This week, the Congress will vote on the Ryan budget plan. Ryan’s Budget Plan severely and disproportionately cuts programs for hungry and poor people. Poverty in America not only affects the millions of people who are deprived of the common necessities to live, but it also affects the idea of progression and hopefulness in this country. The more than 46 million people in America living in squalor, poverty, and hunger are not invisible. Their concerns must be our concerns.
If passed, the Ryan budget plan would strike is a very serious blow to vulnerable children and families far into the future. Millions of children are in danger of budget cuts to vital health and income supports. House budget chair Paul Ryan, in his budget plan would rather the money go to defense spending and tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.
Much of the $4.1 trillion in proposed cuts in the Ryan Budget Plan comes from vital programs, while much of the savings goes to $4.3 trillion in new tax cuts. The members of the house supporting the Ryan budget plan are opting to balance our federal deficit on the backs of the most vulnerable. This proposal fails to create a circle of protection around programs vital for hungry and poor people in our country and abroad.
The Ryan Budget Plan gouges the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) by billions, and turns it into a block grant, which would prevent SNAP from responding to economic downturns. Additionally, the proposed budget cuts the funding levels negotiated by Congress last August, and it eliminates the protections established for all major low-income entitlement programs. It also slashes other crucial programs, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, WIC, and Head Start. International food aid and poverty-focused foreign assistance would also be deeply cut. Cuts to this vital funding would endanger lives and our own national security.
The Ryan plan cuts Medicaid funding by 20 percent next year, gutting a popular program that helps more than 28 million needy children receive care. And Medicaid is slashed by one-third over 10 years. By defunding the Affordable Care Act (health reform), millions more could also lose out on the chance for coverage. Education is hard hit, too, with billions slashed to services kids need to compete in the future. Pell Grants, which help students afford college, would face a budget freeze, and the interest some pay for student loans could double.
As an advocate for indigent children, youth, and families, I see the impact of poverty and need on those that we serve every day. I know first-hand, what poverty and dependence look like and how they destroy lives, hopes, dreams, and aspirations. We pray and cry with children who are hungry and parents who have lost hope. It is what we are, it is what we do.
In spite of the seemingly limitless prosperity that many Americans enjoy, millions of others are going hungry, foregoing medical care, doing without winter coats and gloves, struggling to break free from poverty. Last year, 46.2 million Americans lived below the poverty line – $22,314 a year for a family of four – marking the fourth year in a row that poverty has increased.
With 46.2 million residents, Poverty, USA, is the largest state in America. Today, the unemployment rate stands at 8.6 percent and despite recent economic growth more than 43 million Americans -including 14.7 million children – live in poverty, the highest in the more than 50 years that the data has been tracked. Yet a recent Gallup poll found that only 5% of Americans believe poverty and homelessness are important problems for the country. So let’s look at some facts and make our own determination:
Over 25 percent of the children in the US under the age of six live in poverty. The poverty rate among women climbed to 14.5 percent in 2010 from 13.9 percent in 2009, the highest in 17 years. As poverty surged last year to its highest level since 1993, median household income declined, leaving the typical American household earning less in inflation-adjusted dollars than it did in 1997. One out of every six Americans is now being served by at least one government anti-poverty program. Child homelessness in the United States is now 33 percent higher than it was back in 2007. More than 50 million Americans are now on Medicaid, the U.S. government health care program designed principally to help the poor.
According to the National Center on Family Homelessness, 1.6 million American children “were living on the street, in homeless shelters or motels, or doubled up with other families last year”. The percentage of children living in poverty in the United States increased from 16.9 percent in 2006 to nearly 22 percent in 2010. One out of every seven mortgages in the United States was either delinquent or in foreclosure during the first quarter of 2010.
The number of children living in poverty in the U.S. has risen for four years in a row. There are 10 different U.S. states where at least one out of every four babies is born to a family living in poverty. 28 percent of all U.S. households have at least one member that is looking for a full-time job. There are seven million children in the United States today that are not covered by health insurance at all.
Hundreds of advocates for families in crisis have called Congress about the proposed fiscal year 2013 budget being debated by the House of Representatives. We have analyzed the budget, and the news is bad for people who are struggling: The proposed budget cuts the highly effective Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by 17 percent over the next 10 years. This will put millions more American families at risk of hunger. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reports that the cuts are so severe that most of the government—aside from health care, Social Security, and defense—would cease to exist by 2050.
The budget severely and disproportionately cuts programs for hungry and poor people. Much of the $4.1 trillion in proposed cuts comes from these vital programs, while much of the savings goes to $4.3 trillion in new tax cuts.
The next 24 hours are crucial as the House of Representatives plans to vote on this budget tomorrow, March 29. Please call your representative now. If the line is busy, please redial and call again. Please let your elected officials in Washington know that you care about children and families.
We can only make a difference when we take action.
“You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result. ~ Gandhi
Source(s): Action Alert Voices for Americas Children. Action Alert Bred For the World. St. Vincent de Paul Society. National Center on Family Homelessness
Photo Credit: Microsoft Clip Art