Child Poverty

“I Didn’t Make This World for You”

…They have become great and rich;
they have grown fat and sleek….
they judge not with justice
the cause of the fatherless…
and they do not defend the rights of the needy.  
–Jeremiah 5:27-28
  Woe to those who make unjust laws,
to those who issue oppressive decrees,
to deprive the poor of their rights
and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,
making widows their prey
and robbing the homeless child.
–Isaiah 10:1-2

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act recently passed on a nearly straight party line Republican vote in the U.S. Senate is, like the House-passed bill, a moral abomination. Their enactment would be the death of America’s dream for tens of millions of children. The House and Senate bills favor the wealthiest Americans and most powerful corporations over poor and moderate-income children and families — billionaires over poor babies and powerful corporations over poor children. They are evil.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. warned that “America is going to hell if we can’t use her vast resources to end poverty and make it possible for all of God’s children to have the basic necessities of life.” With both the Senate and House of Representatives now having passed extremely unjust tax bills, I must ask – how can 278 political leaders, 51 Senators and 227 House members, act against the best interests of so many in their states and across our nation to line the overstuffed pockets of powerful special interests with government money?

What religious texts do these Members of Congress and those who lobby them read? How did they miss the clear warnings of the prophets and gospels and tenets of every great faith to care for the poor, the sick, the lame and the orphan? Where did they learn that acting as Robin Hood in reverse by denying the poor and powerless child the basic survival needs of food and shelter to give to the wealthy and powerful is acceptable?

There are 565 billionaires in the United States – the 400 richest of whom have a combined net worth of $2.7 trillion. More than 13.2 million children – 1 in 5 – live in poverty in America. Their families of four make less than $24,563 a year. More than 6 million children live in deep poverty, at less than half the poverty level.

A majority of both houses of Congress and the Trump Administration seek policies to reward millionaires and billionaires and non-needy corporations and add nearly $1.5 trillion – around $150 billion a year for the next ten years – to our national deficit to do so. And to pay for it, they will deny poor and moderate-income children and families health care, food, housing, child care and other survival assistance or help parents get needed jobs at livable wages to support their families.

Consider some of the facts about these tax cut bills:

  • Both the Senate and House bills lavishly benefit the wealthiest households and individuals. The Senate bill doubles the estate tax threshold, enabling individuals to inherit tax free up to $11 million and couples up to $22 million. The House bill would eliminate the estate tax entirely.
  • More than 60 percent of the Senate bill’s individual tax cuts in 2027 go to the richest percent of households making $1 million or more; 48 percent of current tax-paying households would face tax increases according to the Tax Policy Center. The Senate bill ends individual tax benefits after ten years while making permanent tax cuts for corporations. The House bill continues both individual and corporate tax cuts.
  • The Senate’s $1,000 Child Tax Credit increase to benefit families with children and make up for elimination of the personal exemption for dependents provides little or no assistance to poor and middle-income working families. Yet both the Senate and House bills enable higher income families to qualify for the credit for the first time. Neither Senate nor House bills make the credit fully refundable to help working families with the lowest incomes. Both bills would end eligibility of children in low-income working immigrant families for the credit without Social Security Numbers. Tax paying immigrant families are required currently to have only an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number to qualify for the Child Tax Credit.
  • The Senate’s permanent corporate tax cuts are partially paid for by repealing the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate and tax penalty. This will leave 13 million fewer people insured in ten years, raise health insurance premiums for many more and destabilize the health insurance marketplace.
  • The $1.5 trillion ten-year deficit the House and Senate bills create will cause deep cuts in Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), child care, education, Pell Grants, housing and other critical child services.
  • No funds will be left over for the next decade to end child poverty for the more than 13.2 million children struggling to grow up healthy and educated.

Imagine spending $1.5 trillion or even one-tenth of that each year on children’s needs? Two years ago CDF commissioned the Urban Institute to assess steps to end child poverty right now. We identified modest improvements to nine programs we knew helped reduce child poverty: increasing the value of SNAP’s food benefits, providing housing subsidies for poor and near-poor families with children, making the Child Tax Credit fully refundable, increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit for the lowest income families, creating a subsidized jobs program, increasing the minimum wage, expanding the federal child care subsidy program, making the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit fully refundable, and helping more families get child support payments. Implementing all these improvements together would lift 60 percent of all poor children and 72 percent of poor children of color from poverty for a year, at a $77.2 billion federal and state government cost – less than half of one year of the $1.5 trillion deficit increase. A $1.5 trillion investment could lift these children from poverty to adulthood.

We must tell Congress to reject this morally indefensible tax boondoggle and instead invest in protecting children and maintaining any semblance of fairness.

Not one new dime in tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires as long as more than 13.2 million children are poor, and millions of children are hungry, uneducated, homeless and without health coverage. Stand up and fight. A nation that does not stand up for its children does not stand for anything and will not stand tall in the future.

Hungry child, 
I didn’t make this world for you.
You didn’t buy any stock in my railroad.
You didn’t invest in my corporation.
Where are your shares in standard oil?
I made the world for the rich
And the will-be-rich
And the have-always-been-rich.
Not for you,
Hungry child.
 — Langston Hughes,
“God to Hungry Child”
  Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah, offering each the bloom or blight,
Parts the goats upon the left hand, and the sheep upon the right,
And the choice goes by forever ’twixt that darkness and that light.
–James Russell Lowell

Marian Wright Edelman is President of the Children’s Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information go to

Mrs. Edelman’s Child Watch Column also appears each week on The Huffington Post.

Sign-up to receive CDF President Marian Wright Edelman’s weekly Child Watch Column.