Spotlight Exclusives

President Obama’s Budget: A Two-Generational Investment Strategy

Olivia Golden, Center for Law and Social Policy Olivia Golden, Center for Law and Social Policy, posted on

President Obama’s budget offers an ambitious, thoughtful strategy to create opportunity for children and youth, help struggling low-income families move into the middle class, and invest in America’s labor force.  His budget tears down barriers holding back parents and children in struggling working and middle-class families, providing a “two-generational” boost that can help entire families achieve and hold onto economic security.

The proposals in the budget are grounded in evidence of who families are today, what has changed in our economy, and the obstacles that hold back too many children, youth, and adults from full opportunity.

Children have the highest poverty rate of any age group, and young adults have the highest rate among adults. Almost half of young children live in families that are either poor or struggling just above the poverty line.

Today۪s parents work through their children۪s infancy and early childhood, a stark contrast to just a few decades ago. Yet, four in ten low-wage workers have no access to sick, vacation, parental, or personal leavemaking it very hard to care for an infant, a sick child or family member, or themselves.

Participation in the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) has fallen for the third consecutive year to a 15-year low. Fewer children were served in 2013 than in 1998.

Postsecondary education is essential for attaining economic security. By 2018, 60 percent of all U.S. jobs will require some level of postsecondary education.

Our educational system is not meeting the needs of all. The rate of low literacy among black adults is two times higher than it is among all adults. This gap is even higher among Hispanic adults.

Far too many youth are detached from school and work and struggle to access training and education options to help them develop the needed skills to succeed and earn family-sustaining wages.

Fifty-one percent of college students are now independent, adult learners, many of whom are parents juggling work and family while attending school.

The president۪s budget builds on and expands the strong core of safety net programs including health insurance, nutrition assistance, Pell grants, and unemployment insurance that already help families stabilize their lives, weather bad times, and move up. But his budget goes even deeper to address all the barriers described above with a bold strategy that includes:

Affordable high-quality child care for all low-income parents with children under age 4, coupled with investments for implementation of the bipartisan Child Care and Development Block Grant reauthorization and expansion of Head Start and Early Head Start for the most vulnerable children.

– Significant incentives for states to create paid family and medical leave programs, addressing a serious vulnerability for low-income working families destabilized by major health events, including birth.

– Tuition-free community college for students from low- and moderate-income families, with careful attention to the needs of non-traditional studentswho are older, often working, and raising a family.

Major expansions in the resources available for training through the nation۪s core program for low-skilled and low-income youth and adults (the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act or WIOA), for apprenticeships, and for more targeted training opportunities.

– A multi-billion-dollar proposal for summer and year-round jobs for young people disconnected from school and work.

– And, improvements in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit to help low-income earners and to expand the EITC to single adults and to young adults, who are currently largely excluded.

Commentators are fond of discussing whether the president۪s budget is “dead on arrival” in Congress. But no large change happens overnight; a budget that frames the big questions and offers thoughtful answers shouldn۪t be graded solely on its likelihood of 2015 enactment.

In fact, two of the budget۪s major proposals build on bipartisan Congressional action in 2014: the first reauthorization in 18 years of child care assistance for low-income people (CCDBG), and the first reauthorization in 16 years of the nation۪s core workforce program (WIOA).

Both were passed on virtually unanimous votesand while no one expects voting for funding to be as bipartisan as voting for program reauthorization, there is common ground around the programs۪ importance and broad direction. Other areas with considerable bipartisan appeal include apprenticeships, community college initiatives, pre-kindergarten, and the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit to include youth and adults without dependents.

President Obama has proposed a thoughtful, strategic budget that appropriately addresses the issues our country and people are facing. The Congress should take this proposal seriously and work to move the country forward.

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Olivia Golden is the executive director for the Center for Law and Social Policy. This piece is adapted from a recent Center for Law and Social Policy statement.

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