Holy Toledo. There is nothing like keeping a blog spot fresh and engaging by posting at the glacial pace of about once a month! It is not that I do not care, or I don’t have a lot to say. My work hours have been such that I have been leaving early, getting home late, and generally running myself into the ground–not to mention the week I took off to go to Maine for T-Day and then the damnable cold I came home with that has lingered way past a usual cold’s expiration date. I am still blowing and sneezing and coughing and phlegming. Yuck.
So, what’s new? It’s all about that fiscal cliff, isn’t it? It is in my world.
What image does the term cliff conjure? Those chalk cliffs along the English Channel (“there’ll be bluebirds over, the white cliffs of Dover,…”), lemmings, Thelma & Louise, the Anasazi, the Grand Canyon, Wiley Coyote, literary notes (those little yellow/black/white books that you frantically searched the dorm for when you failed to read beyond page 127 of War and Peace), waterfalls, rappeling, Half Dome and El Capitan in Yosemite, Lands End in Cornwall, the Cliff House in Ogunquit. Norm’s buddy on Cheers. O.K. Enough about cliffs already.
Is it a cliff or a curb or a slope? Is it a fiscal crisis or a political stand-off? Does it even matter? It does if you are one of the more vulnerable of our citizens who could be seriously impacted by decisions made and bargains agreed to in the next few weeks and months.
It matters to me because our public school students, especially those students still struggling to succeed in school could be hurt by the combination of loss of key revenue and cost-saving cuts to essential programs in our schools and communities: special education students, English language learners (ELL), under-achieving students, pre-school aged children, and especially students whose families are living in or at the edge of poverty.
Here in Delaware, and across the country, the loss of potential tax revenue that would result from deciding to maintain tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans plus the kinds of cost-cutting that has been bandied about could have damaging effects on federal funding for education. This would have immediate and long-lasting impacts on initiatives like Title I programs in our schools, our special education classrooms, ELL provisions (for students speaking a growing number of languages), the school breakfast program, and Head Start opportunities.
And, what is the main argument for continuing tax cuts for the WEALTHY? Why, these are the job creators among us. Supposedly, it is only the wealthiest who can be counted on to invest their bounty in developing more jobs, new jobs, jobs. This tale has been repeated, ad nauseum, for months now. I think that what has been lacking in this line of rhetoric is data. Show me the money. Show me the jobs. Show me the universal wealth-bound dedication to enriching the lives of the working poor and middle-class workers by creating more, new, and better jobs.
The other crew that has reaped huge rewards for a dysfunctional tax system are major corporations that have for years gotten away with paying little or no corporate taxes. What the hell? Nobody really likes taxes, but shouldn’t every entity pay their fair share? [I actually cried when I was first married when we had to write a check to the government in mid-April to pay off our tax debt. My husband was a student at the time, and we lived on my teaching salary alone–a mere $8000 during SY1972-73. I took this quite personally. As a more mature adult and patriotic American, I no longer resent this obligation. Think of all that our taxes have brought us.]
I know a bunch of Delaware small business owners. I believe that these are the guys who, given a few more breaks and a spate of continuous economic growth, would be the source of a steady stream of new jobs. And, according to a growing number of small-business owners, there is support among them to both maintain middle-class tax cuts and to allow tax cuts to expire for the wealthiest 2%–to tax them at a fair rate–just like the rest of us.
BTW: The only big job creators I have seen in the past year have been those major political donors–the guys who gave millions to candidates of both stripes. Just think of the hundreds–maybe thousands–of jobs expanded or created by all of that money handling, art and design work, printing, photography, filming, editing, broadcasting, and talking head/pundit discoveries. Heck, these contributors probably single-handedly extended the life of the US post office for another year or two. Just think of all of the mailing involved in some of those campaigns. There were weeks in October when I received a large glossy campaign flyer every single day from both M. Katz and G. Lavelle. My poor delivery guy!
At the same time, failing to maintain tax cuts for poor and middle class Americans could have a most unfortunate effect on continued economic growth. The average tax increase would reportedly be between $400 for poor folks and $2200 for middle class families. This is the kind of expense that could actually break people who are operating at the edge. Combine a significant tax increase with one broken washing machine or an unexpected car repair, and some families would be doomed.
So what does all this mean for Delaware? This is what Delaware’s share of the funding for these programs means right now for our residents; this is what could be impacted by the kinds of across-the-board cuts that some are proposing.
$152 Million for Highway Planning and Construction Delaware will receive $152 million in federal funds in FY 2012 to help it plan, build, and repair highways and bridges and support other transportation improvements. These investments in infrastructure help all residents travel safely and efficiently and promote economic growth and job creation.
$43.4 Million for K-12 Education Delaware will receive $43.4 million in FY 2012 in Title I funds for K-12 education, which are funds granted to local school districts serving disadvantaged children. In the 2009-2010 school year, 175 Delaware schools serving more than 101,000 Delaware children were eligible for Title I funding to support K-12 students.
$15.4 Million for Head Start Delaware will receive $15.4 million in federal funds in FY 2012 for Head Start, which helps preschool-age children in low-income families in all three counties build the skills they need to succeed in school. Head Start and Early Head Start preschool programs served 2,059 children in low income Delaware families in 2009.
$9 Million for School Breakfast Delaware will receive $9 million in federal funds in FY 2012 for the school breakfast program, which provides free or reduced price breakfasts to children from low- and moderate-income families. A nutritious breakfast improves children’s health and helps them start the day ready to learn. In 2011, the program served an average of 36,700 Delaware children each day.
$16 Million to Make Drinking Water Safer Delaware will receive $16 million in federal funds in FY 2012 to construct additional water treatment facilities and ensure clean drinking water for more residents.
$1.1 Million to Provide Meals to Homebound Seniors Delaware will receive $1.1 million in federal funds in FY 2012 to provide home-delivered meals to frail seniors. About 3,206 Delaware residents received meals through this program in 2010.
I don’t know about you, but these are the kinds of vital services that I believe need to be preserved and protected. This is a social justice issue of the highest order. It’s not just common sense—and common decency—that tells us that these investments are more valuable than giving more tax cuts to the richest two percent.
They’re also more effective at boosting the economy. Noted economist Mark Zandi estimates that every $1 invested in infrastructure generates $1.44 in economic growth and every $1 invested in aid to states generates $1.34 in economic growth. In contrast, spending $1 to extend the Bush income tax cuts doesn’t even break even; it generates only 35 cents in economic growth.
We admire financial success in America. But when the rich get tax breaks they don’t need and the country can’t afford, and the middle class has to make up the difference, it’s just not right. To strengthen our economy, we need to improve our aging and crumbling infrastructure. We need to support our schools and make sure all children are healthy and ready to learn. We need safe drinking water. We need to provide for the elderly and other vulnerable people.
It’s time to end the Bush tax cuts for the richest two percent. I have no hesitation in supporting this position.