As a nation, we spend significantly more on retirees than we spend on children. In 2011, spending on children accounted for only 10% of our federal budget while 41% was spent on retirees. Don’t get us wrong — we want Grandma to have access to health care through Medicare — but we need to think strategically about how our failure to adequately invest in young people impacts our future.
According to a recent analysis by First Focus, the recent cuts made by the so-called “sequestration” (the automatic spending cuts that went into effect on March 1st) have made things worse for kids with millions losing access to services. We’ll look more closely at the impact of these cuts in Nebraska in the coming weeks, but what is troubling is the lost opportunity. If a kid fails to get Head Start services, you can’t really make up for that a few years down line. These missed opportunities can compound and minor issues can become major problems. The more opportunities we miss to invest in kids, the less likely they are to be prepared to be successful adults.
We need to address the imbalance in federal spending based on age, and recent trends seem to be moving toward making things worse. We hope that as federal budget discussions continue, policymakers will consider how cuts to children’s services can impact our nation’s kids and their opportunity for future success.