Marian Wright Edelman is founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund, a private, Washington-based organization that advocates for disadvantaged children and families. This statement was written in response to President Bush's 2002 State of the Union Address.
The Children's Defense Fund (CDF) understands and supports the need for homeland security. We also understand the importance of protecting the nation from enemies that would do us harm. But national security is not just about investing in the military, it is about investing in children and families. CDF wants every child and family in America to be safe and secure. But too many families are threatened by a terror that comes from losing a job, from not knowing where the next meal is coming from, or whether they'll have a roof over their head. The President's proposals to fight the recession at home do not go nearly far enough. They do not do enough to help the neediest Americans. We applaud his commitment to education and improving Head Start and hope his budget will reflect his stated commitment. We applaud the restoration of food stamps for many legal immigrants. But there is so much more he can do to improve the lives of many more Americans. There are nearly 12 million children living in poverty in America. We worry that, given the economic downturn, that number will grow.
The President's economic plan so far has favored the wealthiest one percent of Americans. This nation should not give another tax break to the wealthy or corporate America or make permanent existing tax breaks for the wealthiest individuals and companies until there are no more hungry, homeless, poor children. For the annual cost of what the President has already approved in tax cuts to the top one percent of taxpayers, we could pay for child care, Head Start, and health care for all of the children who still need it-as proposed in the comprehensive Act to Leave No Child Behind (S.940/H.R. 1990).
More and more working families are losing their jobs and showing up in greater numbers in emergency food lines and homeless shelters all across this nation. We must stop making it so difficult for low-income working families to be self-sufficient. President Bush's budget should help working families keep their jobs by providing child care and health care. If he is serious about leaving no child behind, then his budget should reflect it. He should put considerable investment in the Child Care and Development Block Grant this year so that two million more children in working families can have quality, affordable, safe child care and enter school ready to learn and succeed. If he is serious about leaving no child behind he should put considerable investment in the reauthorization of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) so working families can get the help they need to keep a job and lift themselves and their families out of poverty. It is one thing to say the words, it is quite another to do what it takes to really Leave No Child Behind. We hope he will make good on his promises.