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The poverty that budget-cutters can’t ignore

The April 17 front-page article “Running on empty,” detailing one social worker’s efforts to serve her clients in Pulaski, Va., showed the bleak reality many Americans face because of the bad economy. The piece should be required reading for everyone involved in the budget process, which is becoming increasingly insensitive to the plight of the poor.

This is apparent in the House Budget Committee’s proposed 2012 budget, which contains a number of drastic cuts to safety-net programs. At least two-thirds of the cuts hit programs serving low-income children and families, despite the fact that the child poverty rate is at a 50-year high. For example, the plan would eliminate the Medicaid expansion, jeopardizing a variety of critical services, such as health care, that help the half-million children served by the child welfare system break the cycle of abuse and poverty.

We cannot allow the divisiveness of politics to blind us to the need to protect children and other vulnerable people. This calls for judicious and values-based budget-making by our elected officials. There are simply too many people struggling like the families in Pulaski. Ignoring them in the budget process will make problems only worse, putting more poor children — and our nation’s future viability — at risk.

Christine James-Brown, Washington

The writer is president and chief executive of the Child Welfare League of America.

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The economic and human distress in Pulaski is profound, particularly as we learn of large, profitable corporations paying no income taxes and as the federal budget deals lead to deep cuts. I challenge our nation’s political representatives, federal budget negotiators, corporate leaders and investment bankers to take social worker Denise Hancock’s job for a week, with the resources at her disposal.

In the same April 17 edition, Walter Mondale [“How to raise taxes without losing votes,” Outlook] effectively made the case for politicians to push for tax increases in times of great need. And Sally Kohn suggested that liberals hesitate to be intolerant in negotiations. On behalf of the Pulaski residents, and so many other people that only the Census Bureau can quantify, let’s show some old-fashioned feisty gumption, maybe even some quite rational intolerance, in these heady budget and debt discussions.

Christina Nuñez Daw, Silver Spring

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It was hard to read the April 17 story about Pulaski Community Action’s attempts to help its desperate clients with such limited resources. It’s appalling to realize that this is happening across our country. How can we look the other way when our most vulnerable citizens are suffering this way? It’s inexcusable and shameful that members of Congress feel fine about providing breaks and handouts to corporations and the very wealthy but don’t wince at cutting programs for the needy.

Alison Wright, Arlington

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