02/16/2011 05:53 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Not 'So Be It'

"So be it," House Speaker John Boehner said at a briefing yesterday, dismissing job losses as collateral damage in the funding proposal currently before the House of Representatives. Today, the House continues to debate the proposed, draconian cuts in critical programs for children for this fiscal year. Under no circumstances should children be collateral damage in a rush to cut the budget and reduce the deficit. The House Republican proposal is short-sighted, will do little to balance the federal budget, will cut life and hope-giving supports and will have a devastating impact not only on our children but our nation's future ability to compete in the world economy.

We should have a responsible, fair and balanced national conversation about reducing the deficit, but the health, education, and future of our children should not be sacrificed. We need to get our priorities right: to invest in babies ahead of bankers and to make tough choices based on real national security needs -- our human capital.

The greatest threat to America's national security and our long-term economic well-being comes from no external enemy. It is our failure to protect, invest in and educate all our children right now. When more than 60 percent of all students in our public schools -- all income brackets, all race and ethnic groups -- cannot read or do math at grade level in the fourth, eighth and twelfth grades -- and 25 percent drop out or do not graduate on time -- our economic future is in peril. We cannot fix this problem by chopping more than a billion dollars from special education for children with disabilities and other already inadequate investments in education for disadvantaged children and from programs like the 21st Century Community Learning Centers and the High School Graduation Initiative.

The Department of Defense is spending $1.9 billion a day. Just three days of defense spending would pay for critical programs for children the House Appropriations Committee currently has on the chopping block. Just one second of defense spending -- $29,679.13 -- is more than a Head Start teacher earns in a year. Yet the proposal before the House cuts $1 billion from Head Start, which would eliminate jobs and leave more than 140,000 children without the quality early childhood experiences they need.

Saving children early and saving money go hand in hand. But the House Appropriation Committee's proposed cuts of almost $800 million to the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) are penny-wise and pound foolish as they would leave millions of children without the critical health care and nutrition for a healthy start in life.

If we could help out bankers again at the end of last year by extending tax cuts on their overseas profits, we certainly can help babies who need these critical supports. Giving children their basic human rights to adequate nutrition, health care, and education should be a no brainer. Eliminating those tax cuts for bankers' overseas profits would pay for many children's programs the House Appropriations Committee would cut.

Especially in this time of high unemployment, when young people have been disproportionately left out of the job market, we need to support effective job training programs. YouthBuild, Job Corps, and other programs in the Corporation for National and Community Service are helping our young people to be able to compete for jobs today and tomorrow. As Congress argues over budget cuts in the weeks and months ahead, we must make sure this round of belt tightening reflects our values as a people, as a nation, and common and moral sense. We must not say, "So be it" and allow our children to be the collateral damage.

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