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'Ryanomics' Assault Poor and Hungry Children

Marian Wright Edelman | 9/19/2012, 12:07 p.m.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great German protestant theologian, who was executed for opposing Hitler's holocaust, believed that the test of the morality of a society is how it treats its children. I agree and am deeply ashamed that the United States of America flunks Bonhoeffer's test every hour of every day as our policies and priorities permit 16.1 million children - more than 1 in 5 - to live in poverty in the richest nation on earth and 7.3 million to live in extreme poverty according to the new Census poverty data.

Children under five are our poorest age group with one in four infants, toddlers and preschoolers - who did not choose their parents - poor during their years of greatest brain development. The U.S. Agriculture Department recently reported that a record number of families in America are struggling to put enough food on the table and that one in five children live in a food insecure household. Millions of Americans, many of them hard working parents, have only food stamps to keep the wolves of hunger from their door.

Yet, the Ryan budget passed by the House of Representatives not only would do nothing to decrease epidemic poverty, hunger and homelessness during this time of economic downturn and parental joblessness, it would increase their struggles by taking away food and other essential supports. Ryanomics is an all-out assault on our poorest children while asking not a dime of sacrifice from the richest 2 percent of Americans or from wealthy corporations.

Ryanomics slashes hundreds of millions of dollars from child and family nutrition, health, child care, education, and child protection services, in order to extend and add to the massive Bush tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires at a taxpayer cost of $5 trillion over 10 years. On top of making the Bush tax cuts permanent, the top-income bracket would get an additional 10 percent tax cut. Millionaires and billionaires would on average keep at least an additional quarter of a million dollars each year and possibly as much as $400,000 a year, according to the Citizens for Tax Justice.

The Ryan budget does not name or touch any of the many expensive tax incentives, tax loopholes or tax subsidies that help the powerful and the wealthy. It doesn't close tax loopholes or rein in incentives to corporations investing or taking jobs overseas, several of which alone could generate $129 billion over 10 years. It doesn't touch the tax advantage for private equity partners that now provides a $15 billion windfall over 10 years or the tax preferences for oil and gas companies that cost about $40 billion a year.

Ryanomics widens the already huge wealth and income chasm in our nation and only benefits the richest Americans and powerful corporations while ripping apart already porous safety nets for vulnerable children. Ryanomics masquerades as a fiscally responsible deficit-reducing budget plan to preserve our children's future. In reality, it is Robin Hood in reverse - stealing from babies to benefit billionaires and increasing the deficit.