The Next Presidential Agenda Should Invest in Kids – At Home and Abroad

Federal Budget

Former Obama White House Council of Economic Advisers Chair Jason Furman recently published a “Memorandum on Priorities for Economic Policy” addressed to the next Director of the National Economic Council (NEC) – whoever that may be under President Trump or a President Biden.

In the memorandum, published as part of a series by the Peterson Institute for International Economics, Furman writes that one of the NEC Director’s “key priorities” must be “Making the US economy work for families,” writing:

“Making the US economy work for families is critical in its own right and also to give Americans the security and confidence to participate in greater global integration and a greater US role in the world. Many elements go into this, but if you had to prioritize one, it should be investments in children, which not only provide direct assistance today but have long-run benefits in the form of increased work, higher earnings, better health, and less imprisonment.”

Furman is right – investing in kids pays dividends not only in the short term, with healthy and happier families, but in the long term, with improved potential on many different fronts that would boost the economy. Since Fiscal Year (FY) 2016, the children’s share of federal spending has dropped 9%, reaching just 7.48%of the budget in FY 2020. This level was inadequate before the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is woefully inadequate in light of it.

Furman also stressed the need to invest in children internationally, noting:

“The 2014 G20 included a goal of increasing women’s labor force participation; consider whether a similar goal of investing in children would make sense for the G20 going forward.”

A G20 commitment to this effort would help put children’s issues front and center on the global stage; in Children’s Budget 2020, we estimate that just 0.08% of federal spending goes toward helping children abroad. That’s about one-twelfth of what we spend on foreign aid as a whole, which is a mere 1 percent of the federal budget.

It’s well past time that lawmakers get serious about investing in the next generation. Following Furman’s advice would be a welcome step in the next presidential agenda.