The squeaky wheel gets oiled. Despite my parents’ insistence that patience (and appropriate volume) is a virtue, I learned early on that the person who pipes up and makes a scene gets an audience. Capitol Hill seems to have learned the same lesson.
During the ongoing budget debates, the voices we’ve heard are loud ones – powerful politicians, special interest groups, and newsmakers – who often get what they want when they want it. (You may remember that Congress speedily undid cuts to air traffic controllers when they were in a rush to fly home to their districts last spring.) The quieter voices – those with less influence and, too often, more on the line in this tough economy – have been drowned out. A new report from NDD United aims to change all that.
The group, a coalition of organizations including NWLC, is dedicated to ending sequestration and protecting nondefense discretionary (NDD) programs. These programs must be funded each year through the annual budget process. Discretionary programs are divided into two groups: defense and nondefense. NDD programs really are the “everything else” category of spending, and they critically affect Americans’ daily lives. NDD programs cover food safety, clean water, public transit, education, health, security… The list goes on and on. Read more »
As a result of the government shutdown, the Bureau of Labor Statistics did not release its monthly jobs report that it was scheduled to release today. Even without the BLS jobs report we know that the government shutdown is changing the jobs picture dramatically.
At least 800,000 federal workers are being furloughed without pay for the duration of the shutdown. Some of these workers have already applied for unemployment benefits, which would need to be returned if they are later issued back pay. Unemployment insurance eligibility requirements vary by state, but in general, employees will be eligible for unemployment if their pay is withheld for seven or more consecutive days. In states with high numbers of federal workers, unemployment offices are already struggling to process the influx of applications.
Beyond the dramatic national numbers, stories have poured in from across the country about the number of government programs and the people they serve affected by the shutdown. The shuttering of programs not only strains the lives of already vulnerable families but also causes the loss of wages and jobs for the people who run those programs.
We’re on Day 4 of the first federal government shutdown in 17 years. Here in D.C., the subway and the streets are noticeably emptier without thousands of federal workers on the job. And while a few might be enjoying their time off to take advantage of the shutdown-themed happy hours around town, most are worried about the financial consequences of a prolonged shutdown for themselves and their families (especially since many have already faced pay freezes and furloughs thanks to the sequester and other budget cuts).
But it’s not just the 800,000 furloughed federal workers who are affected by the shutdown. Some federal contractors won’t get paid, either – including workers making close to minimum wage who are unlikely to have much in the way of savings to fall back on. And low-income families who depend on federally funded programs are suffering, too. For example:
But even in Congress, there are some encouraging developments. Yesterday, several Members of Congress turned out for a special game of Chutes and Ladders (with hula hoops!) to show their support for investing in early learning. And today, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) and cosponsors Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Mark Begich (D-AK) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act to close offshore tax loopholes. Read more »
Congress recently acted with uncharacteristic speed to undo the cuts to air traffic controllers implemented as part of the “sequester” (the across-the-board federal budget cuts), before flying home to their districts for a weeklong break. While making sure that the cuts did not cause them delays at the airport, they ignored the cuts that are affecting vulnerable women and children across the country. These include cuts to a range of crucial supports for families such as child care assistance and Head Start.
The National’s Women’s Law Center’s new fact sheet describes the importance of child care assistance in helping parents afford the care they need to work and support their families, and ensure their children are in safe, reliable care that fosters their learning and growth. Congress should be investing more in child care assistance, not chipping away at the help there is through arbitrary budget cuts. Read more »
On Wednesday night, the President’s new Early Learning Initiative got a moment in the spotlight on the Daily Show. Host Jon Stewart, in that way only he knows how, highlighted the importance of investing in children’s early years. My trying to recap the clip will certainly erase all the humor, so I’ll let you watch it for yourself.
