases and across-the-board spending cuts in the absence of a deal.
In many respects, the deal is good news for America’s children and families.
- It raises taxes on the wealthiest Americans (those families making over $450,000 per year, or individuals making over $400,000 per year) and uses the increased revenue to provide many supports for middle- and low-income working families.
- It preserves the middle-class income tax cuts put into place in 2001 under President George W. Bush.
- It also ensures a lower tax bill for more working parents by extending the expansion of two critical tax breaks for taxpayers with children—the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit—particularly to reach larger and lower-income families.
- In addition, it lowers the tax bill for low- and moderate-income families who are helping pay for their children’s college tuition by extending the American Opportunity Tax Credit.
- Finally, the deal extends unemployment insurance benefits to the long-term unemployed, many of whom are parents desperately searching for a job in a still-weak economy.
But as I explained just before the holidays, the fiscal cliff is only the latest hurdle faced by our government in trying to resolve much longer-term debates about how much debt the United States should carry, which revenue and spending policies will best help the economy grow, and whether the United States can sustain the commitments it has made to America’s seniors through Social Security and Medicare.
None of these bigger and more difficult questions have been resolved as part of this deal. In fact, Congress and the President agreed to delay the automatic budget cuts to major federal spending programs for only two months and to delay the question of whether Congress will again raise the country’s debt limit. This means that the President and the Congress, divided by deep ideological differences about how best to spend taxpayer dollars, have again agreed to automatic spending cuts that will take effect in early March, including cuts to some of our most impactful programs for children—Title I funds that aid schools with the most low-income students, federal funding that goes to states to help schools pay for the costs of aiding children with special needs and disabilities, and funding for Head Start to provide critical early education opportunities to our neediest children.
It also means that, at some point soon, Congress and the President will reopen the debate about reforming Social Security and Medicare, our largest entitlement programs. Along with debating those entitlement programs, they are likely to put back on the table possible cuts to Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—programs that provide essential health and food security for millions of America’s children.
So, we may have temporarily rescued our kids from the edge of the cliff. But the political winds continue to push them toward the precipice.
Photo: Fiscal cliff phrase in the sand being washed away via Shutterstock.
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Ann O'Leary, Center for the Next Generation, Children's Health Insurance Program, congress, fiscal cliff, head start, Medicare, president obama, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Too Small to Fail | Categories:
GoodyBlog, News, Your Child
Thursday, November 15th, 2012
Child care often costs as much as college tuition, and 87 percent of Parents readers who use child care told us that finding affordable quality care is either a challenge, very hard, or simply impossible. The facts in our recent article, “The Child Care Crisis,” are eye-opening.
Although we’ve heard a lot about our “do-nothing Congress,” watching this video of a Senate subcommittee hearing about child care gave me some hope. The Chairwoman, Democrat Barbara Mikulksi, and the ranking Republican, Richard Burr, had nothing but kind words for each other. They both said that it was time to make improvements to the Child Care and Development Block Grant, the legislation that authorizes Federal subsidies to states for child care, which hasn’t been updated since 1996. “It is absolutely crucial that we make a national commitment that safe and quality child care is available everywhere,” Senator Burr insisted.
After all, no matter what party you’re in, children should be a priority. As Jeb Hensarling, chairman of the House Republican Conference, said recently: “The worst time to work together on a bipartisan basis is right before an election. The best time to work on a bipartisan basis is right after an election.”
Parents is partnering with Child Care Aware of America on a letter-writing campaign to advocate for new standards like these that will protect children at child-care centers and in family day-care homes:
- Comprehensive background checks for all caregivers
- At least 40 hours of initial training and 24 hours of annual training for caregivers in health/safety and child development
- At least one unannounced inspection per year
- Required state license for all centers and day-care homes of any size
- Results of inspections and violations posted online
- Quality rating systems for centers and homes in every state
- An increase in the percentage of federal funds reserved for quality improvement
Please click here to send a letter to your members of Congress!
Photo courtesy of Child Care Aware of America
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Friday, December 3rd, 2010
Sledding can send kids slip-sliding into injury, study says
Whether they’re gliding on plain plastic saucers or high-tech snow tubes, children and teens on sleds account for at least 20,820 injuries in the United States each year, according to a first-ever analysis of U.S. emergency room reports. (MSNBC)
Brain scan ‘best thing so far’ for detecting autism
The way autism is diagnosed could become less subjective by using a brain-imaging-based test that is being developed by researchers and that, in early trials, was 94 percent accurate. Autism is now diagnosed through a symptom-based test: A health-care provider observes a patient for the characteristics outlined in the psychology reference book, “The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV.” (MSNBC)
Women exposed to BPA may have trouble getting pregnant
Mice that were exposed to tiny amounts of the common chemical in the womb and shortly after birth had no problems getting pregnant early in their reproductive lives, the study found. But the animals were less likely to get pregnant as they aged compared to animals that had not been exposed to BPA, and they gave birth to smaller litters as time wore on. (MSNBC)
Breast test furor fades but anger lingers
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Patients, physicians and major medical organizations fought back (“I want my mammograms!”) when the United States Preventive Services Task Force recommended that women with average breast cancer risk begin biannual mammograms at 50. The American Cancer Society, the American College of Radiology (although some would argue that radiologists have financial incentive in frequent screenings) and other organizations have continued to support women getting yearly mammograms from 40 onward. (CNN)