Bruce Lesley

    Women: Champions and Defenders of Our Nation’s Children

    Posted October 4th, 2012 by

    When it comes to public policy issues of importance to our nation’s children, female policymakers and Moms – not surprisingly – are typically more supportive and active on children’s issues than men, even as we all continue to work hard to enlighten more men so that children’s needs will become a “national priority” that leaders of both genders and both political parties will more readily champion.

    As such, the First Focus Campaign for Children released its Champions for Children awards for the 112th Congress this week to highlight those Members of Congress that vote, sponsor legislation, and speak out in support of children. Yet again, women disproportionately are the leading advocates for children. In the Senate, 47 percent of the women and 27 percent of the men qualify as Champions of Children. The disparity is even greater in the House of Representatives where 38 percent of the women and only 11 percent of the men will receive Champions for Children recognition. In total, women legislators are almost three times more likely to be a Champion for Children than men (40-14 percent).

    The gender gap for children’s issues is also strong among voters, according to a recent poll by Public Opinion Strategies on behalf of First Focus Campaign for Children. As an example, Moms oppose cutting the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in the federal budget by an overwhelming 82-13 percent (by more than 6-to-1). Although Dads also strongly oppose cutting CHIP (67-23 percent), the margin is 25 points greater among women.

    This gap is most apparent when it comes to issues relating to Head Start and child care. By 66-34 percent, Moms oppose cutting Head Start. In addition, they oppose cutting federal funding to make child care more affordable to working parents by 61-36 percent. Meanwhile, Dads are evenly divided or even slightly supportive of cutting Head Start (48-51 percent) and child care (48-50 percent) to reduce the federal budget deficit. In other words, support for Head Start is 35 points higher and support for child care is 27 points greater among women than men.

    The road we must still travel to get more men to better understand the importance of investing in early childhood education and the struggles that many families face in caring for their children while working is exemplified by last year’s debate on Head Start among the male-dominated county commissioners in Frederick County, Maryland. They voted to slash Head Start funding by more than 50 percent, and two male commissioners justified their vote by arguing that mothers should “stay married and stay home with their children.”

    As a result of slashing all the county-level Head Start funding, low-income children in Frederick County families – like many localities around the country – now only receive Head Start services to children and low-income families with federal funding. However, now that, along with funding for children’s health, education, child welfare, child nutrition, and the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit for working families, is being threatened by efforts to reduce the expand tax cuts to wealthy Americans or corporations or to cut the federal budget deficit.

    These types of trends are of deep concern to most women. As a result, by a 3-to-1 margin (58-19 percent), women believe the lives of American children have got worse rather than better over the last 10 years. And, 57 percent of women are not confident that life for our children’s generation will be better off. They recognize that American children are no longer the healthiest, the most educated, and best-prepared kids in the world. They feel that what once was the American Dream — the knowledge that our kids would have opportunities we could never even imagine — is today the “American Challenge” to make that the reality once again.

    Therefore, although 62 percent of women are very concerned about the federal budget deficit, they believe we should make children a greater priority in the federal budget process. As an example, even when confronted with a tough choice of prioritizing the needs of children or the needs of the military, Moms choose children by 43-21 percent. For young women ages 18-34, the choice is not even close as the needs of children are the priority by more than a 3-to-1 margin (54-16 percent). In contrast, Dads choose the needs of the military over children by 44-36 percent.

    Fortunately for kids, since they cannot vote on their own behalf, many women are closely following what the candidates say about children in this election. In fact, 82 percent of women (and 85 percent of Moms) say a candidate’s position on federal budget issues affecting children will impact their decision on whether to vote for that candidate or not. From what they have heard thus far, women currently give President Obama an edge over Governor Romney (43-32 percent) as to which candidate would better handle the issues of importance to children. However, it is important to note that 25 percent of women remain undecided on the issue and 61 percent believe that both candidates have not given children’s issues enough attention.

    In addition to monitoring the issues of importance to children and families, those of us concerned about children should continue to push the candidates to give us more detail about what their plans are for ensuring the next generation of children is not left worse off. Although children represent one-quarter of our nation’s population, there were only a few mentions of children at the first presidential debate. One way to change that is to ask the debate moderators to actually ask questions about the problems facing real families with children in this country. Here is how:

    Vice presidential debate:
    Thursday, October 11, Centre College, Danville, KY
    Moderator: Martha Raddatz, Senior Foreign Affairs Correspondent, ABC News
    Twitter: @martharaddatz

    Second presidential debate (town meeting format):
    Tuesday, October 16, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY
    Moderator: Candy Crowley, Chief Political Correspondent, CNN and Anchor, CNN’s State of the Union
    Twitter: @crowleyCNN

    Third presidential debate:
    Monday, October22, Lynn University, Boca Raton, FL
    Moderator:  Bob Schieffer, Chief Washington Correspondent, CBS News and Moderator, Face the Nation
    Twitter: @BobSchieffer

    Children cannot be left invisible in this campaign, as the stakes for their future and that of our nation are simply too high.


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    1 Comment

    November 25, 2012 at 3:32 am by Moy

    I think the President has done the best job that can be expected in times such as these. Let’s not fogret that he assumed office amid the worst economic situation since the Great Depression. No one can dispute that. Since then, he has worked to keep the economy afloat, and that effort has been mostly successful. However, it can’t be done without creating some kind of economic activity. Government spending is the natural way to do this, and several leading economists support this method.With regard to foreign policy, the President has worked to restore the image of America and re-establish our relationships around the world. This starts with respecting the sovereignty of all nations and recognizing that we all benefit from improved relations abroad. Amidst two wars, one of which was not necessary, the President has shown great strength and leadership in addressing the needs of our military. As a result, they are winning on these fronts and have a clear mission.Domestically, Pres. Obama has worked toward implementing the most significant health care legislation in over 40 years. The reason it has taken so long is because it is a controversial issue with wide-ranging opinions. When you get to the bottom of the legislation, however, it is not the vilified, death-panel-creating bill that is commonly advertised. Considering the continuum of international health systems ranging from socialistic government-employed health workers to the market oriented system of fully private health insurance, this bill is solidly in the middle. Important medical decisions are made between a patient and his/her physician, and those who make less than 400% of poverty will receive assistance to purchase a private, non-government health insurance policy.With elections coming up this November, it is likely that the power of Congress will shift in some way. It is unknown whether or not it results in a complete shift of majority. What I can say is that I hope for new party leadership on both sides of the aisle that focuses on solving problems together and acts in the common interest of all Americans. I believe that opinions will differ and debate will take place; however, I think the tone of this Congress’ leadership has become far too distasteful, and that is part of the reason for America’s frustration with Washington.


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