Editorial Board Memo: One single issue will unite the country
To the members of the Editorial Board:
Congress has now certified that Joe Biden will be Inaugurated as our nation’s 46th President on January 20th. But the insurrection at the Capitol aimed at derailing this process illustrates that our country continues to experience a historic divide.
The problem: President Biden must breach these seemingly intractable differences — over values, priorities, and even facts themselves — if he is to overcome the country’s growing crises of inequity, poverty, the economy, and a raging pandemic.
The solution: Rally the nation around the well-being of our 74 million children.
This works because:
- No single issue better unites voters across political and demographic divides than the well-being of our children. A pre-election survey by Lake Research Partners found that 81% of voters — regardless of political affiliation — said that federal policy and budgets should be set according to a “best interest of the child” standard.
- Investing in children has been shown – in study after study over more than two decades – to not only pay for itself, but to deliver a profit.
- The well-being of today’s children is the well-being of tomorrow’s workforce, tax base, and economy.
Ways to assure children’s well-being:
- Give kids their fair share. The share of the federal budget devoted to children in FY 2020 was 7.48% — the lowest level in five years. (For the record, children make up one-quarter of our population.) By committing just one additional percentage point of federal spending to children in his first budget – or “1% for kids” — President Biden would restore the U.S. investment in children to its pre-2016 levels and catalyze an upward trajectory. President-Elect Biden has often said: “Don’t tell me what you value – show me your budget, and I will tell you what you value.”
- Create a White House Office on Children and Youth, and an independent Children’s Commissioner. More than 350 leaders and organizations around the country including First Focus Campaign for Children have called on President-Elect Biden to create a White House Office on Children and Youth to examine policy choices and coordinate efforts across the more than 260 programs, agencies and, departments that touch children’s lives. This strategy, already deployed by dozens of countries, has yielded economic and competitive success in peer nations such as Australia and the United Kingdom. Canadian lawmakers also recently introduced legislation to establish a children’s commissioner.
- Cut child poverty in half within a decade. The nonpartisan National Academy of Sciences provided a roadmap for halving child poverty in its 2019 landmark study, but so far lawmakers have failed to act. President-Elect Biden, who has endorsed many measures outlined in the report, must leverage the newly Democratic Congress to pass the Child Poverty Reduction Act and harness the growing bipartisan support for measures that combat child poverty.
Wins that come from investing in children:
Win#1: Secures our nation’s economic future
By 2030 — less than 10 years from now — the ratio of retired people to working-age people will be twice as great as it was in the 20th century. Today’s children are those workers — and the country’s future tax base.
Win#2: Unites voters across partisan and demographic divides
In an election-eve survey by Lake Research Partners an overwhelming majority of voters — regardless of political affiliation — said that federal policy and budgets should be set according to a “best interest of the child” standard (81% to 13%). Another 65% said the country should establish an independent children’s commissioner to coordinate children’s needs across agencies (65% v. 26%). Children’s health care also scored high, with up to 85% of respondents saying all children should have health insurance (85% v. 12%). American voters also strongly support establishing a child poverty reduction target (70% v. 20%) and expanding the child tax credit to help cut child poverty (71% v. 18%).*
Win#3: Delivers a superior return on investment
Researchers over more than two decades have found that programs that invest in children – through early childhood education, health care, and other mechanisms – often pay for themselves or even turn a profit. In a 2020 study on policy changes, Harvard economists calculated that on average, each $1 of initial expenditure on children repaid $1.78 to the government by raising future wages and reducing future need for government assistance.
Conclusion: Rallying the American public around the well-being of our 74 million children has the power not only to unite our country’s warring factions, but offers economic, political, and social benefits to the United States, both now and in the future. President-Elect Biden should declare from the podium on January 20th that this winning issue will be one of his top priorities during his First 100 Days in office.
*The nationwide survey of 2,400 registered voters, conducted between Oct. 31 and Nov. 3, was one of the few to accurately predict the election results, forecasting a 51% to 48% margin for President-elect Joe Biden.