Think of life like a marathon (just go with me on this metaphor). Many of America’s most vulnerable children are starting five miles behind everyone else - yet we expect them to finish on par with their peers. Expanding the access these children have to high quality early learning opportunities will be revolutionary. Read more »
This morning I visited a Head Start classroom with NWLC’s Director of Child Care and Early Learning, Helen Blank, and two recognizable guests.
Helen was part of a select group of early childhood advocates invited to join Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius as they visited the Judy Center at Rolling Terrace Elementary School in Takoma Park, Maryland. Judy Centers are located in or affiliated with elementary school across Maryland and provide a comprehensive set of services for at-risk children birth through age five and their families.
Secretaries Duncan and Sebelius treated the children to a great rendition of “Green Eggs and Ham” and I got to play press photographer. The children seemed to thoroughly enjoy their new storytellers though they were a bit skeptical when Secretary Sebelius tried to use the story to encourage them to try new foods.
“Have you ever tried a food you thought you wouldn’t like and then you liked it?” she asked.
“No,” a little boy responded matter-of-factly. Read more »
Yesterday, Senate Democrats proposed a plan to postpone across-the-board spending cuts — known inside the beltway as the “sequester” — that are currently scheduled to take effect in just two weeks, on March 1. The bill, called the American Family Economic Protection Act, includes $120 billion of savings — enough to replace the sequester through the end of calendar year 2013.
Unlike the sequester, which reduces the deficit solely through deep spending cuts (on top of earlier spending cuts that are 2.5 times greater than new revenues), the American Family Economic Protection Act achieves savings from an equal amount of revenues and cuts (plus about $10 billion in interest savings). The bill would raise $54 billion over 10 years by adopting the “Buffett rule,” a measure that would ensure very wealthy taxpayers cannot get away with paying taxes at a lower effective rate than middle class families. Those with incomes above $1 million (after subtracting charitable contributions) would be required to pay at least a 30 percent tax rate, with a phase-in for incomes between $1 million and $2 million. An additional $1 billion in revenue would be raised by eliminating an oil industry tax loophole and a tax deduction for businesses that ship jobs overseas.
On the spending side, savings in the bill would come mostly from modest reductions in the overall level of defense spending — which would not begin until FY 2015, when the war in Afghanistan is expected to end – and cuts in agriculture subsidies, especially direct payments to farmers that are currently provided regardless of yields, prices, or farm income.
All in all, this sounds like a reasonable proposal to us — especially compared to the sequester, which would be devastating for many programs that women and their families depend on. Read more »
As Republicans and Democrats struggle to reach a compromise before the impending fiscal cliff, some media and policy advisors from across the political spectrum are finding agreement on one issue: the importance of investing in early learning and the need to make the well-being of young children a national priority.
Mark McKinnon, a former advisor for President George W. Bush, recently appeared on MSNBC's Morning Joe to discuss the importance of early childhood intervention. During the interview, McKinnon was asked to identify a specific investment that can improve the well-being of American children. "Money spent early on has a much greater return on investment," McKinnon responded. Programs that intervene in children's lives during the crucial years from birth to age five, especially children from low-income families, prepare them for future success and must be prioritized.
McKinnon argues that improving child well-being is part of a broader set of issues that transcend party lines. He is currently working with former Obama campaign advisor Jim Margolis to produce a mass media campaign called Too Small to Fail. Launched in November by the Center for the Next Generation, Too Small to Fail attempts to convey the consequences of neglecting the needs of our nation's children and highlight strategies for supporting children. Read more »
The bill would increase Child Care and Development Block Grant discretionary funding by $160 million, to $2.438 billion. (Discretionary funding is set each year; there is also $2.917 billion in mandatory CCDBG funding.) The increase includes $90 million to support training, education, and other professional development opportunities for the early care and education workforce, which is key to improving the overall quality of early care and education, and $70 million to help more families pay for care and raise reimbursement rates for child care providers. By providing funding to expand the availability of child care assistance as well as to enhance the quality of the workforce, the Senate Subcommittee is signaling that it recognizes investments in both areas are essential in giving families access to higher-quality child care options. Read more »