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Survey Advises Congress: “Don’t Cut Kids”

May 5, 2011

FRANKFORT, Ky. - The nation's often-toxic political atmosphere seems to make finding common ground an impossible goal, but a recent survey shows a majority of Americans are united around one message to Congress: "Don't cut kids." A recent survey by First Focus, a bipartisan child advocacy organization, finds strong public support for protecting federal investments in programs and services for children; in fact, potential cuts in those areas were just as unpopular with respondents as cuts affecting seniors.

Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus, says the poll issues a clarion call to policymakers.

"The poll actually is very loud and clear about sending the message to policymakers that it is not appropriate to cut the federal budget on the backs of children and have children bear that burden."

The First Focus poll found that, by a 3-to-1 margin, a majority of voters believe the lives of children have worsened in the last 10 years; Republicans are even more concerned, registering a 4-to-1 margin. When presented with a list of potential budget cuts, the least popular were those in federal food stamp programs, K-through-12 education, children's health insurance and Head Start.

Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, hopes the poll's message resonates with Kentucky state lawmakers and the candidates for governor.

"Republicans and Democrats agree on one thing: We cannot deplete, we cannot dilute our investment in our children."

When it comes to how America's kids are faring, Brooks says the current outlook revises the nation's hopes that the next generation will do better than the one before.

"What this poll says is that citizens are really concerned that the story line has changed, that the lives my grandchildren will live are not going to be as good as the lives kids looked forward to 10 or 20 years ago."

As Brooks puts it, chopping services for children is "penny wise, but pound foolish." That's a sentiment Lesley hopes Congress will take to heart in the budget battle ahead.

"Children's programs are not expensive. Kids now get less than 10 percent of the federal budget. Cutting children's programs is not going to get you to a balanced budget."

According to the poll, voters say slicing programs is not the only way to thin the federal deficit. A majority of those surveyed favored closing loopholes and federal subsidies to corporations, doing away with the Bush tax cuts for families making more than $250,000 a year and opposing a GOP plan to lower the top tax bracket by one-third.

The First Focus survey is available at http://firstfocus.net.

Renee Shaw, Public News Service - KY