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Austerity’s Children

WASHINGTON, DC – When economists discuss “fiscal adjustment,” they typically frame it as an abstract and complex goal. But the issue is actually simple: Who will bear the brunt of measures to reduce the budget deficit? Either taxes have to go up for some people, or spending must fall – or both. “Fiscal adjustment” is jargon; what austerity is always about is the distribution of income.

Much of Europe is already aware of this, of course. Now it’s America’s turn. And current indications there suggest that the people most directly in line for a fiscal squeeze are those who are least able to defend themselves – relatively poor children. For example, the current budget sequester (that is, across-the-board spending cuts) is already hurting programs like Head Start, which supports pre-school education.