Almost 25 percent of U.S. children are now living in poverty – the largest number since the Great Depression.
Since the current economic crisis began, child poverty has grown by two million to some 16 million youngsters nationally.
According to the Children’s Defense Fund’s 2010 report, “Children in America lag behind almost all industrialized nations on key child indicators. The United States has the unwanted distinction of being the worst among industrialized nations in relative child poverty, in the gap between rich and poor, in teen birth rates and in child gun violence.”
Overall, the country is experiencing the fastest fall from “middle-class” life to poverty in the 51 years since government started counting the poor.
Recently, CBS’s 60 Minutes aired a segment on child poverty that served as a powerful reminder that every day millions of American children are facing the harsh realities of homelessness and hunger.
In the segment, reporters sat down with a group of about 30 black, brown and white children and asked them to share their experiences. They eloquently told their stories of what it’s like being poor.
Many began to cry as they recounted having to ask their classmates for leftover food at school. One spoke of the shame of having to live in the family car; another spoke about going to a church food bank.
When asked if any had experienced their lights being cut off, almost all the hands went up. The children recounted how they had to do their homework by flashlight and candlelight. Most were living in cheap motels; some lived in family cars.
As the show pointed out, this situation is largely a consequence of over one million people having been evicted from their homes last year. This year, at least one million more homes will be foreclosed.
60 Minutes didn’t deal with the racist aspects of this crisis and how mortgage scams were aimed primarily at black and Latino working families. Yet racism and poverty are intertwined: 25 percent of African Americans live below the poverty line. Presently, 35.7 percent of African American children live in poverty compared to one in five children living in poverty overall. 26.9 percent of Latino households live in poverty compared to 14.6 percent overall. White children, however, are numerically the largest group of children living in such conditions.
Sadly, instead of dealing forthrightly with these problems, the right wing has switched the script. Now the talk is about deficits and taxes when the real issue is jobs and the welfare of families and children.
These problems are rooted in the capitalist exploitation of the working class. They are caused by low wages, the massive export of jobs, and discrimination in hiring.
All of this has been made worse by the 30-year dominance of anti-working class policies of the extreme right, which caused the recent economic crisis.
Working families are poorer because the wealth created by their labor has been expropriated by the richest of the rich.
Record profits and record poverty go hand and hand. Indeed, the reduced buying power of working people because of poverty wages is a big factor in what caused the economic collapse. Today 14.6 percent of all families are living in poverty.
Balancing the books on the backs of poor children, the elderly, the infirm and jobless is morally and politically unacceptable. Trying to destroy unions is not going to save the children. Cutting funds to education, nutrition, and childcare, firing teachers and firefighters is no solution to the crisis. But that is what the ultra right is doing
The way out of this crisis is to stop blaming the victims and to make the wealthy culprits pay.
It is irresponsible and immoral not to do so. The time has come to tax them.
Tax them for the children
Tax them until it hurts.