Policy Resource

Deficit Negotiations Crawl Toward Deadline

Jul 18, 2011

As the August 2nd deadline for raising the debt ceiling draws ever closer, the prospect of an agreement on a comprehensive deficit reduction package before the deadline becomes more dismal.

The current debate continues to focus on significantly changing the structure of budgeting, so we must focus on the dire effect drastically restructuring the size and role of the federal government would have on infants and toddlers. Advocates must continue to pay attention to these debates, as their outcome will determine the capacity for federal investment in our youngest children. What we don’t know can hurt kids, so we must equip ourselves with the knowledge needed to engage in these discussions.

House leaders are demanding that the size of a deficit reduction package exceed the amount by which the debt ceiling would be raised, and are taking a symbolic stand against government spending through the proposed “Cut, Cap, and Balance Act.” The House of Representatives is expected to vote Tuesday on this new piece of legislation. It would require historic spending cuts, enforce spending caps on discretionary and mandatory spending as a share of GDP, and require Congressional passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment, all as preconditions to raising the debt limit. In effect, this Act would hold the increase in the debt limit hostage to approval by two-thirds of the House and the Senate of a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget each year.

The proposed spending caps shrink federal spending to about 18 percent of the GDP from its current level of 24 percent—a decrease of about a fourth. Such a steep decline in federal spending would result in extremely hard hits to the broad range of vital services and programs that protect and support the healthy development of young children and their families.

This focus on budgetary procedures and the grand totals for spending cuts in deficit reduction talks masks the real impact of deep cuts in services, programs, and Federal resources for children at risk. As you advocate for the needs of very young children, remind policymakers that they are proposing to cut not government in the abstract, but vital supports to real people.

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