There is an urgency to our concern about the federal role (in fighting poverty). We fear families and children in poverty will not fare well in near- term decisions that are made to reduce the federal deficit.

In fact, low-income families have already borne a disproportionate share of budget reductions. . . . A deficit reduction plan is counterproductive if it further erodes basic life-support programs, services to reduce dependency and efforts to enhance the life options of millions of America's children. Such a strategy will surely undermine our only real hope for a . . . self-sufficient population contributing to the well- being of our society. . . .

The declining standard of living of low-income families and children has been a long-term trend. Inflation has been seriously eroding the value of public assistance since the early 1970s. From 1970 through 1984, for example, the purchasing power of AFDC benefits declined 37 percent. . . .

Inflation also took its toll on social and health-care services. . . . All in all, poverty was on the rise prior to the start of the current decade. In this regard, the current administration's emphasis on curbing inflation and its recent success in doing so, have helped all Americans, including those with low income. Unfortunately, this success has not appreciably narrowed the gap between the support actually available to poor children and their families and the real cost today of maintaining a minimally decent standard of living. . . .

Programs for low-income families and children, while constituting less than 10 percent of federal expenditures, sustained 30 percent of all the budget cuts in the last four years.