Thursday 24 April 2003
WASHINGTON -- All nine Democratic presidential candidates this month pledged to defend poor children from the Bush Administration's budget war during the Children's Defense Fund's Presidential Candidates Forum on Children. While the candidates at the forum disagreed on the war overseas, all agreed this is not the time to cut essential services for children to pay for massive new tax cuts for the rich.
Six in 10 Americans believe that this is not the time for more tax cuts, according to an April 14th Associated Press poll. Meanwhile, the Bush Administration is planning more than 40 principal events across the country in the next several days to sell its budget and tax plan, which the Congressional Budget Office last month found would have a negligible effect on the economy -- except for causing the budget deficit to swell over the next decade.
Children's Defense Fund President Marian Wright Edelman said millionaires didn't need the tax cut Congress gave them two years ago, and they don't need a new one now, especially when our nation is experiencing a surge in unemployed parents with more and more children falling into extreme poverty, and a million American children are homeless each year.
"We must meet our children's needs during peacetime and wartime, during economic prosperity and downturn. How can we take food from children to give tax cuts to millionaires?" asked Edelman. "All the candidates that gathered with us agreed that it is immoral to subsidize massive new tax breaks for the rich on the backs of poor children."
Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts said there are two Americas -- the one that politicians talk about and the one where millions of children have no health care, are homeless, and lack proper nutrition.
"It is long since time that we had a president who made real the words, Leave No Child Behind(r)," said Kerry. "This administration is laying out enormous plans for building roads, schools, hospitals and providing books in Iraq, and it's time for us to demand that they lay out a plan to do the same here in the United States of America."
Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont noted that we could provide health insurance for every child under the age of 18 in this country for $200 billion.
"It seems to me like that is a better investment," said Dean. "What are we doing voting for $350 billion in tax cuts for people that don't need them?"
Sen. Bob Graham of Florida opposes a massive tax cut, which not only eliminates resources for children, but also leaves them with gigantic budget deficits that they will end up paying for in the future.
"President George Bush has decided that it is more important to give massive tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans than to invest in our children. That is wrong," said Graham. "The question before us is what should be our priority? My priority will be our children."
Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri said that we must provide health insurance for everyone in America, but we must first pull back the President's tax plan.
"We have to get rid of almost all of the Bush tax cuts, the one last year, and whatever he tries to put on the books this year," said Gephardt. "We cannot have those tax cuts, most of which go to the wealthiest Americans in this country."
Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio blasted the President's plan to implement massive new tax breaks for the rich.
"I mean, let's face it. Poverty's a weapon of mass destruction. Homelessness is a weapon of mass destruction," said Kucinich. "So my approach is to look to the heart of America, the social needs of America, and to set aside an agenda that calls for tax cuts and war."
Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut noted that we must help children at home have a better life by reordering our priorities, not financing trillion-dollar tax breaks on the backs of America's children.
"If we pull back this outrageously unfair and irresponsible tax cut program of President Bush, we could protect our security and provide a better life for our children," said Lieberman. "(The President) somehow doesn't think it's a moral issue when -- as a result of that tax cut -- you can't afford to support better education for our kids, more child care for our kids and health care for every American."
Rev. Al Sharpton of New York said he would like to see poverty and illiteracy toppled in this country.
"It doesn't take a leap to pass Dodd-Miller, it doesn't take a leap to guarantee health care, it doesn't take a leap to immediately kill Bush's tax cuts and invest that in education," said Sharpton. "We need to go on the offensive against an administration who will give tax cuts to the rich, cut aid to public education, cut aid to day care, turn around and use the rhetoric of Leave No Child Behind(r), while they leave the budget behind their own proposals of leaving no child behind."
Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois noted that charity begins at home, and if we're going to attend to our priorities, we should take care of America first and American children first.
"The American people are a great people, this is a great country, and all we have to do is tap the resources we have to make certain that no American is left behind, that every community has good jobs in it, that people have hope that they can contribute to the whole community to the maximum extent of their ability, whether they're black, white, Hispanic, male, or female," said Braun.
President George W. Bush said in his January 27, 2001 radio address that "Children and parents who have had only bad choices need better choices. And it is my duty as president to help them." In remarks to the Nation's Governors State Dinner on February 23, 2003, the president said, "We share the responsibility for making sure every child learns and no child is left behind."
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