America’s Shame

Raw Story reports that the United States has one of the highest relative child poverty rates in the developed world.

America’s wealth grew by 60 percent in the past six years, by over $30 trillion. In approximately the same time, the number of homeless children has also grown by 60 percent.

This is what keeps me up at night, thinking of even one homeless and hungry child out there, maybe just a few blocks where I am safely sleeping. Just as important as asking why America has sunk so low is asking ourselves what can we do about it.

On a micro level individuals can work in their own communities to support and participate in programs combatting this scourge. On a macro level: get involved in local and national politics and make sure we replace the heartless, callous lawmakers who have allowed this to happen. And, campaign to make President Obama join every other developed nation in ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

More than 50 years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr., identified the three things standing in the way of universal peace: Poverty, War, and Racism. These are the things that are (still) holding back humanity from achieving empathy among all people, regardless of race, gender, sex, religion, etc., and enjoying true equality and peace. What are you doing to end poverty, war, and racism? If we just stand by, we are being just as callous.

Even as a recent study proved that social liberals for the first time are gaining over conservatives, we still have to deal with a overriding mentality that rejects social justice in favor of every man for himself. For example, the same day an Amtrak train derailed in New York, killing seven and injuring more than 200 people, Congress voted to reduce funding that would upgrade rail infrastructure. Conservatives don’t like trains because that serves groups of people cooperatively reducing energy and spending; trains smack of socialism in their small-minded view. The same thinking applies to helping the poor. This is why it is of paramount importance to field progressive candidates at all levels of government to replace conservatives whose philosophy bears more resemblance to Ayn Rand than the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Consider these statistics and then ask yourself what you can do to reverse them:

  • Over half of public school students are poor enough to qualify for lunch subsidies, and almost half of black children under the age of six are living in poverty.
  • Nearly half of all food stamp recipients are children, and they averaged about $5 a day for their meals before the 2014 farm bill cut $8.6 billion (over the next ten years) from the food stamp program.
  • In 2007 about 12 of every 100 kids were on food stamps. Today it’s 20 of every 100.
  • Flicker/creative commons

    Flicker/creative commons

    On a typical frigid night in January, 138,000 children, according to the U.S. Department of Housing, were without a place to call home. That’s about the same number of households that have each increased their wealth by $10 million per year since the recession.

  • The U.S. ranks near the bottom of the developed world in the percentage of 4-year-olds in early childhood education. Early education should be a primary goal for the future, as numerous studies have shown that pre-school helps all children to achieve more and earn more through adulthood, with the most disadvantaged benefiting the most. But we’re going in the opposite direction. Head Start was recently hit with the worst cutbacks in its history.

This is not the kind of American exceptionalism we need.

Alison Gardner