Letter to Congress on Debt Talks
July 25, 2011
On behalf of the 3.2 million members of the National Education Association, we would like to reiterate some important principles as Congress and the President continue negotiations on a debt ceiling/deficit reduction deal. NEA believes that the most important question in this debate is the impact on students, working families, the elderly, and others in our nation with the greatest needs. The outcome will show whether we as a nation are going to make the investments necessary to lift everyone and ensure a strong nation for the 21st century, or whether we are going to continue to use rhetoric and false arguments to prop up Wall Street, oil companies, and the wealthiest individuals. Attempting to balance the budget on the backs of those who can least afford further sacrifice would be unconscionable, and would undermine the basic values on which our nation is built.
We are deeply concerned about potentially devastating cuts to core programs. Dramatic spending cuts in programs that invest in America’s human capital will jeopardize the health, economic security, and education of millions of Americans. We cannot sacrifice America’s future prosperity by cutting education, health, and other programs that invest in students and their families. Many unemployed Americans are returning to education to pursue training in new careers — they need access to lifelong learning in the form of financial aid. School districts are slashing after-school programs, reducing learning time, and overcrowding classes — cutting federal funding will exacerbate these conditions and jeopardize the next generation’s future.
Proposed cuts to Medicaid are particularly troubling. Of the 68 million people covered by Medicaid in 2010, half were children under the age of 19, whose families depend on Medicaid for health care coverage. One-third of all children in this country are served by Medicaid. Children who lack access to health care services are less likely to come to school healthy and ready to learn and to succeed academically.
We strongly believe that any deficit reduction agreement, as well as any budget enforcement mechanism, must rely at least as much on revenue increases as on spending cuts. We should be looking to scale back tax breaks for millionaires and tax subsidies for corporations. The wealthiest one percent of Americans receives a quarter of all the income. Americans find this imbalance completely unacceptable and want their elected officials to work together on a bipartisan basis to help Main Street hang on, not help Wall Street get more. If revenue increases are not included, deficit reductions will have to come from spending cuts alone, decimating education and other priorities, restricting the federal government’s ability to respond to economic downturns, limiting economic opportunity, and increasing the likelihood that the fragile recovery will falter.
Educators understand that Congress must work to ensure America’s long-term economic prosperity and that we must address the nation’s serious fiscal challenges. However, cutting education funding and slashing programs that serve children, the elderly, and working families is not the answer.
NEA members see first-hand every day the struggles of many of their students and their families. We cannot allow politics to force a deal that will make these struggles even harder - essentially abandoning the poor and the middle class while continuing to cater to Wall Street and the wealthiest in our nation.
We urge you to fight for a deal that protects the most vulnerable in our nation and preserves the investments necessary to ensure our nation’s future strength.
Director of Government Relations
Manager of Federal Advocacy