Do kids count?


Buried in an avalanche of news stories about Christmas shopping and holiday events came the latest report on the welfare of Michigan’s children. The news is appallingly bad.

Nearly two out of every five Michigan children live in families so poor they are eligible for federal food aid, according to the Michigan League for Public Policy’s recent analysis of national “Kids Count” study data. That figure has risen by more than 50 percent in the past eight years.

Another disturbing statistic: Last year, 207,000 Michigan children lived in families that were investigated for possible abuse and neglect. That’s a near-record.

Nor are such problems confined to Detroit and other central cities. According to the policy group, the most recent numbers show 18 percent of children in Monroe and Lenawee counties live in poverty, Rural Michigan counties reported the highest rates of confirmed child abuse.

That dismal report was followed by news that the Michigan budget is expected to finish the fiscal year with a surplus of several hundred million dollars. House Speaker Jase Bolger immediately began talking about a tax cut.

Michigan should use that surplus instead to increase its child-care subsidies and to restore fully the state earned income tax credit for working-poor families. Lansing sharply cut that credit two years ago to give businesses a tax break that has, so far, created few jobs.

Taking care of the children who are Michigan’s future is not just the morally right thing to do. That policy choice makes sense for the entire state.