The right-wing loves to talk about the injustice of passing on the tax burden of current deficit spending to our children and grandchildren. What they don’t want to discuss is how unfairly the children of today are being treated.
Right now, the next generation is getting shortchanged all around, with children too often treated as an afterthought in policies meant to appeal to their elders. The United States tolerates the highest rate of child poverty in the developed world. Yet federal expenditures on children — including everything from their share of Medicaid and the earned-income tax credit to targeted efforts like child nutrition and education programs — fell 1 percent last year and will fall an additional 4 percent this year, to $428 billion, according to estimates by the Urban Institute based on the Congressional Budget Office’s projections.
The federal government spent $8 billion less on child health last year than it did the previous year, as fiscal stimulus programs to combat the Great Recession were phased out. It cut aid to states to pay for primary education by about the same amount.
The states, which provide more than 60 percent of the total government dollars spent on children, aren’t in great shape either. According to the Urban Institute’s estimates, state and municipal spending on children fell in each of the last three years.
And the outlook is not much better for the coming decade. Despite health care reform, which will lead to coverage for millions of uninsured children, the Urban Institute forecasts that federal expenditures on children — including direct spending and tax breaks — will shrink to about 2.3 percent of the nation’s economic output by 2022, from 3 percent last year.